Quick Guide Bhandardara, Maharashtra

Majestic lakes, soaring verdant mountains, rambunctious waterfalls and a host of adventure activities is what makes Bhandardara a quintessential weekend getaway for nature lovers
Quick Guide Bhandardara, Maharashtra

Fast facts
Distance 180 km NE of Mumbai
When to go The best time to visit is September to February, just after the monsoons.
Tourist Offices MTDC Shendi, Bhandardara
Tel 02424-257171, 257032
MTDC Mumbai
Tel 022-22044040
Web maharashtratourism.gov.in
STD code 02424

Getting there
Nearest railhead is Igatpuri (40 km,1 ½ &nbsphrs).
Road Take the Mumbai-Nashik Road (NH3) to Ghoti past Igatpuri. Just beyond the bus station, take a right. As the road forks, take the right to Bari village. Again take the right at the next fork (at Varangushi) to Shendi and Bhandardara.

The magnificent drive towards the sleepy, little-known Bhandardara is a perfect precursor to the destination itself. Once you get off the highway and turn right on the road that leads to the little-known town via Ghoti, all traces of civilization slowly vanish. What lies in front of you is this endless road, which promises to lead you to your intended destination. Lined with thick, ancient trees on either side, the road meanders past the wondrous Maharashtrian countryside, with the Western Ghats as your constant companion. And just when you are beginning to wonder if you missed a turn somewhere, the ascent uphill begins. Continue onward and you&rsquoll Bhandardara, a forgotten, rustic town, that makes a perfect getaway from the monotonous city life. There are no five-star comforts here, no fine dining. What you get instead is a healthy dose of clean air, greenery and awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Things to see and do
Bhandardara is suitable for all kinds of tourists. If you are an adventure lover there are ample walks to take, sights to explore and peaks to scale. However, for the laid-back visitor, there is the option of cozying up in a chair with a book, or taking a leisurely walk by the lake. You can also bring your line and tackle along and find a suitable spot for some angling. 

&nbspThere are jeeps available at the village square in Shendi, just 3 km away, to take you on a tour of the predetermined points of interest around Bhandardara, but this often ends up being just a long drive and not worth the money. Instead, set your own itinerary and take the hired jeep only to places of your choice, or just hop on and off the many jeeps that ferry locals from one village to another. The last option is cheap and you get a taste of how the residents commute. In addition, there are local guides that usually hang around the MTDC resort, who are willing to show you around for a nominal fee. They are the best choice if you have a car and driver at your disposal. Their knowledge of the area is pretty extensive and they merely ask to be dropped off at a convenient point when the tour is over. 

Bhandardara Lake
Also called Lake Arthur Hill, this vast body of water was created when the Wilson Dam was built across the Pravara river, which has its own legend. It is said that Sri Agasti Rishi meditated in this region for about a year, surviving only on air and water. Pleased with his devotion, god granted him a boon in the form of a stream of the sacred Ganges, thus creating River Pravara. The gigantic Wilson Dam, built by the British between 1910-1926, is one of the country&rsquos oldest and stands at a height of 492 ft. It was constructed to provide irrigation to the region. During the monsoons, when the water levels increase, the overflow gates are opened, creating two huge 60-to-80-ft cascades of water that gush down to the rocks below. Several water channels unite to form one enormous waterfall, which is commonly called the Umbrella Falls, because it creates an illusion of a huge canopy of water. A picnic area at the foot of the dam is the best place to admire the falls.

Randha Falls
Drive 10 km down river, taking in the wonderful scenery and weather, to arrive at the roaring Randha Falls. The Pravara river plunges 170 ft down into a gorge, creating a breathtaking sight. The waterfall is the third largest in India. A look-out point just above the falls provides a great view and photo-op.

A footpath (steep in places) leads down to the pools below. Be careful as the currents in the pools can be strong.

The lake offers great opportunities for anglers. With just the right combination of patience and luck, you may secure yourself a good catch. Boats are not allowed on the lake so casting a line or spoon fishing is the way to go. The pools at the bottom of the two falls are also great fishing spots. However, the dam is out of bounds.

Walking and Bird-watching
The best way to explore Bhandardara&rsquos beauty is to take walks along the shores of the lake. After the first monsoon showers, with the valley shrouded in a green veil and the lake overflowing with water, the views are simply spectacular. Nature lovers may even spot waders during these perambulations.

Where to stay
MTDC Holiday Resort (Tel 02424-257032, 257171 Tariff INR 1,100-4,400) and Anandvan Resort (Tel 257320 Cell 09920311221 Tariff INR 20,000-1, 00,000 for 3D/2N www.anandvanresorts.com) are by the lake. Yash Resort (Tel 257031, Cell 07738772775 Tariff INR 5,400-12,300 yashresort.co.in) has a mix of city amenities and rural experiences.

Where to eat
There are very few options for eating out in Bhandardara. The local staple of varan bhat (dal-rice) is easily available but can be spicy. Some tandoori and non-vegetarian food is available but should be ordered in advance or you can expect a long wait while it is prepared for you. Freshwater fish and, if you are lucky, shrimp is sometimes on the menu or can be ordered in advance. The Maharashtrian regular fare of usal pao, misal pao and vada pao are easily available. The area is famous for a sweet peda that you will find being sold everywhere.

The freshly caught fish that they cook up is an interesting item on MTDC&rsquos Yashanjali Restaurant&rsquos multi-cuisine menu. Some of the newer hotels also have restaurants where you can get fresh food.

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