Hiking - Destination

Torna Fort: The Trek to the Beginning of the Maratha Empire

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The Torna Fort trek is one of the most sought-after day treks, where hikers are quite often made to put their best foot forward. But while the trek may be a test of endurance, each and every step of the way promises the best bird’s eye of view of the surrounding natural beauty. This trek is a fascinating and mesmerising hike, punctuated with marks of Pune’s history and culture. As you enter the stone gates of the fort, you are immediately treated to the encapsulating sight of the vast grassland plains known as the Budhla Machi and as the trail continues, you will encounter several temples, desolate buildings and ancient water tanks.

Know More About

  • A Quick Guide to the Torna Fort Trek
  • The Torna Fort: The Best of Adventure And History
  • The Enchanting History of Torna Fort
  • The Best Time to Travel to the Torna Fort
  • The Best Routes To The Torna Fort
  • Torna Fort Trek: The Full Breakdown
  • Highlights of the Trek to Torna Fort
  • Trekking Essentials
  • Useful Tips For The Trek
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Summing Up

The Torna Fort was one of the first forts captured by Shivaji Maharaj, hence making it the core structure of the Maratha Empire back in 1643. Centuries later, the fort is now one of the most popular destinations for all trekking enthusiasts.

A Quick Guide to the Torna Fort Trek

torna fort trek overview
The Torna Fort: The First of Many Conquests (Source)
  • Where it is Located: Maharashtra
  • Number of Trekking Days: 1 day (5 to 6 hours)
  • Total Trekking Distance: 13 kilometres
  • Max Altitude: 4,603 feet
  • Trekking Grade: Moderate to Difficult
  • Trail: Well marked with steep inclines
  • Best season to visit: End of June to July and November to January
  • Basecamp: Velhe Village
  • Livingit Rank: Beginner - Advanced

The Torna Fort: The Best of Adventure and History

torna fort quote
The Bejewelled Fort of Torna

Standing tall at an altitude of 4,603 feet, the Torna Fort has had a complex history of annexation, but till today is one of the most rewarding destinations for trekkers. The trek consists of narrow tracks leading to the fort situated at the very top of the hill and the culminating view of the entire landscape of the nearby valleys and Sahyadri mountain ranges. The climb starts from the quaint Velhe village and progresses upward, with the trudge laden with wildflowers and sparkling streams.

This fort is often referred to as Prachandagad (Prachanda = huge; gad = fort) and is located 50 kilometres away from the city of Pune, Maharashtra, at an altitude of 4603 feet above sea level. The Torna Fort is the highest hilltop fort in the entire district, where every visitor can get the best possible view of several tourist attractions like the Pratapgad, Makarangad, Khadakwasla Dam, Singhad, Raireshwar, Bhatgar, Raigad, and Mahabaleshwar. The Torna Fort Trek has always been a trekker’s favourite as it provides the perfect combination of adventure, endurance and a lot history and folklore.

Praising the Torna Fort, James Douglas once said, “It was Shivaji’s first conquest, the nucleus around which all the others clustered, making it virtually the cradle of the Marathi Empire, which shocked the throne of the great Moguls. It has been the scene of many bloody battles. If Sinhagad is Lion’s den then Torna is Eagle’s Nest.”

The Enchanting History of Torna Fort

history of torna fort
Let’s Step into the Past (Source)

The Torna Fort was the first fort conquered by the Maratha ruler, Shivaji Maharaja, at a very young age of 16 years. The fort’s sheer magnitude and immensity prompted to the ruler to give it the name Prachandagad, meaning the “enormous fort”. And as legend has it, once when Shivaji Maharaj started restoring the works in and around the structure, he stumbled upon a hidden treasure. The bounty was said to be so immense that it enabled the king to finance the entire cost of rebuilding the fort of Rajgard, which stands tall on the hill opposite Murumbdev.

The Best Time to Travel to the Torna Fort

best time for torna fort trek
A Garland of Nature (Source)

The best time to trek the Torna fort is, undoubtedly, the monsoon season. After a spell of showers, the hills around this fort are invigorated with bright green trees, while the flamboyant wildflowers decorate them like freckles on a face. The entire scenery looks like the fort is decorated with a garland of flowers, or “toran”, which is probably how it got its name.

Besides the rains, you can also visit the Torna fort in the winter months of November to January when the weather is just as pleasant as the monsoon, except the paths aren’t as slippery. The only downside of trekking the Torna fort in winter is that the hills won’t be as green and the fresh smell of the rains will be missing.

If you aren’t someone who likes being sweaty, it is best that you avoid the summer trek to Torna fort as the temperatures are considerably high during this time and the almost dry trees won’t provide you with much shade.

Average Temperatures

  • Monsoon: 26 ° C to 30 ° C (day); 22 ° C to 23 ° C
  • Winter: 25 ° C to 30 ° C (day): 11 ° C to 20 ° C
  • Summer: 35 ° C to 40 ° C (day); 21 ° C to 26 ° C

The Best Routes to the Torna Fort

The starting point of the Torna Fort Trek is a small village called Velhe, which is around 47 km away from Pune. You can easily reach this village via Pune by the means of railway, roadway, and airway.

By Rail

The Shivajinagar Railway Station, Pune and Pune Junction are the two closest railway stations to Velhe. You can directly take a train to Pune station, from where you can easily avail an auto or a cab to the Swargate bus stand. From here, it’s a simple bus ride away to the base camp.

By Road

From the Swargate bus stand in Pune, you can easily catch a bus going towards Velhe village. The journey will take around 1 to 2 hours. From Mumbai, you can directly catch a Shivneri to Swargate, from where you can avail a local bus to Velhe.

Livingit Tip
Buses towards Velhe start frequenting as early as possible. It’s best advised to catch one of these earlier buses, by around 6:30 am, in order to reach the fort around a suitable time. Not only can you get a glimpse of the morning mist lining the hill ranges, but you can also avoid the harsh afternoon heat

If you’re travelling by a private car or cab, the Pune-Bangalore Highway (SH65) is one of the quickest ways to get to Velhe.

Via Sinhagad road, Velhe is around 46 kilometres away from Pune - making it a comfortable hour and a half ride from the city to the base camp. You could also take the route from Nasrapur, through National Highway 4, which is around 35 kilometres away from the Pune Station.

By Air

The closest airport to Velhe is the Pune International Airport, which is roughly 56 km away from the base camp. This airport is well-connected to all the major cities in India. To get to Velhe from the Pune International Airport, the route via Sinhagad Road is the quickest.

Torna Fort Trek: The Full Breakdown

Once you get to Velhe, you can have a small, but filling meal and relax before starting the Torna Fort Trek.

Velhe Village to Torna Fort

velhe village base camp for torna fort trek
An Easy Crossing (Source)

The trail begins at the Velhe village, on a concrete path near the police station. A little into the hike, you immediately come across a small and picturesque man-made waterfall and stream that you will have to cross to get back onto the trail leading up to the peak. The trail is well marked and one can see rusted signboards directing them to the fort uphill. Before ascending, trekkers usually take a moment to take in the gorgeous scenery around them; the waterfalls streamlining the expansive range of green carpeted hills surrounding them.

Aashish Chawla, in his blog about the Torna fort, writes, "If one stops here and look around him he will find himself watching at the numerous waterfalls all across various mountains, The stream below at the foothill looking serene and magical, with lush green carpet running parallel to it."

The trail leading uphill is very prominent and you will have to be extremely careful to avoid overlapping footpaths, which may lead you into uncharted forests. If the trek is attempted in the monsoon season, trekkers should expect the trail to be quite the muddy affair. The red soil paths are very loose, making it very prone to skidding and slipping. Remember to hold on to some of the large boulders and bushes dotting the trail. This steep climb up the hill lasts for about an hour until trekkers reach a far easier terrain.

Livingit Tip
It’s best to carry a trekking pole for a better hold along the path. Trekkers must also buy sturdy and well-gripped trekking shoes to avoid slipping on the steep sections of the trail.

view from torna fort
View from the Eagle’s Nest (Source)

As the trudge progresses, you will encounter a ridge that you have to cross over. Many campers and trekkers have counted this portion of the trek as one of the most exciting parts of the climb. One can get the panoramic view of the lush and dew-filled valleys and the glorious image of the Torna Fort, blanketed with streams of mist. From the ridge onwards, the climb becomes a little tougher due to a couple of rocky patches and continues for about an hour till the top.

Livingit Tip
Remember to use the railing along this section of the trail for better support.

Highlights of the Trek to Torna Fort

bini darwaja torna fort
Bini Darwaja: A King’s Entrance (Source)
torna fort water tank
The Ancient Water Tank (Source)
torna fort meghnair temple
Meghnai Temple: A Religious Shelter (Source)

After the steep climbs and rocky patches of the trek, you will be welcomed by the fort’s grand stone entrance called the Bini Darwaja. Traversing further inside the area, you will encounter a large and ancient water tank behind the Menghai Goddess temple.

torna fort budhla machi
The Scenic View of Budhla Machi (Source)
torna fort konkan darwaja
Konkan Darwaja: A Trip Down to Konkan (Source)
torna fort zunjar machi
The Pristine Zunjar Machi (Source)
torna fort ranges view
A Panorama of the Sahyadri Range (Source)

Other attractions within the fort include the Budhla Machi and the Konkan Darwaja. The route forward opens up into the Konkan plateau. Towards the top of the Torna plateau, trekkers are treated to the spectacular sight of the Zunjar Machi. At the very top, you will be rewarded with the breathtaking view of the surrounding Sahyadri range and its ridges.

About the fort and its architecture, Prashant Kothawade, an avid trekker, writes in his blog, "Watching the marvelous architecture of Zunjar machi was a stunning experience and one can’t help wondering how on earth these kind of structures were built without the modern tools and technology."

Trekking Essentials

Basics

Clothes

  • A raincoat
  • Thermals
  • An extra pair of trekking pants, in case the other gets wet or torn

Accessories

  • Sun caps and sunscreen to protect your skin from the harsh rays at higher altitudes
  • Waterproof gloves
  • A waterproof cover for your rucksacks
  • Plastic covers to compartmentalise all your equipment, waste and wet clothes

Toiletries

  • Moisturizers, lip balm and sunscreen to keep your skin protected
  • Cold cream
  • Toilet paper and a few light towels
  • Two 1 litre bottles

Medical Kit

  • Crepe bandage and ointment in the case of any injuries
  • Combiflam as a general painkiller
  • Crocin for fever
  • Moov or Relispray for muscular pulls, aches and sprains
  • Band-aids
  • A small roll of cotton and gauze
  • Avil for allergies
  • Antiseptic creams and bug spray
  • Dettol antiseptic

Useful Tips for Trekkers

  • Due to the lack of clean water source along the trail, always remember to carry plenty of water with you.
  • The trek is best suggested for experienced trekkers, especially during the monsoon months as the terrain becomes rather risky and dangerous during the rains
  • For beginner level trekkers, the Torna Fort trek is best attempted during the winter months
  • It is better to hire private vehicles until the base village from Asangaon, especially for trekkers coming in from Mumbai
  • The high difficulty level of the trail near the Torna Fort requires a great amount of physical stamina and endurance. It’s best to ensure that your cardiovascular endurance is maintained through a series of exercises and workouts that you can do, a few months before the trek.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I go camping at the Torna Fort? If so, should I bring my own equipment?

Yes. The Torna Fort is a popular destination for campers and it is best advised you bring your own tents and equipment for the trip. You can camp out at the Mengai temple, on the fort, and is mandatory that you carry plenty of insulating material - especially if you’re attempting the trek in the winters.

  1. Are there any water sources along the way?

While there are plenty of waterfalls and streams accentuating the path, none of these can be used for replenishing purposes. It is essential that your carry 2-4 litres of water for the trek.

  1. Can I attempt the trek if I’m a beginner level trekker?

The trek is a moderately difficult climb and is rather dangerous and risky during the monsoon season. During the rainy season, the trek is better suited for trekkers and climbers with sufficient experience, i.e, enthusiast and advanced level trekkers. However, beginners and first-timers can attempt in the spring season, only if they are accompanied by an expert or a guide.

  1. Is there connectivity at the Fort? Or any hotels or accommodation along the trek?

There are no lodges and hotels to stay at the Torna Fort or even in the nearby areas. Network and connectivity are extremely weak and it’s best advised that you inform your family and friends of your whereabouts.

  1. Can I attempt the trek at night?

The trek must be avoided at night as the Torna Fort is geographically isolated, with no accommodations and mobile connectivity. It is best to finish the trek during the day and complete the descent before the last transport bus back to Pune city.

Summing Up

torna fort conclusion
Torna Fort: The Perfect Blend of History, Nature, and Adventure (Source)

The Torna Fort Trek has always been a favourite amongst trekkers and campers alike and for a good reason too! This hike is the best of adventure and history all rolled up into one mesmerizing journey. It also provides an opportunity for all trekking enthusiasts to truly challenge themselves and push their endurance to the max. In the end, everyone is rewarded with a magical and spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding forestry and the Sahyadri ranges, from the ultimate bird’s eye view.

The Torna Fort’s historical significance also makes it one of the most important tourist destinations in the region. In conclusion, this trek gives you the chance to roll up your socks and venture onto a journey of excitement and endurance, with a breathtaking view waiting at every bend and turn of the trail.

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