Pune is a city of many facets. Historically, it is the former seat of the Maratha Empire formed by Shivaji — a warrior-king from the 17th century. Academically, it is known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ due to the several well-respected educational institutions located there. These days, it’s a seat of power for the IT and automotive industries, and a burgeoning hub for up-and-coming startups. The city itself is near the Sahyadri, also known as the Western Ghats, as well as a number of hill forts — providing the hiking enthusiast a number of trekking opportunities.
Interested in seeing it for yourself? Then read on for some recommendations on how to explore and unwind in Pune!
Soak in History
Visit the Aga Khan Palace
This gorgeous building was constructed in the late 19th century by Sultan Aga Khan III as a way to provide employment for those affected by famine in the area. It was later used as a prison by the British — none other than Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here. The palace now houses a museum dedicated to him, and it has become a monument to his legacy.
Hike to Sinhagad Fort for the Sunset
Possibly as many as 2,000 years old, Sinhagad is a hill fort south of Pune and one of the best hiking options within easy reach of the city. The ruins house statues, a temple, and some cave drawings — a perfect historical/ natural excursion from the bustle of the city.
Experience the Culture
Go on a Heritage Walk
Pune has a rich history and a treasure trove of stories. As an outsider, getting the whole scoop can be tricky, which is why these heritage walks are such a great option. Led by a well-informed local, visitors will get a peek under the surface of the city and learn some of the intriguing aspects of its distant and recent past. Search ‘heritage walk camp pune’ on your favorite search engine for some options!
Pro Tip: For a DIY option, check out the following itinerary sent to me by @daredevilakshay:
Start your exploration at Shaniwar Wada… From Shaniwar Wada, it’s a 5-minute walk to the Kasba Ganapati Temple, considered Pune’s gramadevta or presiding deity. From there, walk 2 minutes to Ganesh Road to visit Lal Mahal. Continue on to Shivaji Road and turn right at Vasant Talkies to visit Bhau Rangari’s home, 5 minutes away. Then hop into an auto for a 5-minute ride to Vishrambaug Wada (or a 10-minute walk). Cross the road to make your way to Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, where you can buy some delicious bhakarwadi to wind up the walk.”
Try Some Tasty Maharashtrian Cuisine!
Maharashtrian cuisine has options for just about everyone, whether you prefer veg or non-veg, sweet or spicy, etc. There are tons of choices, but a few highly recommended dishes include vada pav (Indian veggie burger), kande pohe (onions and rice), pav bhaji (bread smothered with butter and spiced veggies), and sreekhand (a sweet yogurt accented with cardamom and saffron). Is your stomach rumbling yet?
Trek through Nature
You know me; I love getting out and exploring Nature. That’s why I was so eager to write about Pune — it’s a hiker’s haven! Within easy reach of the city are a number of great treks; here are a few to get you excited too!
Andharban literally translates to ‘dark forest’, which is an apt name for this hike. The trail goes through a dense evergreen forest and is best experienced during the monsoon when everything is lush and dripping with water. Be ready for fresh air, clean water, and so much green you’ll feel like the Hulk in no time! Search ‘andharban trail start point’ on Google Maps for directions.
If you like your treks longer and with more ruins mixed in, the Rajmachi Trek is a good option for you. Best hiked over a couple days, the route takes you through forests and up into the mountains, where there are a couple forts just waiting to be explored, including Manoranjan Fort and Shrivardhan Fort. There are also the Kondane Caves in the area, leaving no shortage of options for those with the time to spare.
Unwind in Pune
Pune isn’t the type of place you just breeze through. Stop and stay a while. Explore the areas around the city, but also take the time to check out all the nooks and crannies of the urban center itself. And, at the end of a long day of exploring, unwind at your hotel. A great option for accommodation is the O Hotel Pune, located near Koregaon Park and conveniently close to both the train station and the airport.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? What would you recommend for those visiting Pune? Let me and your fellow readers know in the comments below!