Green heaven near Pune; Mahabaleshwar is a hikers paradise in thick forest

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In Europe only London and Istanbul are larger than Pune. With more than 5 million people you definitely could say that Pune is a mega city, polluted and with concrete everywhere. We decided to spend a few days in a green area and ended up in Mahabaleshwar, to cool down and explore ‘the other India’. The hill station is easy reachable from Pune, the toll highway will bring you to the Surur in less than two hours. From there the magic begins! The first village of any interest is Panchgani, a very picturesque hill station with many old churches. On the quick drive through the village I noticed many English schools. It was the next day that I found out that Freddie Mercury, the famous and flamboyant singer of rockband Queen and also one of the most famous parsi’s, lived there during his childhood and took his first piano lessons in town. We found nothing in town that remembered him. Half an hour from Panchgani, after a very nice drive with hundreds of strawberry vendors on both sides of the roads – strawberry’s is one of the usp’s of the town, they grow it everywhere here – you will end up in new Mahabaleshwar. We decided to go for the splurge and booked a room in Le Meridien, a very exclusive resort with independent villa’s and an amazing infinity pool. Very close to the resort there are several places where you can start your hike, a bit further you can explore on of the more than 10 amazing view points. The most spectacular one, Arthur’s Seat, is an attraction that I would not advice if you are afraid of heights (as I am) and another advice is to visit this every day except on Sunday’s (..). The centre of the old town has a busy temple with colorful decorations. The new town hosts hundreds of restaurants and snack outlets and several places to buy and consume strawberry’s. If you find a cheap and reliable place to sleep, this town is the place to be with prices that start at around 1000 INR for a AC room (with no viewJ) or more with ‘valley view’. The big plus of Mahabaleshwar and one of the other usp’s is of course its climate. The Pune summer arrived early this year, with temperatures that easily top to 36 C during daytime. In Mahabaleshwar it was cool, with a daily high of 28 C, nights and mornings are fresh and chilly. Sundayafternoon, after a nice trip back to the bustling city of Pune we arrived with a big smile on our face. We will come back!

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