Trekking has always been an activity of interest for many people. Some do it because they love it, others do it for leisure, family time, or fitness. Trekking is such an activity that it can be enjoyed by people of any age group. There is no limit to age, stamina, or even monetary status. People from all walks of life and different classes of society can enjoy the gentle embrace of nature when they trek.
- History of Trekking
- What Happened to the Forts
- Best Trekking Places in Maharashtra(Easy)
- Best Trekking Places in Maharashtra (Moderate)
History of Trekking
The history of trekking of Maharashtra goes back a long time. The brave and the valiant king of the Marathas, Chattrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosale captured and took control of many forts or gads all along the Western Ghats and the Sahyadri range.
Even his birthplace, Shivneri, located near Pune is located on a hillock and there is a small fort situated in this village, known as ShivneriGad (Shivneri Fort). He ordered the construction of these forts from a tactical point of view. Shivaji Maharaj and his Maratha soldiers were skilled in Guerilla warfare tactics and they took every precaution necessary to get an upper hand on enemy soldiers and generals.
The forts of Maharashtra were built along the old trade routes and were built to protect the travelers and goods that were transported from Kalyan (a seaside-port city near Mumbai) to the capital of the erstwhile empire of the Satavahanas, Paithan.
These forts were very important as they acted as checkpoints and surveillance decks for the guards. They were built at a height to make it easy for the surveillance party to get a birds-eye view of the surroundings. It made spotting enemies and robbers very easy and since they had the height advantage, they could attack and stop the intruders too.
Many of the forts built along the Sahyadri range have been built long before the Maratha empire somewhere around the 7 century AD during the Yadava rule. Shivaji Maharaj instructed that all these forts should be well-looked after and should be maintained properly. He even built more forts like Pratapgad and Raigad. He even sent out a manual among his ranks for the maintenance of these forts. It was called Amatyacha Adnyapatra (Amatya’s Orders).
What Happened to the Forts
After the reign of Shivaji Maharaj and the Marathas, the forts were a topic of major strife of the future owners. This led to the abandonment of these forts and that further led to the fall of these majestic structures.
You might see some resplendent forts in Rajasthan and some parts of North India, but all of Maharashtra’s forts are just ghosts of their past selves. But that doesn’t mean that these forts are any less fun to explore. These structures might have lost their sheen, but haven’t lost their splendor. If it is possible, they have gained more of it and have become a source of awe and inspiration to the people in today’s world.
If you look at most of the trekking spots, the destination is a fort. It seldom happens that a trek leads to an endpoint that is not a fort. Such is the popularity of these dilapidated forts that trekking groups have formed up by the trekking enthusiasts, for the trekking enthusiasts, of the trekking enthusiasts. Now that you are caught up with the history of Forts of Maharashtra, let’s look at some of the best trekking places in Maharashtra.
Best Trekking Places in Maharashtra(Easy)
1. Sinhagad Killa (Lion’s Fort)
This fort is located 35 kilometers southwest of the city of Pune. It was previously known as Kondhana and it is the site of many historical events. The most famous and well-known event of this place is the Battle of Sinhagad, which was fought between the Mughals and the Marathas for the possession of this fort.
It was so precious because of two reasons. One, because of its location, and two, because of its terrain. This fort is strategically located in the line of other forts such as Rajgad Fort, Purandar Fort, and Torna Fort. Possession of this fort meant a point of surveillance was added to look at the other forts. The terrain of this fort is steep and very tough for rappelling. Outsiders couldn’t enter the fort from any other way except the two gates, Kalyan Darwaza and the Puna Darwaza.
The doors stand till date and are a very popular destination for the locals as well as the tourists. Due to its proximity to a major city, you will find the fort crowded any day of the week. But that crowd exudes just one vibe, enthusiasm. You will find that all those who come here are full of passion and enthusiasm.
What can one expect there
The fort is open to the public at all times and one can also see fort-preservation groups such as Shivgarjana and Giri Premi often organize cleanliness drives to maintain the sanctity of the fort. The best time to visit this fort is all year long, as the climb is very easy and not too tiring. Once you reach the top, the view will mesmerize you. The winds are so strong, that if you throw something off the edge of the cliff, it will fly right back to you. Though, it is not advisable to do so as it might injure you as well as others and would contribute to the growth of trash around the fort.
The small food stalls at the top of the fort serve the most delicious dishes you will ever taste. The piping hot zunka-bhaakar (Besan-based gravy and rice flour flatbreads) will fill your stomach but not fulfill your mind. It cannot be had enough of! If you ever get the chance to be in Pune, you must surely visit Sinhagad fort, one of the best forts in Maharashtra.
2. Raigad Killa (The King’s Fort)
This fort is located about 136 km away from Mumbai and about 138 km away from Pune. It is one of the most popular forts in Maharashtra and is a great place to enjoy a one-day trek with friends/family.
Let’s now see a brief history of this fort
The date of construction of the fort is unknown, but it is a well-known fact that the fort was under the control of a king named Chandrarao More before it was annexed by Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1656 AD. Under the rule of Shivaji Maharaj, the fort was rebuilt and revamped to become a thriving, fortified town. It was the capital of the Maratha empire. Before the Maratha rule, this fort was called Rairi. Shivaji Maharaj changed its name to Raigad, which means The King’s Fort.
The fort is constructed at such a location that it is inaccessible through three sides of the mountain. Even if it was built to stand strong against enemies, it weathered against one. That enemy is time. As time passed, the fort lost its luster and strength due to ill-maintenance and constant wars. One of the best time to visit here is in November, as this is the best pleasant weather and is ideal for the tourist.
What can one see there
All that remains of the fort now is the Queen’s chambers, watchtowers, darwazas, etc. The Queen’s chamber is comprised of six rooms, for the Queen and her attendants. The entire palace was supposed o be built of wood, but today, except the stone structures, nothing stands.
The main entrance to Raigad Fort is from the Maha Darwaza, which is a gigantic door. It acted as the last line of defense with bastions on both sides, that is if the enemies made it up to the fort by chance.
The statue of Shivaji Maharaj is the main attraction of the fort. The statue is located opposite the ruins of the once existent marketplace. This fort is one of the best trekking places in Maharashtra. One can either scale this fort on foot, or there is a provision for reaching the top via cable car, which starts from the base village, Pachad.
If you are a trekking enthusiast, walking up the steps is the best option. There are roughly around 1400-1500 steps to reach the top. This trek is a moderate one and it takes 1.5-2 hours to reach the top. The sights and the view from the top are amazing! You should try the Raigad Night Trek as it eliminates the factor of trekking in harsh sunlight.
3. Ratangad Killa (The Jewel Fort)
This fort is situated on the outskirts of Ratanwadi village in Ahmednagar district. It lies about 197 km from Mumbai and 183 km from Pune. It is one of the best forts in Maharashtra. The fort was built about 400 years ago by Shivaji Maharaj.
Ratangad Fort is one of Bhandardara’s best trekking spots. It has amazing natural beauty and is loaded with lush greenery. The fort has a rock peak which is known as Nedhe or the Needle’s Eye. The fort is situated at a height of 4250 ft from sea level.
Ratangad has a great historical significance.
What can one see there
The peak has two caves. One big enough for 5-10 people and another one easily accommodates 30-40 people. The peak of Ratangad is considered to be the meditation point of Sage Agastya. During his penance, he accidentally dropped two drops of Amrut (Elixir of life) on the mountain, and from those points originated the river, Pravara.
The trek from the base village, Ratanwadi to the peak of Ratangad takes about 4-5 hours. The route takes you through farms and thick jungles. It also has an amazing view of the Sahyadri range. The best way to reach Ratanwadi is via boat from Bhandardara. The weather is perfect all around the year, but Ratangad is one of the best trekking places in Maharashtra in monsoon.
Best Trekking Places in Maharashtra (Moderate)
1. Lohagad Killa (Iron Fort)
The Lohagad Fort is an amazing place for trekking for people from Mumbai and Pune. The fort is in close proximity to both these major cities. It is about 66 km from Pune and around 114 km away from Mumbai. It is just 11 km away from Lonavala and is one of the best trekking places in Maharashtra in monsoon.
The fort was constructed under the reign of Guru Gobind Singh in 1564 AD and it was originally meant to be a prison. Shivaji Maharaj assumed control of this fort in the year 1648 AD but had to give it away to Mughals under the Treaty of Purandar. Shivaji Maharaj regained control of the fort in 1670 AD and used the fort as a treasury.
Later, this fort was used by Nana Phadnavis as his residence. Nana Phadnavis was a Peshwa and he got a tank and a step-well constructed on the fort. The fort, since then is a Government protected site.
What can one see there
It stands on top of a hillock at 1050 m and the trek can be a bit exhausting, especially if you are an amateur. The starting part is a bit steep, thus the moderately difficult trek. Also, the fort is designed in such a way, that it looks like the tail of a scorpion.
It has four entrances, namely Maha Darwaza, Ganesh Darwaza, Narayan Darwaza, and Hanuman Darwaza. The fort can be accessed from any of these doors. The Maha Darwaza has intricate carvings which make it a great photogenic point. Some of the many spots that can be seen from here are Karla caves, Bhaja caves, and Pawna lake. This fort is one of the best trekking places in Maharashtra in monsoon.
2. Kalsubai peak
Kalsubai peak is the highest peak in Maharashtra. It is located 12 km from Bhandardara, 174 km from Pune, and 165 km from Mumbai. The peak is situated in the Bhandardara district and boasts of being one of the best trekking places in Maharashtra.
The base village’s name is Baari and have some really friendly locals. The villagers are always ready to help and are very hospitable. The Kalsubai peak is situated in the Kalsubai Harishchandragad Wildlife Sanctuary and is thus a protected area. The Kalsubai plateau offers a great view of the Bhandardara dam and the surrounding forts. There is also a temple dedicated to the Kalsubai deity situated at the summit of the trek.
Many people visit this peak every day either to crave their cravings of enthusiasm or to offer their prayers to the deity at the temple. The peak stands tall at the height of 5400 ft. The starting point of this trek is at Baari village, which is 10 km away from Bhandardara.
How to reach and what all to expect
To reach the base village, one can take a detour through Igatpuri off the Mumbai-Nashik highway. On reaching the village, you will find a Hanuman temple. It is considered as the starting point of the trek unanimously. It is also the resting point for after you finish the trek.
The beginning of the trek offers rather plain slopes with a very low gradient. As the route progresses, the terrain starts to become treacherous. There are multiple drops along the route, so one needs to be cautious.
The respective authorities have installed ladders with railings near the top to help scale the peak a bit easier and safe. The ladders are sturdy and can support multiple people all at once.
If you are planning a trek during the winter or even a night trek, then you must carry at least one piece of warm clothing. The nights tend to be very cold and windy at Kalsubai. The peak offers some mesmerizing sunrises and some lip-smacking tea and fritters too. The return journey is as fun as the climb. The route have dots with food stalls and drinks stations for refueling the climbers. You can also hire a local guide from the village to lead you to the peak.
P.S. Just try to keep up with the guide as they tend to walk very fast and stop after long intervals of trekking.
These were some of the best trekking places in Maharashtra and some of the best trekking places in Maharashtra during monsoons. Do you have any more suggestions? Let us know in the comments section!