This time, when Good friday brought with it a long weekend, those options just didn't seem appealing and I decided to check out places which were easily driveable, but which I had never visited.
As I scratched my brain and went through the travel stories online, Nashik caught my eye. The 3 hour driving distance from Mumbai, the vineyards, the mythological connection, the local delectable food - there was definitely a weekend plan here in the making. Not withstanding the weather reports showing a sunny April Nashik,
I opened up the online search engines, put in my budget and star filters and zoned in on my stay for the 2 days - IBIS Nashik.
Given that the plan was to keep this getaway easy on the pocket, I chose Ibis which was within my 2K per night stay bracket with breakfast and promised a clean and comfortable stay. Ibis is conveniently located at ~15 mins from the city center and the similar time in the opposite direction towards vineyards.
With our bags in tow we left Mumbai on Friday morning and completed the 3 hour journey comfortably given the excellent condition of roads - tolls cost us only ~INR 200 one way to Nashik. There are some good restaurants ahead of Bhiwandi for quick refreshments like Urban Tadka, Pop Tates, Mac Donalds, Shiv Sagar etc. The check-in at Ibis was smooth and we decided to cool off in the room untill early evening.
At around 4.30pm we started our ~50mins drive from Ibis to Lake Vaitarna. The lake with the dam makes for a scenic and clean picnic spot, however has no restaurants in the vicinity. The lake does have a great resort, JenJon Lake Vaitarna Resort, which you can definitely consider as a stay-option, however, since only resort guests have access to its restaurant, its a good plan to come prepared with your own picnic basket to enjoy the view, in case you like us are not planning to stay in Jenjon.
The lake side provides a great space for kids to play around making it a wholesome bet for a good evening.
Around 30 mins away from Lake Vaitarna is a smaller water body, Mukane reservoir, on the banks of which is a boutique vineyard 'Vallone Winery', which houses the reputed pune restaurant chain 'Malaka Spice'. Vallone Vineyards overlook the Mukane reservoir and Malaka Spice with its open air seating provide an equally captivating option to enjoy the sunset vis-a-vis Lake Vaitarna. We visited Malaka Spice after our time on Lake Vaitarna for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed the delectable asian spread, the rose wines and the hospitality of the staff. Vallone vineyards also have quaint accommodation and its proximity to the lake and reservoir make it a compelling stay-option. After a sumptuous, languid dinner, we closed our first satisfied day in Nashik.
Our second day in Nashik was split with the first half dedicated to temple-trails and evening to be immersed in Sula & York wineries. Another awesome activity in Nashik, which remains largely unadvertised is 'Gliding' at the 'Deolali Gliding Club', which allows you a chance to glide for 15 minutes over the city - an amazing way to bring in a sunset. The gliders are non-motorized 2-seater planes, with an army pilot. We missed this owing to the maintenance work of the gliders, however i recommend future travelers to definitely check this out.
Mythology has it that the Ram, Sita and Laxman stayed in Nashik during their vanvas and the famos incident of Ram cutting Shurpanakas nose (nose is 'Nak' in marathi) happened in this city, hence the name,Nashik. We started off with the area of Panchavati, which derives its name from the presence of 5 sprawling banyan trees. Underneath these trees is the well-known Sita Gufaa, which claim to be the caves where Sita hide from Ravana. Despite reaching Panchavati at peak afternoon time, the banyan trees made sure that the place felt a good 5 degrees cooler. We then made our way to the close-by Kalaram Temple and spent time in the spacious temple premise admiring the serenity of the simple black-rock temple. Nashik has many more temples in the Panchavati area dotted along the Godavari river which runs through the city. Godavari is called the Ganga of the west and origniates in Trimbakeshwar, where the famed Shiv Linga resides.
After a sumptous meal of traditional marathi Khandeshi fare at 'Divtya Budhlya', we headed back to Ibis to gear up for our winery visits. Both Sula and York wineries are ~20 mins away from Ibis Nashik and are close to the Gangapur Dam. Sula and York both run wine tours through the day untill 6.30pm. Sula was our first stoo and we signed up for the wine tour with tasting (only winery tour costs INR100 and the tour with tasting costs INR350). The tour is a short 15 minute tour and the rest of the 20 minutes is devoted to the wine-tasting (we got to taste 6 wines in total, 3 red and 3 white). I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which was ensured by the devoted Sula staff. We spent another hour on the first floor open deck which houses the Sula restaurant and provides an eagles view of the property.
As sunset approached we quickly made our way to the York winery which is only 5/7 minutes away from Sula but allows a spectacular sunset view over the lake. The open garden restaurant at York plays great music and we spent our last night in Nashik over some great food and ambience at York.
Overall I felt Nashik was a well-rounded getaway with a packed offering for a two night stay, costing us just INR12,000 as a couple all inclusive.