Destination: Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
Distance from Mumbai: 339 km (approx. 8 hrs by road)
No. of days: 3
No. of persons: 5 (3 adults + 2 kids)
After immense discussion and 4-destination-changes, we finally zeroed in on Ganpatipule for a short family vacation this Diwali. Having read and heard rave reviews of the Konkan region, this trip sure had me in high spirits!
Well, after some initial apprehension about the distance to be covered and the road to be taken, we finally decided to drive down to Ratnagiri (the various travel blogs on Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri were of immense help and major confidence boosters). Google maps on, we finally took off for the pristine Konkan at around 7.30 am from Mumbai (=Personally, the earlier you leave, the better. The route is beautiful and can be enjoyed during the early hours of the day. Also, lesser the traffic, quicker will you reach!)
We took the following route from Bombay: Mumbai Pune expressway – Khopoli Pali road – Right turn at Wadhkal Naka for NH 66 – Mangaon – Mahad – Chiplun – Sangameshwar.
Having had no previous experience of driving on a National Highway, I was a bit nervous about taking the wheel. However, a few kilometers into the drive, all was good. The roads are excellent and the route was pretty straight. There were a couple of places where we got stuck on account of inaccurate Google Map directions, but some local help later, we were back on track! NH 66 (Mumbai – Goa road) does have some tricky spots and long ghats, but it’s all manageable if you exercise caution while driving. Contrary to various blog posts that suggested the lack of eateries on the route, I found that there were plenty of options to eat and rest at regular intervals. Fresh juices, fruits, snacks and rest-rooms were pretty accessible in the villages scattered across NH 66. (=Recommendation: Do try the delicious Solkadi at Hotel Hindavi just after Adlabs Imagica).
A number of short breaks and food-stops later, we finally reached our destination at around 5.30 pm – Kotawade. (= Thanks to the peak season, we were unable to find a decent accommodation within Ganpatipule. After unending online research, I had stumbled upon a homestay called Atithi Parinay, and immediately checked tripadvisor and their website for details.. and one call later, our booking was done! The only glitch was that Atithi Parinay (AP) is located in Kotawade village, which is around 15 km from Ganpatipule. However, all the tripadvisor reviews and photos on their website really had my heart set on AP 🙂 ).
On checking into AP, we were received by the owner, Medha and her dog Renne (super adorable). On entering the house, we were lovingly served with fresh kokam sharbat (slurrrp) and guided to our room by Medha. We were provided with a large air-conditioned Bungalow room on the first floor to accommodate all 5 of us. The interiors were so tastefully done and exuded a very rustic vibe. The stone walls, dung floors, windows were so rustic and yet so sophisticated. The tents and cottages were designed wonderfully and felt comfortable – just like home. The rest of the day was spent in wandering around the property and relaxing amidst nature, after which we were treated to a finger-licking home-made dinner at AP. We also made friends with another family that was there on vacation and enthusiastically made plans to visit the beaches with them on the next day! (Perks of living in a home stay 😉 )
We were very fortunate to have the terrace right outside our room. The chirping of the birds and beautiful vistas of sunrise & the exceptionally maintained estate were just the perfect start to our next day! By 7 am, we quickly headed to visit the Aare-Ware and Malgund beaches. Aare- Ware beach was a 5km drive from AP and was, without exaggeration, the most beautiful beach I have seen. Blue waters, clear skies, green patches of palm trees and the unwavering mountains – The place was straight out of a dream. We were the only ones around that area, with no other soul in sight! We halted there for a while (for an endless photo session) and then drove ahead to another point up the hill that offered a panoramic view of the sea. It was here, that we spotted innumerable dolphins diving in and out of the endless ocean. The vista was so magnificent, that it made me want to stay there and keep gazing into the gorgeous ocean.
But like all good things come to an end, so did my brief spell of enchantment. We hopped back into the car and headed to Malgund (another 11 km away) beach for water sports! Malgund beach was another beauty. Although there were a few tourists who were there for water sports, the beach was clean and the waters, crystal clear. We spent another hour at Malgund – trying our hand at kayaking, jet skiing and a host of other water sports (which were quite reasonable priced, and could be negotiated). Once we were done with the water sports, we played around in the beautiful waters of Malgund… thoroughly enjoying every time the waves came rushing into our open arms and hugged us 🙂 (=Malgund is a very safe beach with fairly shallow waters. We had our life jackets on even as we played in the water, and were under the supervision of a life guard).
We returned to our home stay by 10.15 am, only to be served with steaming hot breakfast (poha and cheelas)with chai. Post all the gluttony, we headed to our room for some rest and freshening up. The rest of the day was spent in chit-chatting, relaxing on the terrace and playing countless games of badminton and UNO. Not to mention, savoring the delicious home-made fare at AP!
The next morning was welcomed with a morning walk across Kotawade. It indeed is a beautiful, quaint village. We realized that most of the houses in Konkan were built with red ‘chira’ stones. These simple abodes only added to the beauty of the place! We returned to AP, only to be served with a scrumptious breakfast, which we gobbled down in no time! We treated ourselves with multiple games of badminton, UNO and tree climbing after lunch. However, by 3.30 pm, we hit the road again, to visit the Ratnagiri lighthouse (= Strict timing: 4 pm to 5 pm). Our estimation that the lighthouse was around 10-12km away from our home stay was soon proved wrong, as we drove through numerous villages, seeking directions from locals. On our way, we missed a turn and reached the monumental Ratnadurg fort instead. The fort proudly stood there, in all its grandeur, overlooking the endless Arabian sea – what a sight it was! Due to shortage of time, we decided not to climb up the fort, but visit the lighthouse instead. We reached in the nick of time to visit the lighthouse (they were closing entry for the day) (= Entry fee is Rs. 10 per person) and quickly climbed up to see the view. The breathtaking view more than made up for all the wrong routes and long drives! We stood there, enamored, letting the wind play around with our hair. Needless to say, plenty of photos were clicked, but none of them can capture the beauty of what we saw from the lighthouse 🙂 (= The road to the lighthouse is narrow and extremely steep, so it would help to drive steadily there. Saying it out of the experience of my car getting stuck midway 😛 )
We quickly exited the lighthouse as it had to be closed for the day and took off to visit the Ganpatipule temple. The temple was a long drive from there, and we eagerly wanted to reach before it turned dark (the roads are pitch dark at night, so it’s always a risk to drive on the winding roads). We soon reached the temple entrance, where an entry of Rs. 20 is levied for entry of vehicles. The temple was located at a distance of around 1km from the entry point. We parked the car at an empty spot and walked towards the temple. a good number of people had come to offer their prayers at this famous temple. As we neared the temple, we noticed that it was beautifully located right next to the beach. It was beautifully done up in the local red stone, and was quite well maintained and well-secured. The grand MTDC resort stood on our right, overlooking the beach and temple. We queued up to pay obeisance to the deity. Thanks to the smooth administration, we were out within 10 minutes. We had been informed by our newly made friends that the temple also offers delicious prasad (food offerings made to the deity) to the visitors. But due to dearth of time, we decided to give it a skip. (However, we’ve been told that the pasad is a must have here. So do try it!). Quickly, we headed to our car (by which time it was already dark), and drove back to AP, where another mouth-watering meal awaited us! The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and packing to leave on the next day!
Departure day soon arrived and we decided to make the most of it by exploiting the terrace to the fullest. After spending a good hour and half on the terrace, we freshened & packed up, and headed downstairs for breakfast. Needless to say, breakfast (uttapams and sabudaana khichdi, served with chutney and dahi/ curd) was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed by all! Having stuffed ourselves with copious amounts of food, we quickly took off for the cashew factory that was just 2 minutes from AP. Special Konkani cashews were then purchased for ourselves and the family, after which we headed back to AP for our final checkout. We then bade adieu to all our newly made friends there, and took off for our long drive back to the concrete city with heavy, yet happy hearts! 🙂
I realised that Ganpatipule/ Konkan is a great place to have a relaxing vacation. The drive, beautiful vistas, scenic beaches and lovely weather are so de-stressing. It’s not one of those destinations where you just keep ticking places off your checklist. It’s a great place to spend some quality time with yourself and your family and just not have anything to worry about. I would highly recommend a visit to the Konkan to everybody… so much so, that I’m planning my next road trip already 😉
PS: For alternate budget accommodation in Kotawade, you contact call Mr. Gajanan Sahasrabuddhe (+91 94224 30779)