After months of stifling heat, terrible air quality, water shortages, and dust that falls into even the most protected places, monsoon comes in like a knight in shining armor, solving all the problems and covering every organic surface with emerald green. Little flowers and grass pop up, and the trees get a good washing from the rains that pour in. The air is suddenly breathable and the temps go back to being enjoyable. It’s pure magic.
A few weeks following the first rains, we knew the grass had had a chance to grow just enough to be beautiful and decided to head out to a fort. There are a lot to choose from in our area, but we chose Raigad. Not due to its proximity to Pune (it ended up taking us 6 hours to get back with the weather) but due to how low-impact it would be to access it. We had done pretty heavy leg workouts earlier in the week so didn’t want to put ourselves through the agony of a real trek, and most forts in the area demand a decent amount of energy. This was a great choice because Raigad was as easy as taking a cable car, climbing some steps, then wandering around on a flat surface.
The fort is about 4 hours southwest of Pune, though with a stop in between for bathroom/tea/snack, and whatever delays there are with traffic, I’d budget 5 hours. The drive goes through mountains, farmland, and small villages, providing some great valley views and scenic stops along the way. Once reaching, there is parking available and several little restaurants and shops. You can take a trek to the top (difficult) or you can buy a ticket to ride the cable car (easier and fun) through the mist and see the beauty of the cliff’s face as you ascend.
At the top there is a small snack stand with a limited menu, a few tour guides, ticketing counter for the fort, and restrooms. After passing this, stairs take you to the temple, statues, and fort. You can spend at least an hour and a half wandering around without getting bored and there is so much to see!
Now, I can’t tell all the good without mentioning an unfortunate truth of our experience. We visited this fort during peak mischief time (monsoon/rain/weekend) but even that should be no excuse for what happened to us. While walking through the fort we were stared at, commented on, and approached for photos, mostly by young men, and not in a nice or polite way. There were several of them who whistled and hissed at me, and if I hadn’t been in India as long as I have, it would have been scary.
So, if you are reading this and are a local, I appeal for you to do what you can by talking to the young men you know about respecting others and your national monuments. This behavior creates a hostile and frightening environment that perpetuates the stigma of India being an unsafe place to visit, especially for women, and by acting this way at national monuments you are showing disrespect for the legacy left by the people who built and fought for it.
That being said, I would visit Raigad Fort again and it definitely gets thumbs up from me! I might go during the week or with a bigger group next time, but overall it’s a fun trip and you could even pair it with a two-day excursion staying over at one of the resorts in Lavasa or Mulshi. It was a nice drive, a pleasantly easy walk, and there was plenty to see and do.
I’m impulsive and slightly (ok, more than slightly) hedonistic, especially when it comes to travel, and my husband can sadly attest that if it weren't for him and the dog, I’d be a completely untethered ball in this world.
My latest last minute vacation was Udaipur and Jodhpur. I decided on Monday that I wanted to go and by Wednesday evening I was drowning in my own boob sweat, walking around the palace, totally unprepared for the heat. Let me back up. Pune has just gotten its monsoon, so I thought since Udaipur was north it would be cooler and possibly wetter. I packed some ¾ sleeve kurtas, leggings, and skinny jeans. What a mistake. Apparently I haven’t gotten a full understanding of monsoon patterns across the country yet.
Like most places I visit, and I’d imagine you’ll agree, it’s the experiences and the people I meet that end up being my favorite memories. So, I won’t give you a play by play, or my opinions on the Trip Advisor Top 10 list, but I’ll give you MY highlight reel.
If you are going to Udaipur and aren’t luxing it at one of the fancy palaces, my advice is this: pack for comfort, do not spend a lot on a hotel room (mine was Rs. 1000 a night and SO CUTE), take sandals without heels (hilly streets), don’t freak out about walking alone, and DO wander the streets as much as you can – you’ll get a much better appreciation of the area that way. Also, forget about the Rs. 450 cruise to Jagmandir, I thought it was a total tourist trap. It’s basically just a garden with an expensive restaurant. Spring for one of the little Rs. 250 boat rides near Lal Ghat Guest House instead. I think the last one leaves around 5pm.
2. Watching day turn to night at Lake Pichola Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. Please do this. It is an event in itself. Go around 6 for a pre-dinner cocktail and stretch your dinner until at least 8:30.
4. The drive to the monsoon palace, and the vista view from the top
5. Rajasthani dance show at Bagore ki Haveli
6. Making friends with the dogs in the street
7. Manish at the travel agency at Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel (+91 99 2830 6517). This guy hooked me up
with a guide and two drivers, Shankar and Ganesh. He is available on WhatsApp and very
8. Dipping my toes in the puddles from the fountains at Sahelion-ki-Bari Garden
My second leg of this trip was Jodhpur, the blue city. I never did get clarity on why the houses are blue, but I did hear a lot of interesting theories that ranged from “it cools the houses” to “Krishna liked blue”….who knows what the real deal is. It was a 5-hour drive from Udaipur with a stop halfway to the Ranakpur Jain Temples and a beautiful view of mountains, desert, and farm life. My best highlight from this part of my trip was my driver, Ganesh. Without him, I would have been totally lost. As I was traveling solo, he was always aware of my surroundings and kept an eye out for my comfort and safety. Please call him if you need a driver/guide in Udaipur or Jodhpur (+91 97 9982 8409). Can’t sing his praises enough. But aside from him, my favorite experiences were:
3. Taking pictures with a honeymooning couple at the palace. The girl’s smile was ear to ear, and she
wanted to touch my hair and my hands. I’ve never lived somewhere where strangers can have such
intimate experiences. It can be beautiful if you are open to it (and are a good judge of character…
this doesn’t apply as a universal rule).
4. Walking barefoot on the marble (and on the perfectly manicured lawns) at Jaswant Thada and
feeling the wind come through the windows.
5. Getting Butter Lassi, Rabdi, and Mawa Kachori at Shri Misrilal Hotel with Ganesh near the Clock Tower Market
I think that four days was good for this short trip, so if you are thinking of doing this as a part of a bigger vacation through India, it would be easy to club this with Jaisalmer or Jaipur. I would suggest, however, one extra day in Jodhpur to spend time at the fort. It has a lot to offer in terms of wandering and watching the city below.