Traveling and Dreaming- The West Maharashtra Chapter

In today’s fast-paced world, everyone is behind success and money. In an attempt to taste glory, we stop enjoying the little things. Now we can’t take our wealth with us when we depart from this mortal world so isn’t it a better idea to enjoy the beauty this world has to offer before leaving it? This can help us find some peace of mind that is lost in our hectic lives. In this travelogue, we’ll be detailing some places in Maharashtra which are charming enough to soothe one’s soul. Natural beauty in the form of beaches in Konkan, dense forests, and the western ghats would mesmerize any traveler.

The birthplace of the river Krishna, a land covered with lush green trees, surrounded by tall mountains, blessed with pleasant weather, Mahabaleshwar is considered to be an ideal hill station. When in Mahabaleshwar, first visit the Venna Lake, which is a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains covered in green carpet. A boat ride through the placid waters of this lake is not one to be missed out on. When one says Mahabaleshwar, a foodie hears ‘strawberries’; such is the reputation of the strawberry production in this region. Mapro garden hosts a strawberry festival in March/April during the Easter-weekend every year, giving free strawberries to the tourists, and a wide variety of dishes like strawberry pizza, bhel, chocolate, and many more, making it truly a foodie’s delight.

A trudge through narrow trails of dense forest, the feel of gentle kisses of the breeze blowing through tall trees, sweet chirping of birds caressing the ears, sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? This is what you get to experience as you make your way to the majestic Lingamala Falls, a picturesque destination, perfect for even the Instagram lovers to lose themselves. Elephant’s Head Point, mini Kashmir, Parsi point, Lodwick point, and tableland are some of the best couples’ hangout spots with fresh air, abundant sunshine, and scenic beauty all over, truly romantic. Shree Kshetra Mahabaleshwar, Panchganga Temple, Krishnabai Temple, and roman catholic church are the religious spots visited by many devotees every year. A four or five days tour to Mahabaleshwar during winter holidays or a monsoon tour makes up for perfect relaxation one needs. So, when are you planning your trip to Mahabaleshwar? Whenever you do, don’t forget to click a few pictures at Bombay Point – which gives a spectacular view of the sunset.

Once the capital of the Yadavas (9th century to 14th century) and Sultan Mohammad Bin Tughluq (1327), a home to ‘Bibi Ka Maqbara’, the replica of Taj Mahal Aurangabad holds tremendous historical significance. Ajanta and Ellora caves located near Aurangabad manifest magnificent artwork crafted thousands of years ago using simple tools like chisel and hammer and have the status of world heritage sites. Ancient artwork in these caves and beautiful Mughal architecture in the city makes it one of the best tourist places in the country. 

When in Aurangabad, one should visit Daulatabad fort to click some amiable pictures with the magnificent Chand-Minar in the background. You will also get to view some amazing sculptures against the backdrop of medieval architecture. If you haven’t visited the wonderful Taj Mahal yet then you should try visiting the mini-Taj Mahal of Aurangabad.

With medium-height trees on both sides of the rectangular pool which reflects the white tomb, the view of ‘Bibi Ka Maqbara’ totally resembles the Taj. For a lot of people, the Taj Mahal of Agra is too crowded to soak in the beauty of the monument. Whereas at ‘Bibi ka Maqbara’, the environment is far more peaceful and you can comfortably pose for a photograph here without being rushed by a crowd. If you love wild animals, flora, and birds, then you should visit Siddhartha Garden for a short picnic. There are many religious places to visit around the city such as the Grishneshwar temple, Bhadra Maruti Temple, and Jama Masjid. A foodie in Aurangabad should not miss out on the local spicy tandoori dishes here. This beautiful city has something in store for every kind of tourist.

Ellora Caves:
29 kilometers to the north-west of Aurangabad there is a heaven carved out in stones, well known as the Ellora Caves. This magnificent artwork dates back to 600 to 1000 CE with over 100 caves of which only 34 are open for tourists today. These 34 caves include 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and 5 Jain Caves. The Buddhist Caves are monasteries with prayer halls, living quarters, sleeping quarters, kitchens, and other rooms, with carvings of Gautam Buddha and bodhisattvas all carved out into the mountain face. The Jain caves feature highly delicate carvings of the 24 jinas, yakshas, yakshis, and ancient human devotees. The Chhota Kailasha cave is particularly significant due to two larger than life-size reliefs of dancing Indra, one with eight arms and the other with twelve arms. Among the Hindu caves, the Kailasha temple is particularly notable as it is entirely carved out in a single rock. The Rameshwar temple depicts Parvati’s wedding to Shiva and also the relief of a dancing Shiva. At this picturesque location, you will get tired clicking photos and still feel that you haven’t clicked enough of them! 

Ajanta Caves:
104 kilometers from Aurangabad lies the beautiful valley of the river Waghurna which houses one of the rare surviving artwork of ancient India – the Ajanta Caves. These are 30 Buddhist caves cut into the face of a mountain such a way that it forms a horseshoe shape around the river. As you walk over the path with the carved-out caves on one side, the river flowing underneath on the other side, and the forest surrounding the rest of the area, you will get a feeling that you have got your money’s worth coming here.

If you wish to go inside any of the caves then you must remove your shoes outside and queue up with other tourists. Inside the caves, there is complete darkness and you are not allowed to light your torch according to the ASI rules. Fortunately, you can view most of the paintings and sculptures, courtesy to the special lights provided by ASI. If you wish to see more, contact a guide who is allowed to use a torch there. The sculptures, murals, and ceiling paintings inside each cave are truly mesmerizing! Such is the atmosphere of this spot that it finds a place in almost everybody’s bucket list. 

Down the spine of north Maharashtra, with an amazing heritage and fanned by the hills of Mahabaleshwar, there is still a lot to be explored. Beckoning the traveler within is the sublime beauty of the Konkan coast.

Tracing the Konkan coast is an unbelievable journey. The clean beaches, thick and green coconut spread, the mouth-watering delicacies, and jolly natives around, what else could a relaxing vacation ask for?

The clean and safest beach of the Konkan coast lies in Tarkarli with facilities for scuba diving and water sports. The beach is flat and occupies about 5 football stadiums. Winters at Tarkarli with scuba diving are just perfect.

Here we come across a surprise in Vengurla as we descend south. We have natural beauty in the Tarkarli river. Behold the tsunami island which will be a cherry on the top of one’s wishful adventure. From reaching the island in a boat, setting foot on the tsunami island in low tide, jet skiing, watching the river gently kiss the Arabian Sea to going back onshore when the high tide finally starts swallowing you, this place is truly peaceful.

Ending the night in Shiroda, with a lot of guest houses around, you will never feel away from home. The most authentic cuisine, cooked by the locals will never fail to satiate your appetite. The fish fry, sol kadi, rassa, and the exotic Indrayani rice will give you the taste of Konkan.

When in Shiroda, start the day early on the beach. Away from the crowd and pollution, the beaches in Shiroda are cleaner and have a certain raw beauty. There won’t be a havoc of trash and vendors on the beach to spoil the essence of nature. Walking to the beach, one gets to see the rural tranquillity. The plants shaking dew drops off of their morning glory, the smell of smoke from the earthen stoves, brewing tea, local ladies attending the chores, and fishermen on their day will make you want to stay longer. The kutcha rasta leading to ethereal beach is no less than a quest.

After a yummy Wada kombda breakfast it is time to get the car going, the playlists ready and the Malvan vibes embracing you for the next destination, Sawantwadi.

Once in Sawantwadi time just flies in the hunt for the places like Moti Talao, Sawantwadi Palace, Atmeshwar Tali, etc. Grabbing lunch and dinner, one never gets weary of eating all the fish with different recipes in every corner of the city. The sweets here just light up the flavors with coconut-based recipes. Shopping here opens many doors to local markets and malls. Meva is also something you wouldn’t miss to take home as a souvenir. 

The next time you grope for tour memories, we’re sure Konkan will be the most remarkable of places. Haul the box of memories in the car and head towards the south Maharashtra. On the road to our destination, why not relax at the Amboli waterfalls? Breathe the purest air and hear the water splash against the magnanimous rocks. The aura of this venue and the perfect pictures will give the best closure to the Konkan diary.

Gear up, it is time to learn more about one of the most culturally and historically significant cities of Maharashtra, Kolhapur. 

The land, once reigned by Shahu Maharaj, the torchbearer of education in his time, Kolhapur is blessed with the beautiful topography, pleasant weather, and hospitable people. It’s famous for the Mahalakshmi temple which is one of the shakti peeth according to the Hindu mythology. The nearby Panhala fort, around 40 km from the city, is the historical memorabilia of the Maratha warriors and their victory tales. The forts stand well preserved and the journey is quite soothing. After an exhausting day of traveling in the city, a perfect sunset in the Rankala park, gazing at the beautiful Shalini Palace will make you appreciate the serenity.

The heritage and history of the city are accompanied by the famous spicy cuisine that will make you crave for more along with the well-known Kolhapuri chappal which should definitely be on your souvenirs list.

The spicy mutton, mouth-watering misal, savory bhelpuri, and the sweets will satisfy every foodie. 

A person never takes any material to his grave but they do take a suitcase full of memories. Travelling can never be limited to the dreams of trips abroad. There are wonders around us and it just takes a moment to realize that there is beauty in every corner of India. Maharashtra, as the name suggests is indeed a great state and when it comes to travel destinations, one can never run short on amazing surprises. The trip down the west Maharashtra just propels the mind to wonder what kind of breathtaking beauties reside in our very abode. 

-Bansi and Rohan

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