When the IT and realty boom struck Pune in early Y2K, the idyllic town turned into an urban assemblage of concrete. Fortunately for Pune residents, the beauty of the hills surrounding the city, the spellbinding Sahyadris, remained intact. Every year as the Monsoon showers down on the region, the mountains burst into a riot of every imaginable shade of green. Pune is a virtual gateway to some of the most spectacular drives in the region and many of these breathtaking routes are well under 100 kilometres, perfect for a Sunday outing with family and friends.
1) Tamhini Ghat
Perhaps one of the most scenic drives, Tamhini Ghat is a mountain pass that connects Kolad to Pune. It is a sight to behold during the Monsoon for its wholesome greenery and a layer of mist as clouds descend into the region! The area is pristine and virtually unexplored. As one gets nearer to Kolad, on almost every curve of the road one is bound to find a cascading waterfall. You can find a suitable spot and even have a picnic along a water body (as long as you don’t go into it, it would all be fun and games), if you can endure and even enjoy the intermittent drizzle.
The area is considered haunted and driving/riding after dark is not recommended through the area.
Distance – Approximately 70 kms from Pune Railway Station towards Mulshi.
2) From Tamhini towards Lonavala
After crossing Tamhini, one can take a right turn into the hills, which leads to Nive and from there to Lonavala. The climb is steep for a few minutes and opens into an amazing viewpoint, which is also an ideal spot for a picnic. However, the mountainside tends to be slippery when wet and it is advisable to stay away from the edge of the ghat. From here the road meanders towards Lonavala and opens near Amby Valley, passing through densely wooded areas as well as a few tiny villages. The road is extremely narrow but the overhanging greenery more than makes up for the alert drive.
There are no eateries or shacks on this route till Lonavala. A snack break in Mulshi would therefore be ideal if you wish to undertake this drive.
Distance – Approximately 50 kms from Tamhini Ghat
If you don’t want to drive up to Tamhini Ghat, you can drive up to Mulshi dam and grab a splendid meal at one of the numerous eateries that dot this road. The scenery is just as remarkable albeit a bit more urbanised. And the view of the Mulshi reservoir, that is just one reason to drive till here.
You can also grab a hot and freshly roasted corn-on-the-cob with a steaming cup of cutting chai at one of the tiny tapris (kiosks).
Distance – Approximately 50 kms from Pune Railway Station.
4) Panshet Dam
Driving towards Khadakwasla, which is famous for its military establishment (the National Defence Academy) and as an evening hangout, one can stop at Panshet Dam, which is equally beautiful, is famous for boating opportunities in the reservoir but less populated.
Distance – Approximately 52 kms from Pune Railway Station.
5) Kamshet to Pavana
After a few kilometres of high speed driving on the Old Mumbai-Pune highway, one can take a left turn at Kamshet into a smaller road that leads to the Pavana river and dam. The drive is picturesque as one meanders through tiny villages to reach the river. The route is also the gateway to Buddhist caves Bedse that has a history dating back to 1 BC.
One can opt for the boating opportunity on the reservoir, visit the caves, or climb up the Lohagadh Fort located nearby. The Fort is an easy 20 minute climb from the base and offers a superb view of Lonavala. Climbers are required to exercise caution as the area tends to be very slippery during the rainy season.
But as those who love being on the road and revel in the sheer joy of driving while it pours outside, we recommend that one discards the boat rides, the climbs and the picnics for another not-so-rainy day.
Distance – Approximately 71 kms from Pune Railway Station.