Of Flatlands and Strawberry Ice Creams

Of Flatlands and Strawberry Ice Creams
A calming aerial shot of the hill station, Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Emerging from its anonymity, Panchgani is ready to compete with its popular cousin Mahabaleshwar for attention

Priyam Bagga
June 02 , 2021
09 Min Read

There is a chance you may just drive past this tiny town without giving it a second glance while on your way to its more popular cousin, Mahabaleshwar. However, this unassuming hill station holds within its grasp some lovely treasures that tourists would be remiss to skip.

Located in Maharashtra’s Satara district, Panchgani’s verdant hills, colonial cottages and gorgeous valley views are its prime attractions. Like most hill stations in our country, the town was ‘discovered’ by the British as a summer resort in the 1860s to escape from the blistering heat of the plains.

Panchgani is nestled amidst five hills of the Sahyadri range, from where it derives its name. This township was earlier known for its exceptional educational institutions, including Saint Peter’s Boarding School where the late Farrokh Bulsara, Freddie Mercury to the rest of the world – the incredibly gifted lead vocalist of rock band Queen – honed his talents.

Views such as this will greet you at almost every corner

Initially, Panchgani used to receive visitors only due to neighbouring Mahabaleshwar’s immense popularity. Today the town is a burgeoning travel hub in its own right, for better or worse. Although the residents are enjoying a fresh inflow of cash from visiting tourists, the area faces a threat that may eventually lead to its demise as a preferred vacation destination – environmental degradation. Since the area is mostly known for its natural beauty, efforts are being made to undo the damage and create sustainable, eco-tourism ventures.

A strawberry farm in Panchgani

Only about 2.5 hours away from both Pune and Mumbai, Panchgani is the perfect hill retreat for city-weary souls. Though the town enjoys a cool climate throughout the year, it is during the monsoon that it truly comes alive when spectacular shades of green adorn the hills and valleys.

Note: With pandemic containment restrictions in place in Maharashtra, please check with the state tourism offices for latest regulations before planning.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Parsi Point

 
 
 
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Parsi Point offers stunning views of the scenic Krishna valley. There is also a small telescope here that you can use for a nominal fee to take a closer look at the surroundings. The operator will point out several film locations in the distance, and his knowledge of Bollywood truly impresses. However, if you’re not a movie buff, you can simply enjoy the view and the pleasant breeze.

Read: Maharashtra: The View With a Room

Table Land
At the Table Land, Panchgani
This is the highest point in Panchgani and Asia’s second-longest mountain plateau spanning a whopping six kilometres. If you don’t have it in you to walk the entire stretch, fear not! There are plenty of horses for hire at the entrance, some with names that are sure to induce giggles – Hrithik, Audi, WhatsApp and Phoolan Devi, to name a few.

Table Land offers jaw-dropping views of Panchgani. One of the highlights of the plateau is Pandava Footprints – indentations in the rocky surface that are believed to be footprints left behind by the five Pandava brothers during their exile. You will also find the Devil’s Kitchen cave here. According to local folklore, the Pandavas stopped and rested here awhile. 

Caution: Be careful on your way down to the cave, as the staircase is quite rickety.

If you work up an appetite during your visit, there are several small eateries right at the entrance of Table Land. Since there is no tree cover here, it may get exceptionally hot during the summer. So it would be wise to carry a bottle of water with you. 

Sydney Point
Sunrise in Panchgani
Sydney Point is worth visiting at sunset or sunrise for clear views of the surrounding plateaus and the Dhom Dam. There is also a small hanging bridge here, which makes for amazing photo ops.

Devrai Art Village

 
 
 
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A non-profit initiative, Devrai Art Village is a safe haven for skilled adivasis from the Naxal-affected areas of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. On sale are their handcrafted products made with different mediums such as stone, iron, wood, brass, bamboo and fabric. This is a great place to interact with tribal craftsmen, learn about their trade and buy their unique wares.

WHERE TO STAY

 
 
 
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Plenty of choice by way of accommodation. Il Palazzo in the heart of the town has reached cult status. If you want to stay away from the crowd, there are some pleasant resorts hiding among the hilly countryside off town.

WHERE TO EAT
There are several good options to eat in Panchgani. You can get the best patties and scones at the old-fashioned Roach Bakery and masala cheese omelettes at Lucky Restaurant. Akbarally serves excellent pav bhaji and stuffed paranthas. Rasoi has finger-licking thalis and Rustom’s serves good Parsi cuisine. Rainforest has good food and magnificent views. Savour Gujarati thalis at Purohit Lunch Home. Hilltop Ice Creams is another good place to enjoy ice-creams and milkshakes.

Around Panchgani

 
 
 
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Mapro Garden (7km)
En route to Mahabaleshwar is the famous Mapro Garden, owned and operated by the eponymous makers of delectable jams and concentrates. A strawberry garden tour is in order. They also have a cafeteria where you can try strawberries with fresh cream. There is also a store here where you can buy chocolates, jellies, juices and syrups, etc.

WHEN TO GO
September to May is the peak tourist season. Also Christmas and New Year.

Read: Panchgani, the Land of Strawberries

GETTING THERE
Air Nearest airport is Pune’s Lohegaon International Airport (100km/ 2hrs)
Rail Nearest railhead is Pune Road
Road Take NH4, via Pune, Surul and Wai, and the other down NH17.


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