Rajmachi Fort [caption id="attachment_4708" align="aligncenter" width="428"] Image Source | AkkiParab[/caption] Level: Easy. This trek served as an old trade route during the Maratha empire. From Udhewadi, it is a 30-minute climb up the carpet of green. The high point of the trek, Rajmachi Fort (822m), offers spectacular views of the Shirota Dam backwaters. Saunter around exploring the twin forts Manaranjan and Shrivardhan. Adrenaline junkies can choose the alternate route to Kondana Caves and rappel down the Kondana waterfall (97-100ft) on their way back. Trekking time: 30min. Drive to: Udhewadi village; from Mumbai: 2hrs 30min (99km); from Pune: 2hrs 10min (79km)
Suggested read: 5 treks in Leh that you must plan this year
Sinhagad Fort[caption id="attachment_4709" align="aligncenter" width="676"] Photo: ephotocorp / Alamy Stock Photo[/caption] Level: Easy. This is the fort scaled by Shivaji’s trusted lieutenant Tanaji Malusare in the dead of the night, some say with the help of his pet monitor lizard. You needn’t take such risks, for it’s an easy climb that meanders through lush green shrubs and beautiful meadows, with the odd stall serving buttermilk and lemon juice. Once at the fort (1,316m), don’t miss out on ‘kade lot’, the cliff’s edge from where convicts were thrown off. Relax and feast on crisp kanda bhajis and a hot zunka–bhakar meal, both essential to the Sinhagad experience. Trekking time: 2hrs. Drive to: Sinhagad village or Atekar Vasti; from Mumbai: 3hrs 30min (200km); from Pune: 1hr 18min (38km). For those unable to hike it up, there’s also a motorable road that takes you almost all the way to the top.
Lohagad Fort[caption id="attachment_4710" align="aligncenter" width="530"] Image Source | notsosharrif[/caption] Level: Easy. Lohagad or the ‘Iron Fort’ trek is a popular monsoon trek that requires no real climbing experience. During the monsoon, the surrounding hills are drenched in green and the lakes fill up. It’s a climb of 450 odd steps up to the fort (1,033m), which is shrouded in clouds during the rain. Enjoy a stunning view of the Indrayani–Pavna basin and the grey-green Sahyadris. Trekking time: 3hrs. Drive to: Lohagad village near Lonavala; from Mumbai: 2hrs (98.5km); from Pune: 1hr 40min (63km)
Suggested read: Trip to Ladakh in a Budget
Torna Fort[caption id="attachment_4711" align="aligncenter" width="420"] @Regrann from @fullymadsubha – Torna Fort.Under the cloud. Instagram[/caption] Level: Moderate. The highest hill fort in Pune district, this classic monsoon trek packs in the thrills of adventure and nature. The trek winds through temples, solid stone buildings and centuries-old tanks, letting you believe you’re in another time. It starts with a gradual ascent, past waterfalls and crags, but gets steep as you near the fort (1,403m). Your reward: Gorgeous views of the adjoining forts and a walk in the clouds. Trekking time: 3–4hrs. Drive to: Velhe village; from Mumbai: 3hrs 43min (210km); from Pune: 1hr 45min (66km)
Read more: Kasol: Hidden Hamlet – Travel Guide.
Raigad Fort[caption id="attachment_4712" align="aligncenter" width="675"] The Raigad Fort trek involves plenty of stair-climbing. Photo: Nilesh Bhoyare[/caption] Level: Moderate. This trek stands out for the gruelling 1,500-odd steps that lead to the fort. Start from the base at Pachad and take the steps up to the top. Or depending on the weather and your enthusiasm, take the jungle trail. Pass through the Nane Darwaja and rest a while—the gradient gets steep beyond this point. Another 500 steps will take you to Maha Darwaja, and another 100 to the top of the fort (820m). If you don’t want to climb down, hop into the ropeway and get a few stunning photographs. Trekking time: 2hrs 30min. Drive to: Pachad village; from Mumbai: 2hrs (103km); from Pune: 2hrs 37min (125km)
Suggested read: Amboli – The Lush Evergreen Hill Station
Ratangad Fort[caption id="attachment_4713" align="aligncenter" width="449"] Image Source | me_prasad12[/caption] Level: Moderate. Ratangad, in Ahmednagar district, translates to ‘Jewel of Forts’. A 6km boat ride from Bhandardara, followed by a 4km walk, will take you to the base village Ratanwadi. Follow the moderately steep gradient through dense forests along the Pravara stream. The other route to the fort, from Samrad, is considerably tougher. After a final steep climb up iron ladders, the trek ends at a rock peak cavity called ‘Nedhe’ (1,297m). Trekking time: 4hrs. Drive to: Bhandardhara; from Mumbai: 3hrs 30mins (164km); from Pune: 4hrs 35min (173km)
Further read: 20 Budget travel experiences in India
Harishchandragad Fort[caption id="attachment_4714" align="aligncenter" width="421"] Image Source | fort_treasure[/caption] Level: Challenging. Harishchandragad dates back to the 6th-century Kalachuri dynasty. This long, arduous trek in Ahmednagar district meanders past ponds, caves and peaks. From Khireshwar, it is a steep climb through Kedareshwar Cave and Konkan Kada, whose 80-degree incline makes it look like a snake’s hood. Camp overnight at the cave or continue trekking to the highest point, Taramati Peak (1,429m), for picturesque vistas of Naneghat and forts near Murbad. Trekking time: 6hrs. Drive to: Khireshwar; from Mumbai: 4hrs 14min (207km); from Pune: 4hrs 36min (172km)
Read more: 5 Best places to visit under Rs.5000/-