If you are in Pune, you can take a day trip to Sinhagad Fort. While Parvati Hill offers the best views in the city, Sinhagad offers spectacular views of the entire region. Even the drive to the fort itself is quite scenic.
You can do a half-day or full-day tour, depending on how much hiking you want to do. The hike up to the fort from the bottom of the hill is seriously difficult and you have to start really early in the morning to avoid the heat. Unless you are in really good shape and love to hike, I recommend the half-day tour. You won’t have to get up before the sun and your driver can drop you off at the entrance of the fort.
If you have already spent a few days in the region, you have probably seen the wonderfully weird banyan trees. Like me, you probably thought you were looking at several individual trees. But the banyan tree grows from the top down over hundreds of years, sending new roots down into the earth to become thick trunks. If one trunk dies, new trunks will form in their place, keeping the tree alive indefinitely.
You will see some very large and impressive banyan trees along your drive. Personally, I can’t tell where one tree ends and another begins, or if I’m always just seeing one tree… but, either way, I find them impressive. The largest banyan tree in the world would require a trip to Andhra Pradesh. There you will find a single tree spanning two hectares and believed to date back to 1434.
You can go to Sinhagad Fort really early in the morning and hike all the way up the hill, but it’s a difficult hike. I didn’t do that, but I’ve heard it takes about 2-3 hours up a steep incline. Once you reach the top, it takes another 2-3 hours to tour the fort, and you still have the hike down. So, this option is only for those in great physical shape.
For people like me, there is a road leading right to the fort entrance. I’ve heard the road is sometimes closed, so you should book with a reliable tour company who will be able to reschedule your tour if the road is closed.
Sinhagad’s history is one of conflict and struggle for power. The exact year of construction is not known, but the fort contains carvings that are believed to be about 2,000 years old.
The most interesting battle was fought in 1670 when troops led by Marathi General Tanaji Malusare scaled one of the steep cliffs during the night to take the Mughals by surprise. The cliff was believed to be unscalable, so it was not heavily guarded. Although Tanaji’s troops were largely outnumbered by the defending Mughal army, they were able to take the fort. Unfortunately, Tanaji himself was killed in the battle. A memorial with a bust of Tanaji commemorates his contribution to the battle and subsequent Marathi victory.
Touring the Fort
Before you enter the fort, stop by the food stalls to buy some fruit from the vendors. They put salt on the fruit, so if you don’t want that, make sure you know how to ask for no salt, or have your tour guide ask for you. I got a bowl of mixed fruit and my favorite was the tamarind, which is typically used to make chutney. But this tamarind was removed from the shell and dried, so they were chewy like jerky. I haven’t found tamarind like that anywhere since then.
The scenery is really gorgeous, so take your time walking around the fort!
If you get thirsty along your walk, there is a giant natural well that filters water from the ground through the basalt. You can toss a bucket down and pull it back up filled with fresh, cold water. It’s perfect after touring the fort in the hot sun. I washed the layer of dirt off my face and filled up my water bottle before heading off to lunch.
I don’t really like onions very much. I even pick them out of my food sometimes to avoid eating them. So, I wasn’t very excited at first to find that lunch would be onion pakora. It’s sliced onion deep fried in chickpea flour and served with really spicy red chili sauce. It was fun to watch the ladies cook. They could be professional chefs, they worked so quickly, and the onion was making my eyes water from ten feet away.
Once I sat down and tasted my first pakora I immediately knew I was wrong. These onion pakora were delicious! I ate my whole plate and could have eaten more. I even tried the red chili sauce, which my tour guide thought would be too hot for me. But after eating the spicy home cooked meals at the Deep Griha Cultural Center where I was staying, I could handle a little bit of spice.
To cool off after a spicy lunch, I bought a frozen dessert. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was basically frozen milk and fruit, and it was really refreshing.
Don’t be surprised if you get stopped for photos! Indian children love having their pictures taken with foreign tourists. It made me uncomfortable at first, but it seemed to make the kids happy. But be warned, once you stop for one photo, more kids will ask you!
On our way out, a man was coming through the gates with a bunch of donkeys. We had to stand back and try not to startle them. Just when I thought they had passed, I started walking out, and another donkey would come around the bend. My tour guide so worried I was going to be kicked by a donkey. Lol!
By the end of the tour, I was exhausted from walking around in the sun for hours, and I didn’t even do the full hike! Even if you don’t do the hike, make Sinhagad your only activity for the day. It is enough and you don’t want to be rushed. The scenery is beautiful and the history interesting. If you have a knowledgeable tour guide, you will learn a lot.