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Discovering the Hidden Gem of Bhandardara

Nestled in the Sahyadri ranges of Maharashtra lies the breathtakingly beautiful hill station of Bhandardara - a quaint little place barely on the tourist map of India. I stumbled upon it quite by chance during a trip to Nashik some years ago. With its lush green forests, gushing waterfalls, misty peaks, and clear blue skies reflected in the waters of Arthur Lake, Bhandardara took my breath away.

As I took in the idyllic views, a question popped into my head - where on earth in Maharashtra is this magical place called Bhandardara? Most people I spoke with had vaguely heard the name but couldn't pinpoint its location.

So let me save you the trouble - Bhandardara is a little village located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, about 185 km from Mumbai and 70 km from Nashik. It sits cozily between the Pravara River and the towering Pravara mountains of the Western Ghats range.

Where is Bhandardara

How to Reach this Offbeat Destination

While reaching Bhandardara does involve planning, it is perfectly doable if you really wish to trade the bustling crowds for quiet tranquility. Here are a few tips:

  • By air - Fly into Mumbai or Pune which have the nearest airports. Hire a taxi for the 3-4 hour picturesque drive to Bhandardara.

  • By train - Igatpuri on the Mumbai-Nashik route is the nearest railhead at just 45 km from Bhandardara. Easy cabs or buses are available from here.

  • By road - Hire a taxi or self-drive from Mumbai, Pune or Nashik by road. The Mumbai-Nashik highway via Kasara runs just next to Bhandardara so it is easy accessible.

I prefer road trips as it allow flexibility to stop and enjoy views like the iconic Wilson dam built across the Pravara River as it enters Arthur Lake.


Why this Peaceful Village Charmed Me

While more popular hill stations like Mahabaleshwar faced the brunt of tourism with noisy crowds, litter and dwindling greenery, Bhandardara was a breath of fresh air - literally! Its peace and quiet has prevented overcrowding which allows you to better appreciate nature. No wonder it is called the Queen of Sahyadri!

My most cherished memories include idle picnics under swaying palms next to Arthur Lake, hundred-foot-high waterfalls gushing down the mountains, and hikes along verdant trails with monkeys stealing food from bewildered trekkers!

But there are some commendable attractions worth visiting like the pristine Kalsubai peak - the highest in Maharashtra, the uniquely shaped Amriteshwar temple nestled in tall grass, the imposing Ratangad fort for amazing views and ancient rock-cut caves that transport you back millennia in time.

The Charming Homestays Beckon

While Bhandardara has nice hotels now, I prefer local homestays and camps to better interact with welcoming villagers and understand their culture. Fortunately, the iconic Agasti Rishi ashram has lovely cottages and tents overlooking the tranquil Arthur Lake. For just Rs.1500 a night, I relished authentic vegetarian meals homecooked from organic farms - a healthy change from city staples.

The kids taught me traditional games while elderly folks shared ancient mythological tales about Agasti Rishi and tales of villages long merged under the lake. With no television, phone reception is mostly absent, it transports you back by at least a few decades and I loved it.


Responsible Tourism Key for Sustaining Beauty

While I understand the need for progress, it would be tragic if Bhandardara met the same fate as other ruined hill stations with growth happening faster than infrastructure can sustain. I sincerely hope authorities practice responsible, sustainable tourism.

Some ways we can all protect Bhandardara's ecology are respecting local culture rather than demanding urban comforts in rural areas, avoiding littering by carrying waste back, hiring local guides to support their families and staying in homestays to prevent mushrooming large hotels.

The Takeaway

My biggest takeaway is that some natural spots like Bhandardara should be on every traveler's bucket list for its old-world charm. After the stresses of chaotic city living, Bhandardara was the soothing balm my frenzied soul needed. I returned refreshed, energized and a newfound respect for rural living.

Even if you have just a long weekend for a break, trust me the 6-hour road trip from Mumbai or Pune will be worth enjoying this relatively unexplored sanctuary blessed abundantly by nature.

So go ahead, leave the madding crowds behind and bond with nature and simpler folks over chai at an idyllic hill station that time seems to have forgotten - Bhandardara.

Let me know if you need any other tips to plan your trip to this secret oasis nestled comfortably in the Sahyadri mountains of Maharashtra. Happy travels!

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