Often called Maharashtra’s ‘valley of flowers’ (even though it is a rocky plateau), Kaas Pathar is located about 300km from Mumbai by road. Towards the end of the monsoon (usually September to early October), the barren plateau dons a mantle of green dotted with variegated flowers. Beds of yellow, pink, white, blue, even mixed hued blooms stretch as far as the eye can see. But what was known to a handful of researchers and nature lovers for decades turned into a popular attraction since 2012, when the Western Ghat hills were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a biodiversity hot spot.
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To the untrained eye, the plateau appears barren for the greater part of the year, breaking into a profusion of blooms during late monsoon. According to scholars, it is a unique system harbouring a large number of flora and fauna. Apart from small mammals and birds, there are also reptiles and amphibians. According to news reports, a biodiversity expert has recently discovered the lesser striped necked snake here.
Most are herbaceous plants; some are so tiny that they are hardly visible. One of the most striking features of the plateau are the pink balsam flowers spread over large areas. Some of the commonly seen plants include the white Habenaria (ground orchids), the bright yellow sonki, the easily distinguishable Smithia (Mickey Mouse flower), the rare Ceropegia, insectivorous plants such as the Utricularia (Sita’s tears), Bladderwort and Drosera (Sundew), etc. Flowers, such as the Strobilanthes, bloom every seven to nine years.
Although you can take the state transport bus from the parking lot to the top of the plateau, a walk uphill can be very rewarding. Explore the hill side, the nooks and crannies, for some of the rare species. A black tar road runs across the plateau and is good for catching a panoramic view of the place. Earlier, there was no boundary protecting the delicate carpets of flowers. But with the rush of visitors, the forest department had had to take steps to protect the flora from over enthusiastic visitors. It has been found that in their hurry to click selfies and do macro photography, many visitors trample over the tiny flowers, some of which belong to the rare category. So many of the fragile zones have been fenced off. Entry to the meadows are only allowed at certain places. Interestingly, the cycle of flowering often changes over a period of time. So a patch that you may have seen covered in pink flowers one week, may be covered in yellow flowers, a couple of weeks later.
See Kaas In Pictures
Lying below the plateau is the Kaas Lake. It is said that the lake was built over a century ago to provide drinking water to Satara town. The road to the lakeside is now full of eateries.
Along with Kaas, you may visit Bamnoli Lake Club, Vasota Fort, Shri Kshetra Yeweteswar temple, etc.
Kas (also Kaas) is about 300km by road from Mumbai. Satara, about 25km from the plateau, is the most convenient gateway. Although most visitors prefer to stay in Satara, resorts are coming up along the hillside.
The best time to visit is September. However, the flowering across the plateau is dependent on the monsoon and may be affected by too little or too much rain. The monsoon rains can be very heavy at times. So carry adequate rain protective gear for yourself and your cameras.
The opening date for visiting the plateau during the flowering season is determined by the forest department. Usually 3,000 visitors are allowed per day. Online booking is compulsory on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.
Entry fee – Rs 100 per head (no entry fee for children below 12 years and those above 65 years).
All vehicles have to be parked at the specially earmarked zone. You may either walk uphill/downhill or avail the State Transport bus operating between the parking zone and the plateau (at Rs 10 per head for one-way journey).
For opening date, online entry booking and other details, see the official site.
BNHS India and many travel agencies such as Mumbai Travellers, Vihang Travels, etc. hold package tours during peak flowering season.