Friday, May 5, 2017

Nasik travelogue: Weekend getaway to Nasik || Roadtrip from Mumbai to Nasik, visit to the vineyards, wine tasting

The only thing I knew about Nasik (before I went there) was – Nasik is the wine capital of India and the garden city of Maharashtra. So during a random conversation a couple of months back, Ronaldo and I decided to make a trip to Nasik. The initial plan included three people – Ronaldo, Vaishali and was supposed to be executed in April.

Fast forward to the end of April and we decided to head to Nasik on the last day of April. Summers were at its peak and we knew it wasn’t the best time to head to Nasik; but not wanting to postpone it any further, the five of us (Ronaldo, Vaishali, Harshad, Siddhart and I) bundled in the car at 7.30 am and left for Nasik from Bandra, Mumbai.

Mumbai to Nasik road trip

Nasik is around 180 kms from Mumbai and a good three and a half hours drive through the Mumbai-Nasik expressway which gets insanely picturesque after Igatpuri. The roads aren’t as fancy as the Mumbai-Pune expressway, but definitely close. I can’t imagine roadtripping sans these great roads.

While going, we stopped by at Igatpuri – at a stretch that was dotted with dhabas on both sides which seemed like a favourite pitstop among riders and drivers, going by the overcrowded Babaji ka dhaba. After a hearty breakfast which consisted of a giant dosa, idli vada, vada pav and chai, we were all set to hit the road. That was the only stop we took on the entire trip until we reached Nasik and checked into our hotel.

We didn’t have much of a trouble traveling around since we had a car and Google maps. Yes, we used Google maps throughout since we hardly knew the place, though we had an itinerary planned. However, we didn’t follow the itinerary and ended up making a rough one instead.

So instead of going to Trimbakeshwar, we headed to the vineyards first and ended the trip with Trimbakeshwar. The journey back was pretty insane, since we drove via Trimbakeshwar – through the winding roads via Igatpuri – which I believe would be offering splendid view during monsoon. Though the summers had dried up all the foliage, we could make out the waterfall trails on a part of the four hours journey back.

Visiting vineyards in Nasik

A visit to the vineyards is simply blissful. Though the grape season is over and harvest is done, the acres of lands covered in grape vines still exists and look incredibly beautiful, especially during sunset – when the glorious golden-orange rays engulfs the entire green stretch.

A visit to the vineyards means driving right into the farm, past the vines and hills in a distance until you reach the wine factory and tasting room. We visited Sula vineyards which is on the outskirts of Nasik. It features a tasting room, a gift shop, two restaurants (an Italian and Indian) and the wine factory among other things.

Visiting the vineyards sure calls for a wine tasting session, but how about getting a tour of the wine factory and learning how wine is actually made? Since the morning session was really crowded, we went back in the evening and were taken on a guided tour before we went for the tastings.

Understanding wines and wine making

What did we learn during our wine tour and tasting? How wine grapes different from regular grapes that we eat. How grapes are cultivated and harvested. How grapes are picked, pressed, fermented and stored. In short, we were taken through the entire process of wine making! You can call me a nerd or anything, but let me be honest here – I loved the entire experience of learning what goes into making of the wine I drink.

Tasting wines in the wine capital of India

The wine tasting session was brilliant and exotic as it can get. We were ushered into the VIP lounge, since the tasting room facing the vineyards was still overcrowded. Though I’d love tasting my wines with a view, I enjoyed the alternate tasting room as well.

We tried a total of six inhouse wines – out of the thirty wines that are made at Sula and were guided throughout. We pretended to be wine connoisseurs – twirling our glasses, sniffing them and trying to take small sips. Ronaldo couldn’t really see wine getting wasted so ended up drinking everything that was poured into his glass. Though I loved the Sparkling wine and dessert wine the most, I enjoyed every sip of all the wines on my table.

I wonder if this seems any fun, but trust me, it sure is fun. We were anticipating this experience ever since we decided to visit Nasik and were super happy as we drove out of the vineyards at sunset. If you plan a trip to Nasik, this is an experience you shouldn’t miss. Sula is by far the fanciest vineyard you can visit, but Nasik houses many others, so you can take a pick and visit the one of your choice!

Eating and drinking

Since it was supposed to be a budget trip, we did not splurge on food. We ate at some local favourites while in Nasik and dhabbas while we were traveling back and forth. For lunch we headed to one of Ronaldo’s favourite places to eat in Nasik – Konkni Darbar. Dinner happened at Burger King and breakfast next morning at the hotel we were put up at. We caught late lunch at a restaurant on our drive back.

With very few nightlife options in Nasik, we found ourselves at the dingy staircase leading to Players Sports Lounge on College Road, because..the guys wanted to watch a football match over beer. We chilled there for a while. Nothing really fancy, but when you don’t have many options but just some great company, you learn to enjoy your company more.

Sightseeing around Nasik (besides the vineyards)

Nasik isn’t a great tourist destination, hence there aren’t a lot of places that a regular traveller would fancy. But it’s a pilgrim city and there are lots of holy places one can visit – not forgetting, most of them are insanely breath-taking! So you don’t really regret a trip to the wine capital of India. These are some places worth exploring during your Nasik travel.

College Road:
One of the more popular localities in Nasik – dotted with cafes, restaurants, cinema halls and branded stores, which remain well lit and busy until midnight.

Gangapur Dam:
I experienced the most exquisite sunset at the Gangapur dam. It is definitely worth a visit if you’re around Nasik. I am told the place is a bird watchers paradise and offers boating and kayaking at the lake beyond the dam.

Pandavleni caves:
Located 8 km south of Nasik, these are a bunch of Buddhist caves. They have nothing to do with Ramayana though the name is Pandav leni (leni translates to caves in Marathi). The caves that can be traced back to 2nd century BC has beautiful carvings and inscriptions.

Buddha temple:
The Buddha temple is a huge dome shaped structure with a massive Buddha statue right in the centre. This is a quaint place to just sit and relax – either inside the temple or in the garden surrounding it.

Two very popular temples located a few kilometres away from Nasik are Saptashrungi Temple and Tribakeshwara Temple. The Saptashrungi Temple, which sort of sticks to the cliff is 60 kms away from Nasik and is surrounded by seven peaks.

Trimbakeshwara Temple is 40 km from Nasik is located in Trimbak village and seems like a very popular pilgrim destination. The entry fee is Rs 200 and the temple is surrounded by a little market. The road leading towards the temple leads through arid picturesque terrains wherein one gets to witness incredible rock formations.

Bhonsala Military School:
So let’s get to how and why we visited the school. Harshad and Siddhart spent eight years of their lives in this school from fifth to twelfth grade, while Ronaldo spent seven years there starting from the sixth grade. So you can imagine the camaraderie they share. A visit to the school was so nostalgic to the three of them and they kept recounting incidents as we took a walk around the beautiful campus. The school has a massive playground, is surrounded by lush gardens and also has a horse stable that has over 25 horses which the students ride. How cool is that?

Panchavati and Sita Gumpha:
River Godavari flows through Nashik and its Northern part is called as Panchavati. It is said that Lord Shri Ram and Sita along with Laxman stayed at Panchavati for some time. Thus Panchavati has gained holy importance.  There are five Banyan trees and hence the area is called Panchavati. Nearby is Sita Gumpha (cave) where Sita is said to have stayed for some time. A visit to the gumpha leads you into a narrow opening as you cross a bunch of caves until you reach the sacred temple and crawl your way back in the same way.

That’s all about this trip. A quick tip – DO NOT visit Nasik during the summers. River Godavari looks really sad with very little water, most of the other water bodies run completely dry and the view along the way isn’t really what you’d actually experience during monsoons or post monsoons. Comment below and let me know if this post helps you. In case you need help planning your Nasik trip, comment below and let me know. In case there’s something you like about Nasik and think I have missed in my post, comment below and let everyone know! Until next time…

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