Tucked away in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Phaltan is a hidden gem where you can get into the rural rhythm and gorge on authentic local cuisine
The glamour of twinkling cities and skyscrapers never fails to entice us, however, the heart of India lies in her villages. As city dwellers, we often yearn to run away from the chaos that’s somehow become a part of our day-to-day lives. We are always on the lookout for places that offer serenity and opportunities to connect with our roots. And why not?
The rural setting exposes us to so many marvellous things – pristine nature, fresh air, the simple ways of small-town life, the chance to pick fruits and vegetables straight from the farms and the invigorating vast open spaces. Indeed, there’s nothing quite like the Indian countryside!
If you’re looking at an unconventional break this monsoon season, look no furthur than Phaltan, a little town in the the land of Marathas. Located in Satara district of southwest Maharashtra, Phaltan and the surrounding region is packed with ample natural beauty, historical sights, temples and more. Famous for its tall sugarcane fields and pomegranate orchards, this little-explored town is a fresh slice of bucolic bliss.
We arrive in Phaltan after a comfortable five-hour drive from Mumbai. What makes the journey a real treat are the broad, well-maintained roads that lead to this heaven! The magic of the changing landscape and cloudy skies seduces us in a unique way.
We set up base at the Jakson Inns, India’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green platinum-rated hotel that actively promotes rural tourism, thus offering sustainable livelihood to the local communities.
If you’ve always imagined yourself engaging in simple farming activities like milking of cows, this is where you can do it all. Go on a tractor ride, go cycling, ride a bullock cart, watch sugarcane turn into sugar crystals, sample decedent local cuisine or even try horse riding.
For those who prefer building a deeper connecting with a destination rather than trying to see and do too much at once, Phaltan is a destination that will touch your soul. Moreover, it’s close proximity to the Fratelli (73 km) Winery and Four Season Vineyards (63 km) only makes it a wine lover’s paradise.
TURN THE PAGES OF HISTORY
We begin our trip with an afternoon at the architectural marvel called Rajwada Palace or Mudhoji Manmohan Rajwada. One of the greatest warriors of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s first wife Sai Bai was from Phaltan. For a cultural history buff, it’s a sheer delight to witness the grandeur of her stately home which is a short 30-minute drive from Jakson Inns. While its construction began in 1861, it was only completed in 1875. We come to terms with the enormity of the palace only when we start to walk from one room to another. As we saunter past its spacious halls and chowks (courtyards), we are reminded of the rich history of the Maratha empire.
Fine details in the interior design of the palace reflects the architectural style of the period. Well-preserved, ornate ceilings, columns and arches with intricate wood work, long corridors and massive windows and balconies leave us amazed. Portraits framed in gold, velvet upholsteries, exquisite chandeliers and the use of a rich colour palette throughout the palace add to its opulence.
With all the rooms in the palace opening out onto a central courtyard, there’s enough circulation of cool air throughout the palace. A perfect example of how architectural expertise can help deal with climatic changes! Though the descendants don’t stay here anymore, there’s a lot one can get to know about their way of life from the locals.
The adjoining Ram Mandir is also a must visit. The once Maratha princely state of Phaltan also has a lot of religious significance. As per mythology, Ram, Laxman and Sita took a halt in Phaltan during their vanvasa or exile.
WINE AMID WINDMILLS
One of the most romantic and rarest things to do in Phaltan is sip on a glass of wine while taking in the spectacular sunset at the nearby Pussegaon windmill farm. There are more than 200 windmills in this area producing enough electricity for the whole of Phaltan. About an hour’s drive from Jakson Inns treats us to the dreamy hill-top location with huge, stark-white windmills till as far as eyes can see. It isn’t just the location that’s spectacular; the drive itself is so blissful that we don’t want to miss a single spectacle. On way, we admire landscapes with oak and coconut trees and hills with small herds of lamb. We are literally at the foot of these gigantic structures surrounded by vast stretches of greenery. The swish sound of the rotating blades, cloudy skies and ample wind blowing in our hair only add to the experience.
While Jakson Inns arranges a fantastic picnic basket with everything from wine and sandwiches to fruits, juices, cookies and kathi rolls, one can also carry their own snacks and enjoy a private, relaxing time with their loved ones.
FEAST FOR THE SOUL
Maharashtrain cuisine has always been known for its strong flavours that vary from region to region. In ancient times, meals in affluent families would often begin at mid day and end only at sunset!
When staying at Jakson Inns, we savour their traditional Maharashtrain thali which is an excellent mix of extremely mild to very spicy dishes. It’s a gastronomical experience that is likely to stay with us for a long time.
We are calling it an “experience” for a reason! While the table is set with fragrant rose petals, we are asked to put on a traditional avatar before indulging in the delectable meal. All women must adorn their hair with a floral veni (typical Maharashtrian gajra) and men must sport a pink safa (turban).
The meal consists of more than 25 authentic Maharashtrain delicacies along with solkadhi (a drink made out of kokam and coconut milk) to aid digestion! Think kothimbir vadi (fried snack made from gram flour, coriander leaves and spices), koshimbir (tomato, onion raita), thaalipeeth (multi-grain pancakes), bharleli vaangi (stuffed brinjal cooked in peanut curry and Maharshtrian masala), pithala (gram flour curry), matki (a dish made with sprouted moth beans, boiled potato and spices), aamti (dal with Goda masala), pandhara rassa (mutton in white-coloured gravy), tambada rassa (Kolhapuri-style spicy chicken) and more. The sumptous meal enlivened our taste buds and left us craving more.
HOW TO GET THERE
Phaltan is around 250 km from Mumbai and 110 km from Pune. Hence, it’s a great road trip destination. The closest train station is Lonand which is around 18 km from Phaltan and well-connected from both cities. The nearest airport is Pune which is about 110 km from Phaltan.
WHERE TO STAY
The fully-equipped, eco-friendly hotel, Jakson Inns Phaltan offers specially curated tours to help you experience village life in Maharashtra in all its purity. Tariff: Rs 6,500 (inclusive of all meals and taxes) per couple
While most of Satara receives heavy rainfall during the monsoons, Phaltan mostly enjoys cloudy skies and pleasant weather, making it the perfect monsoon getaway.
TOP MUST-DOS IN AND AROUND PHALTAN
– Visit a pomegranate farm
– Sip on wine amid magical landscape at Pussegaon windills
– Delve deeper into history of the Maratha empire at Rajwada Palace
– Indulge in traditional Maharashtrian thali at Jakson Inns
– Enjoy a bullock cart ride
– Visit the 800-year old Jabreshwar temple that boasts of attractive stone carvings
– Explore trekking trails around Ajinkyatara Fort, Santoshgad and Varugad
– Bathe in Thoseghar waterfalls (situated 88 km from Phaltan)