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Just half an hour's drive from Panchgani is the famous hill station Mahabaleshwar. Being surrounded by hills and thick forests makes Mahabaleshwar an ideal spot to get away from the hue and cry of the city. Situated at a height of 1372 m, Mahabaleshwar is one of the most popular and picturesque hill resorts in Maharashtra. It is virtually a paradise for tourists. Whereas the summers are cool compared to the city, there is a nip in the air in the winters. During the monsoons, most of the hoteliers pull down their shutters and head for the city. MahabaleshwarPeople ready to brave the torrential rain and enjoy the thick fog at this time of the year head for Mahableshwar. In fact, it receives the highest rainfall in Maharashtra. Barely a handful of hotels remain open for business at this time. Warm clothes are a must during the cold winters and monsoons, when even the bedding can be damp. The Sunset Point is unique to the hill station. During the day, lovers of water sports can spend time boating and fishing in the Venna Lake. The evening finds the lake crowded with tourists waiting in line for their turn to get a boat. Riding enthusiasts can go trotting up and down the hills, hiring a horse for the whole day to visit the scenic points or just for an hour of pleasure riding. Stalls having games like nine pins and video games dot the lakeside. Less than a kilometer away from Venna lake is the Hindu Gymkhana, where people of all religions are welcome to play a game of tennis, billiards or for that matter even carom, for a nominal fee. Youngsters can have fun skating round the rink here.

Being surrounded by hills, makes Mahabaleshwar a perfect location for die-hard trekkers. The hill station provides archetype trekking routes to forts like Makarandgad and Pratapgad - the fort where Shivaji outwitted Afzalkhan. A trip to the Lingmala, the Dhobi and the Chinamen waterfalls is a must for people visiting the place for the first time. Mahabaleshwar has a bazaar where everything from Mahabaleshwar chappals to jams and jellies are available. Major attractions of this hill station are the ice creams and fresh milkshakes made from strawberries freshly plucked from the farms nearby. Steaming hot corn patties with the spicy green chutney accompanying it is a must in the cold Mahabaleshwar climate. Mahabaleshwar is rich with exotic flora and fauna making it a popular learning ground for budding and amateur botanists. In the 13th century, the Yadav sovereign, King Singhan built a temple dedicated to Lord Mahadev at the confluence site of five holy rivers (Panch Ganga) viz. Koyna, Krishna, Savitri, Gayatri and Veena. It is from this temple that the place derives its name ‘Mahabaleshwar'. Majestic mansions in the hill station bear testimony to the fact that it was a favourite retreat of the Gora Sahab and his family (during British Raj), who would often spend some time here to escape from the sweltering tropical summers.

PLACES OF INTEREST: Venna Lake, Crystal waterfalls, Pologround and hill points for views. The bazaar for strawberries, blackberries, jams, jellies, honey and leather articles. A visit to Tapola is a must for water sports.

EATING OUT: Most of the hotels in Mahabaleshwar include morning breakfast, lunch and dinner in their tariff. However you can take your pick of the many restaurants in the bazaar.

STAYING OUT: Hotels to suit every budget and pocket are available in Mahabaleshwar/Panchgani. The famous ones are Hotel Dreamland and Hotel Rajesh located in the heart of Mahabaleshwar and Valley View Resort/Hotel Gautam which are slightly out of town. The best hotels like Dena, Raceview and Fredrick offer a fabulous view of the lake Venna.

TRAVEL TIPS: Try visiting Mahabaleshwar in the off season, mainly during January-March and June-July to get the best bargains from the hotels. Refuel your vehicle at Mahad while coming from Mumbai and at Wai while coming from Pune as petrol pumps at Mahableshwar/Panchgani go dry with the weekend rush. Check the water level and car condition before climbing the ghats. Bargain at the bazaar before buying anything.

Places Around Pune
Lonavala & Khandala
Karla, Bhaja and Bhedsa caves
Shani- Shinganapur

Places of interest in Pune
Kamar Ali Durvesh Dargah
Shaniwar Wada
Aga Khan Palace
Shinde Chhatri
The Pune Snake Park
National War Memorial
Bund Gardens
Empress Garden
National Defence Academy
Pataleshwar Temple
Kasba Ganapati
Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum
Vishrambag Wada
Saras Baug
University of Poona
Lal Deval (Synagogue)
The Film and Television Institute of India
Pashan Lake
Yoga Institute
Mahalakshmi Temple
"Peths" of Pune
Places of  Religious Interest
Vaishnodevi Temple
St Mary's Church
Chaturshringi Temple
Ganesh Peth Gurudwara
Trishundya Ganapati Temple
Kamar Ali Darvesh Darga
Nageshwar Temple
Dagdusheth Ganapati
Sheikh Salla Dargah
Mahalakshmi Temple
Pataleshwar Temple
Kamar Ali Durvesh Dargah

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