Panhala in Maharashtra is what I think is smaller than Mahabaleshwar and larger than Matheran. I went with my brother and we found out that this little hill town measures just over 7 km. However Panhala is mostly identified with the Maratha warrior king Shivaji, who captured it in AD 1659. As told to us by one of the locals, because of its minuscule size- a small plateau tucked within the walls of a 12th century fort, Panhala pleads to be explored on the foot. To me Panhala was the ideal place to relax and do a whole lot of nothing. Our guide pointed out few homes of politicians and industrialists and Lata Mangeshkar’s weekend retreats.
We started our journey from Sajja Kothi on the eastern wall of the fort and walked north along the ramparts to Teen Darwaza, which was an imposing gateway to the west of the city. It was an easy, undemanding trek, which took around 45 minutes, or a little more depending on how long one stops at the different landmarks along the way. We stopped at the filmmaker V Shantaram’s retreat, which now has been converted into a hotel, the botanical gardens, the sunset point and the granary.
Sajja Kothi is a single storey structure rising out of the eastern battlements, which offers a compelling view of the valley below. This view lightens up the memory of Sambhaji imprisoned by his father here because of his errant ways. Sambhaji later escaped only to run straight into the arms of his father’s enemies.
Botanical gardens are an impressive arched gateway of the old fort, which serves as the entrance to the green lawns of these gardens maintained by the forest department.
Sunset Point is located on a turret at the northern end of the fort. From here we were able to view the rays of the setting sun, which strikes the face of the western fort wall.
Teen Darwaza gateway comprised three gates on the western walls. It was through this gate that the British entered when they eventually captured Panhala in 1884.
There are many options to stay here as it offers few luxury hotels and home stays like Valley View grand, Hotel Hill top, Mahalaxmi resort, Konkan Ratna Holiday Resort and many more.
Hotels and lodges provide guests with home cooked meals here.
Note : It is 418km SE of Mumbai. By road it takes 10 hours and by rail it will take 11 hrs + 45 min by road. You can take the expressway to Pune NH4 to Kolahpur, state highway to Panhala.