Nestled amidst the beautiful Sahyadri ranges, Bhandardara is an idyllic destination – perfect for a monsoon getaway. The majestic Wilson dam, beautiful Arthur lake, cascading Randha falls, misty clouds and surrounding picturesque sights make it an ideal destination for a weekend away from the hustle-bustle of city life. Its significance lies in the fact that Bhandardara is one of the oldest man-made catchment areas. The dam was built using naturally sourced material.
Legend has it that Agastya Rishi meditated here for a year. He went on a fast consuming only water. Pleased with his devotion, the Lord rewarded him with a stream from the Ganga. This stream now flows as the Pravara river. In the epic Ramayana, Agastya Rishi gave Lord Rama the divine arrow which killed the demon king Ravana.
Tourists head to Bhandardara for a relaxing weekend by the azure waters of Arthur lakeside. Given its proximity from Mumbai and Pune, it is a perfect secluded weekend destination for a quite laid back holiday. The enchanting greenery coupled with the blue waters have a therapeutic effect on the mind. Visitors can de-stress on a heavenly boat ride or simply marvel at the gushing waters at the Wilson dam gates. During monsoon, it rains incessantly in these parts of the Western Ghats. Clouds descend from the sky magically engulfing everything. The immense greenery all around is spell-binding.
Places for Sightseeing in Bhandardara:
- Wilson Dam: The picturesque 270 feet high Wilson dam was built in 1910 on the Pravara River to provide irrigation to Ahmednagar district. Travellers are rewarded with a panoramic view of this majestic dam from the bridge over the River Pravara. This dam with its pristine lake and green vistas is a paradise for nature lovers. It is popularly called the Bhandardara Dam. The sight of the unspoiled hills around Bhandardara leave visitors awestruck.
- Arthur Lake: The crystal clear Arthur Lake is cosily nestled between the Sahyadri ranges. Water is fed into the placid lake from the Pravara River. Enjoy a peaceful boat ride on the backwaters of the lake bordered by lush green foliage.
- Randha Falls: Counted amongst prominent waterfalls in India, the breathtaking Randha Falls is a must visit for every tripworm during the monsoons.The falls are formed by the cascading waters of the Pravara river plunging from a height of 170 feet into a deep gorge. The rocky sides of the gorge are home to a bee colony with huge hanging bee hives under the rocky ledges. The Agastya Rishi ashram is located near the falls. Located on the Rajur-Bhandardara road, around 10 kms from Shendi village, it is a must see for all visiting Bhandardara.
- Umbrella Falls: The beautiful Umbrella Falls are formed by the cascading water when water is released from the sluice gates of Arthur Lake. It is best to enjoy the spectacular sight from the road itself. Tourists must not venture close to the falls as it could lead to mishaps.
- Ratangad: This 2000 year old Hill Fort lies 22kms from Bhandardara. Ratangad was captured by the great Maratha ruler Shivaji. It is located at a height of 4255 ft above sea level. The fort is the origin of the River Pravara. The towering peak has a natural cavity known as the ”nedhe” or eye of the needle. This 10 feet high and 60 feet wide hole is said to have been drilled naturally by the strong winds. There are four entrances or Darwazas to the fort – Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan and Triambak. The panoramic views are unending. Ratanwadi is the village at its base. It can alternately be reached by a 6km boat ride from Bhandardara. From the boat drop off point it is a further 4km walk to Ratanwadi. The village has an ancient Amruteshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with a naturally formed ‘Shivling’. The temple was built in 11AD in the Hemad-panthi style of architecture. The temple is famous for its intricate carvings.
- Mount Kalsubai: Hiking trips can be undertaken by the adventure oriented to Kalsubai Peak which at 5400 feet is the highest peak in the Sahyadri range. The towering peak is earlier said to have been a watch tower. There are multiple trekking routes to the summit. The route from Bari village, located on its Eastern side, around 6 kms from Bhandardara village, is the most popular one. The trek is moderately easy but gets steep in certain segments. Ladders have been built to assist in the climbing of trecherous vertical slopes. There is a small temple dedicated to Kalsubai at the summit. The backwaters of Arthur lake look spectacular from the top. Other prominent peaks that can be sighted from Mount Kalsubai are Harishchandragad, Ratangad, Harihargad, Kulang etc. This trek is immensely popular with avid trekkers during the monsoon months. Post monsoon, these slopes are carpeted by colorful blooms.
- Shivneri: Famous as the birth place of the great Maratha warrior, Shivaji. A visit to the fort provides a glimpse into the gallant rulers early life. It is an excellent hiking route. The fort has 6 entrances including the maha darwaza, The fort houses the Shivai temple. Shivaji is said to have been named after the temple. The courtyard has a water tank for the residents. The other Badami tank was used for cattle.
- Nanheghat: A small pass in the Sahyadri ranges near the Shivneri Fort. It is a short but exciting hike from Shivneri Fort. Strategic points provide spectacular views of the Malshej Ghats right upto the Konkan region.
There are very limited stay options at Bhandardara, so make sure your hotel bookings are done before you hit the road.
MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) Lakeside Resort: MTDC resort has 21 rooms – cottages right on the banks of Arthur Lake. Dormitories can accommodate groups on a budget. Book the newer premium deluxe room or a lakeview cottage for the best views. One must book weeks in advance, specially during monsoon to get a room. This is a budget accomodation with all basic facilities and a restaurant. The restaurant serves vegetarian, non-vegetarian food. MTDC Phone number: 1800-229-930.
Anandvan Resort: If you have a higher budgets, Anandvan is a beautiful lakeside property with cottages. It has a multi-cuisine restaurant. Anandvan Resort Phone Number: 09920311221.
Yash hotel and some guesthouses are also available.
Apart from these hotels, there are limited eating options. Hawkers sell corn, tea, snacks near the tourist points.
Route to Bhandardara:
From Mumbai: 180 kilometers, 3.5 Hours
Mumbai – Kalyan – Asangaon – Khardi – Turn right after Igatpuri – Ghoti Budruk – Khed – Shendi – Bhandardara.
From Pune: 190 kilometers, 4 Hours
(Regular buses play from Shivaji Nagar (Pune) to Bhandardara.
From Nashik: 70 kilometers, 1.5 Hours
From Aurangabad: 200 kilometers, 4 Hours
From Surat: 305 kilometers, 7 Hours
Nearest Railway Stations – Igatpuri (41 kms), Nashik (70 kms)
Nearest Airport – Mumbai (170kms), Pune (190kms), Aurangabad (200kms)
Other must visit destinations in maharashtra