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If there is a hill station in India where strawberry lovers can walk through rows and rows of strawberry plants to pick the most delicious juicy strawberries and savor them, it's Panchgani in Maharashtra. Pleasant climate all through the year and nature-based simple attractions make Panchgani an ideal weekend getaway for weary Mumbaikars. Check what makes Panchgani so enticing.
Going to Panchgani
Being very close to another hill station, Mahabaleshwar (16kms) influx of tourists is perennial. Bus travel takes four hours from Mumbai (266 kms). Pune is the nearest railway station and airport for tourists from other destinations. From Pune, tourists can hire a taxi or use private or public bus services.
Most hill stations in India were discovered by the British who were keen for some respite from the oppressive heat of the Indian summer. Panchgani lies in the Sahyadri mountain range of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. A volcanic plateau or tableland, regarded as the second highest in Asia after the Tibetan Plateau, tops the five hills that surround Panchgani.
The hill station derives part of its name from the five hills around it. There is another version too. The town was named Panchgani i.e. panch meaning five and gani meaning settlement, attributing to the natives who settled here way back.
The hill station at an altitude of 1334 meters above sea level enjoys pleasant climate all year round. During the summer months, the maximum temperature is around 35 degrees and in winters it goes down to a minimum temperature of 8 degrees. From June to September, it is monsoon season.
Unwinding in Panchgani
There aren't too many tourist spots in Panchgani to go around sightseeing. The cool climate, rejuvenating environment, picturesque surroundings make it a perfect place for a weekend break.
Even before you land in Panchgani, the Panchgani Mahabaleshwar belt has a must-visit attraction - the strawberry gardens of Mapro Foods. It is here that visitors are treated to a range of products like jams, sweets, crushes, syrups, squashes, mocktails, toppings etc.
Related to the strawberry gardens of Mapro foods is the annual strawberry festival which is held every year in March. Even the unimaginable Pizza and Bhel have strawberries in it. Besides amazing foods, there is folk dance, magic shows and band performances to keep visitors entertained.
The picturesque green surroundings coupled with chirpy greetings of birds are sure to entice even a casual tourist to walk through lush green paths. From key points on the walking trails, you can see river Krishna taking twists and turns through little settlements, farms and narrow alleys.
Yet another delightful activity in Panchgani is horse riding. Select a horse from one of the many stables and gallop around viewing the scenic landscape, oak forests and trek through the valleys. Consider options of horse rides to the caves. Of course, the escort either walks along or cycles along.
Visit the Sydney point. It is a high cliff on the Krishna Valley. Sydney point is literally resting on a tiny hillock. From here, you can view the sunset; enjoy the lush greenery of Krishna valley, Kamalgad Fort, the city of Wai, Dhoom Dam and the scenic hills of Pandaygarh and Mandardevi.
If you are interested in period buildings, check with the locals and find your way to the first pucca tilted house that was built by a warrant officer of the East India Company in the 1860s. There are some old British buildings and Parsi houses too that take you back to the days of the Raj. Panchgani Hill Range, St. Joseph's, St. Peters and Pinewood Academy are the elite boarding schools in Panchgani.
Some names invoke curiosity like the Devil's Kitchen or Bhim Chula. A place of mythological interest, a large cave considered to be a temporary settlement for the Pandavas while in exile. The place was used by the Pandavas to cook their meals. Very close by is the Pandavgad Caves in Wai which is said to be carved by the five Pandava brothers.
In earlier days, the Parsi Community that lived in Panchgani had a favorite spot. The Parsi point allows you beautiful views of the Dhom Dam backwaters and the lush green Krishna Valley.
Another popular attraction in Panchgani is table land. It is the highest point in Panchgani with an elevation of 4,550 ft above sea level. From here, tourists can enjoy aerial view of the entire town and the valleys nearby. It is the second longest mountain plateau with a vast expanse of flat laterite rock which serves as a natural protection for Panchgani from heavy rains and strong winds, especially during the monsoon.
Some places of tourist interest few kms away from Panchgani include Rajapuri Caves, Wai, and Dhom Dam. Children would love to engage in water sports in Dhom Dam.
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