We know that the Western Ghats, which is perched at a height of 2710 m above sea level, is a world biodiversity heritage site. The Sahyadris have many places which offer scenic trekking routes. One such trek is the Rajmachi fort trek, coupled with a visit to the Kataldhaar Falls. It is nestled between Lonavala and Khandala in a picturesque location. There are two forts in Rajamachi named Manaranjan and Shrivardhan. These are two balekillas of the Rajmachi fort and are the main attractions.
Near Lonavala, the Rajmachi fort is one of the most well-known ones. If you are a nature lover or are interested in archaeology or history, this trip will be a wholesome experience for you. Also if your hobby lies in photography, the natural beauty of forest and hills will satisfy your heart to the core. You will get mind blowing shots.
About Rajmachi Fort history, it can be said that during Shivaji’s rule, Rajmachi was a significant location. It was built in the 17th century. The fort overlooked one of the most important trade routes during the Maratha rule, the Bhorghat pass.
There is the peaceful Tungarli Lake at the base of the mountain. There are different waterfalls around this lake. At the top of the fort, you will find the Kondhavi caves. In the middle of the two forts lies the enigmatic Kal-Bhairavi temple. After climbing to the top of the fort, one can see a large landscape. Ulhas river and Duke’s Nose can be spotted from here.
This is a trek which can be done by novice trekkers as the difficulty level is somewhere easy to medium, but mostly easy. You will be able to reach the top of the fort in around forty minutes. New trekkers will love this simple yet gorgeous trek route. The trekking route is a little challenging and very beautiful one throughout. Having a certain level of fitness and resilience will make you able to complete the whole trek easily. The Rajmachi Fort height is about 2750 feet above sea-level. On your Rajmachi trek, you will also be able to see the backwaters of Shirota Dam and Sahyadri mountains.
The glorious past of the fort is visible at every nook and corner. The history of this historical fort is quite interesting. The fort has been under multiple rulers. It was built by the Satavahanas. The Satavahana dynasty was an ancient Indian dynasty. Their kingdom consisted of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra – the Deccan region. King Simuka Satavahana was the founder. This dynasty ruled from 1st century BCE to 3rd century CE. Gautamiputra Satakarni was its most important and powerful ruler.
In 1657, this fort was captured by Shivaji from Bijapur sultan. The forts nearby which were ruled by Adilshahi, ruler of Bijapur, were also captured by him. In1704, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, captured the Rajmachi fort from the Marathas. But the Marathas captured it back the very next year. From the year 1704 and 1705, the Mughals stayed here and ruled. Later, the Rajmachi Fort was given to Kanhoji Angre by Shahu Maharaj in 1713. In 1818, the Maratha empire fell and the British captured the Rajmachi Fort and other Maratha territories. After India won its freedom, the Govt. declared the fort as a protected monument.
The Rajmachi Fort is exceptionally attractive to visitors till now because there are residential units, water reservoirs, secret passageways, hidden doors, huge ramparts, tall and wide gateways and thick walls- all built during such ancient times.
The Shrivardhan Fort had been named after Shrivardhan Ganpatrao Patwardhan, who was a Maratha official. The architecture of this fort is very similar to a watchtower. There are two water tanks here and in one of them, there is an iron pole. It is believed that this fort was used as a watchtower. The highest viewpoint of the Rajmachi fort lies here at a height of 914 meters.
Manaranjan Fort is not as tall as Shrivardhan Fort. The altitude of this fort lies at a height of 833 meters but both offer jaw-dropping views. It is beside Shrivardhan and is significant because of its three gates and long rampart. You will be able to see the Karnala Fort from Manaranjan Fort.
Udhewadi, the village from where we will start our trek is located in Pune district’s Maval Taluka region. You can say that this village is situated in Rajmachi’s southern foot.
You should try to go for the trek during the monsoon or winter, as those are the best seasons. During these seasons, the weather remains the most favourable and beautiful. On your way to the fort during the trek, you will see vibrant greenery in the form of forests and also beautiful waterfalls and gurgling streams. If you are up for a challenging adventure, go for the trek during monsoon. To see a gushing waterfall and wonderful caves, you can also trek to Kondane caves in monsoon. September to March is the ideal time for this trek.
If you go there pre-monsoon, you will be mesmerized by the fireflies flying in the forest region near the fort. The Rajmachi Fireflies Trek is also quite popular with trekkers. Fireflies can flourish and live best in the environment which the region of the Sahyadri Hills provide. At night, you will be transferred into a dream-like area where you will be astonished to see the bioluminescent bugs. You will feel like you are in between twinkling stars.
As Rajmachi is so near to the metro cities of Mumbai and Pune, it has become a popular weekend destination spot. Rajmachi has no railway stations, so there are no direct trains. You have to come down to Pune and then leave for Lonavala. Lonavala station is at a distance of 84kms from Mumbai. You will get private cabs from Lonavala Railway Station which will take you to the fort. You can share a taxi with other trekkers too till the Rajmachi point. You can also fly down to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and get on a taxi which will drop you till the Fort.
The Rajmachi trek distance is 16 kms from Lonavala. Right before Khandala Ghat there is a diversion following which you will reach a village named Kunhe Gaon. To reach Rajmachi or the base village called Udhewadi, you have to take a road from there which is in very bad condition. Udhewadi is the village situated below the two stronghold forts. Though the road is uncomfortable, your vehicle will move through mountains. On one side you will be able to see the wall of the fort and on your other hand will be a valley. People of Lonavala can help you with the directions if you become confused midway.
The Della Adventure Park serves as a good landmark as from here, the fort is just at a distance of 11.6 kms. As you move ahead from Della, at one point the road gets divided into 2 paths in a Y shape. Take the path on the left. And beware, the road condition gets even more bad here.
Actually there are two routes which can take you to Rajmachi. One is near Lonavala which is known as Tungarli. The second is the Karjat route which goes through Kondivade village. You will reach Rajmachi in approximately 6 hours if you take the Tungarli route. This is the longer route out of the two. If you take the Karjat route, you will reach it in around 5 hours. The shortest is the Kondana route or the route through Kharvandi village. Then you will be able to see the Buddhist caves also.
If you take the Kondivade village route though, you will have to climb up almost 2000 feet, so it is a difficult one. The easier route is the Lonavala one where you will need to do normal hiking, almost like a walk. If you are an experienced trekker, you can go for the Kondane cave route, and if you are new to trekking, start from the base village. You can easily do a one-day trip if you take the Lonavala route. But if you want to camp in a citadel, you can enjoy a two-day trip too. The trail is 10 mile long with proper markings. It will take you 4 to 5 hours to reach the fort but if you take the Kondhane route, you will reach the destination within 3 hours by doing the steep climb. So the choice is yours!
The trail on Rajmachi trek is clearly marked. You can complete the trek without the help of any guide.
Obviously the two forts or balekillas Manaranjan and Shrivardhan. Then there are monuments, ancient temples like Bhairavnath temple and Mahadev temple, the Rajmachi lake and the caves situated on the fort. Among all the temples, the Kal Bhairava temple is the main temple which draws major attention. Localities come here to pay their abseisance as the temple is centrally-located. The shiva temple is built in the Hemadpanthi style.
Rajmachi is an awe-inspiring place with its waterfalls, dense forests, temples and Buddhist caves throughout the trekking route. These are what makes this trek a favourite among trekkers. The Buddhist caves were built in 200 BC. There are big waterfalls all around Rajmachi Fort and the region looks beautiful in monsoon. From Shrivardhan Fort, you will be able to see the Kataldhaar waterfalls.
In 1712, the Udaysagar Lake was built on Rajmachi Fort, so that’s a place you can see. There is a plateau near Shrivardhan and Manaranjan where you will find the Bahiroba temple. You will see the Sahyadri mountain ranges and the Shirota Dam. The views are absolutely amazing.
What is known as the Kondana caves are actually a cluster of sixteen Buddhist caves, situated very near to the fort. These caves have been carved out of stones, possibly during the 1st century BC. The caves are still very enchanting with its pillars and carvings, and also the waterfalls near it. While you are trekking down from the fort, you can go and see these caves.
The Kataldhaar Falls is one of the wonderful waterfalls near Rajmachi which is a must-visit. There are a few mango trees on the trekking route which will help you to show the direction to the falls. The 3 trees serve as landmarks to reach the falls as there is only one path. You will also find a cave there which can accommodate almost a hundred people simultaneously! Also from there you will get a spectacular view of the Shrivardhan balekilla of the Rajmachi fort.
Another place which is not in Rajmachi but in Lonavala which you can visit is the wax museum. You can go there after returning from the trek. There are life-like wax statues of popular celebrities.
Things to do:
Needless to say the main activity is the Rajmachi trekking. Apart from there, based on your interests or liking, you can make vlogs, watch birds, have camping experience, take loads of photographs, and watch the glowing fireflies at night. The photographs that you will click using your mobile or DSLR will make great wallpapers and picture postcards. You can print the images and make personalised gifts for your loved ones! If you run a YouTube channel, your travel blog made here will get you a lot of views and likes! If you are more into writing, make a travel blog and you will draw subscribers, people interested in travelling will definitely click on your blog to read it. If you decide to camp using your tents after the trek, it is undoubtedly going to be an unforgettable experience for you. Out of all the treks that one can do in Western Ghats, the Rajmachi trek is one of the most splendid ones. The views are completely bewitching.
Where to stay & what to eat:
When you head for this trek and want to go looking for accommodations, remember that you will have to put up at villagers’ homes which are of course minimalistic. The washrooms are also going to be extremely basic. So keep your expectations low. Do not expect proper beds, you might have to sleep on mats. The villagers are really cordial and make the tourists feel welcome and try to make their visit very comfortable.
And while you are at Rajmachi Fort, you can camp there too. Almost forty people can manage to put up at the two forts.If that doesn’t sound feasible to you, another option is the Kalbhairavnath temple. You will find this temple at the base of the fort. There might be snakes or scorpions, so avoid putting up tents amidst bushes. You can stay inside the caves too but again, there might be creepy-crawlies! So carry your tent if you want to camp.
There are two dorms here by an NGO under Rajmachi Rural Aid And Development Programme. They take minimal charge and provide camping facilities.
The locals, i.e. the villagers can cook something for you if you ask them. They make delicious meals at a very low cost. You will get chicken, pickles and chutneys too.But it is always advisable to carry packed food with you and don’t forget to carry an abundant quantity of water.
Rajmachi is in an evergreen region and you will be viewing the Western Ghats’ flora and fauna during the trek. Breathe in the fresh air, spend time in the middle of lush greenery on a weekend and return with a relaxed yet zesty mind!
Day to leave for the trip! Please don’t be late in reaching the station and don’t forget your haversack!
11 pm: Leave for Pune by train. You will be greeted with a smile by the captain either at the station or when you are seated in the train.
6 am: Rise and freshen up. Wear your comfortable trekking attire, if you aren’t already.
7.30 am: Get down the train and head for breakfast. No South Indian breakfast today, it’s going to be a Maharashtrian one - Vada Pav & Poha please.
9 am: Finish breakfast and head towards Rajamachi’s base village.
10.30 am: Start trekking after arriving at base village.
The route which we will take is one of the most beautiful ones during the monsoon season. The terrain is not difficult. Don’t ignore the trek leader’s instructions and you will be safe!
6 pm: Arrive at Udhewadi (Fort Rajmachi) and go to our homestay.
Note: No beds in this homestay. It’s a regular village home. We will all rest on the floor on the given bed sheets. One or two washrooms will be available. It is a basic low budget stay where many tourists have stayed earlier without any difficulty.
9.30 pm: Eat our dinner and go to sleep.
4 am: Time to wake up! Yes it’s early but we’ll go to the top of Rajmachi Fort.
5 am: Head out towards Rajmachi Fort top. Click some amazing photographs for our social media sites. You will also get a view of Kataldhaar waterfalls, our next trekking destination of the day. Just pray that the weather doesn’t get foggy when you reach the top! The views will get hidden behind fog.
7.30 am: Arrive at the base village, enjoy breakfast and head out for our next destination - Kataldhaar Fall trek.
8.30 am: Reach the starting point of the trail and start our trek.
Note: If you are unwilling to go on this trek, our car can drop you to Lonavala. Spend time as you like here till other members of the group completes their trek.
11.30 am: Reach Kataldhaar Waterfalls. Click some photos for showing it to others later on.
1.30 pm: Start trekking back to our base, reach base and head towards Pune.
3 pm: Reach Pune and board the sleeper class train to Hyderabad.
Note: If the waterfall remains closed to visitors during monsoon, we will visit another one. The fixed itinerary anyhow will be:
4:30 am: Wake up call. Freshen up to head towards Rajmachi Fort.
5 am: Start our trek and enjoy the sunrise.
8 am: Return, have breakfast and start journey towards Lonavala/Pune
3 pm: Get on the train to Hyderabad.
6 am: Arrive at Hyderabad