Covid almost ended, 2022 February attracts lots of travelers to the hills of Panchgani and ahead to Mahabaleshwar. What exactly are the activities and things to do apart from places to visit in the Wanderlust hills of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani that attract millions of visitors annually. Both hill stations are on the same route at about 19 Km distance.
These strawberry lands need a minimum of 2 days to explore for various activities, hangouts, and sightseeing, So be prepared for 2019 if you plan.
Below are some fast facts, a guide on things to do and not to miss, places to visit at Panchgani, Old and new Mahabaleshwar like exploring the 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 a few farms at Panchgani. Feel the fields and purchase from there, around Market areas and roadside street vendors. This is also the perfect time to enjoy Cape gooseberry (Rasbhari) and Blueberry if you 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 ones. But here is a catch, Big Strawberries are hybrid in nature (A bit of chemical used to make fruit bigger), While small ones 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. The cost differs slightly from vendor to vendor, The fruit is all fresh and cannot be resisted eating immediately. Roadside 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 a few (picking yourself), Bhilare Farm is one place to visit.
Located somewhere between Parsi Point and Mapro Garden, Bhilare is one of those farms that allow visitors picking strawberries in person between 10:30 Am to 12:00 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, and syrup and enjoy the vast strawberry farms sight seating at the open restaurant inside. The restaurant has some snacks option, including specialty Strawberry with cream to chill around with. The premise is actually attractive and fun seating.
If you do not plan to purchase anything, still you can visit and enjoy the premises for free. Previously there was a fruit syrup tasting counter at Mapro garden which seems to be shifted/removed with the 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 areas inside. Kids enjoy the fun of Trampoline jumping which is safe and well maintained at entry. These little things one does are fun and the specialty of these hill stations.
Know About Hill Station Toll / Entry Fees
As soon you leave the National highway and enter on Wai Sarur road, After traveling a few km and crossing a few villages, The Wai Ghat begins that connects to the 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 the roadside with a few barricades and receipts in hand.
The second toll tax (Entry charges) will be at the Mahabaleshwar entry point which is exactly at Veena Lake. Again, a group of young boys will be seen with handy receipts and barricades on road. One has to pay this tax again irrespective of 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 has 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 boy’s school, Sanjeewan Vidyalaya, Kimmins High School, Codesh High School, and a few more. Remember the film Taare Zameen Par, It was all shot here in these 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 Enjoying the local market. Of course, the fun at the selected hotels and resorts is your personal, But I am talking about the outing things to do here.
Sightseeing at Panchgani
Talking about Sightseeing places, the 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 sightseeing, Visiting farms, Mala’s counter, and Mapro, One should not miss relaxing enough in these fresh climate mountains.
A special note for Tableland point: It is a huge flat land hillock and cannot be walked to cover all sightseeing areas. A specialty of this point is the horse riding and valley view. Lots of 90’s Bollywood movies have been shot here, Nothing now. The ride starts at Rs.130 for a short trip of just 10 minutes to Rs.500 that covers 4 to 5 different locations from where one can see different valley views. Be it 2020 or 2022, This place is all same as it looked in 90s movies.
The horse cart ride has been stopped due to risks and accidents and so the solo Horse ride is what one can enjoy now. The elderly should not do horse riding on this risky patch of ground and the location itself is a huge walk area so better keep away if not very excited about it. Winters are best, Summers are worst. Even horses are tired, sometimes overworked, and thirsty.
Still, if you want to walk in the scorching sun with no shade around, Your first sightseeing thing to do here is to walk for around 15 minutes and reaches a viewPoint which also has a tiger cave beneath. I will rate it just 2 of 5 as it has nothing much worth the effort 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 an idea of the 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 the same route is Mahabaleshwar hill station which takes about 33 minutes. Both are different locations yet together as things to do, hang out, and do sightseeing activities. Mahabaleshwar has more places to visit in terms of activities and sightseeing, Compared to Panchgani.
The center 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 know 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 prefer 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 the first time was the ‘Passion Fruit’. The sour taste of the seeds inside the fruit with some salt and chili 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 regular Mumbai city Snacks like Vada Pav, Pani Puri, Cutting Chai, etc also available. That is the Mumbai specialty and a Mumbaikar loves it.
- Wilson, Jadhav’s and a few others are famous for varieties of Chikki, Fudges, Jams, Syrups, and more.
- Wooden Artefacts, Handmade Footwear, a Variety of Handbags, Warm items of clothing are other attractions 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 taxis 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 stations are also available in the surrounding.
If you are going on some package tour that includes accommodation, food, and sightseeing, Your day 1 and 2 tour is fixed and decided by the package provider. Usually, Day 1 is Panchgani, and Day 2 is old Mahabaleshwar sightseeing. But if you are the 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 the Centre. Since it is a hills station, Major is valley views and upon visiting a few you will be ok with skipping a few too, which 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, Especially if you are a first-timer as the wide view of the Krishna river and valley is really nice. Visit before 6:30 in the evening if you are here in the winter as the breeze gets cooler and it’s dark faster compared to another season. The temperature was 16 degrees in the evening when I visited in December 2018.
Considering the time factor, I would prefer next to visit the old Mahabaleshwar road which is about 7 to 9 Km from the center point. Below are the details.
Places to see inside Mahabaleshwar
The second thing to do on my list was to visit Old Mahabaleshwar. The lush green jungle ride of old Mahabaleshwar road is exciting and falls under the Satara district. The sightseeing points start just before the famous old Lord Shiva Temple & Panchganga Temple. On the left is Elphinstone point which has a few simple steps to cover 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 the same route are Savitri point, Arthur’s Seat, Babington Point, Marjorie Point, Wilson Point, Lodwick point, and the Tiger spring last at the top. My personal recommendation for families 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 kilometer of the hilly walk.
The next thing to do here in Old Mahabaleshwar is to visit the thousands 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 stonework is all about. Lord Ram to Maratha Warrior and King, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and many more have visited this place and are a must-visit for 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 signboard on-road entry that should have detailed it as CLOSED.
Elephant Needle Head Viewpoint Video
There are more points and a waterfall (Monsoon only) to be detailed, Here are complete details about individual sightseeing points of Mahabaleshwar are available with videos here.