The Rajgad trek gives you the honour of witnessing the mighty architecture that embodies the elegance and nobility of the Royal Maratha Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja. Although getting there through the steeps climbs and narrow trails may make you falter, you will regain all your lost enthusiasm once you reach the fort. The fortress depicts the beauty of a lost kingdom and most of the structure still stands tall and proud.
The journey itself is worthwhile and for trekking enthusiasts, it is only moderate in difficulty. Experience a wonderful sunset at Balekilla Marg, the Padmavati Lake, and sights of the mountain range Sahyadri which in the month of October is covered all round with wild flowers and a lush cape of grass. You can complete the trek within a day, but the Rajgad fort trekking experience can be done to the fullest with two or even three days to spare.
Table of Content
- Overview of the Rajgad Trek
- Rajgad: The Fort with a Majestic Past
- Best Season for the Rajgad Trek
- Reaching the Rajgad Trek Base
- Routes for the Rajgad Trek
- Rajgad Trek: The Detailed Itinerary
- Fascinating Spots at Rajgad
- Things to Take With You
- Facilities Available along the Rajgad Trek
- Summing Up
The word ‘Rajgad’ literally translates into the Royal Fort (Raj = Royal; Gad = Fort). The Rajgad trek, with its captivating ruins and breathtaking panoramas, makes for one of the most exquisite treks in India.
Overview of the Rajgad Trek
- Where it is Located: Maharashtra
- Number of Trekking Days: 1 - 3 days
- Max Altitude: 1,400 m (4,600 ft)
- Trekking Distance: 22 km
- Trekking Grade: Moderate
- Trail Type: Mud trail
- Base Camp: Gunjavane Village
- Best Season: Monsoon (September to October)
- Livingit Rank: Beginner - Enthusiast
Rajgad: The Fort with a Majestic Past
Rajgad was constructed on the “Murumb Devacha Dongar”. The name of the fort was initially Murumbdev but Shivaji Maharaj renamed it to Rajgad in honour of its majesty. Standing tall and proud at an altitude of 4,600 ft (1,400 m), the fort overlooks the 3 plateaus, namely, Padmavati Machi, Sanjivani Machi, and Suvela Machi. The importance surrounding this fort is due to its prominence in the Shivaji Maharaj’s Hindavi Swarajya. Rajgad fort was the capital of his empire until it later shifted to Raigad.
Its historical importance is still remembered today as Shivaji Maharaj resided in the fort for more than 25 years. When Shivaji was officially given the title of Chhatrapati or royal ruler, he moved the capital. Many memorable events took place in the fort such as the birth of Maharaj’s son Rajaram and the death of the Queen Saibai, the historical homecoming of Shivaji from Agra, Afzal Khan’s head burial in Balekilla, and the incident of Khandoji Khopade. In 1665 when the Treaty of Purandar was signed, the Rajgad fort was kept as one of the twelve forts in Shivaji’s command while the rest were given away to Mughal rulers.
Best Season for the Rajgad Trek
In the rains, the valley surrounding Rajgad blushes with greenery and colourful blossoms while the ruins of the fort itself are covered with a bright green blanket of moss. The road up may be a little slippery, but once you reach the top, you get to relish in the cool air and take in the fresh fragrance that is typical of the monsoon season.
So, the rainy season is definitely the best time to embark on the Rajgad Trek.
The weather in the winter season is pleasant as well, but the summer season is particularly hot, so Rajgad is best left alone in this season, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like being sweaty.
- Monsoon: 25 ° C to 30 ° C (day); 19 ° C to 23 ° C (night)
- Winter: 28 ° C to 32 ° C (day); 9 ° C to 13 ° C (night)
- Summer: 35 ° C to 40 ° C (day); 21 ° C to 23 ° C (night)
Reaching the Rajgad Trek Base
Rajgad is just south-west of Pune, Maharashtra and its base, the Gunjavane village, is only 60 kilometres from Pune and 210 kilometres from Mumbai. You can choose any one of these transportations to get to Gunjavane village to start the Rajgad trek:
If you’re travelling from Mumbai, it is recommended that you take a Mumbai-Pune bus or rent a car to get to Pune before travelling further.
To get to Gunjavane from Pune, take the Pune-Bangalore Highway (NH4) and drive towards Satara. Once you reach Warje Naka, drive for around 30 more kilometres till you reach Nasrapur. You will reach Gunjavane in 28 km if you take a right from there.
You can also get on an ST bus at Swargate Bus Depot, Pune to Nasrapur, that is only 23 km away from Gunjavane, and take an auto or a cab to reach the Rajgad Trek Base. The bus frequency to Nasrapur is good, so you won’t have to wait long at the depot.
The closest airport to Rajgad is the Pune International Airport that is well-connected to major cities in India. You can rent a cab from the airport to cover the approximately 80 km to Gujavane.
Pune Railway Station is the closest railway station to Rajgad. It is roughly 60 km away, a distance that can be covered in around 2 hours.
Routes for the Rajgad Trek
There happen to be four popular routes that you could take to reach the glorious fort, these are:
- If you are up for an easy trek, then try going through the Vajeghar-Pali route. The only downside to the Rajgad trek via Pali Darwaja is that it is longer than the other available routes.
- Possibly the most commonly taken route is from the Gunjavane Village via the Chor Darwaza which takes you to Padmavati Machi. This route will take you 2 or 3 hours.
- A more advanced trek comes through the route from the Gunjavane village and passes through the Gunjavane Darwaza and into the fort. There is rock climbing involved with this trek and you will need experience as well as a guide.
- If you want a fun trek, take the route that starts from the Bhutonde village and passes through the Alu Darwaza to reach the fort. In the monsoon season, the route is difficult and not recommended to try as reaching the village is tough. You will have to cross the Bhatghar dam which would have risen in water level by then.
If you are the adventurous type and plan to enjoy a fun weekend, then why not try out one of these routes to the Rajgad Fort. It would be perfect for you and definitely be an experience to remember.
Rajgad Trek: The Detailed Itinerary
One of the most fun Rajgad trek route to the fort would be the one via Chor Darwaza. If you plan on going on this trek, then this is how your itinerary for the journey would look like.
Gunjavane Village – Padmavati Machi – Bale Killa
The first leg of the journey involves you reaching the Gunjavane Village. If you are coming from Mumbai or Pune then it will take you around 3 to 4 hours to reach the village. The Rajgad trek from Mumbai will take a long time, even the entire day to complete so we suggest you start out early.
Nature trail as you Ascend to Chor Darwaza
Once you reach the village, you get off to an easy start where you pass through beautiful woods. After walking for roughly an hour, you will finally make it to a vantage point from where Rajgad can be seen. Slowly the trail will slope upwards and then you reach Chor Darwaza as the trail ascends further. There are numerous views that you can see on the way, one of them being the Sahyadri range where wild flowers will be in bloom and wildlife surrounds.
Ascend to Maha Darwaza
Since the climb to Chor Darwaza is a little steep, there is a built-in railing you can hold onto and make your way safely. As you continue on, you will come across the Padmavati Temple. Here you can rest and grab a bite to eat. You can explore for a bit if you like, before making your way to Bale Killa. From here you can utilise your climbing skills and reach the Maha Darwaza. Be careful along this climb as it is fairly steep and make use of the railings to be safe. This point is the highest part of this stage in your journey. Once you’ve rested from your strenuous climb, you can explore the ruins and caves.
Bale Killa Marg
This point of the fort is high up in the hills and from there you will be able to spot other famous forts and structures like Sinhagad, Torna, and Purandar. Take this opportunity to embrace the view, click some pictures, and have a picnic. The nature around you at this time will be lush and green, make the most of it!
While you’re having fun, make sure you’re not harming the environment or compromising the heritage of the fort. Don’t litter the place or write or carve on the walls. Carry plastic bags with you to dump your litter in.
Once you are done exploring and filled to the brim with memories, you can start your trek down to Gunjavane village and try to make it before it gets too dark. At the village, you can get a place to stay and continue your journey on the next day.
You can take some of the alternate routes to come back in case you wanted a change of scenery.
In his blog, Anand Sharma, an avid trekker, writes, “The night at the fort is a different ball game altogether – there’s no electricity to speak of, and the nearest lights you will see are at the small hamlets below. Gazing at the star lit sky is a cathartic experience for the crowd and stress tormented soul of a typical Mumbaikar.”
Fascinating Spots at Rajgad
The Rajgad trek has a plethora of fascinating that you just have to explore. From the 3 Machis to the Rajwada, all of these places offer a gem of memory that you can collect as you traverse the routes that have been walked on by so many people over the years.
When you reach the Padmavati Machi, you will be able to glimpse at the lake that stands beautifully in front. This man-made lake still has its walls in place till date, and an arch has been constructed to mark the entrance of the grand lake.
As you take in the Padmavati temple you can also explore the Rameshwar Temple right next to it. There does still exist a Shivalinga that people claim to be the same from Shivaji Maharaj’s empire. Facing towards the south, there is an idol of Lord Hanuman while the rest of the temple faces east.
To explore the remains of a couple of castles, you can climb the stairs that lie in front of the Rameshwar Temple. If you look around you can find Amberkhana and level ground. Ahead there is an artillery storage area.
As the name states, this is a massive door that is even large enough for elephants to enter through. It was designed so that passengers on the elephant could easily enter through. To get to this door you must go from Pali village. When you go through it, in 200 meters you will come across another better-protected door that contains circular openings specifically for firing cannons at attackers. After safely entering through this door, you can see houses on the sides and through the structure, you would have reached Padmavati Machi.
This structure actually consists of three doors. The one you see first is simply designed but strongly protected with walls on either side. The next door is more intricately carved and pleasing, while the last door also carved, has the figure of Lord Ganesh along with elephant trunks carrying pots. It is speculated that the door was built and carved before the empire of Shivaji.
The fort of Rajgad has three prominent machis, and the most beautiful to witness is the Padmavati Machi. Here a residential area, as well as a base for artillery, was maintained. One great attraction to this Machi is the ruins of the Padmavati temple, Queen Saibai’s tomb, the secret doorway, Gunjavane Darwaza, and multiple yards used to store arms.
This Machi runs around two kilometres long and consists of three phases. In every phase, you can see circular openings meant for cannons and added protection. There are the remains of the rest of the castle around and an underground tunnel for quick escapes back in the day. To get to this machi, use the path through the Alu Darwaza.
This Machi is meant to add protection to the rest of the fort and shield attacks coming in from the east. It is also constructed in three phases with added protection and armoury all around. The machi starts from the hill called Duba and narrows down as you go along. There is an idol of Hanuman again facing towards the south as well as a cistern nearby. There is a lot of area for an underground tunnel and quick escape route. As you get to the second phase you come across a boulder with the idol of Lord Ganesha at its base. This marks the point of a secret doorway called Madhe Darwaza. Another secret doorway exists called Hatti Prastar.
When the original fort was renamed to Rajgad by Shivaji, he also constructed the Padmavati Temple. Inside the temple is a great amount of room to fit over 30 people and drinking water is available outside. Queen Saibai’s tomb is built in front of the temple.
Kaleshwar: The Fortified Place
After the second phase of Suvela Machi, there is a path to the right that leads to the remains of a Rameshwar temple. There is a Shivalinga inside the temple with idols of Lord Shiva. Continuing past the temple gets you to Kaleshwar's fortified place. There is another secret doorway at the bottom of the structure.
If you have taken the route through Torna to the Rajgad fort then you can use this entrance. The state of this door and surrounding structures is in ruins. However many carvings can still be admired like the depiction of a deer being hunted by a tiger.
Things to Take With You
- A sturdy backpack
- Rope for climbing
- 2-litre bottles of water
- A reliable flashlight and extra batteries
- Portable Charger
- Energy bars and energy drinks
- Raincoat / Plastic covering for bag
- First Aid Essentials
Pack light and carry only the essentials that you will require on the trek. Bring warm clothes if you are going in the month of October and wear sturdy hiking boots. Monsoon season may still be going on if you travel around July to October so wear a raincoat along with a waterproof bag.
Always carry a compass and a map of the area with you, no matter what trek you go for.
How to Pack
Learning how to pack as light as possible may seem trivial, but it is an important skill to have if you want to finish your treks without any trouble. You can maximize your space in the bag along with keeping the bag lightweight if you pack properly. Do not carry unnecessary clothes, objects, or electronics. Pack the heaviest items at the bottom and work your way up with the lighter items. Pack everything into the bag nice and tight to reduce air space and have a firm backpack ready for your journey.
Facilities Available along the Rajgad Trek
- Accommodation Facility: The Padmavati Mandir can house around 30 people and tourist houses are available at Padmavati Machi.
- Food Facility: Food will be available in the nearby Gunjavane village.
- Drinking Water Facility: There are multiple cisterns around near the Padmavati Temple, with clean drinking available.
There it is! All the information you need to embark on this wonderful weekend trek. Remember to pack light, start out early, and look around, explore as much as you can. We hope you take our advice, let us know if you tried this trek out. Share photos and let us know about your experience in the comments section below.