Ok let me come straight to the point. I don't know how many of you have been to this place, but Pachmarhi or Panchmadhi in Madhya Pradesh, India is a place one needs to visit atleast once, especially in the winters. It is a beautiful hillstation lapped in the Satpuda Mountain ranges. The temperatures here drop to about 3-4 degreeC in the winter, but it is worth getting cold in this natural scenic beauty. And the reason I say it is untouched is because the place is not filled up with tourists so much so that even moving around becomes difficult. Famous getaways near Mumbai include places like Alibaug, Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Lonavala - Khandala and the likes, but they all suffer from the one dreaded thing -- Gross Commercialisation -- these places have been milked by tourists and tour operators to an extent that they are too crowded for people to enjoy the scenic beauty. Ok I cannot exactly call Pachmarhi a weekend getaway considering it takes you more than half a day to reach the foothills of this place and then another hour or so to be there. Your Journey can begin by first reaching a railway station called Pipariya which is located close to Pachmarhi. Or you can even consider coming in from Bhopal or Nagpur which connect to the hillstation.
Since, I have said even before that I would not tell you stuff like how i plan to spend my weekend and what I had for breakfast today, I would definitely suggest you on how to plan your weekend in Panchmarhi and what special delicacies to enjoy here. If you ever happen to be here, first of all, come with the intention of spending atleast 3 to 4 days, because Pachmarhi is worth every second of your visit and every penny you spend here. An ideal schedule could be landing here on a Friday and returning on Sunday.
Places of interest can be easily obtained from a search on Google for Pachmarhi, so I would not spend my and your time on it. Hoewver, do not miss the Jatashankar caves and the Bee Falls. They are really cool. Also, the sunset at Dhoopgarh is worth a watch. It is commom in Indian Tourist places to have a sunset or a sunset point with the same Sun setting behind the same old mountains. But, the Dhoopgarh sunset is something different, something like the one you would see at Ranikhet near Nainital in Uttaranchal without the snow-clad peaks. For starters enjoy the snap shown here.
If you are an animal lover, you can take a one day trip to the Satpuda Wildlife Sanctuary at Madhai, some 40 Km from Pipariya. Although you need to take special permissions to visit this protected land, it is worth a ride. The vast landmass has (on last count) 14 Tigers, a substantial figure considering the sorry state of wildlife protection plans in India. The 4 male, 6 female and 4 cub cat family is accompanied by a host of other animals and birds including Bisons, Deer, Sambhars, Neel Gaay, Peacocks, Huge Crocs, Oars or wild looking pigs as also the omnipresent monkeys and bundars. As for the road from Pipariya to Madhai, I bet you it is better than the best patches of road on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway!!! The road then takes a diversion and a 10-odd Km. patch of village road ( surrounded on both sides by lush-green fields, straight out of a Yashraj Film) leads you to the banks of Denva River, which you can cross by taking a motor-boat. Albeit, do not go there without a valid permit and no I wont tell you how to obtain it. And all my best wishes with you for sighting a tiger there!
So, the next time you have spare time and are thinking about a place where you can take your family along and enjoy a good mix of some new (Gupt Mahadev, Bee Fall, Jatashankar et al) and some similar (Pandav Caves, Apsara Vihar, etc.) looking places, book your tickets to Pachmarhi. A variety of hotels are waiting for you.
Before I leave, a nice option to make your trip more memorable is to move North for one of the bigger cities in the central Indian state - Jabalpur. For details on this and the awesome Bedhaghat Falls join in to view my future posts, till then chao.