There are plenty of reasons why one would want to get away from life in cities like Mumbai and Pune. The tedium of traffic, the spectre of pollution and the drudgery of routine can easily lead to frustration and burnout.
Thankfully, there are several scenic destinations conveniently located within the two-hour driving limit of both these cities. Whether you prefer exploring historic ruins or trekking and adventures, there’s something for everyone here.
Here are 8 scenic spots to drive to from Pune or Mumbai. You can enjoy these excursions and activities either solo or with family.
Just 58 kilometres from Pune, Lavasa will certainly be a change from your normal routine. Spread across 100 square kilometres, it was privately built by the Lavasa Corporation in a manner resembling the Italian town of Portofino and is still under development.
Lavasa holds the title of being the first hill station developed in India post-independence with the aim of creating a model city. However political controversy has led to developmental delays, with unfinished construction marring the natural beauty of the area somewhat.
One of the first things that strike you when you visit is how clean it is here. The streets are immaculate, thanks to the diligent maintenance crew hired by the Lavasa Corporation.
For luxury tourists, Lavasa is an outstanding weekend destination. Besides the 500 rupee fee to enter the city, you’ll find a number of upscale hotels and restaurants scattered around the promenade.
It’s also popular with picnickers and bikers who choose to spend the day before driving back to Pune. You’ll find ample opportunity to enjoy the water sports, gaming, luxury dining and entertainment. You can even catch a movie in the theatre on the campus.
What to do in Lavasa:
- Photograph some breathtaking views of the lake from your luxury hotel.
- Enjoy water sports on the lake.
- Experience fine dining at the restaurants along the promenade.
- Take long walks along the promenade.
- Participate in cultural events and conferences hosted around the year.
2. Pawna Lake
Pawna Lake is one of the few relatively unexplored destinations around Pune. Popular among trekkers and hardcore nature lovers and wildlife photographers, the lake is in the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain range on the outskirts of Lonavala and is a 94 km drive from Pune.
Though it is an artificial water body, Pawna Lake makes for a very Instagrammable natural landscape. Apart from wandering about in the gardens, where there are peacock and geese to photograph, you can go row boating, and explore the banks of the lake for some rare bird and animal species.
What to do at Pawna Lake:
- Explore the lake and take photographs from vantage points.
- Do some bird watching.
- Enjoy row boating and motor boating.
- Camp at the lakeside with your family and friends for some amazing BBQ and stargazing.
- Go horse riding along the lakeside.
3. Mulshi Lake
Surrounded by the Sahyadri hills, Mulshi Lake is just 35 km away from Pune. This area really comes alive in the monsoon, when the lake fills up and migratory species visit.
The destination is more popular as a picnic spot, but you can do small treks around the hills to explore the rich flora and fauna. Several old forts hidden in the greenery are worth a visit.
What to do at Mulshi Lake:
- Trek to the Koraigadh and Dhangad Forts.
- Enjoy some bird watching (prepare for some exciting lifers).
- Camp overnight for a unique experience of the Sahyadri.
- Stay overnight at one of the many resorts along the lake.
Although more popular as a religious destination, Bhimsagar is also frequented by weekend travellers. It has amazingly scenic routes which look lush and green during the monsoons. The Bhimashankar Shiva Mandir is about 110 km from Pune in the Sahayadri Ghats region (hill range).
Bhimsagar is 127 km from Pune and should take a couple of hours of good driving to reach. From Mumbai however, it takes longer and isn’t quite a one day trip.
What to do at Bhimsagar:
- Visit the Bhimashankar Temple and the 12 Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva.
- Visit the Bhimsagar Wildlife Sanctuary to see animal species like Giant Indian Squirrels.
- Enjoy spectacular waterfalls and gurgling streams along the way.
- Trek between Shidi Ghat and Ganesh Ghat, especially during the monsoons.
If you’re seeking solitude and calm, Karnala is the place to be. Just 124 km from Pune and 87 km from Mumbai, it is easily accessible and shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours from either.
Even being alone will not bore you here. Apart from several unique species of flora and fauna in the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, it is one of the places where you can lay down your mat, close your eyes and enjoy the chirping of birds in the belly of Nature.
What to do in Karnala:
- Check out the ruins of the Karnala Fort
- Trek to the pinnacle of Karnala Mountain to spot endangered vultures, eagles and other birds.
- Get a bird’s eye view of Mumbai’s coastline along the dense Sahyadri.
- Do more bird watching.
- Take a nap under the trees.
Kamshet is a serene lake surrounded by small hills on all sides. This location is very picturesque and presents a very different experience from city life.
An hour’s drive from Pune, it is an enjoyable place to be with your family or friends. Over the past few years, Kamshet has become a popular picnic destination. You could even opt to go paragliding here.
What to do in Kamshet:
- Explore the caves of Bhairi, Bhedsa and Karla
- Try ridge dancing on the Pawna Dam
- Take a trek to Tungi, Tikona and Lohgad Forts.
- Paraglide at Shinde Wadi Hills
Just 37 km from Pune, Sinhagad is the fastest gateway from the city. Composed mainly of the ruins of the Sinhagad Fort, nature has reclaimed the area somewhat, converting it into a destination worth exploring.
Very popular with hikers and trekkers, this is a good place to go to with a group of adventure seekers. A perfect day trip with your friends, the trip to Sinhagad proffers great roads, stunning views and exotic flora.
If you’re driving via Mumbai however, it would be a 180 km ride through traffic and probably not worth the long journey.
Things to do at Sinhagad:
- Hike to the top of the fort for the stunning vistas.
- Trek to Panshet Lake to spend the evening.
8. Lonavala – Khandala
Very few people who live in Mumbai and Pune don’t already know about Lonavala and Khandala. Within one and half hour’s drive from both Pune and Mumbai, the twin hill-stations of Lonavala and Khandala are popular throughout the year.
They are even more breathtaking during the monsoon when the mist rolls over the hills and the waterfalls come alive and gush down the mountainside.
Lonavala and Khandala are nestled among the Sahyadri Mountain Range and offer views that are phenomenal in their beauty. For someone who hasn’t been to this place, it should be the first item on your weekend checklist.
Apart from the lush greenery, you get to see sparkling lakes, waterfalls and mountain streams. If you’re lucky, you can also see some wildlife and some old forts and caves. Avoid the more crowded areas in the main city and head out into the hills to enjoy the best this destination has to offer.
What to do in Lonavala-Khandala:
- Take a dip at the numerous mountain streams along the Bushy Dam.
- Walk to the Duke’s Nose for a breathtaking view of Khandala.
- Go to Sausage Hills for some rare bird watching.
- Visit the Pawna lake for a lovely sunset.
- Trek to the Tikona and Tung Forts.
- Stay at the Machan, Lonavala.
While all these destinations are within a couple of hours away from either the city of Pune or Mumbai, driving a bit further will open up more options for the more adventurous traveller.
Destinations like Malshej Ghat, Thosegar Falls (Satara), Tapola, Kolad and many others become accessible with a slightly longer drive. You’ll never know what lies around Mumbai and Pune until you actually go and explore it.