Strawberry season! Fond memories of strawberry plucking & fresh strawberry shakes keep coming back & urge for another trip to strawberryland- Mahabaleshwar Panchgani, also called the queen of hill stations in Maharashtra. We had missed visiting this place 2 years in a row due to the pandemic; this time we were adamant about going to Mahabaleshwar. In March we managed to take out 3 days for our sojourn with this strawberry country. 🙂
Nestled in the Sahyadri mountain range of Maharashtra, Mahabaleshwar Panchgani is a beautiful hill station known for its juicy Strawberries, numerous lakes and waterfalls, majestic peaks, lush green forests, ancient temples and breathtaking valley views. There are several viewpoints which offer spectacular vistas of the surrounding hills and valleys.
With its year round superb climate, everyone is drawn to Mahabaleshwar- it is an ideal place to spend quality time with nature. The nearby Panchgani and Wai also add more to the beauty of the hill station.
Though the route via Mahad is less distance wise, we have been taking the Pune-Wai route throughout – roads & pit stops are much better. Another bonus is visiting Venky’s Tirupati Balaji temple in Saswad along the way.
On the way- Venky’s Balaji Tirupati Temple Saswad
This famous replica of Tirupati temple is worth visiting for the way its beautifully made & the laddoo it gives- same as Tirupati. Plus, it’s just 3-4 kms detour from the main route after Pune to Mahabaleshwar Panchgani. Do stop here & pay your respects.
What is the best time to go to Mahabaleshwar?
For us, when it comes to Mahabaleshwar Panchgani, it’s always been the strawberry season which lasts from December-March.
The strawberries just about come in the market towards Dec end….but are aplenty & cheap in March. I usually carry an extra overnight bag to fill them up with strawberry boxes to give to friends & colleagues…the giving process has to be fast though- they spoil in 2 days if not refrigerated properly.
There’s a strawberry fest in Mapro during the Easter weekend which signifies the end of this fruit season. Plan your trip before that!
Again, summer vacations from April to May are a good time to spend here due to its cool climate. Another good time to visit Mahabaleshwar Panchgani is when the monsoon season is almost over- like September to October. The valleys are lush green, the waterfalls are aflow and the clouds are still low at this time of the year at Mahabaleshwar.
Hotels in Mahabaleshwar: Our stay at Leela Resort
For this visit, we chanced upon a lovely new hotel in Mahabaleshwar with beautiful pics & even better reviews and decided to check it out. Leela Resort truly exceeded our expectations. :O
Just 100m away from the main Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road in Metgutad, this quaint boutique hotel had all the trappings of luxury. Spacious carpeted rooms, comfortable beds, posh fittings & balcony with a view of the mountains; it was tops.
Staff was excellent & couldn’t wait to do enough for you. Brownie points for the humble & courteous hospitality. 🙂
Here’s what we loved the most about Leela Resort & think you’d enjoy too:
1. The high-ceilinged valley facing rooms
We stayed in the Leela Rise room and got an uninterrupted view of the mountains straight from the bed itself!
To have that steaming hot cup of morning chai in the balcony with a light chill in the air…this is what hill stations are all about!
The rooms were impressively spacious with all the services in place.
The curtains opened & closed with a bedside switch, what a luxury to not get up from the bed and yet have the view outside! 😀
Rooms were carpeted, a full length mirror (one of our prerequisites: ladies will agree), bathroom fittings were on point, toiletries in place & the rooms had a stylish look as a whole.
2. The Gazebo set-up
On the terrace is a thoughtful arrangement of a chic white Gazebo where we enjoyed the sunset sipping exotic mocktails with some small eats by the side. It’d also be a great place for a group of friends to chill or arrange a date-like setup for your significant other.
There’s a gazebo on the lawns too for a chilled family time or to watch as the children play around.
This place seems to be made with a lot of thought & involvement- the lights, cute decorative pieces in every corner, the gazebo at the ground & top floor…we couldn’t help admiring the nuances.
Lots of greens & pretty flowers in the grounds add to the beauty of the place. At night, Leela Resort looked really pretty- the reception area especially!
It also had a cute pool area with inviting loungers.
4. Bonfire on a chilly night
We requested the hotel for a bonfire and not only did they get that done, but also arranged for our dinner to be served by the bonfire. Having hot meals under the stars and by the bonfire…aur kya chahiye! :))
5. Activity room & cycling
During the afternoon we used the activity room playing table tennis & foosball. Took me back to how I used to play TT with my daughter during our trips when she was just about the height of the table. 😀
Cycling around the property was another fun thing to do- just ask in advance & you will get them at no additional charge.
6. Food & Cafe
The buffet breakfast was sumptuous & served in the pool facing restaurant. Apart from the usual dishes along with fruits & juice, there were items being brought around fresh like waffles & sprouts sandwiches.
The good thing about pure veg cafes like these is that there’s a lot of variety- else the focus is more on non veg dishes than veg.
We loved the waffles, pasta in creamy mushroom sauce, paneer tikka sizzlers, veg makhanwala, paneer reshmi kabab, gulab jamun…all cuisines were mouthwatering.
We had some meals by the poolside & some by the bonfire. 🙂
Very conveniently located with Saj stop at 100m, it’s easily reachable for people coming by car or bus. You can avert the traffic jam at the market area on peak days since the hotel is in Metgutad.
Strawberry stalls were just outside while Venna lake, the main market & Mapro were just a short drive. Dhanashree farms for strawberry plucking was just half a km away!
The Lingmala waterfall entrance is a 5 mins drive, but this time we did the Lingmala backtrail which was 5-7 mins walking from the hotel.
To checkout this place & book, visit https://hotelleela.in/
Strawberry farms in Mahabaleshwar
Well, there are two kinds of farms- the usual farms with plants on ground & vertical farms: where strawberries are planted in pots kept on top of one another.
I believe pics come out much better in vertical farms. 🙂
We went to Hirkani which was right opposite our hotel for the vertical strawberry farm. Lots of sunflowers too! Beautifully maintained.
But the strawberry shake & cream at their adjacent restaurant was an absolute waste of money! It’s good only for the strawberry garden…
Dhanashree farm, which was half a km ahead, was good for strawberry plucking & buying.
It was also nicely done & had sunflowers as well. The people there were simple farm folk & we ended up buying their entire lot of strawberries at their request! They dropped it at our hotel too. 🙂
Another place we usually visit is Bhilare farm in Panchgani- vertical strawberry plants & they have a small counter for shakes & creams which are freeeeeshhh & yum! You can buy strawberries from there too.
All across the Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road, you will find stalls selling strawberries, carrots, mulberries etc. in the evenings.
Places to visit in Mahabaleshwar
1. Kates point
We never miss visiting this point on any of our trips. For one, it offers you marvelous views of the lush green Krishna Valley and the beautiful Dhom dam. Another, the strawberry with cream at Baba center here is just awesome!! Apart from tasting yum, it looks very inviting too- bonus for all your instagramers. 😛
This is a combination of 4 viewpoints – Kates’s Point, Echo Point, Elephant head & Needles Hole Viewpoint which makes it one of the best places to visit in Mahabaleshwar.
2. Venna lake
Amongst all the places to visit in Mahabaleshwar, keep this one for the evening.
It is crowded with tourists & roadside food stalls. Boating & horseriding are also available here. What we enjoy the most is a quick bite of hot corn pattice & masaaledar corn frankie at the stalls right opposite the lake which- it’s just too good.
The market becomes lively at night. There are too many shops selling Cane hats, Chappals, Honey, fresh Strawberries, and Jams & Syrups .
Do buy chappals from here – they are good in quality & last long.
A must visit while in Mahabaleshwar, this is a lovely place to hang out with the entire family. There’s a chocolate factory in its premises & a walking trail near it too. It is also famous for its delicious strawberry cream, ice creams & amazing sandwiches at their cafe. Another popular feature is that you can taste the syrups at the tasting stations & then buy the ones you like at a discount to MRP.
5. Lingmala Falls
Though these falls are at their best during monsoons, this place is green & worth a walk otherwise too. From the entrance gate where a fee is charged, you need to walk on a steep road for around 15-20 minutes to reach the main viewpoint of the waterfall. The fabulous scenery & the water falling majestically from high up the cliffs is worth it. There is also a small waterfall at the lower levels which is safe & suitable for swimming in the water.
This is one of the unique places to visit in mahabaleshwar as it’s the highest point in Panchgani & the second longest plateau in Asia. It is a popular site for horse riding & watching the sunset. There is some amount of walking required to visit the points that tableland offers.
P.s: I did not find it worthy of a second visit.
7. Old mahabaleshwar
Situated around 7kms from Mahabaleshwar, Old Mahabaleshwar has lots of temples- Panchganga Temple, Mahabaleshwar Temple and Krishnabai Temple are the popular ones.
Shopping in Mahabaleshwar
With Mapro & Malas at the heart of this town, things to do in Mahabaleshwar are plenty…Syrups, Squashes & Jams top the list of shopping items. If in season, strawberries & mulberrys are a must buy! Chappals are another must buy- they last really really long. Handicrafts, hats etc. can be bought too.
How to reach Mahabaleshwar
- By Air:
– Pune Airport is 120km from Mahabaleshwar
-Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai is almost 270km away.
- By train:
-The closest station to Mahabaleshwar is Pune Junction which is just 71km away.
From there cabs & buses are easily available to reach Mahabaleshwar.
- By Road:
-This is the best way to go to Mahabaleshwar. It is well-connected to all nearby cities by NH4.
-From Mumbai, it takes around 5-6 hours.
-Pune is just 3 hours away.
-Private bus services connect Mahabaleshwar to Pune, Mumbai & Satara.
These include Volvo and sleeper buses too. The state-run MSRTC is also available.
Is Mahabaleshwar safe to travel? Yes- the roads to Mahabaleshwar are in great condition and the drive is very pleasant. Food options along the route are aplenty.
Before reaching Mahabaleshwar
Wai is known as the acting village- many movies have been shot here.
There is a pond & temple where Swades, Gangajal etc. have been shot.
But we love to stop at the Wai Mapro- it is far more beautiful & less crowded than the Mahabaleshwar one.
On special occasions, it is beautifully & thematically decorated too- very much worth a stop!!
So if you have a 3 day holiday or a long weekend, head over to Mahabaleshwar without any second thoughts! It’s our favorite go-to for a nice family relaxation trip & also for a cozy mom-daughter catch up. 🙂
The strawberries are a bonus on this cocktail of vibrant green scapes & misty delight!