Serene Durshet and placid Kalote – two pristine breaks for the price of one are yours for the taking, barely over an hour’s drive from Mumbai. Ignore the flashy expressway and take the old dirt road instead to these beauties in northern Raigad.

Durshet, part of a forest full of mahua trees, falls within the enclosure of Nature Trails Forest Lodge and the Amba river flows right past. There’s not a soul in sight as you dip in this exuberant river or take a romantic walk through the forest.

At Kalote, Lake Placid Retreat is on the shores of the extensive Lake Kalote, which does not reduce in size in the winter. Have a dip in the cool blue waters. After you’re done revelling in blissful solitude, head out for more public diversions in and around Khopoli. If you like, use your weekend to pay your respects at the holy ashtavinayakas of Shri Ballaleshwar and Shri Varad Vinayak, on either side of Durshet.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

To experience Durshet you have to stay at the Nature Trails Forest Lodge. From this secluded base hidden amid thick foliage, you can hare off to the temples, the river and lakes as well as towards the ghats for trekking.

Into the forest

Stroll through the extensive plantations of fruit trees, casuarinas and acacias within the forested expanse of Nature Trails Forest Lodge. The private forest is a wonderful place to go insect watching, and it is also home to wild boar, barking deer and monkeys.

Courtesy Lake Placid Tudor Retreat
A machan right on the edge of the picturesque Kalote Lake
A machan right on the edge of the picturesque Kalote Lake

The best time to visit this place would be when it’s raining – the river is full and many huge natural waterfalls are created within the forest. You can trek to these falls through the mahua, mango and teak trees. The bird life here is very rich, and the calls of drongos, doves, parakeets, shrikes, bulbuls and warblers fill the air. The cultivated lands adjoining the resort are a good place to find lapwings’ nests, but do take care not to harm them. Within the resort’s flower garden, you will see a number of butterflies flitting about their business – getting drunk on nectar or laying eggs on their favourite plants. Enthusiasts may recognise the lime, Mormon and plain tiger butter flies.

You can also opt for the adventure activities on offer, including rock climbing, rappelling as well as river crossing.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Nature Trails Forest Lodge (Cell: 09223596517; Tariff: ₹6,500–7,200, with meals) is geared towards getting families back to nature. All-male groups and alcohol consumption are prohibited. Focus is on the forest and relaxation. The rooms and the five large dorms (with three-tier bunk beds) offer a comfortable stay. There also are six tents. There’s a swimming pool, artificial waterfall and indoor and outdoor games. They also organise a number of nature-based activities for groups. A full payment in advance is required for confirmation of booking.

The food on offer at Nature Trails includes local specialities like aamti and thalipeeth, in line with an authentic, rustic Maharashtrian experience. Meals are served buffet-style in the dining hall. Sangam Resorts (Tel: 02192-265495; Tariff: ₹900–1,250) on the highway in Khopoli is another choice with 16 rooms with attached baths and room service.

AROUND DURSHET

Kalote (60 km)

Fringed by hills, the picturesque Kalote Lake is all yours on almost any given day. Lounge in a comfortable cottage a few footsteps away from the lake. Or, relax in a machan right on the water’s edge and watch the most beautiful birds flit past.

To reach Kalote, take the old NH4 and 8 km after Chauk, turn left towards Palasdari Fort.

Lake Placid Tudor Retreat (Cell: 09820075770; Tariff: ₹2,000 per person with meals) is a 10-acre farm on the shore of the lake.

Holy Detour

Two of Maharashtra’s eight swayambhu Ganesh idols, or ashtavinayakas, are a short drive from Durshet in opposite directions. Shri Varad Vinayak Temple, 20 km north of Durshet at Mahad has a very picturesque location near a lake, within whose waters Dhondu Paudkar first found the swayambhu idol three centuries ago.

Punit Paranjpe
Holy Detour
Holy Detour

More than a hundred years after it was found, the idol was removed from its temporary location and housed in the present structure, built by the Peshwas and gifted to Mahad. Shri Varad Vinayak is considered to be among the most beautiful of the ashtavinayaka temples, with a golden pinnacle topping its towering dome.

However, the Shri Ballaleshwar Ashtavinayaka, 20 km south of Durshet at Pali, is a somewhat gaudy structure. You’ll enjoy the drive down a forested road to Pali, where the temple is located right near the River Amba with Sarasgad Fort in the background. There are two small lakes within the temple complex itself. There are also two sanctums, and Ganpati’s vahan offering modaks to the elephant god.

Less interesting are the hot springs at Unhere, 6 km further down Pali Road. These can be left to only the most enthusiastic travellers for inspection.

FAST FACTS

When to go June–September is best; November–February is also pleasant. Summers are a definite no-no

Tourist Office

MTDC Pune, Tel: 020-26126867/68/69, W maharashtratourism.gov.in, STD code 02192

GETTING THERE

Region Desh

Location Between two holy ashtavinayakas, by the Amba river near Khopoli on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway

Distance 98 km NW of Pune

Route from Pune Via NH4 and Mumbai-Pune Expressway

Air Nearest airport: Pune (98 km/ 2 hrs). Taxi charges ₹2,000 approx.

Rail Nearest railhead: Khopoli (22 km/30 mins). Autos charge about ₹200. ST buses also available

Road Take the old Mumbai-Pune NH4 to Khopoli. Turn right onto the Pen-Khopoli Road, then left onto the Khopoli-Pali Road immediately after you descend from the flyover (at Hotel Mayuri), to Durshet.

Bus Hop onto a ST bus from Swargate Bus Stand. Autos available for Durshet for about ₹300; shared autos much cheaper at ₹50 per person, private jeep or Sumo costs

₹600–800