Nashik situated on the banks of river Godavari is in the northern region of Maharashtra state. It is known for its pilgrimage sites and vineyards. At a drivable distance from Mumbai and Pune, it offers a medley of heritage and mythology, several treks that take you to its caves and hills and the winemaking and tasting at its famous vineyards. You can do a lot on a 2–4-day trip to this city.
The Journey to Nashik
It was New Year’s Eve and a perfect time to take a break from our busy schedules and take a short Nashik trip. We started from Pune in early morning and drove down to Nashik, stopping briefly for breakfast en route. With our stomachs filled with vadas, dosas and bhajias and one sweet jalebi, we drove to our hotel in Nashik. It was close to lunchtime when we checked in, and the travel desk helped me firm my itinerary.
Sadhana Missal is the most famous missal joint in Nashik. A village dhaba-like ambience has been created here. The place is bussing with tourists and locals all taking advantage of the year-end break. Families are going on camel and bullock cart rides. Signage of ‘I Love Missal’ with a red heart stares at us. We sit on charpoys/cots as a spread of missal (sprouts with spices) pav/bread, oily spicy gravy, chopped onions, papads and buttermilk is served. The sprouts are generously sprinkled with farsan, a mix of sev (vermicelli), boondi and peanuts. We have an honest confession to make. We have tasted even better missal in Pune, and this one, although the talk of the town, didn’t meet our expectations. A crowded paan shop sells assorted varieties of paans, which is believed to be a digestive after a heavy meal.
Ramkund and nearby Sacred Temples
Post lunch, we head to the Panchavati area, which is home to the Ramkund and sacred temples. Ram Kund is a sacred water body where the Hindus immerse the dead’s remains for salvation. Legend states that King Rama did the same for his father and took a dip here before his exile. Ashes of several famous people like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Lata Mangeshkar have been immersed here. There were scores of devotees bathing, praying and offering respects here. There are several temples close by, with Naroshankar Temple being one of the famous ones. The temple has intricate carvings.
Kalaram Temple and Sita Gufa
We then head to the Kalaram Temple, which gets its name from the Kala or black idol of Lord Rama, installed here. Close to a Banyan Tree is the Sita Gufa or Sita’s cave. Legend has it that it was here that Ravana had abducted Sita. We stand in a queue, and when it is our turn to enter the cave, we realise that we need to crawl through a small opening at the bottom of the cave. One needs to be dextrous and agile to enter the cave, and one senior citizen with a knee replacement decided against entering the cave for health reasons. Once inside the cave, we see statues of Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman. In the adjacent cave was a shivling.
It’s close to sunset, and we decide to return to our hotel. En route, we pass a heritage wada (mansion) which reminds us of the wadas we have seen in Pune.
Pandav Leni Caves
The next day after breakfast, we head to the Pandav Leni Caves. They are a group of 24 Buddhist Caves constructed between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD. We climb some 200 steps, taking frequent halts and reach the caves after almost 20- 30 minutes. I am out of breath and dizzy and have run out of steam. I decide to sit and sip on some water and, for the first time, feel I am done with travelling and age is catching up. Thankfully I regain my strength and, after some motivation from my husband and son, start exploring the caves.
Not to be missed caves
Caves 3,10, 18, and 20 are the best of the lot and worthy of exploration. Cave No. 3 is a vihara-type of cave, which provided shelter to Buddhist monks. The entrance porch to the cave has six pillars, and inside are 18 monk cells around a square plan. Cave No. 10 is also a vihara like Cave No. 3 but slightly smaller. Cave No. 18 has a beautiful ornamental doorway with a stupa inside. Four pillars can be seen at the entrance of Cave No. 20. Inside are niches with statues of Buddha. These caves remind us of The Ajanta and Ellora caves near Aurangabad.
The Coin Museum
The Coin Museum or Shanti-Krishna Museum of Money and History is next on our list. Coins dating from the 6th and 5th century BC to the present day can be found here. We see artefacts from Indus Valley Civilizations, and panels displaying terracotta and pottery. There is even a panel depicting playing cards of India called Ganjifas, puppets, and theatre projectors. After visiting the coin museum, we stop for lunch at a local restaurant.
Trimbakeshwar Temple at the base of Brahmagiri mountain is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. We visit this temple next, and there are long queues to enter the temple. The temple made of black stones has three lingas representing Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
MTDC Boat Club, Nashik
After paying respects, we head to the MTDC boat club. There is loud music playing in the dining area as tourists eat and enjoy the Godavari River’s view. Tourists are trying various water sports like jet skiing, kayaking, speed boat rides, etc. After having some light refreshments, we head back to the hotel. There is an elaborate buffet on New Year’s Eve.
The following day, we decide to explore the vineyards of Nashik. Nashik is the Wine Capital of India and is home to many vineyards. Nashik was known as a pilgrimage centre and sacred land of Kumbh Mela for eons. But once the vineyards started popping, it soon became a favourite among the youngsters. Sula, Soma, York, and Vallone are some famous vineyards. There is a separate article on Nashik Vineyards which you can read here.
Veer Savarkar’s birthplace at Bhagur
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and bid farewell to Nashik. We visit the birthplace of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar at Bhagur, 18 kilometres from Nashik. The ground plus first-floor wada is simple and well-maintained. Locating this place wasn’t easy as google maps kept confusing directions.
Gargoti Museum at Sinnar
The Gargoti Mineral Museum at Sinnar was next on our list. K.C. Pandey has carefully curated this private mineral museum with a collection of crystals, gemstones, zeolites, minerals and fossils. The museum even has rocks from Moon and Mars. We are awestruck as we move from one gallery to the next, spread over two floors admiring countless specimens. It’s incredible to know the wealth of minerals that mother earth has hidden in its core. One man on a mission has made it possible for us to see these gems and minerals that have been painstakingly collected and preserved over the years.
Gondeshwar Temple at Sinnar
It is 2: 00 pm as we visit the Gondeshwar Temple in Sinnar, which is last on our itinerary. Built in the 11th– 12th century, the temple complex has five shrines. The main shrine dedicated to Shiva has a shivling. Scenes from the Ramayan can be seen on the walls. There are four smaller shrines dedicated to Surya (Sun God), Vishnu, Parvati (Shiva’s Wife) and Ganesha (Elephant God).
If you’re looking for a short break of 2-4 days, then Nashik, with its sacred temples, caves, and vineyards, is worth exploring. It is the perfect place to nourish your mind, body and soul. Whether you are a spiritual seeker, a wine connoisseur or a nature and heritage lover, then Nashik wins hands down.
Nearest Airport: Nashik has a domestic airport. Other nearby airports include Mumbai and Pune.
Mumbai to Nashik: 166 km or 3 hours 45 minutes.
Pune to Nashik: 213 km or 4 hours 30 minutes.
Where to Stay: MTDC Grape Park near the boat club is a good option. Sula has The Source, which you need to book months in advance. Soma Vine Village has luxurious rooms, villas and service apartments. We stayed at The Courtyard by Marriott. You can do a net search for hotels depending on budget and comfort. At York Winery, entry is free. The winemaking tour and tasting are Rs.500 per head.
Best Time to Visit Nashik: The best time to visit Nashik is November to March. If you want to see the grapes growing on the vines, then January to March is the best time.
Entry Fees and Charges for Nashik Vineyards: The entry ticket cost to Sula is Rs.1000; you will get coupons worth that much. You can redeem the coupons for buying food/ wine or for the winemaking tour and wine tasting. At Soma Vine Village, if you don’t want to do the wine tasting, you can join the winemaking tour for Rs. 100. The prices for wine making and tasting tour range from Rs 500-900 depending on the number of wines one would like to taste.
Entry Fees and Charges for MTDC Boat Club: On weekdays, it is Rs. 70 for adults and Rs. 30 for children. On weekends it is Rs. 100 for adults and Rs. 50 for children.
Entry Fees and Charges for Coin Museum: Adults is Rs.80, Children Rs. 50, Foreigners Rs. 250, Photography Rs. 50.
Entry Fees and Charges for Gargoti Mineral Museum: Rs. 100 per head.