Mumbai’s winter lasts for all of a week when a fortunate cold spell has us reaching for our winter wear that have been stored away with mothballs. For that week, we preen in our woolies and everyone reports on the state of the weather. But in truth, even during that week it’s colder when you open your refrigerator door. So where do you escape for a quick winter weekend getaway from Mumbai?
Since most people rush off to neighbouring Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani still retains a relative sense of calm. Being at the centre of five (panch) Hills (gani), the name is derived from its location. Located 250km from Mumbai via the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Panchgani nestles in the Sahyadri ranges and winter mornings often see frost. A weekend spent there might have you dizzy by an overdose of fresh air.
No trip to Panchgani is complete without a visit to Roach Bakery or one of the strawberries- and-cream centres. Also, check out the Il Palazzo hotel. Their specialty is Parsi food – from akuri to brain cutlets.
Stay at: There’s no shortage of hotels in Panchgani. One homestay option is Dala Rooster, run by Leena & Capt. Vikas Gokhale.
Nashik and Sula Vineyards
Snuck in the interiors of Maharashtra, Nashik gets very hot during the summer as it is not tempered by the sea. This means that it also get deliciously cold during winter. Near Nashik and 160km from Mumbai are the Sula Vineyards. If you’re interested in wine, you’ll have a fantastic weekend and even if you’re not, a visit here will pique your interest.
An interesting tour takes you around the wine-producing facilities, and an artistically designed tasting room is where you can sample the produce, as you look out at the neat rows of vines. You can eat at the two restaurants on the premises: Little Italy and Soma.
Five kilometres away are the Someshwar falls, which are at their supple best even after the monsoon. You can also drive 24km from Sula and visit Trimbakeshwar, which is the source of the Godavari River. It enshrines one of the 12 jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva and is considered the main jyotirlinga.
Stay at: Nashik’s hotels run a gamut of budget options including a Ginger property. You can also stay in style at the Taj Gateway resort. Also, Sula Vineyards is home to Beyond, a luxurious property.
This little town, which most people use as a stop over on a drive to Goa, is 224km from Mumbai and should take a shade over four hours to reach. It’s a quaint place with splendid river views. The fact that it is at an elevation and faces a river means that the temperature is always a few degrees below the places around. Visit the 700-year-old Parshuram Temple, which is a walking distance from the Riverview Resort. The walk here is easy and the temple itself, though now gaudily painted, is a showcase of ancient architecture.
The Sawatsada waterfall does not trickle out until after winter. So, it’s still a sight to see. The Walavalkar Shivaji Museum has unique displays of the life and history of Shivaji. This is located at a distance of 30km from the Riverview Hotel towards Goa on the Mumbai-Goa highway. It’s a great place to experience and nature and history.
Stay at: Quality Resorts, The Riverview is a good place to call home for the weekend. There are also several budget options in the area.
A four-hour drive from Mumbai via Nashik, Saputara is actually in Gujarat and is situated at an elevation of 1,000m. This means that it is positively crisp and cold during the winter. Saputara sits on a plateau of the Sahyadri range in the Dang forest area. The main draw is the Saputara Lake, and the popular Sunset Point around town is Gandhi Shikhar – a one-kilometre walk from the main town.
Apart from that, Saputara has been developed with a number of gardens and are also major tourist attractions – they include the Rose Garden, Step Garden and Lake Garden.
There is also an artist village that features traditional pottery, metalwork and bamboo art. Visitors are encouraged to try their hands at making artefacts too.
Stay at: There are a few resorts to choose from, but most are vegetarian. And Gujarat is a dry state, so…
From HT Brunch, December 16
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