By Soraya Rebello
Living in Mumbai/Pune, and taking advice from a friend for a weekend out-of-town getaway would elicit the same stereotype answers: Lonavla/Khandala/Mahableshwar or Matheran/Alibaug. But has anyone recommended Phaltan to you?
Come again, Phaltan? Are you kidding me? Where is this place and why would you recommend it to me!?
Well, trust me there are a dozen reasons why you should go to Phaltan, but for the time you do not need more reasons then what I am going to share with you.
Just a 2-hour drive from Pune
Being 4.5 hr away form Mumbai and 2 hours away from Pune, this tiny emerald located in the Satara district of Maharashtra has loads to offer.
Yes, it was the home of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s wife
To begin with, the Royal Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji happens to be the son in law of Phaltan. His wife Sai Bai was the daughter of the village and her maternal home, now called the Rajwada, is located in the heart of the city. Being a private residence it may be a little difficult to get a peek into the royal settings. However, with the right assistance, you shall sure get in and experience a very different sort of architecture and interiors – yes, very different from a Rajput or a Mughal palace, yet with all grandeur.
You will love the drive
Being located in the sugar cane belt of Satara you can enjoy picturesque drives as you hit the road towards this destination. Oh try listening to John Denver’s Country Roads. It’s literally like living the song, as I slowed down to follow a show stopper: A herd of sheep shepherded by a nomad occupying every inch of the road.
Pluck ‘em, eat ‘em
Phaltan has many organic farms and is definitely one of the most sorted eco and rural tourism destinations. The chickoos, guava, mango, pomegranate, custard apple and papaya produced here are simply delicious. I would highly recommend you visit these orchards and enjoy the simple joys of life: How about plucking them yourself and enjoy the fruit of your labour! Do not forget to try the pomegranate juice which is truly divine and the sugarcane juice which is absolutely fresh. In fact, a visit to an organic farm is a must.
Milk a cow, drive a tractor
What makes the farm visits even more rustic is riding on a tractor or a bullock cart, milking a cow and then relaxing at a farmer’s backyard sipping hot tea and bhakri while he spoils you silly with his gracious hospitality.
You must visit the KVK farms located in the vicinity which have been set up by the politician Sharad Pawar’s family. Here you can learn about both traditional and modern methods of farming. Apart from the vegetable patches, the farm also has flower beds of Zebra, Roses and Carnations.
Cycling is a great sport and a ride across the farms abd villages reveals rural India in all its earthy glory.
Windmills and sunsets
If you are a roadie then buckle up for an experience of a lifetime at the windmills. Located about 40 minutes away from main town, these gigantic windmills stand tall and strong on the mountain ranges. And there are hundreds of them. One can actually drive up to these windmills and sit beneath its humungous blades which make a loud ‘swish’ as they rotate. Just let your hair lose and enjoy the cool wind in your hair. The mesmerising summer sunsets are again a unique experience, as you take the front seat with a glass of wine in your hand. I’ve often seen bikers drive by from Kolhapur and Pune and taking a off-route just to witness sundown from here.
Phaltan is also very popular for its mutton-sukha. It is a carnivore’s delight. However, don’t be let down if you’re a vegan. Being a non-vegetarian, I’ve never tried any vegetarian food here, but I have visited the Sunday local farmers market where the veggies come straight from the fields and cannot get any fresher than these. Don’t forget to pick them up as most of them are organically grown.
I could write endlessly about this fascinating part of Satara. But then l would rather motivate the explorer in you. Go and discover. This would be simply the best detox for your mind and body. Fresh air, green farmlands, organic food, relieving childhood memories, completely out of the traffic rut, noise and pollution – what else does a city-slicker need!
Phaltan, here I come! Do I hear you say?