Nestled in the rugged Sahyadri ranges of Maharashtra lies the historic Rajmachi fort, overlooking the gorgeous Borghat pass. Flanked by two smaller forts – Shrivardhan and Manaranjan on either side, this twin fort complex has an intriguing past and offers spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys. The best way to explore these ruins and soak in the raw beauty of the Western Ghats is undoubtedly the famous Rajmachi trek. So let’s strap on our trekking shoes and set out to unveil the lesser-known splendors of this incredible fort trek near Mumbai and Pune.
Rajmachi Fort was strategically built in the 17th century by the legendary Maratha ruler, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to keep a watch on the Borghat pass which connected the coastal Konkan region to the Deccan plateau. This key mountain pass was important for trade and security purposes. Over the centuries, the fort exchanged many hands between the Marathas, Mughals, and the British East India Company. The twin citadels of Shrivardhan and Manaranjan on the eastern and western ends were added later to strengthen the fort’s defenses.
The twin forts occupy an iconic place in Maratha history due to the momentous battle that was fought here in 1818 between the Marathas and the British East India Company. The fort eventually fell but the valor displayed by the Marathas became etched in Rajmachi’s history. Today, the twin forts may lie in partial ruins but they continue to be magnificent symbols of Maharashtra’s culture, heroic past, and royal architecture. The strategic location, sweeping vistas of Sahyadri ranges and the rich flora and fauna add to the magic.
Rajmachi is located about 15 km from Lonavala in Pune district and can be easily accessed by road. The starting point for the Rajmachi trek is Udhewadi village which can be reached in 2.5 hours from Pune and about 1.5 hours from Lonavala. Shared taxis are available from Lonavala and Pune to Udhewadi/Rajmachi village. Those traveling from Mumbai need to take the Mumbai-Pune expressway to Lonavala and then head eastwards to Rajmachi.
The Rajmachi fort trek can be attempted either from the Udhewadi side which is easier or from the tougher Karjat side involving a longer trail. First-timers can opt for the Udhewadi trail that winds through the lively villages on the western slopes and small streams to the Manaranjan fort base in 2.5 to 3 hours. Shrivardhan Fort on the east is further uphill and requires some steep climbing for 30-45 minutes to reach the entrance. Both forts offer breathtaking views all around and a chance to soak in a slice of history before heading back by the same route.
Advanced trekkers looking for more challenging terrain can try the longer 14 km trail from Karjat which ascends the eastern slopes through dense forests and waterfalls. The steps get steep as you reach the plateau and require some crawling at places before you arrive triumphantly on top of the Shrivardhan fort. You cross a saddle point between the two forts and cover the Manaranjan side before descending to Udhewadi village for the return journey.
Rajmachi fort might be in ruins but it evokes the magical aura of the Maratha warriors who once manned these bastions. Not much remains except crumbling ruins overgrown with vegetation, partial ramparts, and the original entrance archways. You can still spot decaying structures like warehouses, water tanks known as taak, and the queen’s quarters. Two large water cisterns still hold rainwater. The Shrivardhan fort sides offer views of the densely forested valleys of Bor Ghatbelow while the Manaranjan sides provide a breathtaking perspective of the Duke’s nose ridges, Khandala and Lonavala.
Trekkers also enjoy the sight of exotic wildflowers blossoming during monsoons like the Bhimraj, Karvy, and wild lilies. The green landscapes are dotted with mango, banyan, and peepal trees. Birds like bulbuls, hornbills, paradise flycatchers,s and the vibrant Malabar whistling thrush are also spotted around the thickly wooded fort. There are plenty of quiet nooks and crannies to enjoy a picnic lunch. Die-hard explorers can also try locating two hidden waterfalls located close by – Udhewadi Falls requiring a 1 km walk and Kondeshwar Waterfall near the Udhewadi village.
After the fort visit, make a stop at the ancient Shiva and Vishnu temples located near the base village.
The trip can be extended further to cover the Bhira and Bhimashankar dams and their surrounding lush countryside. October to May is the best season for the Rajmachi trek barring the monsoons when trails get slippery. Even first-timers can complete this easy trip with some fitness levels. Just carry good hiking shoes, hydrating drinks, snacks, and gear for all weather conditions.
There are no accommodation options on the fort or near the base village for overnight stays. The nearest staying places are Lonavala and Khandala which offer plenty of hotel ranges like luxury resorts, cozy cottages, budget hotels and lodges. Do check for distance and connectivity while booking a place to stay if traveling via Mumbai. Camping on the fort grounds is not allowed while night trekking requires prior permission.
The scenic and historic Rajmachi fort trek offers memorable views and makes for an easy weekend getaway from Mumbai and Pune. From the twin citadels perched dramatically atop the Sahyadris, a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the Konkan valleys, peaks and the Duke’s nose plateau awaits.
Rajmachi lets you become one with both cultural and natural history. The twin fort trek unravels the eternal romance of the Sahyadris, the inner strength of iconic Maratha warriors, and their indestructible mountain abode of Rajmachi. Conquer the twin forts once associated with power and greatness to discover their hidden splendors. Uncover these secrets as you traverse the slopes of Rajmachi once trodden by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj for a memorable tryst with history, adventure, and nature.