Quieter than most popular hill stations of India, Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh is not for those who cannot do without crowds, noisy restaurants and plenty of shopping. Here nature takes precedence. Go for walks among sweet scented hilly paths, catch glimpses of birds among the trees, sit by a rock pool or watch silver cascades flow down the verdant slopes. The forests around Pachmarhi are part of the Satpura National Park. In 2009, Pachmarhi and its surrounding forests were designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, largely due to its importance as a transition zone between eastern and western India forests.
If you cannot do without some company, then choose a place to stay near the central market. Otherwise, choose a retreat in the town’s outskirts where there is hardly any disturbance.
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Perched at 1,100 meter, Pachmarhi, like most hill stations in India, was built by the British. The credit of discovering this once pristine forested hills in the heart of central India goes to Captain James Forsyth. It is said that he first came across this place while travelling from Jabalpur to Jhansi in 1857. Forsyth extensively toured through the Central Provinces of India between 1852 and 1864 and would often return to ‘Puchmurhee’ to escape the summer heat of the plains. The trail that he followed through the tiger forests of central India is now known as Forsyth’s Trail. The point from where he first caught a glimpse of the hills is known as Forsyth’s Point (Priyadarshini Point).
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Sightsee if you must, there are natural caves and waterfalls, besides the quintessential viewpoints that the Indian hill stations cannot do without. According to legends, the five Pandava brothers of Mahabharata lived here during their years in exile. They excavated five caves (panch marhi), which apparently gave the place its name.
If the rains have been kind, the Rajat Prapat (Silver Cascade), which drops a straight 351 feet, is a sight to behold. But remember you have to walk over boulders to reach it. In fact, most of the natural attractions require a bit of walking. The Fairy Pool is a series of cascades that form a pool at the bottom of each. The Duchess Falls is also worth the walk. If you are not averse to trekking, then one early morning you may venture to the Chauragarh Peak and its temple, to catch a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and forests. Beware of monkeys. Interested in some local colour? Then join the pilgrims as they pay a visit to the Jatashankar Caves and Chhota Mahadeo. Dhoopgarh, the highest point in the Satpura range, is known for its sunset views. Prehistoric rock paintings have been discovered in some of the caves near Pachmarhi, such as Astachal (Monte Rosa), Harper’s Cave, Dhuandhar Cave, etc.
In town, don’t miss the oldest building around, Bison Lodge (1862), now a Nature Interpretation Centre, and Christ Church built in 1875.
Information: Bhopal, 195km by road, is the nearest airport. Pipariya, 50km by road, is the nearest railway station. Although Pachmarhi can be visited round the year, it is best to avoid peak summer as travelling to and from the connecting hubs can be tiring.