Escape the mundane routine and head to Lavasa
The daily grind of eat-sleep-work repeat had got us longing for a quiet getaway. Working in Pune, we had heard a lot about Lavasa and decided to explore the city over the weekend. Lavasa is a one and half hour drive from Pune and is about 3 hours from Mumbai. We rented out a self-drive car for two days and set off from Pune at 6:30 am on a Saturday. On the way, we stopped at Temghar dam. This dam is one of the major sources of water for Pune. We had breakfast at a street stall – poha, vada pav and coffee. The winding roads and scenic beauty of the surroundings leading up to Lavasa attracts a lot of bikers. Almost every 10 minutes we could see a group of bikers zooming past us. We reached the entrance to Lavasa at 8:30 am. There is a parking charge of Rs. 300 for two-wheelers and Rs. 500 for four-wheelers to enter Lavasa. I found this strange as we had already done our reservations with a hotel and paying parking fees did not make sense. Our reasoning fell on deaf ears and we had no option but to do as told. There are buses that you can use to get around the city if you do not have your own vehicle. You receive a few discount coupons with your parking ticket that you can redeem at restaurants and attractions inside.
Lavasa is a planned city situated along the shoreline of the calm Warasgaon Lake, in the lap of the Shayadri Mountains. The architecture of the city is inspired by the Italian town of Portofino. The symmetry in the architecture, vibrant colorful buildings and a number of overpasses make you feel like you have teleported to a town in Europe. There is a street named Portofino and the names of the buildings on this street are inspired from the actual town of Portofino. All the hotels in Lavasa have a check-in time of 2 pm but a check–out time of 10 am. We anyways called up the hotel and requested an early check-in; the best they could manage was 11:30 am and said that they would call us as soon as the room was ready.
When we entered the city it felt like a ghost town as there were very few people apart from the guards as most of the activities and stalls open post 11 am. This turned out to be great for us as we were able to capture the city in its raw beauty. There are a number species of birds found here like the Osprey, Malabar Whistling Thrush and even one of the smallest birds in India- Tickell’s flower pecker. We were lucky enough to capture the majestic kingfisher. The water of the lake was extremely calm and the reflections of the colorful buildings made up for really well composed photographs. Some of the buildings are still not completed as the construction work in Lavasa was not finished due to controversies. We then headed to promenade street for breakfast. The breakfast place that caught our eye was The All American Diner. This place had the perfect ambience of a 1950s diner from America. Red, black, and white were the colors throughout the place. A playlist of rock and country music keeps the atmosphere upbeat. The burgers are supersized and the portions of food are larger than usual. They have a unique offering of coffee with liquor – yes you heard that right, make sure to try one of their blends.
Adventure & Stay in Lavasa:
Lavasa has a number of activities but they come at a price. There is kayaking, boating and jet skiing on the lake. You can also hire a bicycle that can be driven by two people at a time. I would not recommend doing kayaking as the area designated for it is very small and it is not worth the price. If you are in the mood to pamper yourself, you can treat yourself to a massage or aroma therapy at the spa in Dasvino club. Apart from this, there is an adventure camp XThrill, they have a number of activities like zip lining, ropeway crossing and ATV rides. Although, it isn’t as exciting as it sounds as it comes at a price and again the area designated is quite small. During the rains XThrill conducts waterfall treks which I have not yet explored. Apart from these Xthrill also offers lodging and has its camp offering Swiss AC tents for a glamping experience. Lavasa is about luxurious living hence, the hotels here are not cheap and there are very few to choose from. We had booked a double occupancy room in Mercure hotel which set us back by Rs. 5600 for a night.
As the weather was really hot, we spent the afternoon in the hotel room. All the rooms are mountain facing and it would look great in the rainy season. We left the room in the evening at around 5:30 pm as we wanted to find a good view point to witness the sunset. There is a man-made nature trail that starts at hotel Ekaant Retreat and takes you right up to the top of the hill. It would take you around half an hour to reach the top at a medium pace. Be prepared for a climb as there are a number of steps. The trail is marked with designated zones for viewing ant nests and butterflies. We were not able to spot much of what was mentioned on the trail, but the ever improving views kept us determined to reach the top. There are a number of viewpoints and wooden decks along the way where you can stop and take pictures. I would strongly advice to stay away from the wooden decks as the one we got on to was very shaky and felt like it would collapse any minute. The climb in the end is definitely worth it as the view from the top is breathtaking. You can see the sky changing hues as the sun hides behind the mountains. Do not miss the nature trail if you are there around the time of sunset.
It was quite dark by the time we got back to the promenade from Ekaant Retreat. Unlike the images all over the internet, Lavasa at night was eerily dark and lonely. The streets were poorly lit and deserted as majority of the people had returned after a day trip. The only people on the streets were the guards. Even with the guards around, the place seemed quite unsafe. All the restaurants in the city center were completely empty even though it was a Saturday night. This atmosphere completely put us off and we returned to our hotel. Finally we ended up having dinner at the restaurant in our hotel. The food was pricey and did not taste all that good but manageable for a hungry tripper. The next day, we checked out at 11 am. Being photography enthusiasts we were able to keep ourselves occupied the entire time. I strongly recommend that you plan your Lavasa trip such that you make the most of it in a day.