Places Explored in 2018 – Maharashtra, Himachal, Bengal, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi

By Rutuja Bhagwat - January 05, 2019


Last year, I had shared a list of all the places I explored in 2017 so I thought I should share another post today about the places I visited in 2018. I have covered a lot of Maharashtra, though all the places mentioned are more or less near Mumbai, except a trip to Konkan. So I did not cover East Maharashtra or North Maharashtra, however, I plan to do so this year. I went to West Bengal solely to stay at my cousin's place before he moves back to Pune after the completion of his studies. Another reason being his puppy Mufasa (who is 11 months now but was 3 months then). Later in June, I went to Himachal for exploring Tirthan Valley and then towards September end, I went back to Himachal for a bike ride to Spiti (but could make it till Reckong Peo due to rains and snowfall). Lastly, in December, I went to Uttarakhand – well this was the very first time I was visiting this state – and then to Haryana for two days. Also, I visited Delhi thrice as a layover. 

My plans for 2019 include an international trip to Dubai in January and then hopefully a couple of states in North East India. I also was hoping either for Ladakh (though I don't have that kind of money yet) or to South, especially Coorg, Rameshwar, and/or Varkala. Let's see what this year has in store for me. (The Dubai trip is fixed; I am flying on this 15th.)

MAHARASHTRA


Sandhan Valley
I went to the Sandhan Valley on my birthday and along with having an amazing experience there, I also sprained my leg. I almost thought it was a fracture because it pained continuously and seemed unending. Sandhan Valley has gained popularity now but I am glad we were the only campers then. I had one of the best birthdays! 


Khadakwasla & Panshet
I went twice to Khadakwasla and Panshet; one with my cousins from Pune and one with my entire clan! The first trip was during Ganeshotsav where we went there impromptu with my cousin's dog Mufasa. The second time it was a staycation with my entire family––one dog, one cat, one turtle, and the twelve of us––in a villa near Panshet. 
Watch: Camping with a Pet Dog vlog, Family Getaway vlog

Kamalgad Fort
I camped here with my cousins and pet dog Mufasa. It was my first time camping with a dog and oh boy, I fell in love with him. You must camp with a pet dog at least once in your life! You'll understand how defensive and protective he gets. 
Kamalgad fort is not that frequently visited, which is why I recommend it even more. It's near Wai, Mahabaleshwar, and its scenic green views will blow your mind. 

Lavasa
The popular weekend getaway from Pune: Lavasa. Finally, I visited it and the place was not a disappointment at all. We reached in the morning so a lot of hotels were shut however the one we went to served American breakfast and we were drooling! Lavasa is a definite must-visit place at least for the first-timers. It's also ideal for couples and families looking for a lavish day out.


Gaonkhadi Beach, Konkan
Well, well, I visited Konkan and it was clearly one of the best trips. I had the perfect village experience with an insane 12-hour power cut and drawing water from the well! I even visited one of the picturesque beaches (Gaonkhadi beach) and saw a well being constructed. Everything was so raw here, that I simply enjoyed my stay. (Oh and I also met two birders who were staying with us; thanks to them, my interest in natural elements like birds, flowers, butterflies grew!)

Purnagad Fort
Right in Gaonkhadi is the Purnagad Fort. It's similar to the Vijaydurg fort of Devgad, only that it is much smaller than Vijaydurg. Purnagad might occupy you for a quarter of your day and don't expect too much out of it. However, it's surely interesting especially because it is located on the seashore and gives you the panorama of the Arabian Sea. The place is amazing for pictures too!

Alibaug
We drove to Alibaug only for the Boardwalk by Flamboyante restaurant. It was like a day trip. We left in the morning and returned by night. Alibaug is a lovely place for Mumbaikars as you can even reach it through the waterways! You just have to board a ferry at the Gateway of India and it reaches you to the Mandwa Jetty. (Just keep an eye on the ferry timings though!)


Barvi Dam
This place was unearthed using the classic trick I follow to find offbeat places. Barvi dam is a nice place for a day out. The road throughout has thick trees with limited food stalls and restaurants. There are makeshift huts where one can enjoy a picnic with the family. I recommend carrying a parcel or a lunchbox to enhance the experience. Don't expect many things to do around here, however, solitude and a refreshing time are guaranteed. 


Mama Bhanja
Mama and Bhanja are sister hillocks located in the heart of Thane. Not many people are aware and the hills are visited by the locals mostly. These are a must visit, especially in monsoon as you witness greenery and waterfalls around. It's a short trek but definitely worth it on Sundays to keep a fitness check! Also, you get a view of the Thane skyline from up top! TIP: Try to cover your shoulders and knees because the locals are nasty here and might send you back! (This goes for the men too.)


Rajmachi & Manaranjan Fort
I went to Rajmachi again but this time did not just camp but climbed the Manaranjan fort too. It was my first time with a bunch of 50 strangers and we grew so close overnight that they are all my Facebook friends now! A few of us were exchanging ghost stories and playing games all night so it was an insane camping trip. 

Kalavantin Durg
I climbed Kalavantin Durg fort again, though the climb started on 31st December 2017 and completed on 1st January 2018 as it was a night trek. I had climbed this fort last to last year in monsoon and I was glad to start the new year on this majestic fort. Rather, the first sunrise of 2018 was seen from this fort.

Prabalgad
Right next to the Kalavantin is the Prabalgad Fort. I meant to climb this for a year and finally could do it in one of the monsoon months of 2018. I went there with a bunch of strangers and had a lovely time. The entwined branches and the wet rocky climb coupled with the ancient Maratha aura made it one of the best climbs of the year.


Matheran
I had not visited Matheran in years...you can say in more than a decade. Alas, I visited it with my Kolkata friend and it was such a refreshing trip. She had not been to Mumbai before so I was showing her popular places in Mumbai as well as one popular weekend getaway! We went there via railways by getting down at Neral and then taking a taxi to the entrance of Matheran. We also sat on the famous toy train from Aman Lodge to Matheran station. 

Vangani
One of my cousins has a farmhouse here and guess what? It is located on the Thane-Raigad district border. There are many things to do around like the Vangani waterfall and the Ulhas river where one can enjoy a dip. Do not expect a waterfall in off-seasons, so when you plan a trip to Vangani (or any of the adjacent waterfalls), do it in monsoon. 


Sanjay Gandhi National Park
We planned of SGNP only for the safaris however it was a total disappointment. We were made to sit in a closed bus and I was thrilled to see wildlife. However, when we went for the safari, we saw the tigers and the lions were behind fences (just like in the zoo)! I was so angry and sad because this was unfair. We might as well go in an open jeep and simply walk near the fences. What's the need for the highly secured bus?!
Nevertheless, we even visited the Kanheri caves and they're huge! SGNP, irrespective of the safari, is a beautiful place for families and couples as you get to enjoy your me-time and have some privacy too. There's a cycling facility which makes it even perfect! There's also a short trek. Must visit for nature and fitness enthusiasts!


Taljai Hill
When I was staying in Pune, I had contacted my childhood friend to accompany me to the Taljai hill. It's similar to the Vetal/ARAI hill as you come across people going for a walk. Taljai in addition also has workout equipment and again, it is located in the heart of Pune. You also come across juice stalls, which I think is totally amazing to kickstart your day! And guess what, in monsoon, you are most likely to come across a peacock! 

Vetal Hill
Vetal hill, also known as ARAI hill, is a small hillock located in the heart of Pune. It's a perfect place for morning and evening walks, where fitness enthusiasts, families, as well as couples, can have a nice time. There's also a huge quarry up top, which I bet is full of water in monsoon and a large area where you can enjoy cricket with friends or just a picnic with a quarry view! 


Usgaon Lake
This was another scenic, offbeat lake near Mumbai that I discovered using my trick. A must visit place for people looking out for solitude. There are not many things to do around, but simply sitting at the shores of Usgaon lake and staring at the still water shall be enough. You can carry a packed lunch or parcel a vada pav to make the most of this place. 

WEST BENGAL

Kolkata
I went touristy in the capital city of West Bengal by visiting Victoria Memorial, Patuli Floating Market, Allen Park, Millenium Park, Prinsep Ghat, South Park Cemetery, and Zoological Garden. A few of these locations were covered with an Instagram friend who lives in Kolkata and the other few alone. I visited Kolkata to stay with my cousin Ishan and play with his pet dog Mufasa (who was a puppy then). I even tried local cuisine at Bengali restaurants and fell in love with their mishti doi (the mango flavoured doi is a bliss)!


Deulti
I always cover at least one offbeat place wherever I go. I had a long list of offbeat places a little away from Kolkata, however nobody to travel with. My cousin had his exam and I did not know much about the transport. Deulti was one village we could explore before his exam and though it was a hectic journey, I am happy to see the passing greenery and the outskirts of Kolkata! 
Watch: Deulti Vlog

HIMACHAL PRADESH

I visited Himachal Pradesh twice in 2018. The first was with a group of people where I visited Tirthan Valley. My stay, food, and local transport were sponsored. The second time was with my friend where we explored a lot of Himachal Pradesh on a bike. This time I had sponsored stay and food at three places (total six nights). 


Tirthan Valley
I visited Tirthan Valley in monsoon and it was more like a staycation with a group. We explored local places like the Chhoie waterfall and a village nearby along with a trek up the Great Himalayan National Park and the breathtaking Hippo waterfall. Tirthan Valley is a truly exotic place. 
Watch: Tirthan Vlog #1, Tirthan Vlog #2, Tirthan Vlog #3

Dharampur
All the remaining places were covered in September and were a part of a bike ride. We stayed at Dharampur and went on a short trail around the property we were staying. Dharampur has many things to do nearby and has rail connectivity too. 
Watch: Dharampur Vlog

Jibhi/Banjar
This was yet another place where we relaxed and experienced Himachali lifestyle more than exploring around. However, the famous Jalori Pass is right here, rather, if you're coming from Rampur Bushahr side, you'll pass through this road. It's a must ride road for bikers and shall be truly adventurous. There's also Serolsar lake and many unknown trails one can unearth. 
Watch: Jibhi Vlog


Chail
I had visited Chail last to last year, i.e., in 2017 too. However, that was a day out to Chail and this time I was actually staying here for two nights. Again, we did not explore around but then the popular city Shimla is located nearby along with Kufri, Fagu, etc. The Chail Sanctuary is recommended for kids.
Watch: Chail Vlog

Mandi
Mandi was a layover for one night however we had to extend it because I fell ill. And in the duration of two days, we visited Domino's thrice! Well, that was the only good restaurant there. We did not explore much but can say for sure that Mandi embraces modernism, which was quite surprising.


Reckong Peo
The main purpose of visiting Himachal again in one year was to ride till Spiti, however, unfortunately, it started raining when we reached Reckong Peo. We had a layover here and were to leave for Kaza the next morning but couldn't. Later we heard in the news that Kaza was experiencing a 7 ft snowfall! So we extended our stay at Reckong Peo and went around its market. However, the road to Reckong Peo in itself was beautiful yet risky, so it was a wonderful experience. 

Rampur Bushahr

This place was a layover again before we left for Reckong Peo (for Spiti). The stay options are decent but definitely try the Little Chef for budgeted yet well-maintained accommodation and Nau Nabh hotel for a luxurious stay. There's a beach here, which is truly insane! For Rampur Bushahr, you literally go down the valley and it starts getting hotter than on the mountains. 

DELHI

I had visited Delhi in 2017 too. This time we visited India Gate, Amar Jawan Jyoti, and the beautiful Rashtrapati Bhavan. Delhi seemed much pleasant on a December evening than it had done on a November afternoon. I also took my parents to Chandni Chowk for parathas, gajar ka halwa, rabdi, and chhole bhature. 


UTTARAKHAND

Finally, the most cherished trip of 2018 was the Uttarakhand trip. There were two reasons behind this: one, it was the first time I was visiting Uttarakhand, and two, I was going on a  long vacation with family after about five years!

Nainital
Our first halt in Uttarakhand was Nainital and we were staying there for two nights. We explored a lot of the city like the Eco Caves Park, Lover's Point, Suicide Point, Horse Stand, Himalayan View Point, Naini Lake View Point...and alas, cruised in a heavenly boat ride on the still waters of the Naini Lake. On day two, we went a little away and visited Mukteshwar temple, Naag Phana, Chauli ki Jali, Ghorakhal temple, Ghorakhal tea factory and garden, and finally the Bhimtal Lake.
Watch: Nainital #1 vlog, Nainital #2 vlog

Jim Corbett
I have been wanting to do a safari since I was a kid and always thought this was a far-fetched dream. Finally, I did go on an open-jeep safari and though I did not spot a tiger, it was definitely amazing for a first-time experience. At least I'm glad to loosen up the fears...
Watch: Jim Corbett Open Jeep Safari Vlog


Lansdowne
Lansdowne is one less visited place in Uttarakhand and I say, visit it for doing nothing but relaxing. When you come here, surely visit the Tarkeshwar temple, which is about 1.5 hours away from the market. This is going to be one of the most beautiful temples you have ever been to! It has a 10 minutes trail amidst trees and plants and is such an exotic place to be! The temple has a vast periphery and all you can see is deodar trees around you! Please spare 15-20 minutes to sit and reflect. I'm definitely visiting it again! Apart from the Tarkeshwar temple, we even went to the Bhulla lake, which had an entry fee and did not appeal me much.

Rishikesh
We were planning to do Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun but Haridwar fell on a completely different route so we visited Rishikesh only. I was amazed looking at the turquoise green Ganga that looked beautiful. I understood why it is such a holy river. I can't wait to go to Gangotri!

Mussoorie
The last halt in this beautiful mountainous state was Mussoorie. We covered only a few spots because this hill station is way more expensive. We hardly drove for 15 km and paid 2,500 for the same. It was a big disappointment. We visited Santura Ma temple, Kempty falls, and a Tibetan monastery. 

HARYANA

Kalka and Ambala
During my second Himachal visit in 2018, I had boarded a train from Kalka and we had stayed here overnight. And then, during the Uttarakhand trip, we stayed for two nights at Ambala as it was my dad's friend's daughter's wedding as he was insisting for attending it. Actually, this wedding was the very reason why we planned the Uttarakhand trip. 

Whew! That was such a long list! It took me about a week to write and collage all the pictures! Which places did you visit in 2018? Please share below.

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