Is the big city life getting to you? Can’t wait to get away from it all? Simply Pune has caught the travel bug too this month so give in to temptation before the good weather runs out and take the first road out. Get set and read on as we,Is the big city life getting to you? Can’t wait to get away from it all? Simply Pune has caught the travel bug too this month so give in to temptation before the good weather runs out and take the first road out.Get set and read on as we scrounge through popular travel hubs and adventure hotspots as well as carefully hidden secrets to bring you the best weekend getaway options. Ride the tideKundalika: If an adrenaline rush is what you are looking for, white water rafting on the Kundalika river might be just the perfect getaway for you. Only 100 km from the city, the river offers as many rafting options as its more famous counterparts in the Himalayas and makes for an exciting, action-filled weekend. Along its 14 km long stretch there are a total of 11 rapids-a mix of Grade 2 and 3 rapids, which take around two-three hours to cover.Nestled within the lush Sahyadri Mountains, the rafting camp site is picturesque and offers non-rafters numerous trekking and bird spotting opportunities as well. The river is fed by the excess waters of the neighbouring dams and hydroelectric projects, making it ideal for rafting even in hot summer months. The ride starts at 8:45 am everyday, 30 minutes after the dam gates are opened and the excess water is released. Rafters need to assemble at the starting point at 8:00 am for an orientation session. Kundalika is also a hotspot for other water sports with the Kundalika Rafting Camp facilitating activities such as kayaking and flying fox.advertisement Fact fileGetting there: Take the Chandani Chowk roadDistance: 100 km.Stay: Kundalika Rafting Camp.Contact: 09372016005; kundalikarafting.inCost: Rs 2,500 per day on twin sharing basiIn the lap of luxuryAamby Valley: A perfect romantic getaway-woo your significant other with a chopper ride to the hill township, Swedish massage, water sports or a candle-lit dinner for two on a decorated traditional boat.Aamby Valley City, spread over 10,600 acres near Lonavala is for the luxury traveller, with high-end timber chalets and villas, multiple restaurants to suit every palate, spas, water sports, lakes, sprawling gardens and a variety of activities including a PGA-certified golf course all available within their premises.Unique attractions which are sure to keep you busy through the day are the artificial beach, ice hockey facilities, a plush bar and jet skiing. Another section you shouldn’t miss if you are of an adventurous mould is the one with ATV bikes, remote car racing and a jungle safari.The accommodation is plush and comfortable, with the rooms overlooking the historic Koraigad Fort or intimate cabanas facing the clear lake waters. Fact fileGetting there: Take the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.Distance: 90 km.Contact: 022-39807444; aambyvalleycity.comCost: Romantic getaway package costs Rs 61,000 plus taxesValley of flowersKaas Plateau: To get away from it all, head to the scenic Kaas plateau, Maharashtra’s very own Valley of Flowers. With multi-hued flowers carpeting the hillocks as far as the eye can see, the plateau is an example of nature in all its glory. An amazing experience is to observe the expanse of flowers through the course of the day as they change colours, reflecting different shades at different times of the day.Accounts by botanists reveal that there are over 1,500 types of plants here including a few endangered species and medicinal plants. The flower fiesta starts blooming by August once the monsoon recedes and lasts for a little over a month. Some of the rare varieties of flowers you can spot here are the Smithia Hirsuta, Senecio Grahami and Utricularia Purpurascens.The plateau surrounded by the lofty hills is a haven for bird watching as well-with the Malabar Crested Lark and Crested Bunting being only few of the birds that have been spotted here. Even though no formal guided tour of the region is in place, bring out the nature enthusiast in you by exploring not only the flora but also the extensive fauna that the region supports.However, the region has been affected by increased tourist traffic, with many flowers being trampled upon, plucked or damaged, raising concerns about the need to conserve this natural heritage. Stay the night at a hotel in Satara and leave for Kaas at dawn break. Carry insect repellent when visiting.Fact fileGetting there: Take the Pune-Satara Road.Distance: 125 km.Stay: The Mahendra Executive hotel, Satara.Tel: 2162-245100.Contact: The Green carpet(facebook.com/groups/greencarpet/) for nature tours.Cost: Rs 1,300 per day per person.On a heritage trailRaigad: An ever popular destination for both Puneites and Mumbaikars, trekkers, history enthusiasts and pilgrims head to Raigad all year round. The Raigad fort, built over 350 years ago during the glory days of the Maratha Empire was once the residence of the royal family and has seen many a battle fought in its name.Walk up the 1,450 steps that take you to the fort and if unable to climb the steep steps, take a ride on the ropeway which will take you to the fort gates in a few minutes time. Once there, you can explore the Mena Darwaza, the erstwhile ladies quarters, the royal granaries, the Raj Bhavan where Shivaji held court, the Raj Sabha where the throne once stood and the Nagarkhana where the royal band played.Near the fort is a museum which houses photographs of various forts in Shivaji’s empire, as well as a collection of artefacts, farmans and weapons from the era. Be sure to check out the numerous temples in the region and if in the mood for longer treks, head up to the nearby Lingana and Torana Forts.advertisement Fact fileGetting there: Take the Mumbai-Goa highway.Distance: 150 km.Contact: 02145-274831; raigadropeway.comCheck out: Package tours of Raigad.Cost: Ropeway ticket is Rs 170. Discounted for students andsenior citizens.Nature at its bestMatheran: Get away for a whiff of clean air with no honking cars or traffic lights at Matheran. The state’s only hill station which prohibits the entry of vehicles, is all about enjoying nature’s vast beauties. With mist-soaked valleys and a grandiose landscape stretching out as far as the eye can see, explore Matheran on horseback or simply walk around. The highlight here is the 100 year old toy train that crawls through the hills ferrying passengers from the base to the 803 meter high hill station.What’s charming about Matheran, which was discovered by Sir Mallet in 1860, is that despite modern amenities and hotels, the holiday spot still retains its colonial aura. While here, enjoy the local treats like coalroasted maize or freshly churned candy floss. Another relic is the 100 year old Lords Hotel known for its grand colonial architecture. Stop by at the placid Charlotte Lake, watch the sunrise at Panorama Point or trek up to the One Tree Hill. Fact fileGetting there: Take the train to Neral and change to the toy train to Matheran.Distance: 120 Km.Best time to visit: October to May.Stay: Lord’s Central Hotel.Tel: 02148-230228.Cost: Rs 4,500 per night for two.High on chaiCha Hut Tea Bar: A cup of steaming hot tea in the company of cool, mist-soaked hills can work wonders to cleanse your mind and soul. At Cha Hut in Girivan, a onehour drive from the city, you can sift through their extensive travelogue collection or play one of the traditional folk games available like aadu puli attam (an ancient Tamil two player board game) while gazing at the sheer beauty of the lush Kolvan Valley. All this while Devika Nadig, whose venture it is, pours out her exotic brews. Located in Girivan, a self-styled enclave in the hills, the tea bar has been set up in Nadig’s enormous verandah, overlooking the Sahyadri Mountains.Get ready to sample exotic tea concoctions served with freshly baked scones and doughnuts all day long. Here, tea takes on different characters-herb-infused brews, fruitflavoured drinks with mango or apple extract and iced tea flavours are all available. It is not only the tea that’s on offer here; an amphitheatre located right next door also hosts cultural events such as poetry readings and music gigs on a regular basis. For now, the tea bar is open only on weekends but if you decide to stay on for a day or two, Girivan offers a variety of bed and breakfast options.advertisement Fact fileGetting there: Take Paud road from Pune to Girivan.Stay: Castle farm and Hill Top Home.Distance: 40 Km.Tel: 09763688361.Check out: Pawana and Mulshi dams.Cost: Rs 500-700 per day for accommodation.Resort to the hillsLavasa: The newest and yet unfinished hill city, Lavasa is where you can unwind in a resort of your choice, water ski, participate in occasional wine festivals and car rallies or simply relax and enjoy the company of the mist and trees. It stands amidst seven hills and a 60 km lake front offering picturesque views of the Sahyadri landscape and pleasant weather through the year.Even as the city awaits its theme parks, it already has a spa, cruises, nature trails and bike rides. Viewing galleries dot the area offering panoramic views of the valley and lake. Cafes and restaurants offer a range of international cuisines. The drive to Lavasa is picturesque with narrow hilly roads and villages on either side, setting the mood for a peaceful holiday even before you enter the imposing gates of the hill city. Prominent signboards help you manoeuvre through the winding roads within. And there is a lot for kids to do here too-there is a playground, as well as a trampoline and pontoon rides in the lake. As far as accommodation goes, there’s something to suit every pocket ranging from serviced apartments and Swiss style tents to cheaper hotels. Fact fileGetting there: Take the Chandani Chowk road.Distance: 50 km.Stay: Ekaant-The Retreat, Mercure Lavasa or air conditioned tents.Contact: 020-25234460; lavasa.comCost: Holiday packages range from Rs 4,500 to Rs 7,500 per day.Take to the waterKoyna Backwaters: If you are looking for an exciting summer adventure, the Koyna backwaters are the place to head to. Situated 25 kilometres from Mahabaleshwar, the Koyna Dam creates a large fresh water lake, perfect for water sports. Windsurfing and kayaking are among the list of exciting activities here with the serene Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary acting as a backdrop. The placid waters of the lake make motor boat rides and water scooters trips safe, yet exciting.The surrounding hills and forests offer campers several fun activities like mountain biking and valley crossing. Stroll through the Koyna wildlife sanctuary and you might just spot a bison or deer. Treks up to the Vasota Fort or the nearby Nageshwar caves are recommended as well.Fact fileGetting there: Take the Pune-Satara road towards MahabaleshwarDistance: 200 Km.Stay: Nature Trails.Contact: 022-66557777; naturetrails.inCost: Rs 2,500.View from the topThe Machan: There’s nothing like a quiet secluded tree house in the middle of a forest, to make you forget about blaring horns and constantly ringing mobile phones. The Machan offers just that with a secluded tree house set up in Jambulne village in the Western Ghats. Cradled in the branches of a huge tree at the edge of a precipice 45 feet above the ground, the luxurious structure overlooks acres and acres of lush forest land. Climb up to the loft, aptly called the Crow’s Nest and the stunning aerial view from there is bound to take your breath away.For those who want the thrill of camping out, the Machan has also introduced three well-furnished tents atop raised platforms. With little to do here except soak in the natural beauty or explore the village, this is a perfect place to get your much needed dose of peace and tranquility . With the tree house able to accommodate six people, we suggest you rope in some friends and head away to hide in the trees. Fact fileGetting there: Take the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.Distance: 80 Km.Check out: Koraigad and Tungi forts.Contact: 09594053113; themachan.comCost: Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 per day for two.Return to the rootsBaramati Agro Tourism: Have you ever wondered how it would be like to live as a farmer? Far away from the hustle-bustle of the city, just tending to your land and cattle?The Baramati Agro Tourism Centre was set up to provide an experience just like this. Spread over 20 acres of lush farm land, the centre gives city folk a peek into the rural life with cattle farms, fruit orchards, bullock carts, tractor rides and traditional games like gotya, surparanbhya and vittidandu. If you want to experience the rustic way of life, begin the day by milking a cow and feeding cattle. Learn the basics of jaggery making at a neighbouring sugar factory, watch silk being spun, plough the fields or simply laze around.The centre provides a holistic farm experience as the food provided is a staple farmer’s diet, including bhakri, pithla, and kurdya. Accommodation and amenities are basic but clean with 12 rooms and one large hall where people can stay the night. The centre, managed by local entrepreneur Pandurang Taware provides other amenities like solar-energy fuelled water heaters and an in-house doctor, in case of any emergencies. Fact fileGetting there: Take Hadapsar-Saswad road.Distance: 75 Km.Contact: 09226432980; agritourism.inCost: Rs 500 per person per day.