I had always heard fantastical stories about the Konkan belt from hardbound travellers. They described its beauty with utmost passion, that there was nothing like it. Its turquoise blue waters that gently caress the virgin beaches, beautifully enveloped by the lush green Sahyadris. Nothing like its splendid temples that found a place in every village, each that beckoned with colours.
To me, it always seemed like a utopian, distant land that only existed in fairy tales. Nevertheless, it was a land that I wished to explore. Thus, after the conclusion of an extremely hectic and utterly chaotic final semester of college, I escaped the city and travelled to the Konkan coast. I found my way through its villages, dotted with swaying coconut trees and spellbinding untouched beaches. I met some of the friendliest people who hosted me at their homes where I experienced village life in all its charm, heard mythical stories and legends that the village folk swore by. Here, I explored the majestic naval forts that had withstood the test of time, cruised down roads that cut through the hills to give views of the sea and savoured some of the most authentic and spicy seafood. I realised all the stories I had ever been told about Konkan region were true.
The Konkan coast, a territory rich in natural and cultural heritage alike, fortunately, hasn’t witnessed rapid commercialisation, making travelling through this rustic terrain even more of an adventure. The region is quite serene, yet is always buzzing with activity. Boatmen returning to their bright houses, children chasing tyres on the beach, the fisherwomen yelling out prices – so much seems to be happening, and yet there are moments where time seems to stand still. Probably because nobody is chasing it. The slow-paced life is refreshing and extremely stimulating.
Konkan’s untapped charms are best explored without itineraries, through interactions with the locals who will happily share one too many secrets of the region. Thus, only seven days will not do justice to the exquisite beauty of the 720 kilometre-long coastline. But by the virtue of being city dwellers with only so much time in hand, we’ve compiled an extensive, one-week guide to the Konkan region of Maharashtra, that we believe makes the best of it in a limited amount of time. But before you go ahead and read this, there are two things we would like you to know.
1. This guide is biased to non-vegetarians
2. This guide encourages you to be responsible travellers and preserve the many natural charms of Konkan.
Getting To Konkan Region of Maharashtra
It’s extremely advantageous to have your personal vehicle or a hired taxi in Konkan as you can then explore the place at your own pace and time. However, if you don’t have one, then the good news is that regular ST and Volvo buses ply from Mumbai and Pune to Dapoli, where this guide essentially begins. The network of local transport in the Konkan region is also decent. However, the only drawback of taking public transport is that you may miss out on certain places in between.
Day 1 and 2 - In and Around Dapoli
The Journey: Konkan has a unique landscape which is a combination of hills, valleys and the coast. If you have taken an overnight bus from Mumbai or Pune, chances are that you would be entering Dapoli in the wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, rub your groggy eyes, wake up and look out of the window, for the last few kilometres are the most exciting. As you cruise through the dense hills of the Sahyadris, you might feel like you are heading towards a hill station as the sea would not make its presence felt at all. But then as you descend to a narrow rocky path stifled between two hills, you’d have your first glance of the Arabian Sea, slumbering in its blue robe under a soft twilight glow. Welcome to the Konkan!
The Stay: Drive down or take on auto rickshaw from the bus stop to your desired place of stay. There are plenty of budget hotels, homestays and guest houses that dot the beaches in and around Dapoli ranging anywhere between INR 800-INR 1500 per night.
To Do: Once you’ve settled in your desired place of stay, head out to eat in the town or order in the typical Konkani breakfast that comprises of ghavan (a thin flaky rice chapati), poha and thalipeeth (multi-grain pancake) served with piquant mint chutney. This is a light yet a fulfilling option available almost anywhere for travellers wanting to explore the many culinary charms of the region.
(a) Visit The Murud Janjira Fort
7.00 AM - 6.00 PM
HG Tip: Hire a guide
We suggest heading to the Murud Janjira fort before it gets too sunny and get your fill of local history. Take a bus/auto to the coastal town of Rajapuri, which is 5 kilometres away from Murud. Once you reach the ferry point, gaze at the magnificence of the fortress from the coast. It stands tall amidst the azure waters of the Arabian Sea, unperturbed by the waves lashing at its fortifications. Unfathomable, unconquered, the pride of the Abbysians, the Murud Janjira is the only fort in Maharashtra that Shivaji failed to conquer. The island fort looms at about 40 feet high. While here, notice the revolutionary architecture of Murud Janjira. The design of the fort is such that the main entrance appears as one of the walls during low tide, while in high tide, it remains submerged and well hidden from the enemy.
Read more about the fort here.
(b) Savour Fish Thalis At Murud & Introspect At Karde Beach
All that exploration at the fort is bound to build up an appetite. Head back to Murud beach and feast upon the fried pomfret and prawns at one of the many shacks that line the beach. Chow down on the special seafood thali that comes complete with your fish of choice, chicken gravy, bhakri and pithla. Wash it down with sol kadi, a delicious sour Konkani beverage that acts as a perfect coolant and digestive.
Murud is a popular beach and will start getting crowded as the sun starts to set. Take this opportunity to head towards Karde beach, which in this traveller’s opinion, is truly a gateway to paradise. The beach is unfrequented and isolated, with its coast drenched in a light golden haze, perfect for some introspection while you watch the sunset. Photography enthusiasts can also take this opportunity to capture the raw, untapped beauty of Konkan.
After the sun sets, drive back to your accommodation under the moonlight and fall asleep to the sound of the waves hitting the rocks at a distance.
(c) Swim In The Sea and Shop At The Fish Market
Wake up early and go out on a morning stroll to your nearest beach. Let the white waves come gushing, sweeping over your ankles and tickling them as they withdraw back into the sea. Walk in deeper and let the waves hit you. Make the sea your playground, until your eyes start burning with the salt. Head back to your room thereafter and think, “What would I like to have for brunch?” Then, carry those thoughts to the Dapoli Fish Market.
The Fish Market is exactly what it has always been described to you. It is utterly chaotic and utterly colourful. The foul smell makes its presence felt in the hot humid air as soon as you enter. Fisherwomen sitting on their hunches in a narrow muddy lane, yelling out the prices as hundreds of people from nearby villages bargain with them in crass, slang Konkani. From fish to lobsters to crabs, prawns and even octopus, the market is interesting and very rich in variety. Buy whatever you want and head straight to Ladghar, a tiny coastal village about a 9 kilometre picturesque drive away from Dapoli.
(d) Brunch By The Sea in Ladghar
Ladghar is the quintessential sleepy coastal village nuzzled amidst swaying coconut trees that run parallel to the long-stretching Ladghar beach which is lined with shacks. Here they would make you a meal from whatever produce you have brought along from the fish market, just the way you like it for a cheap price. This is one of the many ways villagers here earn an income from tourism. We would suggest stopping by the Sea Shine Hotel where the caretaker will cook you some fierce spicy prawns koliwada, a delectable fish curry and rice.
(e) Hike Up To A Secret Rocky Beach
After a heavy lunch, walk towards the hillock situated at the end of the coast. A beautiful temple sits atop the hill, behind which is a small secluded black rock beach accessible through sharp steps. Spend some time here watching the waves lash furiously on the rocks. Drive up to the Harne Bandarghat thereafter.
(f) Watch The Fish Auction At Harne Port
At the Harne Bandarghat (port), millions of boats and fish trawlers of all colours and sizes line up. The sea rages as chaos and activity begin at Harne. Fishermen return with their catch after spending days at sea, where families arrive on boats from nearby villages to buy produce. There is constantly pushing, bargaining, shouting as the local vernacular constantly buzzes in your ears.
The chaotic environment is bound to leave you puzzled but take this opportunity to understand the life in Konkan by striking up a conversation with the locals. The auction happens every single day, where the fishermen of all the nearby villages come and sell whatever they have caught. This is a good place to understand the life of the fisherfolk, which is indeed difficult. They go out into the unpredictable sea for days, away from their families and come back only when they have substantial produce to sell. We come to the sea for a holiday; they go there, to earn a living.
Day 3 - Journey towards Ratnagiri
The Journey & The Places In Between: While most of the drive from Dapoli to Ratnagiri would be through the ghats, you would get an occasional glimpse of the sea through the thick denizens. Make your first stop at the Guhaghar beach about 2 hours away from Dapoli. Though the beach is slightly more commercial than the others, what piqued this traveller’s interest is the Guhaghar village that seems like something right out of a postcard. It is vibrant with each of its hut painted in a different colour and the backyards sprawling with plantations. At the centre of the village is the Vyadeshwar temple where you can cool down with some fresh coconut water for a while and strike a conversation with the locals who are more than happy to narrate a story or two about the ancient walls submerged in the sea that was found a few years ago, and how the decision of a corporate setting up the power plant affected their lives.
After lunch at Guhaghar get back on your journey and make one final pit stop on the way, very close to Ratnagiri at a place called Prachin Konkan. A unique, interactive life-size museum, set in a big campus, it depicts life in the Konkan and traces the history of the region highlighting the lifestyle of people, their social, economic, cultural and religious background, the rich flora and fauna and how the place has developed over the years whilst keeping its natural charm.
The Stay: While Ratnagiri has quite a few budget stays, hotels and homestays, the one that tops our list is the Atihti Parinay Farm stay situated in the wilderness of the Kotwade village, a few kilometres away from the main town. Tucked away in the tranquil environs of the vast stretching Konkan belt, Atithi Parinay is a sprawling pet-friendly, boutique homestay that provides an ethnic stay and is equipped with all mod cons.
To Do: Spend your evening here, taking a walk through the village and visit its many temples, plucking fruits from the trees, lazing away with a book on the hammock or playing with adorable Maya, the owner’s friendly dog that will keep you good company. End your day with homely and sumptuous vegetarian food, cooked in the traditional Konkansta Brahmin style.
Day 4 - In & Around Ratnagiri
To Do: Start your day at Aare Vaare beach with some stunning views of turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches that appear suddenly out of nowhere as you walk through a dense foliage of trees. It comprises of two beaches on either side of the bridge with shallow swimming areas. They also serve as the merging points of the backwaters and the sea. You can choose to enter the waters, however, do be cautious as the beach is largely secluded.
After swimming in the sea, satiate your appetite with some homely breakfast accompanied with a glass of thick mango shake and head out to Ratnagiri town for a culturally immersive day.
HG Tip: If you don’t have personal transport, we would suggest hiring an auto or a taxi for the entire day.
(a) Trek Up To The Bhagwati Fort
Make your first stop at the Bhagwati fort situated atop a cliff. While most of the fort is in ruins and there isn’t much historical trivia available, we recommend you visit this place only for the unobscured views that it offers of the blissful aquamarine sea.
(b) Hear Stories About Lost Glory in The Burmese Palace
Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about Ratnagiri is that a Burmese King died here while he was in exile at the Thibaw Palace, built by the Britsh in Ratnagiri. According to reports, it so happened that due to the ‘tremendous reverence of King Thibaw by the people of Burma, the British were prudent to remove him quickly and permanently off Burmese soil. They decided to exile him and his immediate family to neighbouring India. The palace has interesting architecture and is loaded with many interesting stories about the king who lost his glory and riches at such a young age.
(c) Savour Authentic Lunch At Anand Hotel
For a wholesome lunch, head to Ratnagiri’s most popular restaurant at the Anand Hotel that is known for its exquisite fish fry cooked to perfection and drizzled with chaat masala. Their mutton gravy is quite delectable as well and is best with bhakri.
(d) Visit Lokmanya Tilak’s Ancestral House
Timings: 9 AM - 7 PM
Lying in the heart of Ratnagiri town is a typical Konkani house where freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak grew up. It has now been converted into a mini-museum of sorts that take us through his life as a young boy followed by his struggle for India’s freedom. From old sepia-tinted photographs to rusty letters, family portraits to his objects in his room, all have been secured and well maintained in the museum, and entry is open to all with no fees.
(e) Gaze At The Sea From Atop A Lighthouse
Make your way to the Bhagwati lighthouse and climb up the spiral staircase which in itself would be quite an adventure. If you wish, ask (more like nag) the local caretaker to narrate spooky legends associated with the lighthouse. We guarantee that these tales would make the brave hearts venture out to the lighthouse after hours when it eerily glistens under the moonlight.
(f) Get A Peek Inside Veer Savarkar’s Life
The nondescript two-story museum dedicated to Veer Savarkar hides behind the Patit Pavan temple which was apparently built by him as a place where people of all caste and creeds could come and worship without any discrimination. The museum behind the temple bears witness to the immense contribution of this unsung hero to Indian Freedom movement. Visitors get a peek into his lives through handwritten letters, his weapons, his photographs and important documents.
Day 5 - Journey Towards Malvan
The Journey & The Places in Between: Edgy, winding ghats make up most of the 180 kilometre journey as you travel from Ratnagiri towards Malvan. We recommend taking a slight detour to visit the splendid Vijaydurga fort which is the oldest fort on the Sindhadurg coast. Built in the 12th century, the fort is surrounded by water on three sides and has a narrow, trench-like road on the fourth. Apparently, this is one of the only two forts where Shivaji personally hoisted the saffron flag.
To Eat: After spending a few hours at the fort, head directly to Malvan and stop for lunch at Atithi Bamboo, a humble, pocket-friendly restaurant in the main town known for the best Malvani food in the region. They have a wide variety of seafood delicacies that you can choose to relish. We suggest trying their deep fried Khekda (crab) and Makul (squid) which have a dominant coconut flavour to it. Opt for their seafood thali only if you have the appetite.
To Stay: Just like other districts of Konkan, Malvan too is full of homestays and budget hotels. While we do not have any particular recommendations, we suggest you opt for a place that opens up to a beach (they are quite cheap here). Opt to stay in quieter parts of Malvan such as Tarkarli or Devbag. Before you head out, make inquiries and bookings with your hotel staff if you wish to scuba dive at Tarkarli, the next day.
To Do: If you are not too tired, then dump your luggage and travel to Vengurla beach to watch the perfect sunset. Though it is almost 90 minutes away from Tarkarli, the sunset here is worth every minute. Imagine yourself on a secluded beach enveloped by lush Sahyadris, sitting atop a rock, listening to the music of the waves and watching the birds take their final flight home as the fiery Sun disappears in the turquoise waters and the sky changes colours. Isn’t this a perfect end to a long day?
Day 6 - In & Around Malvan
(a) Scuba Diving & Other Adventures In Tarkarli
If you signed up for scuba diving the previous day, you would be picked up by a boat early morning from Tarkarli beach. If you have dived in the Andamans or elsewhere in the world, chances are you might be disappointed, but if you are a novice, then Kudos! You would be entering the fantastical underwater world for just a thousand bucks. While the equipment, training and even the visibility underwater is quite decent, the diving time is quite little. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful, colourful adventure where you might sight Damsels, Snappers, Sweetlips, Groupers, Sweepers, Lionfish, Angelfish, Butterflyfish and more.
After your diving adventure, head straight to Tsunami Island – locals say that this island appeared after the Konkan coast was mildly hit by the Tsunami. The Tsunami Island is a mecca of watersports, that too for dirt cheap prices. From Banana boat rides to jet skis and even parasailing, we suggest you try everything.
HG Tip: While parasailing, ask your boatman to give you an underwater dip while you descend. It will cost you an extra 200 bucks but is worth the thrill as your body zooms down from the blue skies to the aquamarine waters.
(b) Explore Sindhudurg Fort: An Island Within Itself
After adventures in the sea, it’s time for a history lesson...in the sea. Head to Malvan beach and catch a ferry to Sindhdurg fort. It is humongous and over 4000 mounds of lead were used in the casting of the fort which was built over a period of just three years (1664-1667). Its architecture is quite revolutionary for its times. Shivaji built this naval fort after he failed to take over the Murud Janjira fort from the Siddis. While the guide narrates stories about the valour of Shivaji, do ask him about the locals that live in the fort’s premises.
(c) Take A Stroll At Devbag Village
Swaying coconut trees, mild sea breeze and the sound of the waves crashing in the distance is what makes an evening walk in the village of Devbag so serene and pleasant. The narrow lanes are dotted with colourful houses and the friendly locals will make it a point to suggest to you places to see. The village goes comfortably silent after sunset. While you may feel like wandering here for eternity, take the chirping of the crickets as your cue to get back home. The areas are completely safe but go dead silent at night. Finding transport and navigating your way back to your room may get difficult if you get lost.
(d) Early Morning Boat Ride To Golden Rocks
Start your last day at Konkan with a serene boat ride to the Golden Rocks from Devbag. Early morning, when the rays of the sun hit the rock, they create such a reflection that the surrounding water appears to be golden. Unfortunately, this traveller happened to visit the site in the early afternoon and failed to witness this phenomenon but the views were splendid, nevertheless. The boat ride is quite long so after your visit to the golden rocks take one slumber in the serenity – you need it, you are soon heading back to the urban jungle. Spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Feature Image Courtesy: Time2Travel
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