“Hey, so what are you planning as your next destination?” asked our friend.
“Did you say plan? Oh I am a great planner. But, the universe seems to dislike the planned version of me,” I replied.
In 2013 I was trying to plan a hiking trip to the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand. Two months prior to its execution, India saw one of its worst natural calamities. Multiday cloudbursts in Uttarakhand killed thousands of people, animals, and destroyed roads and trails.
In 2016, from the Facebook group Globetrotting Girls India, I got to know about Kaas Pathar, another valley, or more accurately, plateau, of flowers near Satara city of Maharashtra. It is also a UNESCO world natural heritage site. The photos of the pink flowers fluttering in the air were bookmarked in my mind forever.
I opened the bookmark and made this trip, one year later in the September of 2017.
Where is Kaas Pathar and what’s so special about it?
Kaas Pathar is around 28 kms from the city of Satara. Satara is 253 kms away from the Indian city of Mumbai and 110 kms away from Pune. When monsoon recedes, wildflowers bloom in Kaas plateau. The bloom season starts from August and continues up to October. Historically, the best bloom is encountered in the month of September.
Visitors need to register themselves and pay a certain fee to attain entry into the protected area. No more than 3000 visitors are allowed per day. The timing slots are 7AM–10AM, 10AM-1PM , 1PM-4PM and 4PM-7PM. In each slot a maximum of 750 visitors are allowed, though we are unsure how strictly this is enforced. To avoid any risk, tourists should register themselves well in advance. It is illegal to stay or camp in Kaas Pathar.
Tales from the road
We boarded the sleeper bus to Satara at midnight from Navi Mumbai. We had no accommodation booking in Satara as all the hotels were full. To make matters worse, the scheduled dropping time of the bus was way before the break of dawn.
Fortunately, a couple of auto rickshaws were parked at the dropping point of the bus on the highway. It was dark and drizzling. The dozen people who got off were too confused to react.
Their faces screamed: Hey, we are stranded on a highway in a rainy night!
One of those auto rickshaws brought us to the MRSTC bus stand of Satara. Surprisingly, even at that time of the day, the bus stand was bustling.
“The first bus to Kaas leaves at 8 AM,” said the guy at the counter.
We had tickets for the 7-10 AM slot. As usual we had chosen the earliest slot to avoid crowd and heat; though we were perturbed at the thought of early morning mist ruining visibility.
With no choice left, we hired the nearest autorickshaw waiting at the bus stand. He was waiting to catch his prey, helpless visitors like us, whom he aimed to take advantage of.
The breathtaking drive from Satara to Kaas
We were tossed inside the three wheeler vehicle when it passed the zigzag village paths. The sky was lit up in the dawn colours. We left the village and entered the misty Kaas Road. The road was filled with joggers and health enthusiasts stretching out. The auto rickshaw whooshed past the fitness freaks.
The way was engulfed in thick fog and visibility was almost zero. Weekenders who are planning to self drive should keep the fog in mind while deciding.
After a quick ‘walk through the mist’ break, we were back in the auto. The mist cleared as we ascended up, only to settle over the valleys below. Standing on the cliffside of the road, I (Tania) relived the experience I had in Shimla eight years back.
We hadn’t yet reached the protected area but the bloom was already visible on the prairies on both sides of the road. When the mist cleared, we saw that beyond the cliffs of the Kaas Road on each side were blue lakes formed by the Kanher and Urmodi dams respectively.
The colours were playing a game. Each wanted attention. We, the victims of this beautiful game of nature, were too astounded by all the beauty. Mumbaikars are extremely lucky to get such a heavenly backyard.
Nature’s colour gallery at Kaas Pathar
“The Almighty’s colour palette must look this,” we wondered. We were walking towards the three blades of the windmill visible to us from the entry point. In between us and the windmill stood a vast land of pink. We were carefully placing our feet on the scarce exposed stone surfaces in between the bushes.
Soon, a woman came yelling and running toward us. From her we got to know that going near the windmill zone is prohibited. Broken hearted, we and the few others who were imagining Bollywood poses in their mind started walking back.
The myriad colours blossoming on the lush green was a treat to the eyes. They say these flowers change colour every week during the blossoming season. When we visited, pink was definitely ruling the crowd.
Occasionally, we also found a little pop of blue among the green.
The right side of the entry point was comparatively quieter. We were advised to stay on the dirt path without meandering much. The restriction was to save the flowers from getting trampled. Following the dirt path, we came to a stretch where the flowers were already dead. The Kaas Road and the exit gate of this trail were visible from this point.
We entered the trail on the opposite side of the road. This trail was fenced with iron mesh on both sides to prevent anyone from entering and stepping on the blossoms. White wildflowers grew here in abundance.
A little later, the iron mesh went missing and the fence was barely a demarcation of the trail. A few metres ahead the fence was only on one side. Farther along the trail, we could see the green of the grass morphed into pink. There was a sea of pink on both sides. The bloom of pink was denser in this stretch. We walked till we reached the end of the fence. The morning air was caressing the blossoms. We could hardly believe we are living this typical Bollywood scenario.
Our thoughts on Kaas Lake
A little away from the shore of the Kaas lake is the parking point of private vehicles which come for the three hours excursion to Kaas Pathar. There are buses which shuttle visitors to and fro from the parking point to the entry gate of Kaas Pathar flower valley for a nominal fee of INR 10. The distance is barely 2 kilometres.
Just a month ago, our experience at Bhandardara lake was incredible. Fuelled by high expectations, when we reached the Kaas lake, we found broken pieces of glass everywhere. It was clearly a picnic and drinking point.
As the ripples of water formed waves and hit the coast, we wondered how the lake water was still clean.
See you, Kaas, next year
Yes we intend to travel to Kaas again next year in hopes of finding the plateau tinged in some other colour of the rainbow. This time we will go prepared, with the right clothes, right make up, and who knows, maybe we, the real life couple will pose a nice challenge to the reel life couples of Bollywood! 😉
Tips on Kaas Pathar Travel
- Kaas Pathar comes to life in the months of August, September and October. Mid to end September is the best time to capture the bloom.
- After deciding the exact time and date, the first thing a visitor need to do is register his/her visit with the official website of Kaas by paying a fee of INR 100 for Fridays and weekends, INR 50/80 otherwise.
- The first bus to Kaas from Satara leaves at 8 AM.
- Try to book a private vehicle from Satara to Kaas because the stretch is incredibly beautiful and you will definitely want to stop on the way multiple number of times.
- Try not to book an autorickshaw because they are mostly touts. They overcharge and ask for more money once the trip is over.
- While approaching Kaas from Satara, there will be two entry points to the Kaas Pathar trail. The one on the left side is the one which you should prioritise.
- Several state transport buses leave for Mumbai and Pune from Satara bus terminus. The charge for Mumbai is INR 340(till Navi Mumbai).
- While walking on the flower trail be careful never to step on the flowers.
Have you been to Kaas Pathar? Do you intend to travel to it anytime soon? Do you have any questions? Comment below and let me know!
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