….. Rajesh Deshpande © 2013. Based upon my personal visit in September 2012.
Destination Type – Hill Station. Trip Type – Leisure or Adventure.
Bhandardara is a hill station in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Located about 185 Kms from Mumbai and 60 Kms from Nasik, nestled amongst the majestic Sahyadris, Bhandardara is a blend of natural beauty, lush green terrain, invigorating air, roaring waterfalls, sky high mountains and pristine ambiance. An ideal destination to rewind, relax, breathe in some fresh air, see the grandeur and bounties of nature, venture out for photography, or just do nothing. The more adventurous ones can go trekking in the Sahyadris.
The sights on the way to Bhandardara are spectacular, a real treat for the eyes. In the monsoons, lush green paddy fields contrast with blue skies above and the murky brown streams gush crisscross the whole land. When clouds descend from the sky to lay a blanket on earth with shades of green, with fog all around, atmosphere energized and sunrays peeping in between, the sights become breath taking and the experience is truly enchanting. The highest peak in Maharashtra, Mount Kalsubai about 5500 ft. high is a must see sight on a clear day from village Bari on the road to Bhandardara.
How to reach?
By Rail – the nearest railhead is Igatpuri (45 Kms). Many trains plying on the Mumbai Bhusawal route of the central railway halt at Igatpuri. From Igatpuri, share taxis, auto rickshaws and State transport buses are available.
By Road – on the NH3 Mumbai Nasik Highway, about 2 Kms after the toll plaza at Ghoti village, a right turn leads to Aurangabad highway, about 5 Kms ahead on this highway there’s another right turn which leads to Bhandardara.
By Air – Mumbai CSI Airport is the nearest airport (185 Kms).
Where to Stay?
Bhandardara is a small village and stay options are thus limited. The MTDC resort is the most popular and affordable place to stay. The resort provides variety of accommodation from Standard Non-AC rooms, Deluxe AC rooms, AC Cottages and Dormitory. There’s an in house restaurant which serves local Maharashtrian fare. As always MTDC wins for its location, one can enjoy stunning views of the placid Arthur Lake from the Deluxe rooms and cottages.
Other stay options in Bhandardara are for the brave hearts who don’t mind burning a hole in their pockets by opting to stay at the swanky Anandvan Resort or Yash resort, both having rates equivalent to a 4-Star or 5-Star luxury hotel.
For the money conscious souls or an avid solo traveller, the villagers can make homestay arrangements. Off late many small lodges have sprung up in and around Shendi and Bhandardara villages providing cheap accommodation.
What to eat?
As with stay, food options too are limited in Bhandardara. Local Maharashtrian fare of Zunka (a blend of gram flour paste and spices cooked with oil) Bhakri (bread made of rice flour), vegetables and curries is what veggies can look for and Chicken curry, Mutton curry, Egg Masala, Biryani is all that the non-vegeterians can relish upon. The restaurant inside the MTDC resort also serves good Maharashtrian style Thali meals. Snacks like onion Pakodas, vada pav, missal are available at stalls in the market area. Lays, Kurkure, biscuits and packaged drinking water is easily available at shops.
Things to do
While at Bhandardara, one can enjoy the spectacular views, or take some great pictures of the scenic beauty all around. Go for a trek on the nearby mountains or in the jungles. It is advisable to take a local guide as the trails are confusing and the jungle is dense. During monsoons, the spill gates of the Wilson dam are gradually lifted to allow the excess water to spill out. The rhythmic spills of water create a spectacular view, a sight not to be missed.
Marathi is the language spoken by locals in Bhandardara. English and Hindi is understood and spoken as well. The guides typically charge Rs. 400/- (as on October 2012) for an excursion to some of the popular spots in and around Bhandardara which are the Wilson Dam and Umbrella falls, Spill Gate, Randha Falls, Amruteshwar temple and Necklace falls. Konkan Kada and Ghatghar dam can also be covered if time permits.
Places to see
Bhandardara is truly a place for wanderers. It’s a trekkers delight. Surrounded by high mountains, Bhandardara enlivens in the monsoons with an energized atmosphere which lasts till the onset of summers in March. Picnickers, trekkers, honeymooners and tourists visit Bhandardara for the many wonders it has.
Arthur Lake – this magnificent lake is fed by the waters of the Pravara river. Its tranquil waters are truly mesmerizing. The vast expanse of the lake spans about 24 Kms.
Wilson Dam – an engineering marvel built by the British in the year 1910 on the Pravara river stands 150 meters high, is the largest earthen dam in India. It holds enough water for the entire Ahmednagar district for the whole year. It is a testimonial to the vision of the British officers and planners of the era bygone.
Umbrella Waterfall – is not in reality a natural waterfall. It is in reality the excess water released from the flood gates of Wilson dam during monsoons which gushes down on the rocks beneath creating a delusion of an umbrella.
Randha Falls – 10 Kms from Bhandardara are the Randha falls on the Pravara river. The waterfall presents a stunning view as it falls in a gorge creating a roaring sound. It is also featured in many Bollywood movies. The water flows down in the Pravara river irrigating the villages in Ahmednagar district.
Amruteshwar – is an ancient Shiva temple known to be carved in stone sometime in the 11th century CE in the village of Ratanwadi, 24 Kms away from Bhandardara. Ratanwadi is also the base village for the trek to Ratangad fort. The trek is moderately challenging. Amruteshwar can also be reached by an 8 Km boat ride across the Arthur lake from Bhandardara, which reduces travel time substantially. The boat rides are irregular in monsoons.
Ghatghar Dam – is another dam about 28 Kms away from Bhandardara on the opposite side of Wilson Dam, worth a visit for the stunning views of the area.
Trekking Activities – the Bhandardara region is a trekkers paradise. The most popular peaks amongst trekkers are the forts of Harishchandragad and Ratangad. Harishchandragad is known for its breath taking views of the surrounding Konkan region from the Konkan Kada (cliff) and also for the Harishchandreshwar temple and the Kedareshwar cave. Another fascinating trek is the trek to mount Kalsubai which is very challenging and requires good endurance.
Bhandardara is a vast area and one really doesn’t need to see anything else after a heavy dose of nature’s bounties. However, the enthusiastic ones may proceed to Nasik region which has many interesting places – wine yards and wineries, pilgrimages like Panchavati & Trymbakeshwar, and the Gondeshwar temple complex at Sinnar are few places to visit. Igatpuri is another place where one can relax and rewind. It is relatively closer to Mumbai. The spiritually inclined soul can proceed to Shirdi, Maharashtra’s most popular pilgrimage known for the 19th century saint Sai baba.
Rajesh Deshpande © 2013