On the trail less explored: Bhandardara is a nature lovers paradise just 4 hours from Mumbai :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Situated in the lap of the Western Ghats, about 170 km from Mumbai, Bhandardara is a place which can surprise a traveller with its natural beauty.

It was exactly around the same time last year that I moved to Mumbai from Delhi for a job. Being a mountain lover and a passionate traveller, it was always easy for me to make full use of my weekly offs and travel to the nearby states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

After a year of dedicating my wanderlust to delve deep into the socio-cultural charm of Mumbai, I realised that it was time to explore the hill stations around the city. With the monsoons finally retreating from this part of the country, I knew that the Western Ghats would be a fine place for getting over the accumulated stress of a working week in one of the busiest cities in the country.

Sandeep, a colleague, and an equally enthusiastic traveller friend, was really excited about the idea--he was craving to go on a vacation for the longest time. We gathered two of our common friends and were off to Bhandardara in his SUV.

A four-hour drive covering 170 km got us in the lap of what can be called a green paradise. With the autumn sun shining bright, the lush green Western Ghats looked stunning under the clear blue skies. But what gave a perfect finishing to this landscape was the Arthur Lake.

Also known as the Bhandardara Dam, the Arthur Lake is one of the most beautiful freshwater lakes I have seen. When the rays of the bright autumn-winter sun fall on this lake, the shining ripples add a mystic aura to the landscape.

It was time to check-in and keep our stuff at the accommodation we booked for the next two days. It was the Anandvan Resort, the only private hotel in the area that overlooks the lake. Offering stays in beautiful lakeview cottages along with private sit-out areas, the resort is no less than an experience. In fact, the time spent here turned out to be a major part of our experience at this trip. Since we were tired after a four-hour drive from Mumbai, we decided to sit back and spend the rest of the day in leisure at the property itself.

We were quite surprised with the kind of choices we had for accommodation at this property. Right from four-bed villas to three-bedroom cottages to the double-bed cottages, each of them had its own strengths. We chose to go with the double-bed private cottages as they are strategically positioned to give you the best views. Also, what I loved the most about this cottage is its beautiful living room opening up to a well-maintained lawn and private sit-out area overlooking the lake. The bedroom also offered views every nature lover would love to wake up to.

After gorging on some delicious Indian food for lunch, we headed to the activity room of the property. Theres a badminton court, a basketball court, a table tennis board, couple of carrom boards and a pool table. Never in my travels have I seen so many activity options in a resort. Since we were a bunch of friends, carrom and pool were the best options for us. This was followed by an Ayurvedic massage at the spa, which made me realise that nothing de-stresses the muscles better than an Indian traditional massage. More so, because they have been tried and tested for ages, and have been designed to suit the kind of climate we

We spent the rest of the evening at the cottages private sit out area.

The views of the sun setting behind the Sahyadri hills and its reflection on the Arthur Lake brought tears to my eyes. Not kidding--I dont remember seeing a more beautiful sunset in a long time than the one I witnessed from here. It felt like home in the mountains--with some amazing people and great food in company. The perfect ending to this evening was the barbeque dinner under the stars, organised by the hotel staff upon our request. And the best part about the food was that it was prepared live by ladies from the local village.

Next morning, it was time to explore the destination. A 10-minute walk down from the resort took us to the lakeside. The next thing we knew was that we had already spent an hour at the place without even realising one bit. The breathtaking panorama of the Sahyadri mountains bordering the Arthur Lake is seductive enough to make you spend hours admiring the serenity of nature. The hour I spent here made me fall in love with nature for one more time. It was one of those few places which made me feel that theres a lot more to explore and take back from Mother Natures presence at this place--I need to come back to this place again.

The meditative state of nature admiration was ended when a man called us out saying something in the local language. Although the guide given to us by the resort explained, but we had realised that it was the boatman inviting us to his boat for a ride. This was the most interesting bit of our trip to the place--natures beauty urged us to ditch the road and instead take a boat ride to our desired destination.

The next 35 minutes were only spent in silence.

It was nature talking to us. The lake is massive, and we realised that even more on our boat ride. Hidden behind every edge of a hill bordering the lake is another massive part of the lake. Beautiful is an understatement to describe the place. Being a mountain lover, I have been to almost every hill state in the northern part of the country, but no place had the charm that this place holds.

The pristine blue water of the lake and its surrounding green hills with its uniquely shaped peaks did just one thing to me--it cleansed my mind of all the stress and worries that an urban life inflicts. To make things more memorable were sarus cranes flocking on the islets in search of fish. Which reminds me, the resort serves delicious preparation of tawa fish prepared from Chopra, a local fish from this lake. Being a non-vegetarian and particularly a fish lover, I can confidently say that its one of the best tasting fishes I have ever had.

The amazing boat ride ended at Ratanwadi, a quaint village, which is home to the ancient Amruteshwar Temple. A short village walk took us past some beautiful paddy and rice fields with friendly villagers working in the fields. A brief chat with them gave us an insight into their lives. I wished most of us could spend at least a few days of our lives with such simplicity. For instance, I can never forget the cup of tea prepared by a villager inside his simple shop made out of mud.

Right behind the temple is the hill whose peak is crowned by the walls of the Ratangad Fort, which was built by Maratha king Shivaji during his rule. A trekkers favourite, this fort can be reached by a three-hour trek through the lush vegetation of the Sahyadri mountain range. Although I didnt have the time to do it this time, but I have it noted for the next time.

How to reach: Bhandardara is 170 km from Mumbai. It takes three to four hours (with breaks) by road that is in fine condition.

Tip: On long stays, one can even go on a day trip to Shirdi, which is just 130 km from this place.

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