Pune (pronounced poo-nay) formally called Poona, is one of the larger cities in India. It is located in the state of Maharashtra which is in the western region of India, about a three-hour drive from Mumbai (Bombay) the commercial capital of the country, and a major international airport of India.
Pune is a melting pot of cultures with a large population of foreign students as well as students from throughout India. It is sometimes known as ‘The Oxford of the East’ because of it’s educational institutions and popularity as a student destination. Pune is also a fast growing IT hub with major companies setting shop here.
The culture is fairly cosmopolitan and at the same time it enjoys some traditional culture too. For those interested in history and architecture, Pune offers a mix of the modern interlaced with the old! You’ll see an old fort in the heart of the city and glass architecturally modern buildings all in the same city. The locals, often referred to as Puneites, are very friendly and warm….and while on a trip to Pune here are some thing’s you shouldn’t miss out on if you get the chance.
Stroll down Koregaon Park and take a tour of the Osho Ashram
The Osho Commune International or Osho Ashram as it is famously known, was founded by Rajneesh Chandra Mohan Jain (called Osho) in Koregaon Park road in Pune. A spiritual center set up by Osho in 1990, the ashram today is a prime attraction for tourists who are enthused with the preaching and ideologies of Rajneesh. It is a resort for Meditation and Yoga based on the ideologies and teachings of Osho and his techniques that offer the practice of meditation to get rid of stress and strain of worldly life. Tourists can visit the Ashram twice during the day. 10-11 in the morning and 2-3 in the afternoon. Tickets have to be purchased in advance. In the visit one can see a video recording of Rajneesh, the daily routine of the Ashram, Gautam Buddha Meditation hall, the gallery displaying the works of Rajneesh and his Samadhi (final resting place).
After tour of the ashram….try a relaxing walk down the beautiful ashram lanes. It’s not uncommon in Koregaon Park to find members of the community roaming around along the area dressed in Maroon Robes. A must visit is the Osho Teerth Park also called Nallah Park…which is an expanse of about five hectares of picturesque surroundings and waterfalls in an elegant style of Japanese Zen garden. The park is open to the public from 6 am to 9 am in the morning and from 4 pm to 7 pm in the evening….and is definitely worth a visit for nature lovers. As a souvenir pick up a pair of ‘Osho Chappal (slippers)’ a mat based flip-flop with velvet straps in multiple colors…which were originally sold outside the Osho ashram giving them it’s name, and they soon became one of the biggest fashion fads and must have’s for Indian youth. They are colorful, versatile, very comfortable and at just Rs. 50 (i.e approx $1) they’re a steal for even just home use!
Shop at M.G. Road (Main Street)
If your a shopper by heart, there is nothing you won’t or cannot find here if you just have an eye for it! Pune with its blend of Indian and Western cultures and with branded goods to the exquisite handicrafts it’s a paradise for all shoppers, catering to each and every individual. M.G.Road (Mahatma Gandhi Road), popularly known as Camp or Main Street serves not only as a shoppers haven but also as a perfect place to window shop! The most recent attraction is the walking plaza on weekends where by the road is closed of to vehicles and turns into a fair of sorts with food stalls, entertainment and of course shopping!
Stop by Marz-O-Rin for their popular chicken sandwiches and rolls, shakes or snacks. Just opposite the road is ‘The Bombay Store’ a great place to find Indian handicrafts that make wonderfully ethnic gifts. Pick up a bag of the famous Budhani Potato Wafers and dry fruit snacks and mixes. Head to Dorabjee’s for some grocery shopping and to source the hard to find imported products or just lounge at their cafe with some coffee and fresh bakes. From bookstores like Landmark to retail chains like Westside and Pyramids…if you’re in the mood to shop MG road is just the place for you.
Buy Shrewsbury Biscuits from Kayani Bakery
Kayani bakery started in 1955 is an institution in Pune. Almost all visitors who come to Pune from around India especially Mumbai, have to take back gifts of one of the Bakery’s specialties…the Shrewsbury Biscuits. These pale yellow biscuits much like the western shortbread, are very buttery and very sweet. Packed in familiar ,square, patterned, carboard boxes they are sold out in a few minutes everyday. People fight over them, there are near stampedes in the anxiety to get hold of at least one of those precious boxes. If you pass by at that critical time when the batch comes out of the oven you will wonder what event has occurred to create such excitement. The bakery is said to make about 200 kgs of these biscuits a day and they are almost always sold out!
Trek up to Sinhagad Fort
One of the prime getaways from Pune are the hills and the forts around it. The most popular fort is that of Shivaji’s called Sinhagad (which literally translates to Lions Fort) about 25 kilometers South of Pune perched on a steep hill at a height 700m of it’s surrounding. The lovely drive via the Khadakwasla Lake & Dam makes it a much adored and a desired picnic getaway spot.
The actual 17th century fort has mostly fallen to ruin but parts of it still remain and with the view it offers is worth a trip to the top. The monsoon season is the beat time to visit the fort, though it’s almost always cloudy and rainy up there then, the greenery and breath-taking view of the valley is unmatched.
Buses are available to the top as are rented jeeps, but bikes or a car are the best way of getting there. Although the road isn’t that great getting up there with it’s 10 kms of curves and climbs it does have some breathtaking views along the way and is worth when your reach the top. For the more adventurous kind there is a trekking path you can take from the base of the mountain right up to the base of the fort where the parking lot is situated.
Make sure to try out some of the local fare served up by the small make-shift stalls set up in the parking lot and around the fort. The bhaji’s and dahi wati (yogurt in an earthen ware pot) at the top are a crowd favorites. Also, recommended that you try out the pithla-bhakri and the rustic chicken curry. Sundays here are busy with picnic groups, trekkers and tourists so make sure to get there early to beat the crowd.
Getaway to one of the 3 lakes around Pune
Since Pune stands on the leeward side of the Western Ghats in the Sahyadri mountain range, it is a catchment area resulting in 3 beautiful fresh-water lakes around the city. The closest lake to the city is Khadakwasla lake situated about 20 km from Pune. Khadakwasla is a small calm and quiet place and the lake has a Dam built across it, which is the main source of water for the whole city. The National Defense Academy is located to the NW of the dam, and has the whole western shore for boating and sailing-related training.
About 50 km southwest of the city further from Khadakwasla is the Panshet Lake and Dam. Lush green hills streaked with numerous waterfalls surround this lake making it a great picnic spot.
The Mulshi Lake, formed by the catchment area of the Mulshi Dam, is another sought after picnic destination around Pune. Situated 55 km west of Pune the lake has a scenic surrounding of unexploited Sahyadri hilly terrains and luscious green dense forests. The forest cover and the lake are habitats for different bird flora and many varieties colored birds can be spotted here.
Shaniwar Wada Palace Fort
To see a part of history you don’t have to travel far from the city. The Shaniwar Wada Palace Fort of the Maratha Dynasty lies in the heart of Pune city. It covers six and a quarter acres in central Pune. It was constructed in 1732 as the seat of the Peshwa (prime ministers of the Maratha Empire), and remained the political capital of the Empire until its annihilation. While the Palace was destroyed in a big fire in 1827, the mammoth structure of the walls survived the fire.
Shaniwar Wada is a real specimen of Maratha culture and the architectural design shows the influence of Mughal style and the feature of Maratha artistic styles. The 21 feet tall massive door of the palace known as Delhi Darwaza is one of the remains of the grand old Palace. Public can visit the palace everyday between 8 am to 6.30 pm.
Dinner at Koregoan Park
Puneites are foodies at heart. Restaurants in the city spring up faster here than you can say ‘Restaurants’. Pune offers everything under the sun when it comes to cuisine, with restaurants of every variety and taste available just around the corner. But there’s One food lane where you won’t have to look far to find a restaurant to your taste…and that’s Koregaon Park Road. Checkout some of the hottest place to dine on Koregaon Park Road in – Pune’s Koregaon Park: A Foodie’s Delight
So when you’re in Pune next time make sure not to miss out on these great places and things to do!