My earliest memory of Panchgani is spending an afternoon at the Table Land with my batchmates during my tenth grade school trip. Though I’ve heard of Panchgani since I was a child and how it’s got great weather throughout the year, on my recent visit I was taken aback by its old world charm. It has colonial style bungalows, old boarding schools, hilly roads, countless bakeries, multiple views of valley and a lot of peace.
It’s easy for anyone to idle away time in a cafe with tea, and watch the world go by. My most favorite part was taking long walks in the hills. It felt as I’ve never been to a city, let alone lived in one.
It was discovered by British during British Raj, and was their retirement place. It was a nameless place in the vicinity of five villages (Dhandeghar, Godavli, Khingar, Amral and Taighat) and hence was named Panchgani. I too found myself wondering how appropriate the place is for holiday home/retirement!
Here are the experiences that make me want to go back sooner than later-
The most famous tourist attraction is the view of Dhom lake from Table Land, Sydney Point and Parsi Point. The best views are from Table Land and Sydney Point, and are great places to experience sunrise and sunset. Table Land is the second largest mountain plateau in Asia, believed to have been formed due to volcanic activity – Devil’s Kitchen and Rajpuri Caves are also visible from here.
(In picture: View from Sydney Point)
The nicest part of Panchgani is its homely little marketplace. It is stuck in time, and I felt as if I’m in another era. It is sprinkled with quaint Parsi cafes and bakeries like Lucky cafe and bakery, Roach bakery, Malabar bakery and Rustom’s Strawberry Inn. If you’re into traditional meals, outlets like Akbarally’s (for Parathas), Purohit’s (for South Indian snacks), Apsara hotel, and many small outlets for tea/coffee/Vada Pav can be easily spotted. The food outlets and shops selling chikki, jams, crushes make up the tiny market. Old school advertisements of Mapro, Mala, Mazana, Pure Berry’s and Malvi fill up the streets.
Since the hill station is small, every walk invariably led us back to the market. Each time we passed by it, we were tempted to try something new the place had to offer. We especially loved brun maska-omelette-tea-cream roll breakfast we had at one of the Parsi cafes and homely pizza at Oregano – The Organic Pizza.
(In picture: Our breakfast at one of the Parsi cafes)
The streets towards Mahabaleshwar are lined with bright red strawberry stalls, also selling gooseberry and raspberry. We were fascinated with the vegetables that were being sold – red radish, carrots, cabbage and pumpkins in every color.
(In pictures: Panchgani market)
Is it even possible to not be drawn to the vibrant fruit and vegetable farms one finds themselves enveloped in, in Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar?
Local farmers set up small shops outside the farms and excitedly sell fresh berries and vegetables from their farms. I had visited a farm for strawberry picking, and found myself learning so much more about agro-tourism in the region. It was one of the best experiences of the trip.
(In picture: Strawberry picking)
Mapro Garden and Pure Gold cheese factory
Mapro Garden is a grown up’s fantasy of a fruity Disneyland come true – it has a terrific restaurant, a fancy retail store, and is surrounded by fruit farms (not open to public for visit). Spend a couple of minutes in this beautiful property, and good vibes are sure to cheer one up!
If that wasn’t enough, there is also a cheese factory nearby that shows stages of cheese production and ripening. They sell Parmesan, Cheddar and Gouda variety of cheeses, and locally made honey, which they generously allow tourists to taste.
(In pictures: Mapro garden and Pure Gold cheese factory)
Guided cycling tours and treks
What better way to explore the hills than cycling along their picturisque roads? Or walk down to some scenic view points? Some groups organise offbeat treks and guided cycling tours in the hills, and probably that one reason is enough for me to start packing for this destination right away!
Devrai Art Village
It’s a non profit organization that promotes artefacts made by Adivasi craftsmen. They use the combination of metal (brass in most cases) and stone to create traditional Indian artforms.
They encourage tourists to experience the process of creation of artefacts, by having open worksheds.
(In picture: Devrai Art Village)
St Joseph’s Church
This beautiful church is the first chapel of Panchgani, and was built in 1800s. It’s a small church on the way to the famous Table Land, and if you’re here in December, do not miss its Christmas decoration.
(In picture: St Joseph Church. Source: Internet)
They are beautiful ancient caves famous of Lord Kartikeya’s temple and it’s believed that Pandavas made them their home during exile. Note: Apparently women are not allowed in the caves.
(In picture: Rajpuri caves. Source: Internet)
(Big thanks to three of my friends who helped me plan this trip!)
If you’ve read so far, thank you very much for your time.
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(All pictures are taken by me, unless mentioned)