With monsoon playing the perfect host, this might be a good time to trek to some of the forts of Maharashtra. We pick our top five
If you're looking for a breathtaking view of a forest covered in haze, head to Takmak fort, located at Sakwar village, which falls under Thane District, approximately 22 km from Virar station. The fort stands on a steep hill about 2,000 feet high. Ken Agrawal of Unplugged Life, who organises treks, vouches for this one. "It gives the vast view of the plains below on either side, with the Vaitarna — Tansa confluence to our left towards the sea. What remains now of the fort is a few water tanks and two broken cannons," he says. The fort was built in the 12th century to safeguard the business route by keeping a watch on the activities which enrouted from Mahim. While the duration of the trek depends on your level of fitness, Agarwal says it should take about three hours to reach the summit.
Getting Here: Take a train to Virar and then proceed to Virar Fada in a shared auto or state bus. From there, take an auto to Sakwar village (take the driver's phone number for your return journey, just in case there's no auto). The other option is to go in a private vehicle to Sakwar village.
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Located amidst the beautiful jungles of Western Ghat, this fort is over 2,000 years old and overlooks Bhandardara, one of the oldest artificial catchment areas. "There are many rock cut water cisterns on the fort. It also has four gates Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan and Trimbak. On the eastern side of the fort are two caves, which can be used for overnight stay," says Sarfaraz Baghdadi of Treks and Trails, a city-based hiking group. Apart from the fort, which is 1,297 high, another attraction is the Amruteshwar temple, famous for its carvings, dating back to the Hemadpant Era, roughly from the eighth century. "There is a natural hole in the mountain top probably caused by wind erosion," he adds. The view of Bhandardara dam adds to the beauty. "It usually takes three hours each way and two hours to explore the fort. An overnight stay is possible at the caves, where villagers provide you with food and accommodation," he says.
Getting there: Drive to Ratanwadi village using google maps or get down at Kasara station and hire local jeeps, easily available. You can also board the state transport bus going to Bhandardara and hire jeep from Shendi village.
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Korigad Fort is perfect for those looking for a splendid view of the Sahyadri hill range. The fort is located near Peth Shahpur village, 25 km south of Lonavla, Pune. "Fortunately, the walls of the fort are still intact, and you can even circle around the fort. There's a temple of Korai Devi and six bombard cannons, of which five are small. The largest one is located near the temple. There are two lakes near the fort. They are always filled with water except during summer," says Ken Agrawal, who recommends this for beginners.
GETTING THERE: Pre-book a ticket on an Express Train from Dadar station to Lonavala Railway Station. Proceed to Peth Shahpur village in a shared taxi or bus.
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Rajmachi Fort is one of the many historical forts in the rugged hills of the Sahyadris. Rajmachi Fort consists of two twin fortresses, Shriwardhan Ballekilla and Manaranjan Balekilla, with a wide Machi (plateau) surrounding the two Balekillas. "The machi of the fort is huge. Historically, Rajmachi fort was a strategic fort to control Borghat (the Ghat between Khopoli and Khandala on Mumbai-Pune route) which was a historical trade route," says Sarfaraz Baghdadi of Treks and Trails.
GETTING THERE: Once you reach Lonavla station, trek to Udhewadi, a tiny hamlet at the southern foot of Manaranjan Bale Killa of Rajmachi Fort. It will take you four hours of trekking to reach Udhewadi base village.
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Bhupatgad is situated in Jawhar Taluka, Thane District, and is rated as one of the best places for a one day trek. "The fort is in a deplorable state. There are two doors, one from the north and the other from the south. However, you can still see some of the remnants of the fortification," says Akshay Mulye organiser of Aasamant, a Borivli-based trekking group. "You can also visit the palace built by Raje Yashwant Rao Maukne. It is a masterpiece in pink stone," he adds.
GETTING THERE: You can reach Jawhar through Mumbai via Manor road. About 17 km away from Jawhar, is a village named Zapp that leads to Chinchwadi, which is merely 10 minutes away. An hour-long walk from here will take you to to the top of the fort.
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