Between the hills and the sea
Venture outside Pune to Buddhist caves, pristine beaches, or cozy hill stations
If you're coming to Pune to watch some cricket, you might as well make a laidback weekend of it. After all, the hollering, cheering and dancing (or just sitting around waiting to holler, cheer and dance) at a match can get exhausting. And if your team takes a walloping, you have to do something to lift your spirits.
Smack in the middle of the Sahyadri range, is this small hill station, a world heritage site, 64km from Pune, about an hour's drive on the expressway. If you have a little more time to travel, take the NH-4 instead - it is a greener, more scenic, drive.
Head out to see Rajmachi Point, Tiger's Point or take a trek to the Bhaja and Karla caves. The massive Buddhist rock-cut caves are a must-see and date to around 200 BC. In Lonavla, you can drive around and relax in Ryewood Park, and splash around at Kumar Water Resort. You could also drive to the neighbouring hill station of Khandala for a short trip.
Lonavla also offers you a luxurious break in the forests. The canopy guesthouses at Machan are built with large viewing galleries that offer a panorama of the green forest cover. They are expensive but ideal for big groups.
A more adventurous trek would be to Lohagad, about 10km from Lonavla. It's an easier climb, and if you ask around in Pune, you are bound to meet avid trekkers planning to head to this vast fort. To its east is Visapur, another Peshwa fort, though Lohagad is the older and more popular one.
Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani
When the Pune heat gets bit too much to take, another hill station you can go to is Mahabaleshwar, which has a few good hotels. However, renting a private bungalow may be a better idea. There's lots to see here, and the Pratapgadh fort is not too far away.
Panchgani is next door to Mahabaleshwar, and when you're there, do not miss the Parsi lunch buffet at Dinas. Take home some liquor chocolates from the supermarket at the end of the market lane, roasted chickpeas, and leather slippers.
On your way back, stop at Mapro Garden for strawberries and cream and huge cheese-and-vegetable sandwiches and pizzas. You can buy fruit squashes, jams and jelly sweets from the crowded Mapro sale counter.
While there are hotels that offer mountain views, if you like to rough it out a bit, Eco-Camp, just off the main road in Panchgani, is ideal. They provide tents that accommodate 8-10 people, each with lights, plug points for your phone, and mosquito repellent, and nice views of the valley. The camp owners make arrangements for firewood for bonfires, and enough coal for a barbecue. The food and entertainment are up to you. The place is popular with paragliders, but even if you're not a fan of running off a cliff, the views (while sipping on some tea) are worth it.
If the hills don't entice you, Maharashtra's coastline offers a relaxing getaway, with a large number of beaches a few hours' drive away. Nagaon beach, about 140km from Pune, is quieter and less populated than Alibaug and Murud, has soft sand, a number of homestays, and parasailing and other water-sports activities. Revdanda beach and the Korlai lighthouse are nearby, which makes Nagaon a good place for a stopover. If you have some more time on your hands, drive along the beautiful coast. There will be a new village and a new beach every 8-9km - among them Kashid, with its white sand, followed by Kihim, Murud, Divegar and Shrivardhan.
Closer to Pune
If you don't have the time to venture too far from Pune, there are still places you could go to and things you could do.
This quaint homestay, run by a couple, has six different types of cottages. Meals are provided at additional cost.
The coolest place in Pune is Freeze by Esselworld. Put on your skates and go ice-skating or lounge around the bar, sipping on beer or, if you're the sensible type, coffee. There's also a bowling alley and opportunities to shop, if skating doesn't interest you.
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Noorya Hometel (Rs 2800), 13 km from the stadium, in Chinchwad, is a new hotel with smart interiors.
Pune specialties to take home
Take back bakarwadi from Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale and Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani Bakery for your friends and family. These two items are immensely popular and synonymous with Pune. And gone are the days when you had to stand in long queues at one of only two Chitale outlets and hope that they didn't run out of bakarwadi before you reach the counter; Chitale now has franchise outlets all over the city. Hrishikesh Kanitkar
Tips for Travellers
Traffic can be pretty chaotic in Pune, so if you're visiting for a few days, depend on auto-rickshaws or taxis. Avoid the headache of driving through traffic jams on your holiday.