For city folk, the fascination with hill stations never cease to diminish. The sudden burst of green around you is happily welcomed when one isn’t too busy navigating his way to work and back – where the red taillights of hundreds of cars and rickshaws on the road almost always trigger a comment about the city’s pitiful state of affairs. For the average upper middle class Mumbaikar, the organised chaos of the city is reason enough to want to get away from Mumbai every once a while – and the calm of a hill station makes a strong case for it.
Tucked away in the expanse of the Western Ghats, Igatpuri is a quaint hill town located in the Nasik district of Maharashtra. For Mumbaikars who battle the combined forces of heat and humidity for most part of the year, they breathe a sigh of relief in lieu of the climatic perks of a higher altitude. This charming hill station may not see a quantum of visitors like Lonavala or Matheran do, but it is a verdant destination for those who seek a break from the pseudo-civilization.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the town is the dense green hills and valleys surrounding it – Mother Nature is in all her glory here. Igatpuri stands proud as a hotspot for hikers, river rafters and adventure seekers. Bollywood filmmakers, who love an exotic locale or two, often flock to Igatpuri to capture a stunning backdrop for the silver screen
While the best time to visit Igatpuri is between October and March. However, in the months of June through August, when the unpredictable monsoons are in full force, this hill town witnesses a significant influx of travellers and pluviophiles who drive up to enjoy the abundance of pristine waterfalls and lakes around the Thal Ghat and Bhatsa River Valley.
If you happen to be a lover of history and architecture, the Tringalwadi Fort, now in ruins, sits at a height of 3000 ft. and is surroundedby the Sahyadri hill range, housing a small temple of Lord Hanuman. Similarly, the rusty Trimbakeshwar and Amruteshwar Temples and the Ghantadevi Mandir, each with their own old-world charm, are not to be missed. Devotees and photographers often throng to these sites for its scenic splendour.
Exotic locations, tranquility, mediation and soul-searching are all synonymous with each other – and Igatpuri rightly bears witness to it. The Vipassana International Academy, a.k.a., the Dharmagiri Meditation Centre, has taken Igatpuri as its home and draws in visitors from all over the world who enrol themselves in rigorous short and long term courses to learn the ancient Indian art of meditation. The backdrop of the Sahyadri hills against the stunning architecture of the Vipassana centre brings with it a certain oriental, mystical charm. The Academy is one of the world’s largest centers for the practice of Vipassana, very aptly making use of the restfulness of this little town.
Sometimes, just breathing in some salutary air can alter your mind and body – and a hill station is a great destination for a gadget-free, family-friendly hiatus from the routines of the daily city life. Regardless of what your travel style or preferences are, the experience of a simple nature trail, a long drive to and fro, or even watching the sunset from the comfort of your hotel room, villa or private holiday home is multiplied two fold with nature’s exuberance surrounding you.
Igatpuri is in no means a developed tourist spot, although it does have a potential to be one. However, when you’re away from the mindless construction and commercial shadows of the city-sphere, you hope that the town’s simplicity is preserved the way it is.