If you choose to do one trip a month for the whole year, that is 12 short trips in an year. When Mid-day asked us to give us an all-year itinerary in Maharashtra for travel lovers to explore, we were only happy to do so. It was late January and so we came up with a 11 month schedule. Here it goes.
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February: Koyna Valley (Koyna Nagar)
Why should be here: Far away from the maddening crowd. Without the trappings of any hill station. Spend a quite weekend in the MTDC resort or a couple of other resorts and enjoy the scenic beauty of Koyna dam, one of the largest dams in Maharashtra, and the dense forests surrounding it. Also relax in the garden near the lake and go for boating in the lake.
Distance from Mumbai: 300 km
Best way to reach: Train to Chiplun. Bus or car from Chiplun.
Why should be there: One of the best tiger reserves in India. Visiting Tadoba in March increases the likelihood of spotting a tiger while the temperature is bearable. Summers of Tadoba are too hot. Housing many varieties of birds and animals, Tadoba will not disappoint you even if you are not lucky enough sight a tiger.
Distance from Mumbai: 700 km
Best way to reach: Train to Nagpur. Bus or car from Nagpur
Why should be here: Ever inviting Konkan coast with its white sands and mango orchards. Laze around on the beach while tucking in authentic Konkan delicacies from the beachside restaurants. Or bite into the sweet, succulent alphonso mangoes that are plentiful in summer. Also pay a visit to the Ganapatipule temple, the 4000-year old Swayambhu Ganapati temple for blessings from the elephant god.
Distance from Mumbai: 300 km
Best way to reach: Train to Ratnagiri. Bus or car from Ratnagiri. Or drive from Mumbai
Why should be here: Refreshing, unpolluted natural beauty. Matheran is the only hill station where motor vehicles are not allowed. Be prepared for refreshing walk along the tree-lined pathways and visit the many spectacular points around. Another plus is the toy train that takes you up from Neral. The 2-hour train ride itself is very enjoyable and you get to enjoy beauty of the hills from a different perspective.
Distance from Mumbai: 104 km.
Best way to reach: Train to Neral and share taxi from Neral.
June: Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Why should be here: The most mesmerising caves that house ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples. The extraordinarily beautiful carvings, sculptures and paintings are masterpieces of creativity and expression. A must see in your lifetime. Keep a day each for Ajanta and Ellora.
Distance from Mumbai to Ellora: 400 km; Mumbai to Ajanta: 485 km
Best way to reach: Train to Aurangabad. Bus or car from Aurangabad.
Why should be here: The wettest place in Maharashtra as it gets maximum rainfall during monsoons. Green hills and hundreds of tiny to massive waterfalls. Drive along the quiet roads, wander into the nearby forests and feel the delighting experience of fresh nature.
Distance from Mumbai: 557 km
Best way to reach: Train to Kolhapur. Bus or car from Kolhapur.
Why should be here: Rolling hills, gushing waterfalls. Visit the charming Wilson dam, the largest earthen dam in India, or take walk along the tranquil Arthur Lake.
Distance from Mumbai: 185 km
Best way to reach: Bus or train to Igatpuri. Bus, car or auto from Igatpuri.
September: Kaas Plateau
Why should be here: Maharashtra’s own Valley of Flowers. Carpets of flowers of varying hues spread on the undulating hillocks. Kaas was known only to a handful people till recently. It is slowly becoming a recognised tourist attraction, thanks to the photos and travelogues on Internet.
Distance from Mumbai: 280 km.
Best way to reach: Train or bus to Satara. Bus or car from Satara.
Why should be here: Hills covered with post-monsoon greenery and wild flowers. Mumbaikar’s favourite hill station, Mahabaleshwar offers long, invigorating walks and serene drives during this off-season month.
Distance from Mumbai: 310 km
Best way to reach: Bus or car.
Why should be here: Konkan at its best. After having enough of blue sea, sandy beaches and great food, take a boat ride to the historic Sindhudurg Fort, a sea fortthat has seen many wars and stood the test of time.
Distance from Mumbai: 490 km
Best way to reach: Train to Kudal. Bus or car from Kudal
Why should be here: A wonderful combination of hill station and wildlife sanctuary. Get lost in the beauty of the hills and valleys of Chikaldhara or search for the multitudes of wildlife in Melghat Tiger Reserve. Chikaldhara is the only coffee-growing area of Maharashtra.
Distance from Mumbai: 763 km
Best way to reach: Train to Badnera. Bus or car from Badnera (100 km)
This article was published in Mid-day on 2nd February 2012.