Maharashtra is now facing the full wrath of the hot and humid Indian summer, but the Western Ghats that dot the massive state are home to a few hill stations that can offer some respite from the heat. While the summer has already changed the colour of the terrain from vivid shades of green to parched tones of brown and black, these little pockets hidden amongst the hills offer relatively cool mornings and nights to provide some relief. The height of these hill resorts also takes you away from the humidity of the plains, allowing you to breathe in some fresh, misty mountain air for a change. The steep Ghats rise and drop fast and twist and turn across the length of Maharashtra, and tucked away among them are these 7 coolest places in Maharashtra.
Just around 100 km away from Maharashtra lies Matheran, an eco-sensitive hill station that has the distinction of being the only hill station in Asia that is free of cars or other vehicles. The lack of cars makes Matheran a very unique place to visit. The air around the hill station is clear and fresh, and horses are typically used to travel around. Matheran is also the smallest hill station in India and offers deeply forested trails to trek through, viewpoints that open out to the majestic hills of the Western Ghats, and a calm and quaint charm not seen in any other hill station. Afternoons are when temperatures hit its highest, which should be around 31-36°C in April 2017. Nights are cooler at 16-25°C, which should be a welcome relief from the heat of the cities.
Once the summer capital of the Bombay presidency during the British Raj, Mahabaleshwar is decidedly more crowded and mainstream than Matheran. But it is also the more expansive one, with several viewpoints to explore by road or foot. Each of these points have a history of their own and come with a uniquely expansive view of the mountains and hills around it. You can also take a break from the heat of the afternoon by indulging in the various strawberry-based desserts on offer almost everywhere you go. The busy market roads of Mahabaleshwar are worth an evening of exploration too. While daytime temperatures may reach the high 30s, nights will be pleasant with temperatures hardly ever rising above 17-18°C.
Panchgani Photograph: DDaseEn/Creative Commons
Right next to Mahabaleshwar lies Panchgani, another hill station that owes much of its history and early development to the British Raj. Panchgani is as busy and bustling with tourist and market activity as Mahabaleshwar, and among its most famous spots is Table Top; an expansive flat land that sits right at the summit of the hill. From here, you can go on horse rides or glide off the cliff through the few paragliding services on offer. Either way, what you get are jaw-dropping vistas of the ghats and a relatively cool climate. Panchgani is not as crowded as Mahabaleshwar, though, and maybe the more favoured spot for those who want a little peace and quiet. Because of their proximity together, both destinations share the same weather, so expect the same cool mornings and evenings but warm afternoons during the summers.
A little over 490 km away from Mumbai lies Amboli, the last hill station that you go through before hitting the shores of Goa. Amboli is among Maharasthra’s least explored hill stations, probably because most people who make their way through its serpentine ghat roads are actually making a beeline for Goa. But the hill station is actually considered the ‘Queen’ of Maharashtra because of the natural splendour it offers. It is an ecological hotspot of flora and fauna, and it is a much calmer destination than the others mentioned above. Although it is at its greenest during the monsoons, the rains can wreak havoc on the roads leading to it. Nestled on the ridges of the Western Ghat, Amboli offers some mesmerising view of both the mountains and the coast, like Sea View Point and Kavlesaad Point. A trip to Hiranyakeshi and Mahadevgad also make the excursion to Amboli worth the journey. Daytime temperatures in April can climb up to around 36-37°C, but the mercury drops to a more pleasant 18-22°C once the sunsets.
The smallest city of Maharashtra, Panhala is also a historically significant city because of its association with the legendary Maratha emperor Shivaji. Panhala Fort is the obvious draw here for history buffs, but the hill station also has a number of ancient fortifications and its remnants, old buildings and, of course, a commanding view from an elevation of around 3,100 feet above sea level. The fort itself rises around 400 metres above the plains above which it is built, with several important monuments within and tunnels that crawl underneath. The Parashar Caves are even older, giving a glimpse into a much more ancient chapter of Indian history. Temperatures can range between 13-26°C in April, making it amongst the coolest places in Maharashtra during the summers.
Wai, Maharashtra Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The hill station of Wai, located around 35 km away from Satara and 230 km from Mumbai, comes on the way to the more popular hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. But it is a famous destination in its own right, with its strong association with the myths of ancient India. Wai is home to over 100 temples of ancient Hemadpanthi architecture, with large stone slabs decorated with sculptures, paintings and stuccos. For those with a fixture for forts, Wai has six of them, including Pandavgad and the twin forts of Chandan-Vandan. The temple town has many other ancient structures around it, including the Nana Phadnavis Wada. Daytime temperatures can be high here, though, so keep most of your activities for the mornings and evenings, when it remains close to 19-24°C.
Around 55 km from Kolhapur and 435 km away from Mumbai, Gagan Bavda is one of the several small hill stations that can be found along the serpentine roads running through the Sahyadri range. Bavda is a common suffix for villages in the region, and Gagan Bavda earns its prefix ‘Gagan’ (which translates to ‘sky’) for its altitude. The scenic valleys and hills you see from Gagan Bavda are among the best panoramas of the Sahyadris you can find in the Konkan region, and this makes it a hotspot for film shootings. While monsoons and winters are when Gagan Bavda is at its best, the small hill station remains a pleasant enough visit during the summers as well. Temperatures stay at around 36-37°C at most and drop to 17°C at night.