….. Rajesh Deshpande (based on my personal visit in February 2013)
Situated in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, 20 Kms south of Guhagar town, Velneshwar is a cove having a crescent shaped beach. It is largely populated by the fisherman community. Velneshwar gets its name from the temple of Lord Shiva. The beach is clean and unspoilt, totally free of rocks and thus ideal for swimming. Velneshwar is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway or for a quick escape for relaxation.
How to reach?
By Rail – Velneshwar is approximately 330 Kms from Mumbai. The nearest railhead is Chiplun (65 Kms). From Mumbai, it takes almost 3.5 hrs. to reach Chiplun by Konkan railway. From Chiplun’ s Central State Transport Depot, regular buses are available for the town of Guhagar. It takes almost an hour to reach Guhagar which is 45 Kms. away. From Guhagar bus depot, one can hire an Auto-Rickshaw to Velneshwar (Rs. 300/-). It takes about 30 mins. to cover a distance of 20 Kms.
By Road – Regular State transport buses are available from Mumbai, Pune and Kolhapur up to Guhagar. From Guhagar, local state transport buses for Narvan and Tavsal stop at Velneshwar. Auto-Rickshaw from Guhagar Bus Depot charge Rs. 300/- up to Velneshwar.
By Air – Mumbai Airport is the nearest airport (330 Kms)
Things to do
Velneshwar is a small village, hence there’s not much to do except for relaxing, swimming in the sea, watching Dolphins and enjoying the delicious Konkani cuisine. Seafood is the quintessential part of the Konkani cuisine and is found in abundance at Velneshwar. An excursion to Hedvi village down south (5 Kms) through the winding and bumpy road full of greenery is worth the effort. Hedvi is known for the temple of Dashbhuja (ten armed) Ganesh. The marble idol of Ganesh is known to be gifted by the Peshwa who had got it from Kashmir. On the outskirts of Hedvi is a place called as Baman Ghal, which is a gorge from which sea water gushes out during high tide making a fountain about 20 ft. high.
Where to stay?
Undoubtedly, MTDC is the best option to stay put in Velneshwar. The resort is situated on a hillock (with a private pathway to the beach) with independent cottages (AC and Non-AC) having a direct view of the ocean. The cottages provide basic amneties like a king size bed, LCD Television, Hot and Cold running water. There’s an in-house restaurant serving delicious Konkani cuisine. The resort staff is very hospitable and attentive.
Besides MTDC, the only decent option to stay put in Velneshwar is the Kinara Beach House of Navneet Thakur. Jeevan Sugandh hotel is one more option for a budget stay. The locals also provide stay options at nominal rates.
One can also opt to stay at Guhagar being a town. The pricy Modi Villa is the height of luxury at Guhagar, other Hotels like Nisarg Resort (away from the beach on the outskirts of Guhagar), Kismat Residency, Annapurna, and Sagar Lodge provide decent accommodation at affordable rates.
Velneshwar is a small village yet to appear on the tourist map of Maharashtra, hence do not expect city like luxuries. It is best suited for travellers looking out for solitude and relaxation. There are no eateries except for few stalls selling biscuits and snacks in the temple area. There’s a small chowpatty adjacent to the Velneshwar temple where the Jeevan Sugandh hotel and few stalls sell fast food, Cold drinks and Thali meals. The villagers are friendly and hospitable people. Marathi is the widely spoken language. Hindi and English is also understood and spoken by the locals. Being a coastal village, Velneshwar has a tropical climate and is humid throughout the year. Best time to visit is in winter (Nov. to Feb.). Summers are generally hot but with abundance of mangoes, jackfruits, jambul and berries. Rains are equally enchanting.
What to eat?
Food options are limited at Velneshwar with typical home style Konkani cuisine. One can feast on sea food, especially prawns, mackerel, salmon, pomfret, king fish and black pomfret (locally known as Saranga) and non-veg. dishes like chicken curry or sauté accompanied by Bhakri (bread made from rice) and the ubiquitous Solkadi. Vegeterians can relish on Pithla Bhakri, Valachi Usal, Amboli, Ghavne, Modaks. At Guhagar, many eateries and hotels are available. For seafood, the best place is Shamkant Khatu’s Annapurna Hotel (also has lodging facilities) and Hotel Shraddha. For vegetarians, Hotel Suruchi and Hotel Musale are the best options.
The town of Guhagar was once what Velneshwar is today. It was a quaint little village, primarily dominated by the Brahmin community engaged in the trade of mango and beetle nut. Guhagar got fame due to the controversial Enron project (now the Dabhol Power Company) which brought in many migrants to the area. At the centre of Guhagar lay the Vyadeshwar Shiva temple, a deity of many Brahmin families. Guhagar has a long and wide beach, unspoilt, serene where hardly any soul could be spotted on weekdays. The beach has golden sand and is sparkling clean. Behind the Vyadeshwar temple, a small pedestrian way leads to the beach. There’s a small chowpatty with stalls selling tender coconut water, cold drinks, ice-cream, Chaat, corn candies and meals. The beach is ideal and safe for swimming. Just about 2 Kms north of Guhagar towards Dabhol is an ancient Durga Mandir which is worth a visit.
On the way from Guhagar to Velneshwar are two villages with secret beaches. The village of Palshet and Budhal have beaches which are known only to the local population, completely unspoilt they are an ideal place for beach buffs for camping.
A drive down south (12 Kms) from Velneshwar leads to the Ferry wharf at Tavsal. The ferry can take one to the other side of the Tavsal creek (even with a car or small vehicle in the ferry barge) to Jaigad (a small surveillance fort built by the Maratha’s now in ruins). From Jaigad a 20 Kms drive southwards leads to the famous town of Ganpatipule via Malgund.
On the way from Guhagar to Chiplun at the village of Rampur, one may spot salt water crocodiles sunbathing in the swamps near the creek on a sunny day. A little ahead on the Chiplun Guhagar road a small detour leads to Maldoli village, the dwelling place of salt water crocs in the backwaters of the Vashishti river.
Rajesh Deshpande © 2013