Whenever one thinks of exotic tourist destinations, places like Shimla, Manali, and Darjeeling come to mind. But if you’re looking for a place surrounded by lush green carpets under the bright blue sky, with loads of fun activities to do, then Bhandardara is calling out to you. And many have been traveling to this somewhat unexplored part of Maharashtra for a unique sense of thrill.
Tucked deep within the Western Ghats of India, this quaint village is just a stone's throw away from Igatpuri. To be precise, Bhandardara is located in Akole tehsil, which is in the Ahmednagar district. Mumbai is around 260 km from this district by road, and you can easily find its exact location on any GPS service. Coming back to Bhandardara, its historic forts such as Ratangad and Harishchandragad, and gushing waterfalls are the real stars, including Mount Kalsubai - Maharashtra’s highest peak. With such beauty and history, the exploring potential is high. If this has already intrigued you, read on to find out some of the best things to do in Bhandardara.
Without a shadow of a doubt, a mountainous region is bound to have waterfalls, and many have been flocking to Bhandardara`to witness these cascades. Here are the two prominent ones that are on the tips of every local tongue.
At the base of the waterfall, you’ll find honeycombs decked in the spaces of rock. Huge colonies of honeybees have called this base their home, so be cautious if you venture there.
Fun Fact: Bhandardara gets its electricity from the kinetic energy of the streams of Radha Falls.
The Wilson Dam, situated around 500 meters above, is responsible for creating this waterfall when it overflows. In addition, it produces hydroelectricity as well. That’s a little nugget of information for you.
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If you need a place to unwind or a place to be calm, then visit Arthur Lake. This man-made water body emits a lot of positivity and radiance, so much so, that it has become a tourist hub. Arthur Lake also goes by Bhandardara Lake, so don't get confused if the names are used interchangeably.
You have the Wilson Dam to credit to the lake’s formation. The construction of this structure began in 1910 AD and was completed by the British in 1926 AD. This led to the automatic creation of the lake which is now used as a reservoir. To make the most of this lake, you can rent a boat and paddle your way on its calming waters. It makes for an ideal romantic activity too, and it’s the best way to spend quality time with your significant other. Also, the Sahyadri Hill range borders the lake, with the 170-feet tall Randha Falls just a few meters away.
Boating on its waters will make you feel closer to God as this lake has a deep spiritual significance too. It’s believed that Agastya Rishi, a revered Hindu sage, had meditated on its banks.
If you want to see how Maharashtra looks from a height, then trek the state’s highest summit, Mount Kalsubai. Situated at an altitude of 5,400 feet, this summit draws tourists from far and wide. It’s said that this peak acted as a vantage point during the Maratha rule to keep a watch out for enemies. And while the soldiers kept a keen eye out, they were blessed with views of the Bhandardara Dam and neighboring forts.
This mountain peak is protected within the Kalsubai Harishchandragad Wildlife Sanctuary, and once you reach the summit, you’ll find the Kalsubai Temple. Many devotees trek for the sole reason of catching a glimpse of the temple, since it’s one of India’s oldest places of worship. Many religious fairs and festivals are celebrated here as well.
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If you desire a trek that’s a bit of a challenge, then trekking the Ratangad Fort will not disappoint you. The Ratangad is a 400-year old fort captured by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that is situated in Ratanwadi and is on an elevation of 4,255 feet above sea level. So, surely you’re going to get a solid physical workout on this trek! Overlooking the Bhandardara Lake against a lush backdrop, this humongous fort lies in between the Ghanchakkar hill ranges. And once you reach the summit, you’ll find a naturally formed mass of rock pointing upwards, which is known as the “eye of the needle.”
The trail starts from this quaint village, Ratanwadi, and then passes through the northern banks of the River Pravara. It’s exciting because you’ll have to trek amongst the thicket of bushes and cross small streams: a perfect combination for an adventurous getaway. Getting to the fort will be a bit easier because the forest department has built iron ladders, but still, it can get a bit slippery. Ensure that you have your best footwear while doing this trek.
But after you make that perilous climb, you're rewarded with the view of the Sahyadri Range. There’s nothing more calming and relaxing than admiring mother nature from a height. Click a couple of photographs to show family and friends and encourage them to experience this trek. The fort has four main gates named after Hindu deities - Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan, Trimbak. The main gate welcomes you with sculptures of Hanuman and Lord Ganesha. So, you know that your visit is going to be a fruitful and delightful one.
Ratangad Fort is beautiful all 12 months of the year, but best visit it during the winters (October - February). The climate is nice and cold, the vegetation is still green, and you’ll notice tiny flowers popping within the thickets as well. The monsoons are another great time to experience the streak, but the terrain can get a bit treacherous at times due to the landslides. Also, it fogs up really quickly, so you won't be able to enjoy the view of the Bhandardara Lake from above.
Many people know Bhandardara for its beautiful landscapes, velvet green surroundings, and complex architecture, but not many know of its firefly festival (Kajwa Mahotsav). To experience this, you’ll have to visit Bhandardara just before the monsoons, preferably in early June. The pre-monsoon period is the mating period of Bhandardara fireflies, and seeing the environment fall into a pool of fluorescent light against the backdrop of the night sky is magical. This is an experience everyone should witness at least once.
To increase the chances of sighting these fluorescent clusters, try looking up fruit-bearing trees such as mango, java plum, or fig trees. Fireflies usually reside in such trees and don't be discouraged if you don't find one off the bat. There are many trees, keep persevering! Many agencies offer camping packages during this season. Again, if you avail of any of them, it’ll be another romantic getaway activity. If you’re a musician or an artist, then we’re sure you'll get the right amount of inspiration from this seasonal festival!
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Amruteshwar Temple sums up the complex architecture Bhandardara possesses. Located along the banks of the River Pravara, this monument was constructed in the 9th century. This was the period when the Shilahara dynasty ruled, and this temple was constructed by them as a dedication to Shiva. In all, this beautiful stone temple is 1,200 years old and the Archaeological Survey of India looks after its maintenance. Ratangad Fort is also a stone’s distance from this magnificent Shiva temple.
You’ll be enamored by the various intricate carvings on its pillars and on the main shrine. With such finesse and care, the monument is designed with typical Hemadpanti architectural flair. The ceilings contain some well-designed murals and its mandapas have beautifully carved flowers.
To get to the place, the best viable option is to travel by boat. The roads at Ratanwadi are a bit risky for cars to travel on.
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What Is Special In Bhandardara?
Mount Kalsubai, Maharashtra’s highest peak is located in Bhandardara. The Wilson Dam, along with the Randha and Umbrella waterfalls are some of the most prominent tourist attractions of this town. And don’t forget that there are many things to do in Bhandardara as well, which includes trekking and spending time with nature.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Bhandardara?
The winter season (October- February) is the best time to visit this town. The average low temperature is around 10°C. That means the weather is cozy and suitable to explore the offerings of Bhandardara.
How Far Is Bhandardara From Mumbai?
By road, Mumbai is around 165 km from Bhandardara. It’ll take you approximately 3 hours to reach the outskirts of this town.
What Are Some Famous Places To Eat In Bhandardara?
Here are some of the top-ranked restaurants in Bhandardara:
Is Ratangad Trek Easy?
Ratangad is a moderate trek, to say the least. It gets a bit challenging because of the slippery terrain involved and the immense stamina needed to climb the round-about slopes. But, there are many iron ladders installed by the Forest Department, so that should ease the difficulty off a bit. Trekking to Ratangad during monsoons is extremely dangerous as there are landslides and blockages to the trail.
Is Bhandardara Worth Visiting?
Yes, Bhandardara is worth visiting place. It's a resort town that will offer you much-needed getaway, calm, and amenities. Definitely plan a weekend trip to be able to enjoy the beauty of the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats.
Is Bhandardara Safe To Visit?
It is a well-connected town which is also pretty safe to visit. Just avoid monsoon season, keep your eyes open, and the rest of it all should be all fun!
Which Is The Best Time To Visit Bhandardara?
October to February is the perfect time to visit Bhandardara.