1. Dukes Nose Trek
When: June to February
The British named this 800 ft. monolith The Duke’s Nose after the Duke of Wellington, whose pointed nose was quite famous at the time. It’s local name, however, is Nagphani. Situated about 12 km away from Lonavala, this is one of the easiest climbs there is, and it opens up a breathtaking view of the long Mumbai-Pune expressway, the rail corridors and the small Mahadevi temple at the peak of the cliff. But the adventure doesn’t come to an end once you’ve scaled the peak. There’s a lot you can do once you’re at the top as well, including rappelling and rock climbing.
2. Gambhirnath Caves
Where: Bheed village, Karjat
When: June to September
Situated about four kilometres away from Monkey Hills, the Gambhirnath Caves offers great trekking trails that start at the village itself. A long walk through the village leads you to a flight of steps that ends at the opening of the cave. Though the walk is long, it does take you through numerous fields and by a small lake. So it makes up for the drudgery with some gorgeous scenery. The opening to the cave is definitely the most interesting part of the trek. From afar, it seems huge, but, once you’re standing outside it, you realise that you’re going to need to crawl through it to complete the trek. Fun!
When: Any time after monsoons and winters
This ancient hill fort of Ahmednagar is believed to have been in existence since the sixth century. There are nearly nine caves on the hill. Within the Kedareshwar cave which lies ahead of the Saptatirta Lake you will find a huge Shivalinga that is about five feet above the ground. Since the linga is surrounded by icy, waist-deep water, you can only view it from a distance. There are four pillars surrounding this statue and legend has it, that when the fourth one breaks (three have already collapsed), the world will come to an end. Don’t forget to make your way up to the Konkan Kada. It’s the best spot at the fort and gives you a sweeping view of the Konkan coast.
4. Jungli Jaigad Trek
Where: Koynanagar When: Monsoons and Winters
The district of Raigad actually has two forts called Raigad Fort. One is located on the coast and the other sits on top of a hill amidst a dense jungle and is locally referred to as Jungli Jaigad to help differentiate between the two. Located 2,057 ft. above sea level. Climbing to the fort at the top is quite a challenge, but the view from the top makes it worthwhile. The forest that surrounds it, which is a wildlife corridor between the Koyna and Chandoli forests, is a part of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and is home to a dense wildlife population. If you are lucky, you may spot some tigers prowling around. You will also get a spectacular view of the Koyna Dam back waters, Kumbharli Ghat and the water body created by the Koyna hydroelectric project.
5. Kalsubai Peak Trek
Where: Igatpuri Taluka When: Monsoons. If you aren’t much of a fan of the rains then visit this peak during October.
Towering at 5,400 ft. Kalsubai is the highest peak in Maharashtra. Ordinarily, this would be a very difficult climb, but the members of the base village, Bari, have tried to help ease the toll. There are three iron ladders along the way, and near one of them, there is a well, which is the only source of water on the entire cliff. There is a small temple at the summit, which is home to a local deity. Along the ranges, you will find numerous forts in all directions, such as the Kulang, Anudha and Prabhargad forts.
6. Karla Caves and Bhaja Caves
Where: Lonavala When: Any time during the monsoons
The Karla and Bhaja caves are considered sister caves because of their close proximity to each other and their common Buddhist origin. Both the caverns boast magnificent carvings and remnants of Buddhist culture. In fact, inside the Karla Caves, you can see spectacular designs in the form of a chaitya griha and about 15 viharas. During the monsoons, as you enter the cave, you will be greeted by the Karla Falls, one of the many waterfalls you will find along the lush belt.
About 10 km away are the Bhaja Caves or Bhaje caverns—22 rock-cut caves that are believed to date back to the second century B.C., during the times of the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. Among the excavations, you will find a chaitya griha with enormous, ornate arches and wooden pillars.
7. Korigad Fort
When: Any time during the year
On the left side of Ambivali, at an altitude of 3,050 ft. you will find this hill-cum-fort. Korigad (also called Koraigad, Koarigad or Kumwarigad) was one of the forts that Shivaji incorporated into his kingdom along with Lohagad, Visapur, Tung and Tikona, in 1657. In 1818, the British managed to annex the fort. The climb to the peak has been made easy by the cemented steps that start right from the base. There is another route that you can take via the Peth Shahpur, which is a better option during the monsoons. There are two lakes and caves, and a Korai Devi and Ganesh Temple that features some beautiful carvings at the top. You will also find six cannons that were once used during wars.
8. Lohagad and Visapur Trek
Where: Lonavala When: During monsoons until the end of winters
The twin fortifications of Lohagad and Visapur are one of the most stunning trekking destinations around Mumbai.
Lohagad is one of the many citadels that were built by Shivaji. Standing at a height of 3,450 ft., this structure is believed to have been used by many dynasties of the Maratha kingdom and the fort is popularly referred to as the Iron fort. The range divides the basins of the Indrayani and Pavana rivers. The hill extends to the northwest, to a structure called vinchukata, or scorpion’s tail, because of its resemblance to the arthopod’s stinger.
The Visapur fort is slightly larger and higher in elevation than its twin and has a history that is closely linked to that of Lohagad. It was this fort that helped the British troops set canons and bomb Lohagad in order to annex it. Within the fort you will find caves, cisterns of water and a huge carving of Hanuman. Interestingly, he was the patron deity of the region, and, as a result, you will find several other temples dedicated to him scattered all over the place.
9. Prabalgad Trek
Where: Between Matheran and Panvel When: Any time
Close to Matheran, and at an elevation of 2,300ft., Prabalgad Fort was built by the Bahmani Sultanate in order to keep an eye on the Panvel and Kalyan forts and to this day, you can see them from here. Once you reach the top, you will find a Ganesh temple. The fort is surrounded by the Ulahas river and Matheran on the east, the Gadhi river, Chanderi and Peb forts on the west, the Patalganga river, Manikgad on the south side and Karnala to the north, leaving you surrounded with a spectacular, spellbinding view.
10. Raigad Trek
Where: Raigad District
When: Any time of the year is good
Situated near Mahad in the Raigad district, this hill fortress used to be known as Rairi before it was captured by Shivaji. Described by many historians as 'The Gibraltar of the East’, this fort has a very rich history, including the honour of being one of the capitals of the Maratha Empire. The hike to the top will not take more than an hour and a half. If you don’t have trekking experience or don’t think you have the stamina to finish the climb, you can also opt for the ropeway, which will let you to enjoy the beauty of the Sahyadris (with your breath intact) and take you directly to the top. Once there, you can see the Queen’s Palace, the throne of Shivaji, Takmak Tok (the point from where sentenced prisoners used to be flung down upon the mountainside) and even the Samadhi of Shivaji.
11. Rajgad Trek
Where: Near Pune When: Right after monsoons end.
Rajgad used to be the capital for almost 25 years before Raigad became Shivaji’s capital. When you visit, be sure to camp within the Padmavati Temple which can house up to 50 people at a time. Joined to this, by quite a dangerous pathway, is the Torna fort. Since you’re all the way here, make it a point to explore Torna as well. The highest point on Rajgad hill is the Balekilla from where you get a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
12. Rajmachi Trek
Where: Udhivade When: Monsoon
The Rajmachi trek will take you to the twin forts of Shrivardhan and Manaranjan. Rajmachi can be reached through two paths. The first, is a route from Kondivade village near Karjat, which slightly harder than the second route, which is through Lonavala. During the monsoon, this region boasts many waterfalls and streams. On your way you will come across the Kondana Caves, a group of Buddhist caves that were carved out around 200 B.C. The Kal Bhairavi temple located between the fortresses and the ruins of Peshwa House are some attractions you shouldn’t miss.
13. Ratangad Trek
Where: Ratanwadi When: Monsoons
This 2,000-year-old hill fort is one of the oldest artificial catchment areas, with a natural rock peak with a cavity at the top, which is called 'nedhe' or 'eye of the needle'. The fort has four gates: Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan and Trimbak and all of them are still intact. At the base village, Ratanwadi, there is an Amruteshwar temple, which is famous for its carvings. The fort is the origin of the river Pravara, also called Amrutvahini, on which the Bhandardara dam is built. From the top, you can get a clear view of the Kalsubai peak and Konkan Kada cliff.
14. Sinhagad Trek
Located roughly 30 km from Pune, the fort of Sinhagad is famous for being a one-day trekking destination. Situated on a hill over 2,500 ft. above the surrounding countryside, this fort has been the site of many important battles, most notably the battle of Sinhagad in 1670. During the monsoon, the hill is covered with wild flowers, greatly enhancing its beauty and making it a great contender for the best monsoon trek.
Tak Mak Gad is a mountain fort with two peaks and is one of the 300 forts that were built by Shivaji. Upon a hill approximately 2,000 ft. high, you will find a fort. Takmak Fort is a small hill fort that was constructed in the 12th century to keep an eye on the Mahim region. The fortress is surrounded by dense forest, and from the top, on its west you will be able to view the Vaitarna and Tansa rivers meeting. On the northeast side, you will see deep valleys and the Vandri Lake. Inside the fort, you will find archaic artefacts, water cisterns and a cannon. You will also find the remnants of chambers, watchtowers and markets.
16. Tikona Trek
When: During monsoons or winters
In a region called Kamshet, near Lonavala, at an altitude of 3,500 ft., you will find Tikona and its twin fort, Tung. From Tikona Peth, the base village, it takes about one and a half hours to reach the top and from up here you will be able to see Trimbakeshwar Temples, a small lake that surrounds the fort, and an enchanting view of Lohagad and Tung.
17. Torna Trek
When: Monsoons/ Post-monsoons
At 4,610 ft. Torna is one of the highest forts in Pune. It was one of Shivaji’s forts and it is believed that while he was carrying out repairs on this fort, he found pots of gold, which he then used to repair Rajgad. The climb is quite difficult mostly because of the height, but the view makes the entire endeavour worth the effort. On entering the gates of the fort you will be greeted by the wide expanse of grassland known as Budhala Machi. You will also find a few temples, desolate buildings and water tanks. Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with a grand view of Khadakwasla Dam, Raigad and Pratapgad forts.
18. Vasota Trek
Where: Bamnoli, Satara When: January
Words: Krupa Joseph