Andharban, literally translating to the Dark Forest, is a dense jungle situated in the Pimpri region of Maharashtra. It is located about an hour and a half’s distance from Lonavla and happens to be a popular trekking region in the southern part of India. The Andharban forest trek is ideally taken during the monsoons and the majority of the trek leads through the dense shaded cover of the forest. The most interesting part about the trail is that it is a descending trail all the way, so you will be going down rather than climbing up, as with most trails.
You will have the greenery of the dense Sahyadri forest for company and will encounter misty and dreamy forest landscapes in the Tamhini Ghats. There are plenty of ponds here as well as huge cascading waterfalls, which makes for a great backdrop for photography. The foliage is very thick here and you will be treading on soft grass or a forest floor covered with dense fallen leaves. You will also get to gaze at the stunning view of the adjoining Kundalika Valley and will encounter a number of unique flora and fauna as well, indigenous to this place. The best part is, that Andharban is also a very popular spot for night trekking, so if you want to up the adventure quotient, do try out trekking at night as well, although in the company of a professional guide.
The Andharban forest is located at an altitude of 2160 feet in Tamhini Ghats and the entire trek time is about 5 hours to cover 13 kilometers of the trail. It is a relatively ease trail so first time trekkers are also welcome.
As mentioned earlier, the Andharban jungle trek should ideally be undertaken during the monsoon months and so you will get to experience the full beauty of the lush green valley. Pre- monsoon and right after monsoon are the ideal time slots, which mean the months from June to September. On the other hand, this time of the year can also get a little humid and if you don’t want that, then you can visit between the winter months of October to February when there is a nip in the air and the morning mist makes for a dreamy landscape.
By Road: The trek will start from the Pimpri village in Maharashtra and the best way to access it is from Lonavla, from where the distance of the village is about 50 kilometers. You can take a cab or a bus to Lonavla and from there another cab or a bus to Pimpri. You can also hire a self- drive car if you are coming straight from Mumbai or Pune.
By Train: You can take a train from Mumbai or Pune to Lonavla and one of the best options is the Pune Intercity or the Deccan Express and the Udyan Express. If you are coming from north, you have to try the Hazrat Nizammuddin Express.
Flight: If you are coming from some other part of India, you have to take a flight to Mumbai or Pune and then take a cab from there to Pimpri.
The trek will start from Pimpri Village at a place near Pimpri Dam known as Independent Point. A local guide may be hired from here to guide you through the trail. Be sure to start early in the morning. The first part of the trek will be through dense tree and plenty of water streams and you will also get to enjoy the backwaters of Bira Dam. The trek will also take you through the top of a wall that joins the Pimpri Dam which will lead you to an open area and you will come across poppy fields ahead. From here, you will enjoy great views of the Kundalika Valley spread in front of you and now you will gradually start to enter the dark forest through a few winding routes. Take a break and rest your feet at the Bhirdi village for small refreshment and then the descent will commence towards the Konkan route.
For the major part of the trek you will have to skip waterfalls and make your way through the dark undergrowth. The forest is named so for a reason- you will find that the sunlight hardly penetrates the thick canopy above and the forest is literally quite dark even during daytime. The few patches of sunlight that you get through the trees in places makes the place even more mysterious if anything, and only accentuates the darkness beyond. However, it is also one of the most pleasant places to be in, as you will encounter birds chirping in the trees and if you are a tree lover, you will have fun identifying the myriad foliage found here.
Once you are past the Bhirdi Village, you will be walking more or less on flatter ground along the backwaters of Bira Dam. You will have to cross a river here, and you will reach Patnus village where there are a quite a few lodges and eateries. You can stay here for the night or start straight back for Pune, Mumbai or Lonavla. If you have hired a cab for the entire day, then ask the driver to pick you up from Bhira Dam End point.
There are plenty of options to stay at Patnus village or you may also opt to enjoy an overnight camping or lakeside camping by the Bhira Dam. You may also return to Lonavla where the charges start from around INR 1200 per night.
Food: Be sure to have a good breakfast before you start your trek. You can stop at Mulshi, to enjoy authentic Maharashtrian food and there are plenty of dhabas en route. You will also find many local eateries in Pimpri.
Places of Interest: There are a plenty of attractions which you will come across during the duration of your Andharban trekking.
By keeping these points in mind and by enjoying the trek during the monsoons, you will have a most glorious trip which will be a thing to remember.
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