The area is surrounded by lofty peaks, dense forests and is also the source of River Bhima. There is also Bhimashankar Sanctuary where variety of birds, flowers and animals can be seen.
From Karjat station you need to travel to Khandas village, which is around 40 kms away, either by ST bus or tumtums, plying between Khandas and Kashele.
There are two routes to Bhimashankar from the base village of Khandas, which are most popular among trekkers -
- Ganesh Ghat –There is a bridge around 2 km from Khandas, and the track going to the right from the bridge is the Ganesh Ghat route. This is the easiest and the longest route to Bhimashankar. Within an hour of trekking along this route you will reach a Ganesh temple.
Enroute you will pass the base of Padar Killa, you can combine the two treks but ensure you have a villager to guide you and you are well-equipped since the route to Padar Killa is confusing and at some places you will require a rope to climb. Moving ahead there are few tea stalls to catch you breathe.
The route ahead will take around 3 hours until you reach the plateau of Bhimashankar, there is a small pond dug out in the ground called 'Hanuman Tal'. This trek is five and hours to six hours long.
- Shidi (ladder) Route – This one is a short route, but very steep and difficult especially in the monsoons. The route gets its name from the ladders placed on the steepest parts.
The route going to the left of the bridge (mentioned in Ganesh Ghat) goes to the village. On moving ahead you will reach a well, take a left from there to Shidi ghat. Within the first two hours of climbing you will pass the three ladders. You will reach a junction where both the routes - Ganesh ghat and Shidi – merge.
That’s where you can take a break for a cup of tea. In another hour and half from here you will reach the temple.
The temple is commercialized due to road route leading to Bhimashankar, through the Pune–Talegaon– Chakan route. The temple dates back to the 18th century, with some intricate carvings adorning the pillars and door frames. Just opposite the main temple, there is a small shrine dedicated to Shani (Saturn), and outside that hangs a huge Portuguese bell, a war relic symbolizing the victory of Marathas over the Portuguese in the Battle of Bassein in 1739.
After seeing the temple you can go to the Hanuman Lake, Nagphani Tok (point) or Serpent's hood, Gupt Bhimashankar, origin of River Bhima, Bombay Point and Sakshi Vinayak. Nagphani Point is the highest point in Bhimashankar, and called that because its shape is like a cobra’s hood. So you will get to see the surrounding hills and forts of the Matheran range and Padar killa down below.
Bhimashankar wild life sanctuary
The dominant species of flora are Mango, Jamun, Hirda, Behda, various medicinal herbs, Bamboo and fern. The Giant Indian Squirrel is one of the major attractions of the sanctuary. The other species found in the dense forests are Sambar, Barking Deer, Hyena and the Wild Boar. If you love bird-watching, then you will be able to find Malabar Grey Hornbill, Quaker Babbler, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Green Pigeon, and so on.
Places to Stay in Bhimashankar
In case you want to spend a night, few motels like Mansarovar and forest rest house are available or you can camp on open flat spaces near the temple.
Best Time to Visit: August to February
Thanks to Selvin for the Pretty Pictures