At 4400 feet above sea level, Mahabaleshwar has an interesting history. According to one story, it is named after the deity Mahabaleshwar (a form of Lord Shiva). The British, perhaps knowing the beauty and potential of the place, developed it as a summer getaway and a health resort. In the mid-19th century, it was used as a jail for Chinese and Malay prisoners.
Once India attained independence, the British left the place, selling their bungalows to rich Indians. The colonial hangover remains in Mahabaleshwar, apparent in the names like Lamington Plateau, Wilson Point and Arthur Seat Point. With a population close to 13,000 according to the latest Indian census, the hill station remains cleaner than other similar places in Maharashtra and relatively unspoiled by civilization.
A visit to the beautiful Krishnabai Temple is a great way to kickstart a day at Mahabaleshwar. Overlooking the Krishna Valley from its position on the hilltop, this temple was built by a ruler of Ratnagiri. Though old and not well-maintained, this temple has a soothing charm of its own and provides a breath-taking view of the Krishna River. Not far away is the Panchganga Temple that has streams of water that are said to be origins of 5 local rivers that feed the reservoirs – Krishna, Venna, Savitri, Koyna, and Gayatri.
If you’re not one for history, another alternative to a Mahabaleshwar kickstart is to get your heart pumping and trek to Lodwick Point to view the beautiful mountains and the Elephant Head Rock. Later in the day, a visit to Bombay Point is a essential for a true-blue Mahabaleshwar experience. It is Mahabaleshwar’s most famous point to catch the beautiful sunsets, and it does not disappoint.
The Venna Lake is yet another tourist attraction for leisure. Visitors can enjoy the lake, surrounded by trees, with the help of paddle-boats or they can choose to go horse-riding along the lake.
However, apart from the treks, hikes and the viewing points, the most distinctive feature of Mahabaleshwar remains its strawberries. As the climate is conducive to their growth, Mahabaleshwar today accounts for close to 85% of India’s strawberry production. This fruit is so distinctive that India received the GI (Geographical Indicator) tag for strawberry production in 2014.
Strawberry-picking is one of the most enjoyable activities when at this hill-station. At many of the resorts nearby, you will be able to find the fruit incorporated into all kinds of dishes – from strawberry kathi rolls to strawberry chicken – the people of Mahabaleshwar celebrate strawberry deliciously. Also, when in Mahabaleshwar, don’t forget to pick up fruit jams, crushes and squashes – they’re as fresh as they can get. So, like the many city-dwellers who come to Mahabaleshwar on road trips to escape the dust and grime of the city, make sure you plan your travel between April-May and June-September, avoiding the monsoon. On your way back, be sure to grab some of the hill station’s famous channa and chikki for a sweet-spicy ride home.