Pune the education capital of India! Located south of Mumbai, Pune attracts travelers for its unique blend of history and modernity. Being called ‘the education capital’, Pune boasts a huge population of students from various parts of the world, who along with the traditional and modest Punekars form a mélange in an exotic melting pot of cultures. The rich Maratha culture, remains of Shivaji Maharaj’s reigning era, forts, temples and adventure spots – tourists here are spoilt for choice!
Aga Khan Palace
The palace with a heritage structure is an architectural marvel constructed in 1892. Known for its history of where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned along with his wife, during the freedom struggle. This place also boasts of sprawling gardens where visitors can stroll around.
Pataleshwar Cave Temple
A historic temple from the 8th century, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Pataleshwar temple has its significance of being carved out of a single piece of basalt rock resembling the Ellora caves in design. This temple also houses statues of other Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Widely popular among foreign tourists, this ashram known after its founder is a spiritual center with an adjacent Zen garden called Osho Teerth, full of lush green flora – ideal spot to relax in. Also known as Rajneesh Ashram, it is one of the frequented places to visit in Pune. One can tour the premises to view the Meditation hall and Osho Samadhi besides opting to undergo a meditation session there.
Pu La Deshpande Garden
The Pune-Okayama Friendship garden or more popularly called the Pu La Deshpande garden is inspired from a garden in Japan’s Okayama. The huge grounds host landscaped gardens and intricately trimmed lawns along with a children’s play area. This place must be visited to unwind with green locales to feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
National War Museum
Standing 25 feet tall, the main structure at this war memorial is dedicated to those army personnel who sacrificed their lives in defense of the country in post-independence India. This museum is also swanked by a MIG aircraft on display here. The USP of this museum – it was funded by residents of Pune in memory of the heroes of Indian army.
This garden is a perfect for families since it has a zoo besides a mini-train and park for children, which makes it quite popular with young visitors. On a picnic to this garden one can also look forward to going on animal rides and boating or simply relax amid its picturesque surroundings.
Shaniwar Wada Palace
Standing near the Mula-Mutha River, this is one of the historic places to visit in Pune. Once housed by the royals of the Peshwa rulers, this palace has a unique blend of Mughal architecture and Maratha craftsmanship. Despite being ravaged by a fire in the early 19th century, one can still view the splendid gardens and the remaining structures besides attending the sound and light show conducted every evening within the premises.
Katraj Snake Park
Also known as Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and one of the most frequented places to visit in Pune, the Katraj Snake Park initially housed only snakes and other reptiles. However, it is now a full-fledged zoo with a lake within its premises where one can enjoy a round of boating after touring the park. A mini-train runs through the zoo which appeals to young visitors.
Exhibiting exquisite architecture, this monument was built is Rajasthani style as a tribute to Peshwa commander. With a Shiva temple in the complex, this place also has a three-storied memorial.
A popular hillock for little treks, Parvati hill is located in southern Pune at about 2100 feet above sea level. Dedicated to a Hindu temple at its summit, there is also a small museum with artefacts dating back to the rule of this Maratha dynasty. Upon climbing 100 steps, one can view the skyline of Pune as well as the scenic hilly backdrop.
Another very popular place to visit in Pune, the Saras Baug temple is iconic. Located at the foot of Parvati Hills, it was resided during the Peshwa and Maratha rules. The 25 Acre complex of the temple is also called ‘Talyatla Ganpati’ meaning the Ganpati (A Hindu Elephant God) in the lake. However, do not be fooled by the history of religious offerings at the temple, it was also the site of military discussions between Maratha empire to fight the Nizam and the East India Company. At that time, the Mula- Mutha River was the only source to approach to the temple and the leaders used to travel by boats. The temple is especially spectacular during the days of Diwali as thousands gather here for the ‘Deepotsav’ i.e. Festival of lights and the lawns and temple premises are decked up with thousands of glittering lamps.
Located on the Mutha River, the Khadakwasla Dam is one of the most popular places to visit in Pune. A much loved picnic spot, this dam was built in the masonry fashion in 1879, and was the first of its kind in the world.The dam’s walls sprawl to a length of almost 1939m and rise to a height of 32.90m. The road around the dam further leads to popular weekend getaway destinations such as Peacock Bay, National Defence Academy and the twin dams of Varasgaon and Panshet as well as the villages of Kudje and Neelkantheshwar. The area surrounding this structure is lined with various food stalls with street fare in pure Puneri style!
Getting its name from the ‘Vetala Temple’ at the summit, this hill is a popular spot amongst young and old of the city to escape the hustle and bustle. Bordered by Pashan suburbs, Symbiosis Society campus and the temple and hills of Chatuhshrungi, this spot gives the ‘City of Hills’ another attraction to get-away from the pollution clogged city. It is the highest point within the city limits and rises to an elevation of 2,600ft. The campus of automotive Research Association of India is also located on the hills. The jungles are of a semi deciduous and dry variety, but truly deck during the monsoons and winters.
Dagdusheth Halwai Temple
The most significant and important temples of the city, one cannot miss visiting the Dagdusheth Halwai Temple. Popular all over Maharashtra for its prosperous and benevolent idol of Lord Ganesh, the Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Temple has pulled in a huge number of devotees and tourists alike, to its pious halls ever since its inception. The temple houses a lovely deity and the premises are serene regardless of being amidst the city’s busiest market streets.
Get-Aways around Pune
Jadhavgadh Fort (Distance: 30 Kms)
The Jadhavgarh fort flaunts its strong influence of the Peshwa reign and is named after a Maratha general. This heritage structure now has a five-star hotel running on its premises. The historic structure has closeted inner structures including a Ganesha temple as well as a small museum. The massive fort, with now converted to a hotel, standing atop a hill appeals to everyone. Take a walk around the fort area, go for a bullock cart ride, enjoy the Ghazal night held every Saturday or visit the museum to see the old exhibits on display.
Sinhagad (Distance: 37 Kms)
Visiting the Sinhagad fort is synonymous to ‘picnic’ for Puneites. Popularly known as the ‘lion fort’, this spot attracts tourists for its history as well as the scenic route – be it a drive or a short trek uphill. Situated situated on the Bhuleshwar range of the Sahyadri Mountains, this fort allows visitors to take in the scenic landscape, looking ornate during the monsoon.
Panshet Dam (Distance: 42 Kms)
A favoured spot, this dam built in the early 1900s is not only a source of water for Pune, but a weekend outing with family and friends. Recently, the introduction of water sports like wind surfing, kayaking, speed boating and pedal boating on the River Mutha is keeping visitors ravished. Ending the day with a spectacular view of the Sahyadri Mountains is icing on the cake.
Kamshet (Distance: 48 Kms)
Renowned for paragliding, the scenic hill-town boasts of quaint little villages, cave temples and a hill fortress, making for a perfect weekend getaway. Located on the Western Ghats, accessible from Lonavala and Khandala, visitors can also visit the picturesque waterfalls along the Vadivali Lake, a large waterbody at a height of 2200 ft, about 12 kms from Kamshet. Kondeshwar temple and Vidveshwar temple, Karla, Bhaja and Bhedsa caves are other tourist attractions in Kamshet. Trekking and exploring the nearby caves, paragliding, rock climbing and rappelling are organized by several adventure camps located here.
Rajgad Fort (Distance: 50 Kms)
Raigad fort has a prestigious history as it was a former capital of the Maratha Empire. Atop the Murumbadevi Mountain, this spot has many tales since the famous warrior Shivaji resided here for many years. Located southwest of Pune, this fort hosts palaces, water cisterns and caves thus attracting several history enthusiasts. One can also look forward to hiking up to this destination. Trekking to the fort followed by indulging in some sight-seeing around the fort is a delight for tourists.