Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. Perhaps, this is the reason why many of us feel nostalgic, and a surprising sense of calm when we travel to explore the serenity of green. With a number of long weekends and summer holidays coming, one should have a few handy options to go to and enjoy a day in the laps of nature. Surat is a city that hoards a ton of travel and nature lovers, but many think that it doesn’t have much to give when it comes to soothing weekend getaways. So here’s the list of 5 happening places to spend your weekend that photographer and travel-enthusiast, Pooja Jariwala recommends every Surti to try once, and feel the ecstatic vibes of the lush greenery they offer.
1. The Bilimora-Waghai Narrow Gauge Train (110 km from Surat)
Did you know there is a ‘toy train’ near Surat that has been the pride of the region for 104 years? The 63-km track of this train was laid by the British at the insistence of Sayajirao Gaekwad in 1913. It passes through serene jungle and refreshing water bodies to treat your eyes. It takes about 3 hours and 5 minutes to complete the journey and runs twice a day. The route has nine stations between Bilimora in Valsad district and Waghai in the Dangs. You can even stay back at Padamdungari Eco Tourism Campsite, that stands amongst the forests of Sahyadri mountain range and go camping or enjoy the scenic beauty of Gira waterfall nearby.
2. Zarwani Waterfalls, Rajpipla (160 km from Surat)
Zarwani Waterfalls is deep inside Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary which is approachable from the road from Rajpipla towards Kevadia Colony, Narmada Dam. The Forest Department helps organize camping and trekking near the falls. It is an excellent place for nature lovers and wildlife photographers. There are many resorts, both private and government-owned at Kevadia and Garudeswar or at Rajpipla, to spend your weekend at.
3. Salher Fort, Nashik (190 km from Surat)
Situated on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, Salher is the highest fort in Maharashtra which offers spectacular views of the Baglan mountain range in Nashik. The fort was under Shivaji Maharaj in 1671 and was attacked by the Mughals in 1672. If you are planning for an overnight trek, hire a villager who would carry the firewood for you and would also be helpful as a guide. The temperature gets very low during the night so it is essential to have enough firewood to keep yourselves warm. Also, keeping a makeshift stove and a sleeping bag could prove to be handy, in case you plan to stay back at the fort. The view of the night sky will definitely take your breath away.
4. Mahal campsite (147 km from Surat)
The Mahal Eco Campsite is bestowed with rivers and bamboo glides, with excellent walking and trekking options. It is located on the banks of the Purna River, in the middle of the Purna Wildlife Sanctuary and is a part of the Dang Forest Division North. It is surrounded by a vast & rich forest laced with the Purna & Gira rivers. For an eco-tourist wanting to enjoy birds of moist deciduous forest mixed with bamboo, this is the best place to visit. It’s also near the Girmal Falls, the highest waterfall of Gujarat, which offers a breathtaking view. Do not forget to pack yourself munchies as this route does not have much of dhabas or eateries.
5. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Panchmahal (200 km from Surat)
For historical site lovers, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park UNESCO heritage site will be a treat to behold. Located in Panchmahal district, 47 kilometres from the city of Vadodara, it was briefly the capital of the Sultanate of Gujarat. It is studded with forts with bastions starting from the hills of Pavagadh and extending into the city of Champaner. The park’s landscape includes archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage monuments such as Chalcolithic sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat. There are palaces, entrance gates and arches, mosques, tombs and temples, residential complexes, agricultural structures and water installations such as stepwells and tanks, dating from the 8th to the 14th centuries. In case you wish to climb up the hill and camp, there are a lot of spots to set out the campfire and sit under the open sky.
6. Nargol Beach, Gujarat (145 km from Surat)
If you think Daman, Silvassa and Dandi are too mainstream beaches for sunbathing then you must take a long ride to Nargol. It is a village located in the southern region of Gujarat near the Maharashtra border. The beach is dotted with Casuarina trees and the waters have a population of sea turtles. The nearest town is Vapi, located about 25 kilometres (16 mi), and the nearest airports are Daman and Surat. The countryside surrounding Nargol is dotted with small Parsi-style farmhouses. Around Nargol you can see water buffalos swimming in the rivers or quiet landscapes of dry savannah where only a few people have their homes. The beaches are wide, quiet, and tranquil. You can also stay back at the resorts in Umbergaon and relish the holiday.
Hope you have a great holiday and these places let you discover the traveller in you.