51 Weekend Gateways Near Mumbai & Pune – 3

31) Bhimashankar


This town is famed as a pilgrimage centre owing to the presence of a Jyotirlinga temple. It is here that the River Bhima originates.


Attractions: The Jyotirlinga temple, with intricate carvings on its doors and pillars, is crowded with devotees at all times. Bhimashankar Wildlife Reserve, that covers a vast area, is the home of a variety of birds, animals, plants and other beings. Trekkers and naturalists will find a trip to this place a thrilling one. Other spots that can be visited in Bhimashankar are Hanuman Lake and a waterfall nearby, Gupt Bhimashankar (the original site of the Shivalinga) and the starting point of River Bhima.


Activities: Trekking and wildlife watching in the reserve is ideal for those who are interested in outdoor activities.


Type of Destination: Pilgrimage, family and kid friendly.


Distance from Mumbai: 213 kms


Best time to Visit: August to February.


32) Shirdi


The town is world-renowned as the place where the temple dedicated to Sai Baba stands. Visited by lakhs of believers, Shirdi is a popular pilgrimage place throughout the year.


Attractions: The temple complex in Shirdi includes structures like the Samadhi Mandir, Chavadi, Sri Saibaba Sansthan Temple, Gurusthan and Dwarkamai Masjid – all having some connect to the life of the saint. Temples of lord Ganesha, Shani and Shiva are also sighted in the same area.


Activities: Offering prayers at the temples and viewing the monuments associated with Sai Baba’s life are the main activities possible at Shirdi.


Type of Destination: Pilgrimage, family and kid friendly


Distance from Mumbai: 242 kms


Best time to Visit: September to March


33) Saputara


Saputara is situated in the Dang district of Gujarat. Blessed with natural beauty and scenic splendour, makes it a popular weekend getaways near Mumbai. It is a very popular hill station and is situated on a plateau in the Sahayadri range. With an altitude of about 1000 metres, this idyllic place experiences a salubrious weather and the temperatures rarely exceed 28 degrees.


The name of the hill station means ‘Abode of the Serpents’. There is an image of a snake along the banks of the River Sarpagana and it is worshipped by adivasis of the region on Holi. Saputara is situated at a distance of about 250 km from Mumbai and 172 km from Surat. The hill station has been well planned and has all necessary amenities such as a museum, ropeways, boat clubs, swimming pools, parks and hotels to entertain tourists.


There are a number of places for sightseeing in and around Saputara. The Artist Village is a major attraction. Tribal artefacts, Warli paintings and tribal craft objects are put up on display at the artist village. Tourists can also buy curios and knickknacks from the village. The artist village is one of the best places to learn about the culture and traditions of the natives of the region.


For wildlife lovers, trips are arranged to the Vansada National Park. The reserve is much smaller as compared to other national parks in the country. Spread over an area of 24 square kilometres, the Vansada National Park is home to four horned antelopes, giant squirrels, pythons, rusty spotted cats, pangolins, leopards and tigers.


The Purna Sanctuary is another tourist attraction of the region. Spread over an area of 160 square kilometres, the sanctuary is a part of the moist deciduous forests in the Western Ghats. Trekking is possible in the sanctuary but prior permission is required for entry.


The other highlights of this holiday destination include the Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Ropeway, Gira Falls, the Rose and Step Gardens.


34) Satara


Just where the River Krishna meets its tributary Venna, stands the former capital of the Maratha Empire – Satara. Its historic past is still visible in the form of its monuments that are declared protected heritage sites now.


Attractions: For those tourists who enjoy viewing a slice of history at close quarters, Satara’s Ajinkyatara and Sajjangarh Forts are a pleasurable sight. The famous Kaas plateau that is covered in wild flowers of varied hues after monsoon is a major draw among tourists. The lake along with Thoseghar Waterfall and Vajrai Waterfall are other natural attractions near Satara.


Activities: Visit the forts and observe the structures in its interiors, soak in the scenic views of the Kaas Plateau, a picnic near the lake or any of the waterfalls is a good option to consider.


Type of Destination: Historic, family and kid friendly.


Distance from Mumbai: 255 kms


Best time to Visit: July to February


35) Mahabaleshwar


Distance: 263 Kms


Mahabaleshwar is a renowned hill station, located in the Western Ghat Ranges in Maharashtra. This misty place boasts of one of the few evergreen forests in the country. It had once served as the summer capital of the Bombay province during the British era. Situated at an elevation of 1,353 metres, the verdant land is a wide plateau surrounded by valleys on all sides.


The city is the source of the River Krishna that flows across the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The highest peak in the ranges has an elevation of 4,721 feet and is known as the Wilson or Sunrise Point.


Mahabaleshwar is a popular hill station near Mumbai. Besides being an important tourist destination, it is also a favourite honeymoon destination and pilgrimage site. The Mahabaleshwar Temple is one of the most popular places in the city. Several visitors visit Mahabaleshwar on their way to Panchgani. The city is also known for its market of strawberries and mulberries. Another major attraction in the city is the Venna Lake. Visitors can enjoy boat rides on the lake or a horse ride next to the lake.


The most notable feature about Mahabaleshwar is the presence of a number of spots in the city which mark the vantage points from where the beauty of the city can be enjoyed the most. There are as many as 14 points in the city and include the Arthur’s Seat, Kate’s Point, Needle Hole Point, Wilson Point, the Three Monkey Point etc.


The Arthur’s Seat point has an elevation of 1340 metres and is named after Sir Arthur Mallet. Sir Mallet used to sit at this point and gaze into the River Savitri to which he lost his wife and children in a ferry mishap. The Kate’s Point is situated to the east of Mahabaleshwar and is popular among tourists for its view of the two reservoirs of the region – Balakwadi and Dhom.


The Needle Hole Point is a very interesting rock formation and is situated near the Kate’s Point. A small hole is formed in the middle of a rock and hence is named so. The Wilson Point is the only point in the city from where both the sun rise and sun set can be viewed. The Three Monkey Point is named so because of three natural stones that resemble Gandhiji’s three monkeys.


Longer weekend getaways from Mumbai (More than 300 kms):


Who is not familiar with the name of Alphonso mangoes? And the place of their origin is the port city of Ratnagiri which is enclosed by the Sahyadris Ranges on its East. This weekend getaway near Mumbai has a number of ancient and historically significant monuments that one can tour.

Attractions: Beach lovers will not run short of places to head to since the Ganapatipule Beach, Anjarle Beach and Guhagar Beach are positioned quite close to Ratnagiri. A fort standing on top of a hill and enveloped by the sea on three sides, Bhagwati Fort or Ratnadurga, is perfect for a day trip. Thiba Palace (built for the exiled king of Burma), along with the several temples and mausoleums, are other places of interest.


Activities: Ratnadurga Fort’s advantageous position at a height that overlooks the sea, gives one an opportunity to see the pretty sight of the sun setting over the horizon. There is also a lighthouse from where one can view the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea.


Type of Destination: Family and kid friendly, pilgrimage and historic


Distance from Mumbai: 335 kms


Best time to Visit: November to January



37) Ellora


Distance: 350 Kms

Ellora, also known as Elapura and Ellooru, is one is an archaeological site and is situated near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. It was built by the kings of the Rashtrakuta dynasty and is well known for its monumental caves.


The site has been declared as a World Heritage Site and is considered to be the epitome of Indian rock cut architecture. The location has 34 caves, which are really structures that have been dug out of the face of the Charanandri Hills. It has a number of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and several viharas and mathas, which are believed to have been built between the 5th and 10th centuries.


There are as many 12 Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu caves and 5 Jain caves, which are evidence to the religious tolerance existing in the region at that time. It was initially thought that the Buddhist caves were the earliest structures at the site. However, later it was discovered that specific Hindu caves have been existence even before the Buddhist ones. Some of the Buddhist caves have shrines that bear carvings of Gautama Buddha, saints and bodhisattavas.


Interestingly, in certain places, the artists have tried to make the stone structures look like as if they were made of wood. Among all the Buddhist caves, the most interesting one is the Vishwakarma cave, also called the Carpenter’s Cave.  It has a multi-storey entrance and a cathedral like stupa called the Chaitya. In the centre, there is a 15 foot statue of Buddha sitting in a preaching position. The ceiling has been beautifully carved in a manner to make it look like it is made of wooden beams.


Among the Hindu caves, the most notable is the Kailasanatha. It is based on the mythological Mount Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. Carved out of one single stone, the monument covers an area double the size of the Parthenon in Athens. Earlier, the temple was covered in white plaster to make it resemble the Mount Kailasa.


38) Aurangabad.


Aurangabad’s deep connect with history is proven by the fact that it is named after the Mughal king Aurangzeb. With a large number of old structures, temples, mosques, museums and gardens, a visitor will have plenty to do on their trip here.

Attractions: The famed Ajanta and Ellora caves stand very close to Aurangabad and one can drive down to these places in a few hours. Bibi ka Maqbara, built during Mughal rule, is similar to the Taj Mahal in appearance. The tomb of Aurangzeb also stands in the city limits of Aurangabad. Aurangabad caves, Daulatabad Fort and Shivaji Museum will be of interest for those on a trip here.


Activities: Try the local delicacies that reflect the influence of the Mughals and are quite similar to those of Hyderabad. Shop for local textiles like Paithani and Himroo apart from purchasing wares made with Bidri work. Go for sightseeing through the streets of Aurangabad steeped in old-world charm.


Type of Destination: Family and kid friendly, historic and pilgrimage.


Distance from Mumbai: 370 kms


Best time to Visit: October to March


39) Ajanta


Distance: 451 Kms

The Ajanta Caves are situated in the Aurangabad district in Maharashtra. One of the most visited weekend getaways near Mumbai, it consists of about 300 rock cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BC to about 480 to 650 CE. The caves have a number of paintings and sculptures which have been described as the ‘finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting’ by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Ajanta Caves have been declared as a protected site by the Archaeological Survey of India and have also been included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Site.


The subterrane is situated at a distance of 100 km from the Ellora caves, which are a cluster of Buddhist caves and Hindu and Jain temples. Situated on the south side of a cliff that is on the south of a gorge on the River Wagura, they were built in two phases.


Those of the first period or the Satavahana period are believed to have been made during the period 100 BCE to 100 CE. These caves were said to be constructed under the patronage of the Satavahana dynasty. The caves of later period or the Vakataka period are supposed to have been constructed in the period from 460 to 480 CE during the reign of Emperor Harishena. It is believed that as many as 20 caves were simultaneously created.


The caves have retained some spectacular murals which speak volumes about the craftsmanship and skill of the artist and the culture and traditions of India at that time. The paintings found in here are of the ‘dry fresco’ type, which means that the paintings were made on a dry plaster surface than on wet plaster. The ceiling also bears beautiful and decorative motifs.


40) Dandeli


North Karnataka’s town of Dandeli is situated close to the Kali River where hordes of adventure tourists descend during the rafting season. It also has wildlife sanctuaries around it where a large variety of birds and wild beings reside within their forests. Some tribes call the jungles of Dandeli their home and one can visit their community to watch their lifestyle at close quarters.

Attractions: Dandeli Anshi Tiger reserve and Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary are where one can go to for jungle safaris on jeep or on elephants. There are some nature trails where one can trek along with a guide. Ancient caves of Kavala, which were once residences of locals, can be approached by going down a few hundred steps.


Activities: White water rafting, kayaking, coracle rides, wildlife and bird watching, camping, trekking are all popular activities offered by various adventure camps in Dandeli.


Type of Destination: Adventure activities and trekking.


Distance from Mumbai: 567 kms


Best time to Visit: October to May


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41) Dudhsagar Falls


The exquisite Dudhsagar (or sea of milk) Waterfall gushes forth from the high peaks of the Western Ghats on Goa’s border with Karnataka state. With a total height of 310 metres (1017 feet) and an average width of 30 metres (100 feet) Dudhsagar is listed as India’s fifth tallest waterfall.

Attractions: This awe-inspiring waterfall holds one under its spell especially in the monsoons when it is in full flow. These energetic and stunning four-tiered falls are the prime attractions for those who take a trip to this area. This waterfall is located within the Bhagwan Mahavir Wild Life Sanctuary, 60 km from Panaji city in Goa.


Activities: Trekking to Dudhsagar is a popular tourist activity since the area surrounding the fall is covered with deciduous forest which has many species of birds, insects, plants and animal residing in it. Splashing around in the shallow areas around the falls and enjoying the lush surroundings is sure to rejuvenate your senses.


Type of Destination: Trekking, family and kid friendly


Distance from Mumbai: 594 kms


Best time to Visit: October to December


42) Champaner


Quite close to the Gujarat city of Vadodara, Champaner is the location of an archaeological park due to its rich history. Along with the Pavagadh Fort that stands adjacent to it, Champaner is considered to be a historical city full of interesting monuments to see.


Attractions: The hill fort of Pavagadh is the major attraction at this place. It has a palace and some Hindu and Jain temples in its premises. There is a ropeway that leads to the hilltop where this fort is positioned. Shehar ki Masjid, Jami Masjid, Kevada Masjid and Mahakalika temple are the religious places found here. Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary is covered with dense forests and is inhabited by wild creatures.


Activities: Get a peek into history as you visit the archeological park at Champaner. Ride in the rope way to reach Pavagadh where you can see the palace and temples. Jungle safari in the sanctuary will keep you engaged for an entire day.


Type of Destination: Historic, family and kid friendly


Distance from Mumbai: 460 kms


Best time to Visit: October to June


43) Dajipur Wildlife Sanctuary


Dajipur’s Bison Sanctuary lies at the southern edge of the Sahyadris and has a large population of the Indian bison staying in it. One can come across other animals too when visiting this tourist place.


Attractions: Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary is another place to go looking for wild creatures in natural surroundings. It is around 30 kms from Dajipur. Several tributaries of the river Krishna flow through the sanctuary and these locations attract numerous bird and animal species as important water sources. The ruins of the Shivgad Fort are sited in the heart of the Dajipur Sanctuary and one can walk up to it at an easy pace.


Activities: Camping, trekking, jungle safaris and bird watching within the sanctuary are popular among the adventure tourists.


Type of Destination: Trekking, family and kid friendly


Distance from Mumbai: 465 kms


Best time to Visit: September to March


44) Amboli


Amboli is another one of the small hill towns that dot the Sahyadri Range. It is close to the tourist hub of Goa and serves as a relaxing getaway that is more secluded than most other holiday destinations.


Attractions: Since it is an area that receives heavy rains, Amboli’s hill slopes are covered in dense forests interspersed with many waterfalls. These falls, along with the many viewpoints spread at different locations, are the prime attractions for tourists. There is an ancient Shiva temple, called Hiranyakeshwar that stands at the entrance to a cave from where the Hiranyakeshi River emerges.


Activities: Enjoy the scenic beauty of this small hill station as it is enveloped in a light mist soon after a spell of rains. Go for a picnic at the Nagatta Falls.


Type of Destination: Family and kid friendly.


Distance from Mumbai: 491 kms


Best time to Visit: Throughout the year


45) Bijapur


This city is quite famous for the architectural marvels that stand in its precincts – the most renowned one being the Gol Gumbaz. Most of the monuments here display an Islamic influence since this place was once ruled by Muslim kings.


Attractions: Gol Gumbaz is where king Adil Shah is buried and is the second largest dome in the world. There is a mosque and museum in its complex too. Taj Bawdi, Ibrahim Rauza, Asar Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Jod Gumbaz, Bara Kaman and Zamia Masjid are other monuments built over several dynastic rules.


Activities: Visiting the numerous ancient monuments and appreciating their architectural uniqueness would take up two-three days while in Bijapur.


Type of Destination: Historic, family and kid friendly.


Distance from Mumbai: 493 kms


Best time to Visit: October to March