As the monsoons approach, Maharashtra’s native mountain range, the Sahyadri, becomes the hottest trekking attraction. Courtesy the forts and caves along the way, stunning hilltop views and a chance to escape the city’s constant buzz, monsoon trekking is an easily accessible adventure sport, that also makes for the perfect weekend getaway.
From Harishchandragad in Ratnagiri, to Sandhan Valley in Bhandardara, here are a few picturesque peaks to conquer for both, beginner and pro mountaineers.
1) Korigad, Lonavla, Pune district
Height: 3,049 feet
Why should you visit: A stronghold of the Maratha dynasty under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the interesting part of the fort is that its wall is completely intact and one can walk along its entire perimeter (about 2 km). Its massive gate is also intact, as are several ruins of older structures within the fort, such as six cannons – the largest of which called the Laxmi Toph is located near the Korai Devi temple.
2) Chanderi, Shahapur, Thane district
Height: 2,593 feet
Why should you visit: The ruins of the Chanderi fort offer a peek into its former glory days under Shivaji Maharaj. The hill-top houses a Shiva-temple and caves. Watch out for a Shivaji Statue inside one of the caves.
3) Raigad Fort, Mahad, Raigad district
Height: 2,700 feet
Why should you visit: The capital of Shivaji’s kingdom, Raigad houses the ruins of an erstwhile massive fort. The fort was destroyed in 1818, by the British troops looking to invade these lands. Raigad sits at considerable height. No wonder then, that close to 1,737 steps lead to the structure, making it a convenient, albeit highly tiring climb. A trip to Raigad can also include a visit to the beaches of Hari-Hareshwar and Are Ware. Don’t give a miss to Karnala Bird Sanctuary while you’re at it.
4) Bhimashankar (via Ganesh ghat), Bhavagiri, Raigad district
Height: 3,300 feet
Why you should visit: The hill is the source of the river Bhima, an important river in the state of Maharashtra. So, expect scenic river banks throughout the uphill climb. Atop the hill are Jyotirlinga and Bhimashankar temple. The place also holds major mythological importance. Folklore stories indicate a celestial war that took place between lord Shiva and a asura (demon) Bhima. The Sahyadri Wildlife sanctuary is also in he vicinity Bhimashankar.
5) Andharban, Mulshi, Pune
Height: 2,100 feet
Why should you visit: Literally translated to The Dark Forest, Andharban is literally something out of the harry Potter universe. Expect overshadowing trees, thick shrubs, mist and fog even during the day. The dense forest cover offers an exciting forest trail on its uphill climb. Also in the vicinity is Bhira dam, the source of the Kundalika river which is famous for its white water rafting.
6) Sandhan Valley, Bhandardara, Ahmednagar district
Height: 4,255 feet
Why should you visit: Also known as the Valley of Shadows, the landscape might remind you of the terrain of Middle Earth, from The Lord of The Rings. The quite literal stone trench or canyon might as well be the entry to the kingdom of the Dwarves. Fairly dark even during peak daylight hours, the valley offers slices of history such as 7th century rock cut temples and structures that were built during the Peshwa dynasty.
7) Alangagad, Igatpuri, Nasik
Height : 4,852
Why should you visit: A third of the fort trio Alang, Madan and Kulang, Alangagad is one of the toughest forts to conquer in the state. A thick forest cover lies on the hill, and the pathway leading to the three forts often merge, making it tough to not get lost on the way to the top. What makes Alangagad stand out, however, is the plateau on top of the fort. Additionally, one will find two caves, a small temple and 11 water cisterns on the hill top.
8) Harishchandragad, Kothale, Ahmednagar district
Height: 4,671 feet
Why should you visit: The fort is surprisingly ancient. Remnants of Microlithic man have been discovered here, and various ancient Hindu texts have referenced to Harishchandragad. Its origin is said to have been in the 6th century, during the rule of Kalachuri dynasty. A citadel on the hill top is indicative of its history. One will also find rock cut caves, that house idols of lord Vishnu. The fort was captures by the Marathas in the 1700s. As a result, their architectural stamps are also visible on the fort. Close to Harishchandragad is the Konkan kada, an overhung cliff that treats visitors with a circular rainbow, sometimes, under.
9) Kalsubai Peak, Akole, Ahmednagar district
Height: 5,400 feet
Why should you visit: The Everest of Maharashtra, Kalsubai is the highest peak in the in the state. No wonder then it every trekker’s dream to conquer the peak. As a result, given the number of climbers that flock to the hill each year, and the treacherous natural terrain, demarcated trekking paths have been created to the hill top. The name originates from a folk story about a maid, Kalsubai, who disappeared on the hill, while escaping from her cruel employer. A temple has been built at the pinnacle in her memory.
10) Ratangad, Bhandardara, Ahmednagar district
Height: 4,665 feet
Why should you visit: Also known as the Jew of Forts, the hill top fort of Ratangad is over 2,000 years old. The peak also as a naturally occurring cavity, that makes it look like the eye of the needle. The biggest attraction in the area is Amruteshwar Temple – an 8th century rock cut temple that features rudimentary carvings of Hindu deities such as Ganesha and Hanuman.