Make the most of your year-end holiday to Mumbai this year, and take a trip to Mahabaleshwar. Around 260 kilometres by road from the city, the former summer capital of the Bombay presidency during the British era is situated at an elevation of 1,353 meters in the Western Ghats. Overlooking the River Krishna, which originates in these ghats, Mahabaleshwar, apart from its natural beauty, has some unique things on offer for you.
Think Mahabaleshwar. Think strawberries. The hill town is overrun with tourists rushing in during picking season for a chance to pluck and buy the choicest of the berries. From December to March, the roads leading into the town are lined with parked vehicles as people line up to experience fruit picking. Or, you could buy them from the many vendors in and around the city. For the complete experience of the strawberries-ice-cream-chocolate variety, head to the Mapro Garden in town or descend to their store, restaurant, and factory in Wai, for their crushes, syrups, candies, jams, marmalades, etc.
Head to the Town Bazaar if you are out to buy wood artefacts and furniture. You will find all quality and types of wood products to choose from. There is a cottage industry in Mahabaleshwar for walking sticks with delicately carved handles. Entire artisan families are involved in creating various items from the wood of the local lohkhandi, chimath, or apti tree.
While there are countless shops where you can buy leather items, especially shoes and sandals, most may have sourced their wares from outside of town. If you want genuine Mahabaleshwar leather products, step towards either New India Boots, Prabhat store, Hind, or Hemant shoe store.
Before you climb to Mahabaleshwar, make a stopover in Wai to stock up on your turmeric. The locals set up several shops and temporary roadside stalls to sell the medicinal colouring agent essential to Indian cuisine. Wai, on the banks of the River Krishna, is ideal for the water-intensive crop of turmeric.
Though not in Mahabaleshwar, around 18 km away in Panchgani lies Devrai Art Village. Started by Mandakini Mathur, this non-profit initiative began with a core group of artisans from the Gadchiroli region and later welcomed artists from Chhattisgarh. They create stunning pieces using dhokra techniques, which they have made their own. Their Rock Dhokra items are a fusion of metal with stone, while Organic Dhokra has natural materials such as leaves, bark, and fruit cast directly into the metal.