Famous for its evergreen forests, picturesque architecture, breezy weather, and strawberries, Mahabaleshwar is one of the most beautiful hill stations nestled in the Western Ghats. In fact, this city is so beautiful that it was called the Summer Capital of Bombay during the British Raj.
Mahabaleshwar is still a sought-after weekend destination for the people in Mumbai, Pune, and nearby places in Maharashtra. The availability of a multitude of tourist attractions, connectivity to all the major parts of the state, and readily available accommodation at pretty much every price point make Mahabaleshwar an ideal getaway spot for people from all walks of life.
The hill station of Mahabaleshwar consists of two villages, namely, Old Kshetra and Shindola. It’s also the point of origin of the River Krishna, making it a rather significant pilgrimage for the Hindu visitors. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s a very high chance that Mahabaleshwar will tick the right boxes for you. Here’s our Mahabaleshwar travel guide to help you plan your trip better!
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The history of this place is just as colorful as the landscape. To begin with, the story of how Mahabaleshwar got its name is pretty interesting. In the times when gods and demons roamed the Earth, Lord Brahma was performing the penance required to create life itself. Two asuras, Mahabali and Atibali, tried to trouble the praying god. When Lord Vishnu deployed a strategy to kill the asuras, the last standing asura demanded that his name be attached to Lord Shiva, and the place of his death be named after it, hence giving birth to Mahabaleshwar.
There is an ongoing legend that a 13th-century Yadava ruler was the first one to lay claim on this land. He found the source of the River Krishna and built a water tank in that location. From then on, until 1656, it was ruled by a number of emperors. On account of political reasons, the founder of the Maratha Empire Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj took over the place. After his rule, the entire area of Mahabaleshwar went under the British Raj and gained popularity as a summer hideout.
Because of its history and location, the culture of Mahabaleshwar is very rich. At its core, this city boasts Maharashtrian culture with Marathi being the tongue of the land and festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali being at the center of it. One peculiarity of this city is the Strawberry Festival. Other than that, you’ll see religions like Islam and Christianism being followed along with Hindi, English, and Malvani being spoken.
There is no airport in Mahabaleshwar. The closest one is in Pune but even that is about 120 km away. Thankfully, the airport in Pune is an international one, meaning even international travelers can make an easy commute to this hill station. If you land in Pune, you have the option of taking a train, bus, or cab to Mahabaleshwar.
While Pune International Airport is closer, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is much more connected to the rest of the country as well as the world. So, you’ll have a better chance of finding a flight that lands at this airport, which is about 247 km away.
Just like Pune, you can avail various forms of road transportation to reach Mahabaleshwar. While the drive is comfortable, it’s a long journey. So, prepare yourself for 5-6 hours of sitting.
The railway station closest to Mahabaleshwar is a tiny railhead situated 62 km away, known as Wathar Railway Station. Despite the small stature, this station does see trains like Maharashtra Express, Koyna Express, Sahyadri Express, etc. making it convenient if you can find yourself on a train that stops here.
However, the Pune Railway Station is much more preferred by travelers since it is very well connected to the rest of the country. From here, you also have other modes of transport that are easily available and in a variety of options.
There are two ways to reach Mahabaleshwar by road. The first one requires you to go through Panvel, Mahad, and Poladpur on the NH48, while the other one takes you to the Mumbai - Pune Expressway and then on to the Pune - Satara Highway.
The first route is one that is taken by bikers since they are not allowed on the Expressway. However, the good part is that both routes are beautiful enough for you to not regret being able to take one over the other.
If you’re driving, you can take either route to go there, and to put it simply, the Expressway will get you there faster, while the other route will give you much more bends, curves, and scenery. There are private and government-run buses plying from Mumbai and Pune and their tickets are very reasonable. Simply put, if you want to go to Mahabaleshwar by road, you can spoil yourself to your heart’s content.
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Mahabaleshwar is a place that can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, it will present itself in different colors every season and make you fall in love at least thrice.
Most people prefer visiting Mahabaleshwar in the summer season since the temperatures are moderate and the weather is pleasant, allowing the visitors to escape the heat. In fact, summer is probably the busiest season for the locals here since a lot of families and youngsters decide to spend their summer vacation here.
However, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, the winters in Mahabaleshwar are definitely worth checking out. The months between November and February bring the temperature down to an average range of 10°C and 22°C. With the onset of the cold, the city becomes greener and since it’s the off-season, it is also quieter. A lot of couples and honeymooners make the most of it and visit Mahabaleshwar in this season.
Lastly, the monsoons in Mahabaleshwar do give the entire hill station a new hue. However, the rainfall here is on the heavier side and makes some of the places less accessible. Moreover, this area also becomes prone to landslides in the monsoon, so if you are to visit Mahabaleshwar in the monsoon, make sure you’re extremely careful.
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Even though Mahabaleshwar is at an elevation, it is built on a plateau. This makes getting around the hill station very easy. If you’re the kind to get there first and figure out the rest later, you can get yourself a taxi from the center of the city, opposite of the Club.
These taxis also provide a sightseeing service, which is regulated by the local transportation office near the bus stand. The best part is that taxis are very affordable. In fact, the drivers will charge you INR 50 for ferrying to local places in or around New Mahabaleshwar.
For a more authentic experience, you can choose to travel by the buses that ply within the city. You can get yourself a ticket for a ‘darshan’ that will either take you to Pratapgad at 9:00 am or to eleven different points including the strawberry farms. This darshan starts at 2:15 pm and ends around sunset at 5:30 - 6:00 pm.
Both of these darshans are relatively cheap at about INR 80 - INR 85 and will take you around in a semi-luxury bus. However, you should be warned of the fact that due to increasing numbers of people hiring personal taxis or getting their own vehicles, the roads are often jammed in the peak season and the parking lots are rendered useless, forcing people to park on the side of the roads.
While getting your own four-wheeler or two-wheeler is the easiest way to get around Mahabaleshwar, getting on the bus is the best way to do so, as it allows you to get to the spots without getting tired and enjoy the splendid views while you get there.
Also Read: Traveling To Maharashtra During Covid
‘Mahabaleshwar is just a collection of ‘points’.
While it’s true that this hill station has a lot of viewing points in the forests that surround it, Mahabaleshwar is much more than that. The entire city is filled with British architecture and there are many resorts and playgrounds for people of all ages to enjoy.
In fact, Shivaji Maharaj built one of the most famous forts of his empire in Mahabaleshwar! Pratapgad is a small example of the heritage and culture of the Maratha empire and its king. There are also multiple strawberry farms, the biggest one being the Mapro Gardens. All of these places make Mahabaleshwar more than just a bunch of trails through the jungle.
Arthur’s Seat is the most famous point in Mahabaleshwar. It is located about 1,470 meters above sea level and offers exquisite views of the Savitri River on the left and the Bramha Aranya forests to the right. Because of the natural beauty of the point itself, and the landscape surrounding it, it’s often referred to as the ‘‘Queen Of Points”.
As per legend, this point is named after Arthur Malet, a governor of Mahabaleshwar who lost his wife and daughter in the Savitri River and consequently spent a long time at this point looking at the river, mourning for his loss.
Lingmala Waterfalls is actually a pair of waterfalls that lie about 6 kilometers away from the city of Mahabaleshwar. You need to get off of your vehicle in the parking lot on the Mahabaleshwar - Pune Road and walk just a few minutes to get to these waterfalls.
Once you get there, you’ll find the bigger waterfall, which is 600 feet in height, and a smaller one about thirty minutes away from it. Both of these waterfalls offer glorious views of the valleys that are covered in green. Lingmala Waterfalls is a great place to have a day out with your family.
About 2 kilometers away from the heart of the city, Venna Lake is a man-made lake that covers about 7-8 km of the land. The astounding backdrop of Mahabaleshwar’s natural cover and ample space in the surroundings has made it an ideal place for a picnic.
This lake is surrounded by trees, making it slightly secluded and serene. You can also avail boat rides for a nominal price, along with street food on the shores. If you’re looking for a place to have a relaxing day in the lap of nature, Venna Lake is just what you’re looking for.
Located above the Panch Ganga Temple, Krishnabai Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built in 1888, this temple sports Hemadpanthi architecture that is seen in the carved stone columns and sculpted ceilings.
Legend says that the stone-carved cow in the temple is considered to be the point of origination of the Krishna River. The water that flows from the mouth of the cow is collected in a tank, before it is let out into the river, making this a significant pilgrimage for Hindu devotees.
What Is Mahabaleshwar Famous For?
Mahabaleshwar is famous for its architectural as well as natural marvels and the handicrafts, leather items, and kolhapuri footwear. Apart from these, the hill station is also famous for its strawberries as a variety of strawberry products are sold here.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Mahabaleshwar?
You can visit Mahabaleshwar any time of the year. However, for the best possible experience of this hill station, we recommend you to visit Mahabaleshwar in the winter season when the temperature drops quite a bit.
How Many Days Are Enough For Mahabaleshwar?
While you’ll require more than a week to cover all the points and other tourist spots in Mahabaleshwar, you can visit all the major tourist attractions in around three days.
How Far is Panchgani From Mahabaleshwar?
The distance between Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar is a mere 19 km.
Which is better Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar?
Both options are great for a one-day visit. If your looking for a peaceful day of exploration then you should opt for Mahabaleshwar as it has some great places like the Mapro Garden to visit.
What is the strawberry season in Mahabaleshwar?
The harvest season in Mahabaleshwar begins in December and spans up to February. So if you're planning to go berry-picking then this is the best time to visit.
What is famous in Mahabaleshwar for shopping?
Mahabaleshwar is famous for strawberries, fruit-based syrups, jams, crushes, fresh honey, and cane artifacts.
Which route is best for Mahabaleshwar?
The best route to travel to Mahabaleshwar is the NH4. This highway is accessible from Mumbai, Pune, Surur, and Panchgani going towards Mahabaleshwar.
How much time does it take to reach Mahabaleshwar from Mumbai?
A direct bus to Mahabaleshwar takes about 5.5 hours and is the cheapest way of travel.