Places to visit in and around Velas
Velas is a small beautiful village on the Konkan coast in Maharashtra, India. What is so special about it? We have covered this in detail in our previous blogs - Turtle Festival and Village life in Velas. In this blog we will be guiding you on how to reach Velas and various places/ activities you can visit/ do during your Velas trip.
How to reach Velas
Velas, a small village in India is at a distance of 170 kilometres from Pune and 205 kilometres from Mumbai. We reached Pune by bus and rented a motorbike from there to do a road trip to Velas. The route that we took is: Hinjewadi – Paud – Mulshi – Tamhini – Mangaon – Bagmandale – Velas. This route was the shortest and involved a ferry. We started from Hinjewadi early in the morning and stopped for breakfast in Paud. The double lane roads of Pune have now become single lane. The roads from here started becoming patchy. On a two wheeler, it was easier for us to avoid the potholes. The roads were surrounded by small villages. Once we crossed the Mula River, the views started improving and we drove alongside the river for a while. The drive to Tamhini Ghat was tiring. It seemed like we were driving forever without covering any significant distance. But on the other hand it was beautiful. The view from the Ghats is spectacular. We witnessed the small stream of Mula River meeting the main reservoir. The water reflected bright blue color. This particular Ghat road has many restaurants and cafes lined up with a great view of the reservoir. The roads throughout were average in condition. Also the MIDC road once you get down from Tamhini ghat is wonderful and ideal for shooting.
Mangaon is a big town where we stopped for lunch. We took a right from Mangaon towards Bagmandale. Bagmandale is the ferry point to cross Savitri River. A huge ferry that can accommodate 6-7 cars and many two wheelers makes a shuttle across the river several times. They charge INR 50 for a motorbike. We had to wait for quite some time for the cars to load first and then the two wheelers. It was a good experience of being on the bike in the river. Once we cross the river, Velas is just 8 kilometres but the roads are again in a bad condition with more and more beautiful views.
On return we decided to try out another route to avoid the waiting time for ferry: Velas – Madangad – Mhapral – Mangaon – Tamhini – Mulshi – Paud – Pune. The roads from Velas to Madangad were excruciatingly bad and we were exhausted very soon but the views were always good as river Savitri accompanied us for most of the parts. However, from Madangad they started getting better. It took us about 8 hours each way to reach our destination; including breakfast and lunch breaks and a few occasional breaks here and there to rest, eat or click photographs.
Places to visit in and around Velas
I’m a turtle now, struggling out of my nest,
Departing to the sea I vow, to return and lay eggs,
I trust that you will conserve this place for me,
And ensure that my children also meet the sea!
1. Velas Turtle Festival
The primary purpose for everyone visiting Velas is to attend the Turtle festival. Though the Turtle festival happens 2-3 times in February, March depending on when turtles are expected to hatch, the volunteers check every morning and evening from October through March if any eggs have hatched. So one need not visit Velas specifically on Turtle festival dates and still get to watch the baby turtles hatch and return to the sea where they belong. In fact, they can avoid the crowds and get a closer look at the baby turtles. Read our blog on the turtle hatching sessions over here.
2. Velas beach
The turtle hatching sessions that happen on the beach are a definite crowd puller. On weekends during the hatching season, you would find the beach extremely lively. People of all ages, having all sorts of interests flock the beach and it is just a joy to sit and observe them. While some enthusiastic photographers capture anything that interests them, others are more interested in getting their photos clicked, groups of young people have fun playing and small kids are just curious about all the sand around them. There was no turtle egg that had hatched on this particular evening we were there. It was disappointing to travel so far and not see what you were looking for. But just sitting quietly and watching people enjoying in their own ways as the setting sun left various shades was relaxing.
3. Small trek to cliffs on Velas beach
You would be visiting the beach every morning and evening for the hatching sessions. Right on the beach, towards the left, there is a small cliff which one can easily trek to in less than 15 minutes. The ideal time to hike is during sunset, however, it depends a lot on how the evening sessions of turtle hatchings turn up. We trekked the cliffs in the morning and still found the views from the cliff to be breath-taking. We were able to see tiny reflections of people in the small water filled puddles that were left when the tide was low. We also spotted a few birds playing with each other and having a great fly time.
4. Velas Village
The Velas village itself has so much to offer. If you are from a non-rural area, you will be amazed to see the wells, hand pumps, mud mopped floors, manual sowing and farming activities and the architecture of the village houses. We got to know a lot about the village culture talking to the villagers who are very welcoming. To know more about Velas village, read our blog here.
5. Shiv Temple in Velas
The Shiv Temple lies in the centre of the village. We visited Velas on the day of Mahashivratri festival and the villagers had decorated the entrance with oil lamps on each side of the 15-20 steps of the temple. We did not have our cameras then but the decorations were beautiful.
6. Bankot Fort near Velas
One would have crossed Bankot village to reach Velas. There is a steep and risky road that goes uphill from Bankot village where lies ruins of a fort. The road is narrow and surrounded by trees from both the sides with small villages in between. About 5 kms from Velas, the origins of this fort are still unknown. It was supposedly the first British residency in the southern part of Konkan coast. The structure of the fort is in square shape. From the entrance it seems small but as you enter you will be amazed by its hugeness. There are steps on each side to get to the top. From the top, one gets a good view of the sea and the surrounding area of the village. One can clearly see the different colours of the river and the sea waters mingling. There is no entry ticket. The fort was secluded when we visited in the morning and we loved sitting there for quite a while enjoying the cool breeze. Sunset again would be the best time to visit it as the views from the top would be mesmerizing, but then you will have to skip the turtle hatching sessions.
7. The Beach road leading towards Velas
We have read many blogs on how great the road trips are from Konark to Puri in Odisha and Chennai to Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu as the road runs right parallel to the beach. But trust me, we were really disappointed in terms of views with both the road trips. The sea is just too far away from the road from Chennai to Pondicherry with lots of land in between. On the other hand, the road from Konark to Puri has good views as beach is right next to the road but only in few patches. We weren’t expecting anything from this particular road trip to Velas, but the last stretch of the road after Bankot village took our breaths away. It runs parallel right besides the sea. One can jump from the road and land in water! We went back to this road again and again to just park our bike, sit and listen to the sound of waves. This is one of the most blissful roads we have ridden till date. We witnessed the power of infiniteness across the boundaries of the slaps of sea and the road.
Apart from the above mentioned places to see, travelers also visit Harihareshwar beach and Harihareshwar temple on the other side of the Savitri river where we didn’t go due to lack of time.
Important points to remember
1. Make sure to get your fuel tanks properly filled before leaving for the trip. It is extremely difficult to spot a petrol pump after Paud. Velas does not have a fuel station. The nearest fuel station is in Madangad which is about 40 kilometres away. However, a small shop in Velas does sell petrol to the tourists, but it’s better not to risk the chances.
2. While coming from Pune, there are many restaurants and eateries lined up on the road. But after crossing Tamhini Ghat there’s no proper place to stop, relax or eat till Mangaon. Even Velas does not have any restaurant or a shop that sells food packets. When travelling with kids, make sure to carry whatever eatables are required throughout the trip.
3. There will be a lot of walking involved in the village and on the beach as well. The roads in the village are not in good condition to support women’s heels or fancy footwear. Do carry comfortable shoes, slip-ons or slippers.
4. No ATM’s or pharmacy shops in Velas. Ensure that you carry enough cash and your medical requirements.
5. The cell phones do not catch any network connection in Velas. Keep your friends and relatives well informed in cases of emergency. You can use the landline telephones of the family you stay with but their connections are also not very trustworthy.
6. If you are a photography enthusiast, you ought to carry your tripods with you. We read some blogs which mentioned there is no need to carry a tripod which is wrong. Since the village is so isolated, there will be plenty of opportunities to capture the stars, the milky way or light trails by the beach road.
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