If you’re looking for an answer to Tuscany (yes literally!) in these troubled times then simply look no further and just look within. Our very locus for great wine, good food and a good life is a place just 167 kilometres from Mumbai. Would you believe that Nashik, an almost unsung city guarded by the awe-inspiring Sahyadri Range, that rises out of the mist now basks in international recognition among oenophiles. Especially, when after languishing for years it has become a sort of a scenic escape from the steamy heat or rather lack of a real winter in Mumbai.
Founded several eons ago, Nashik remains till date one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. I read somewhere once that Nashik was older than history, older than tradition, and older even than legend. One of the most underrated and possibly least visited cities in Maharashtra from a tourism standpoint, at the very heart of Nashik lies the Godavari River (the city’s lifeline), a spectacular and undiscovered mountain scenery. The hand-hewn cave temple complexes found here prove to be worth every bit of the effort. Housing a number of natural ecosystems within its land area, Nashik and its surrounding districts remain Maharashtra’s natural showpiece, a place of sparkling streams, lakes and a few rugged mountain peaks. And in between are the hiking trails.
It was hard for me then to imagine a better setting which would be ideal to restore and rejuvenate one’s body and soul. Yes, visitors from Mumbai and Pune often come here for a day but to truly appreciate Nashik they stay for a while at the famed Sula Vineyards and a few other crowd-pleasing wineries. And while foodies have now begun to share Nashik with spa lovers, we had booked ourselves into the luxurious, super intimate and recently opened Courtyard by Marriott Nashik, offering a sophisticated ambience, elevated dining and a relaxed and inspiring experience for a quick staycation. A sort of a perfect balance between storied history and modern minimalist chic.
Add to this Nashik’s languid pace and one would certainly not want to leave this quaint city but simply enjoy the gastronomy on offer and explore the array of good dining possibilities. We first enjoyed a glass each of the region’s best Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, followed by a dinner of traditional mutton curry at the immensely recommended House of Gourmet, an all-day dining venue, featuring the largest buffet spread in the city. In case you are in the mood to enjoy some lip-smacking freshly baked produce, sample Bakes and Brews, a 24/7 bistro that offers a casual dining experience. However, a trip to Nashik is incomplete if you don’t indulge in the authentic local fare. Don’t miss the savoury and spicy misal pav, another classic Maharashtrian snack at Ambika Misal, an eatery that is loved by both locals and visiting tourists alike. While Nashik is a city where history meets mythology and its proximity to Shirdi is no doubt responsible for its new-found emphasis on spiritual awakening as we discovered, it is this place’s lovely and peaceful vibes and its inspiring views that encourage you to stay an extra day.
And if adventure and thrill is what you are actively seeking, by far one of the most meaningful and exhilarating ways to experience Nashik’s dramatic beauty and serene culture is by trekking to the Pandavleni Caves located at a height of approximately 300 ft, amid a thick green forest. The land that surrounds this almost seems like a botanist’s fantasy. Organised treks take visitors along verdant footpaths, through tiny villages, following unspoiled routes along lush ridgelines, and past many tiny lakes. Keenly observe the long burst of creativity including some beautifully painted frescoes that may have happened during the reign of ancient Indian dynasties. If you are one who is intrigued by ancient legends, do make it a point to visit some offbeat cave temples such as the Sita Gumpha carved from solid rock faces. Of course it goes without saying that Nashik’s tour de force is the famed and supremely well-preserved Trimbakeshwar Temple that remains an eternal favourite among all visitors and locals.
The rural landscape around Nashik is dotted with some lovely hilltops and hammocks inhabited by local communities whose festivals enliven both winter and summer months. Fortunately waterfalls, mountains and caves for exploring are all within an easy day trip. For example, do check out the Harihar Fort that captures the attention of visitors because of its peculiar rock-cut steps. Sign up for a leisurely stroll that will take you from temple to temple along unpaved backstreets that exude a laid-back calmness with roosters roaming and children at play. You can even ask the staff at the accommodation of your choice to organise visits with experts to nearby ancient temples and local vineyards upon request.
So if you are looking for a quick getaway from either Mumbai or Pune head to Nashik. The abundance of nature, fresh winter chill, clarity of light, superb treks, excellent accommodation and sumptuous food will explain why well-heeled and well-travelled young Indian urbanites are increasingly gravitating towards this well known yet undiscovered place.
How to Reach
Nearest airport: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai (166 kms via nH160, approx. 4 hours to Nashik)
Self-drive from Mumbai is the best option to get to Nashik
Rickshaws and taxis are easily available, however tourists largely prefer self or chauffeur-driven cars. Self-drive motorcycles and bicycles are also available on rent.
What to See
The very first winery established in the city and one of the most sought after places to visit in Nashik
For those looking for spiritual enlightenment, trekking or just want to absorb the beauty of hills
Located about an hour from Nashik, Harihar Fort captures the attention of visitors because of its peculiar rock-cut steps
Where to Stay
Beyond by Sula
A luxury vineyard property, overlooking the serene Gangapur Lake and comes fully stocked with the finest wines from Sula
Located near Nandur Lake on Nashik-Aurangabad Highway, the property welcomes its guests with lush landscapes
Courtyard by Marriott
A smart and spacious property with a timeless, classic style where every design element and amenity is geared towards comfort, convenience and relaxation
Flavours of Nashik
Krishna Vada Pav; Old Agra Rd, Dawa Bazaar, Gole Colony, Nashik, Maharashtra 422002
Sayantara Sabudana Vada; Shop no.113, Bhadrakali Fruit Market, Bhadrakali, Nashik, Maharashtra 422001