Distance 239 km SE of Mumbai
When to go best between September and May. Mahabaleshwar is fair weather virtually round the year. However, the roads can get dangerous during the monsoon, and most buses and tour operators suspend their services at this time
Tourist Office MTDC Mahad Naka, Mahabaleshwar
Tel 02168-260318, 261318
STD code 02168
Road There are two equally scenic and popular routes to Mahabaleshwar. The route via Pune, Shirwal and Panchgani is longer but has better roads. The other is shorter but slower through the ghats down NH17 via Pen, Mahad and Poladpur. At Poladpur police station, take the road going left. Private vehicles need to pay for the entry permit, valid for a week.
The summer capital of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency engages the senses not just on the strength of its natural beauty but also because of the charming tales spun around its most favoured points. Nature is extraordinarily munificent here in Mahabaleshwar &ndash rugged hills, steep and sudden waterfalls, forests crowded with plant life and rivers that flow every which way they please.
Things to see and do
Mahabaleshwar is excellent trekking country. Its hills are breeding grounds of many varieties of medicinal plants and herbs. But there are easier options too, such as a taxi or a bus tour of the sights. However, the best way to explore Mahabaleshwar is to have your own vehicle. Taking along a guide for a tour of the hill station might be a good and practical idea, if you can stand narratives liberally peppered with details of who committed suicide from which point, or where scenes from a hit Bollywood movie were shot. To feel the wind in your hair, hire a bicycle and pedal your way around.
Sunset Point/ Mumbai Point
Adults and children primarily come here to ride horses, but this place is worth a visit for the views alone the sun plays to the gallery every evening. The forts of Pratapgad and Makrandgad are etched clearly on the horizon.
Named after British actor Arthur Malet, this picturesque point was destroyed in an earthquake in 1967. The grilled area marks the point where Arthur would sit and ponder the nature of the wind. Apparently, so fascinated was Arthur by the fact that the wind blew everything backwards, he jumped from the point to see if it would throw him back as well. Apocryphal or not, even now visitors fling their handkerchiefs to the wind to be duly brought back by Arthur&rsquos nemesis.
Mahabaleshwar has almost 30 designated sightseeing spots, from Hunter Point, with its clear view of Pratapgad Fort, to Mahabaleshwar&rsquos highest, Wilson Point, which offers a spectacular view of the twin peaks of Makrandgad.
Malcolm Point is named after a British officer, considered Mahabaleshwar&rsquos First Citizen. Malcolm loved these hills, and founded this hill station. There are several references here to him, and though it is fitting that Mahabaleshwar should remember him kindly, his house, built in 1839, is now in a state of complete neglect. Apart from Malcolm Point, names like Kate&rsquos Point and Marjorie Point abound, and lest one forget that Mahabaleshwar was once the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency, there are even places named after the Presidency&rsquos governor Lord Elphinstone as well as a memorial to its mayor General Lodwick. Just a little further from Lodwick Point is the Elephant&rsquos Head Point. These are all perfect settings for small picnics.
On the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani Road, Lake Venna is the ideal place for an evening outing after you are done with all points, high and low.
Little girls form a circle around you as they implore you to buy their flower baskets to make an offering to Lord Shiva. The ancient shivalingam in the temple is a natural formation and over 500 years old.
Panchganga Mandir is situated at the confluence of five rivers &ndash the Krishna, Gayatri, Savitri, Koyna and Venna. The water from these rivers pours from the spout of a sculpted cow feeding its young one, and collects in a cistern below. Devotees throng the temple through the year. There&rsquos a bustling market-place nearby. Also look out for Morarjee Castle, where Mahatma Gandhi stayed in 1945, and the Colonial-style bungalows built during the Raj.
Have a Crush
Strawberries abound in Mahabaleshwar jams, crushes, jellies, you name it and they&rsquove got it. Archie&rsquos Strawberry Farm, near Kate&rsquos Point, is a great place to chug down a few milkshakes and learn a few things about strawberry cultivation. In full bloom, the place is a riot of red. A visit to MAPRO on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani Road must figure in your itinerary. The premises comprise a rose garden, the fruit juice/squash/crush factory, and a food court that offers several flavours of ice-cream and shakes including strawberry. If you wish, you can also see how the stuff is made. A customer-friendly counter allows you to sample produce before buying crushes, juices, syrups and flavoured tea.
Where to stay
Among the popular hotels MTDC Holiday Resort (Tel 260318, 261318 Tariff INR 1,200-7,500 www.maharashtratourism.gov.in) is centrally located at Bombay Point. Pratap Heritage (Tel 260778-79 Tariff INR 3,800-4,950, with meals www.pratapheritage.com) has decent valley-view rooms. Hotel Shreyas (Tel 260365 Tariff INR 4,500-8,900 www.shreyashotel.com) is near the bus station. Hotel Lake View (Tel 260160-63 Tariff INR 9,700-19,250, for 3D/2N www.hotellakeview.net) is located on Mahabaleshwar-Satara Road. Valley View Resort (Tel 260066-67 Tariff INR 4,100-7,500 with meals valleyview-resort.com) is on Valley View Road.
Brightland Resort and Spa (Tel 260700 Tariff INR 7,500-40,500 www.brightlandholiday.com) on Kate&rsquos Point Road, Ramsukh Resorts (Tel 260825 Tariff INR 11,000-44,000, 3D/2N www.ramsukhresorts.com) near Mahabaleshwar Temple, and Citrus Hotel (Tel 260432 Tariff INR 7,500-11,500 www.citrushotels.com) near Aaram Chowk are high-end options with restaurants, a swimming pool, gym and more.
Where to eat
Most of the hotel restaurants are open to non-guests, and almost all serve Gujarati food besides other cuisines. Try the Imperial Stores for their pizzas and burgers. Aman Restaurant is good for kebabs. If you are looking for good Maharashtrian food, then Sahyadari and Hirkani are must-visits. Grapevine is famous for Parsi cuisine and Thai food. Ice-cream fanatics, rejoice &ndash Mahabaleshwar is your kind of place. And strawberry is not the only flavour available The batata vada/ vada sambhar stalls do fairly brisk business at the temple site in old Mahabaleshwar.