Bhandardara, about 170kms from Mumbai, is an awesome getaway. Put on some good shoes, pack a backpack with some sandwiches and take lots of films and a couple of cameras. You will come back rejuvenated - that's a guarantee!
Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, has a lazy, laid back and sleepy friend just 140kms away. Bhandardara, on the Mumbai Nashik Highway, is a place that is completely the opposite of Mumbai.
One of the first things that you notice on reaching this tiny hillstation is the cacophony that Mumbai beats with, is completely missing there. The only sounds you will hear, if at all, are chirping birds, wooing winds and the rustling of leaves.
The drive to Bhandardara is pleasant in most parts. The Mumbai Nashik Highway is splendid and takes you to Igatpuri in a good time. Once you reach there, keep a watch for a village called Gothi. At Gothi, you need to turn right from the highway (if you are driving from Mumbai towards Nashik) and then climb uphill for about 90 minutes. The road, once you leave the National Highway, is pits. So drive slow and steady. But the good part is, since you are indeed driving so slow uphill, you end up seeing a lot more of the natural beauty of the place has to offer. Spot the green fields on both sides of the roads with mountains in the background. Click some farmers at work, tilling the land. Get off the car and chat with village kids, play with them. (Tip: carry some good chocolates!). You will come across carts that sell ‘Goti Soda’. These guys will have a unique looking soda bottles which holds the fizz inside, not with a bottle cap, but with a marble! Get off the damn car and gulp some!
Once you reach Bhandardara, there are a few good places you can stay in. There is the MTDC Resort (completely avoidable!) which has seen better days. There are many other ‘resorts’ that offer you a decent stay. The best one there is ‘Anandvan’ which, at about 8000 bucks a day, is expensive, but is a super place to stay in. On top of the hill with splendid views of the Sahyadri Range and the lake.
What to do there?
Go boating at the Arthur Lake, trek up Mount Kalsubai (!), visit Ratnagad Fort or just climb some small hill with the lake view (there is a way to get up on one through Anandvan), sit there, and just let your heartbeat slow down!