What exactly are the activities and things to do apart from places to visit in the Wanderlust hills of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani that attracts millions of visitors annually. Both hill stations on same route at about 19 Km distance. These strawberry lands needs minimum 2 days to explore for various activities, hangouts and sightseeing, So be prepared for 2019 if you plan. Below are some fast facts, guide on things to do and not to miss, places to visit at Panchgani, Old and new Mahabaleshwar like exploring market and Strawberry farms etc which is about 250 Km from Mumbai city.
Strawberries Picking and Purchase
First thing first, Winter of November and locals are ready with Strawberry plantations around the hillocks of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. Picking season begins in Mid December when Juicy strawberries are ready to be plugged off (Visitors live picking) available at few farms at Panchgani. Feel the fields and purchase from there, around Market areas and road side street vendors. This is also perfect time to enjoy Cape gooseberry (Rasbhari) and Blue berry if your like. Mulberry (Shahtoot) comes in February.
Just a little insight and information, Something to be observed for strawberries, 2 different types of Strawberries can be seen with sellers and the secret is in the size. Of course, the big fruit attracts and is preferred compared to the small once. But here is a catch, Big Strawberries are hybrid in nature (Bit of chemical used to make fruit bigger), While small once are more natural and sweeter in taste. This information which i was unaware of was given by a local vendor who was selling those bunches. I noted and hope this small tip be helpful to many before purchase.
Strawberries are sold in a leaf bowl (Usually Rs.50 a bowl) which contains about 7 to 9 fruit. Cost differs slightly from vendor to vendor, The fruit is all fresh which cannot be resisted eating immediately. Road side strawberry farms can be seen on the way from Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar. But if you are a big fan of this fruit and want to experience the fields personally and want to plug few (picking yourself), Bhilare Farm is one place to visit.
Located somewhere between Parsi Point and Mapro Garden, Bhilare is one of those farms who allows visitors picking strawberries in person between 10:30 Am to 12:00 in noon (Time may vary). The only term is to purchase the picks at the cost they have mentioned.
Mapro garden is another place you can visit for some shopping of fruit jam, syrup and enjoy the vast strawberry farms sight seating at the open restaurant inside. The restaurant has some snacks option, speciality Strawberry with cream to chill around with. Premise is actually attractive and fun seating.
If you do not plan to purchase anything, still you can visit and enjoy the premise for free. Previously there was a fruit syrup tasting counter at mapro garden which seems to be shifted / removed with Khakra stall on the place now. It is a great place to take some awesome selfies at specially made strawberry shaped selfie boxes and pictures with varieties of flowers and seating area inside. Kids enjoy fun of Trampoline jumping which is safe and well maintained at entry. These little things one do is fun and speciality of these hill stations.
Hill Station Toll / Entry Fees
As soon you leave National highway and enter on Wai Sarur road, After travelling few km and crossing few villages, The Wai Ghat begins that connects to Panchgani entry point. Your first Entry fee (Toll Charges) begins here. Road tax, Pollution Tax is what you need to pay here to the group of guys standing on road side with few barricades and receipts in hand.
Second toll tax (Entry charges) will be at Mahabaleshwar entry point which is exactly at Veena Lake. Again, group of young boys will be seen with handy receipts and barricades on road. One has to pay this tax again irrespective to the one paid at Panchgani entry.
Third, Upon your visit to Old Mahabaleshwar road (Location, Before the sightseeing entry near Lord Shiva Temple), Forest department guys will be charging you with Forest Tax and Grampanchayat tax per person. Do not pay Road Tax again if already paid at Veena Lake area.
Complete Details with Pictures of Receipt, Charges per person, Types of toll and total amount etc is available here, Do not miss.
Panchgani Things to Do
Panchgani is located 19 Km before Mahabaleshwar Hills after crossing the Wai ghat. It is a small beautiful hillock and is preferred by many regular visitors. Many Bollywood celebrities have their second home here. Panchgani is also famous for Boarding schools like St. peter’s boys school, Sanjeewan Vidyalaya, Kimmins High School, Codesh High School and few more. Remember the film Taare Zameen Par, It was all shot here at this hills.
To be particular, 3 Major things to do inside Panchgani are Sightseeing, Explore Strawberry farms and places like Mapro Garden and Mala’s outlet and Enjoy the local market. Of course, the fun at the selected hotels and resort is your personal, But i am talking about the outing things to do here.
First thing at Panchgani is Sightseeing
Talking about Sightseeing places, 3 main points here are Parsi Point, Table Land and Sydney Point. One more place not exactly inside Panchgani, But Rajpuri and Karthik caves which are on Khingar road are historic sightseeing locations at about 7 Km. Mapro garden is another place and details of which i have already given above. With limited activities and things to do here at Panchgani like few sightseeing, Visiting farms, Mala’s counter and Mapro, One should not miss on relaxing enough at this fresh climate mountains.
A special note for Table land point : It is a huge flat land hillock and cannot be walked to cover all sightseeing area. Speciality of this point is the horse riding and valley view. Lots of 90’s Bollywood movies has been shot here, Nothing now. The ride starts at Rs.130 for a short trip of just 10 minute to Rs.500 that covers 4 to 5 different locations from where one can see different valley view.
The horse cart ride has been stopped due to risks and accidents and so the solo Horse ride is what one can enjoy now. Elderly should not do horse riding at this risky patch of ground and the location itself is a huge walk area so better keep away if not very excited for it. Winters are best, Summers are worst. Even horses are tired, sometimes over worked and thirsty.
Still, if you want to walk in scorching sun with no shade around, Your first sightseeing thing to do here is to Walk for around 15 minutes and reaches a view Point which also has a tiger cave beneath. I will rate it just 2 of 5 as it has nothing much worth the efforts to reach the hill. The restaurant is tiny with very limited options and also needs some steep ladders to reach the cave area. Nothing much inside this cave and the restaurant. Below panchgani sightseeing videos will give you and idea of same.
Tiger Caves at Table Land Point
Table Land Point Video
Sydney Point Video
Parsi Point Video
Details on all sightseeing point here.
Old and New Mahabaleshwar Things to Do
About 19 Kilometre ahead of Panchgani on same route is Mahabaleshwar hill station which takes about 33 minutes. Both are different locations yet together as things to do, hangout and sightseeing activities. Mahabaleshwar has more places to visit in terms of activities and sightseeing, Compared to Panchgani.
The centre point is Mahabaleshwar market next to the public transport bus depot. It is an ideal location to select your hotel for ease of travel and other facilities. This is also the main point / location from where you can route to old Mahabaleshwar road for sightseeing and visit the famous Panchganga & Lord Shiva temple.
To be precise, if one wants to enjoy this place properly, First thing is to relax back and visit the local Mahabaleshwar Market, enjoying the delicacies. Here is the list of things to do when inside this Market.
Exploring Mahabaleshwar Market
Market View Walk Video
- Those who have visited multiple times knows the famous ‘Fresh Strawberry with Cream’, which is the most famous eat at many shops and restaurants inside. That was the first thing i did when here. Fresh strawberries are mixed with smooth cream and the combination is just awesome the taste. The cost is about Rs.160 per serving. Alternately, Fresh strawberry juice is what few prefers which is again a thumbs up.
- If you like Kiwi fruit, A local fruit i saw this time sold in this market and experienced for first time was the ‘Passion Fruit’. The sour taste of the seeds inside the fruit with some salt and chilli powder to balance it is unique and ok for one time though. I believe it should be rich in Vitamin ‘C’, But the vendor told me it is full of Calcium.
- Street side stalls selling Sweet corn, Maggie, Pav Bhaji is another thing i liked here. More of regular Mumbai city Snacks like Vada Pav, Pani Puri, Cutting Chai etc also available. That is the Mumbai speciality and a Mumbaikar loves it.
- Wilson, Jadhav’s and few others are famous for varieties of Chikki, Fudges, Jams, Syrups and more.
- Wooden Artefacts, Handmade Footwear, Variety of Handbags, Warm clothings are another attraction inside this market.
- Lots of options for Non-Veg food lovers too. For pure Veggies, restaurants like Kamats also available. Major or many food brands are available here so not to worry about same.
- Authorized and Private guides and taxi’s are also available at both ends of this market. They are very gentle and polite and no one seems to be pushing and in hurry to get a customer which is a big thumbs up.
- Chemists (Drug Stores) available for Emergency till late night 12:00. Petrol station also available in surrounding.
Sightseeing Things to Do
If you are going in some package tour that includes accommodation, food and sightseeing, Your day 1 and 2 tour is fixed and decided by package provider. Usually, Day 1 is Panchgani and Day 2 is old Mahabaleshwar sightseeing. But if you are first timer and in your own vehicle ready to explore Mahabaleshwar points, Here are some places to visit on day 1 and day 2 of your tour.
Major sightseeing points of Mahabaleshwar are not more than 6 to 7 Km from Centre. Since it is a hills station, Major are valley views and upon visiting few you will be ok with skipping few too, is what my experience is. Sightseeing is a major thing to do here as lots of places for view and a boating area (Veena lake) too.
Do not miss one location with many points which is Kate’s point, Echo point, Elephant needle view at 6 Km towards Panchgani. This is one location you must not miss visiting, Specially if you are a first timer as the wide view of Krishana river and valley is really nice. Visit before 6:30 in evening if you are here in Winters as breeze gets cooler and its dark faster compared to other season. Temperature was 16 degree in Evening when i visited in December 2018.
Considering the time factor, I would prefer next to visit old Mahabaleshwar road which is about 7 to 9 Km from centre point. Below are the details.
Old Mahabaleshwar Places to see
Second thing to do on my list was visiting Old Mahabaleshwar. The lush green jungle ride of old Mahabaleshwar road is exciting that falls under satara district. The sightseeing points starts just before the famous old Lord Shiva Temple & Panchganga Temple. On the left is Elphinstone point which has few simple steps to cover from the car parking area. Elderly or Aged people can easily reach here. This point has 3 main valley views which are Koyna valley on left, Pratapgarh fort right in front and satara mountain valley on right.
Moving ahead on same route are Savitri point, Arthur seat, Babbington Point, Marjorie Point, Wilson Point, Lodwick point and the Tiger spring last at the top. My personal recommendations for family with elderly who cannot walk for long is to reach Savitri point and not go ahead further to other points till tigers spring which is about 1 kilometre of hilly walk.
Next thing to do here in Old Mahabaleshwar is to visit the thousands of years old Panchganga Temple and Krishnabai temple of Lord shiva (Open till 8:00 Pm). This is one place to visit and one finds what the ancient black stone work is all about. Lord Ram to Maratha Warrior and King, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and many more have visited this place and is a must visit for a first timers.
NOTE : Connaught Peak is one point on the way to old Mahabaleshwar that comes first on the right. It is a total waste of time, dense forest area and as per the sightseeing tour listing, is CLOSED. I reached the top and was totally disappointed. Expected was a sign board on road entry that should have detailed it as CLOSED.
Elephant Needle Head View Point Video
There are more point and a waterfall (Monsoon only) to be detailed, Here are complete details about individual sightseeing points of Mahabaleshwar are available with videos here.