Twenty kilometres west of the bustle of Pune’s Chandni Chowk, Mulshi valley is a land of neon green mountains, forests, and lakes, big and small, stencilled with tar roads. Most visitors pass through without stopping, en route to the cloudy heights of Lavasa Hill City further west. Lavasa township itself is largely unimpressive, offering little more than a few restaurants and water sports in a dull, brown lake, but most tourists are seduced by the winding roads leading up to the settlement, and the incredible views along the way.
The real charm of the Pune district lies well below the lofty heights of Lavasa, in the 40-kilometre circuit between the lakes of Mulshi and Temghar. The area is particularly beautiful during the monsoon, when it is draped by mist and greenery. The roads are flanked by fields with thatched huts and mossy mountains with little waterfalls. Tourists are forbidden from entering the lakes owing to hazards ranging from quicksand to reptiles, but thanks to a few lovely eco-resorts set in the untouched hills, there’s enough to keep one busy.
In Tamhini, around 15 kilometres ahead of Mulshi village, visitors can hike through rocky gorges. Birding enthusiasts, meanwhile, can train their binoculars on the foliage in the 50 sq km Tamhini forest, a designated biodiversity reserve (no entry timings or fee; no guide required). Those seeking adventure can venture 50 km beyond Tamhini to Kolad for white water rafting and kayaking on the Kundalika River (98203 67412; www.adventurekolad.com; ₹2,800 per head for a day trip). Camp Temghar urges guests to explore the winding trails around the property on bicycles (at no extra charge). The terrain is rather steep in some places, making cycling a bit of a challenge. Those who are content to simply relax can choose from a number of lakeside retreats scattered around Mulshi and spend a weekend lounging around, strolling along nature trails, and living the simple life that makes urban mayhem seem a lot farther away than it actually is.
While there is a reasonable amount to do in the Mulshi-Temghar area, most activities are restricted to the establishment you’re staying at.
Hidden behind the hills near Valne, Malhar Machi is the most luxurious resort in the area. Visitors without bookings will not be allowed on the premises. Rustic cottages with thatched roofs command a sweeping view of the Mulshi Lake and dam and the Sahyadris. The food in the restaurant is prepared using vegetables grown organically on the premises. There’s a spa, a swimming pool, and a play area for children. The hotel also organises nature walks and bullock cart rides in the surrounding areas (88880 00055; www.malharmachi.com; doubles from ₹8,000; includes all meals).
Paradise Café near the banks of Mulshi Lake is known for its dhaba-styled restaurant. Its lakeside cottages are a great accommodation option for people who enjoy rich Indian cuisine. The establishment is run by the Bedis, whose signature dishes include sarson ka saag and makki ki roti, in addition to an array of kebabs, curries, and Chinese dishes. The cottage accommodations are comfortable, with clean rooms and basic amenities. There are a number of forest trails on the property. (90213 36950; www.paradisecafe.in; doubles from ₹1,000).
A sprawling property around 10 km from Temghar Dam, Camp Temgarh is a no-frills getaway for those with a taste for roughing it out in relative wilderness. There are no signboards for the place, so it’s quite easy to miss the turn from the road leading to Lavasa. Accommodation is in spacious tents and whitewashed cottages with picket fences and vines around the walls. Expect to find plenty of frogs and the occasional crab roaming the premises. The only other major structure in the vicinity is a dining area where guests are served simple meals that include curries, chapatis, rice, and dal. Camp Temgarh allows visitors to rent bicycles and explore the surroundings, and also provides equipment for fishing in a little stream nearby (94225 16089; www.camptemgarh.com; doubles from ₹4,000 on weekdays and ₹6,000 on weekends; includes all meals, cycles, and fishing rods).
One of the hotels closest to the Mulshi Dam, Greengate Resort has a lakeside cottage and comfortable rooms with modern amenities including satellite television. Some suites even have Jacuzzis. There’s a restaurant that serves vegetarian cuisine, a swimming pool to laze around in, a games room with carrom boards, as well as foosball and poker tables. Greengate is quite close to Tamhini Ghat, where visitors can go hiking and birdwatching (020-32925062; www.thegreengateresorts.com; doubles from ₹4,000).
Kare is a wellness centre that offers traditional Kerala therapies, Iyengar yoga sessions, and Ayurvedic meals. It has cottages with ethnic furnishings, attached baths, and views of Mulshi’s pretty hillside. Guests can simply book a room to soak in the serene atmosphere, or pick from all-inclusive packages that last as little as a day and as long as three weeks (doubles ₹3,000, packages from ₹6,200 per day; 93728 44740; karehealth.com).
Appeared in the November 2013 issue as “Lake District”.
Mulshi is a taluka in the Pune district, around 40 km west of Pune city. It is a hilly area with a number of lakes, of which Mulshi and Temghar are the most prominent. It is 170 km southeast of Mumbai.
The most convenient way to get to Mulshi is by road. From Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Pune Expressway to Pune. Follow the Pune bypass road until the Chandni Chowk junction and turn on to Paud Road. From there, follow SH60 to Mulshi. It’s a straight road for most of the way, with the only major junction at Pirangut. Driving straight on leads to Mulshi, whereas a left turn heads towards Temghar Dam and Lavasa. Alternatively, travellers from Mumbai can take NH17 (Mumbai-Goa highway) up until Kolad and get to Mulshi via Tamhini Ghat. This route is shorter, but the quality of roads is not very good. There isn’t much here in terms of public transport, so having your own vehicle is essential.
The Pune district is most pleasant between November and February, with maximum temperatures not exceeding 25°C. Minimums can drop to around 10°C. During the monsoon (July-Sept), the landscape is green and misty. However, heavy rainfall limits outdoor activities and can lead to pothole-laden roads. The area is very hot during the summer (Mar-June) with highs approaching 40°C.