Located merely 400 km from Mumbai, Kolhapur is a comfortable weekend destination from the financial capital of India. Being strgap for time, I often select the locations which are only a night’s train journey away from my home. Frankly speaking, this was the primary reason why I decided to explore this city. It’s only when I started to research on the places to visit in Kolhapur, it became obvious that my decision was right. The city sounded quite promising!
After reaching Kolhapur, the first thing I did was to order a cup of enticing Indian chai. It’s a nice way to wake up when arriving at a place early in the morning. I don’t drink this kind of tea in day-to-day life, and in my mind its taste is strongly associated with travel, adventures, getting out of my comfort zone… When a new city overwhelms me with impressions, I just take a break and sort out my thoughts over a tiny cup of chai.
So, after the Indian tea’s revitalizing effect I was fully awake and ready to explore Kolhapur. Right from the beginning the city revealed one of the aspects it’s known for – Kolhapuri shoes were literally everywhere, in every second shop! And they were available in a vast array of colors and sizes: from really tiny ones, probably meant for dwarfs…
to the giant ones!
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Places to visit in Kolhapur
Being a lousy shopper, I ditched the stores and allowed the city to slowly unfold itself. Here are some places to visit in Kolhapur I wouldn’t recommend to miss.
Mahalaxmi Temple is a place of religious significance for uncountable devotees who come all over India to worship Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune and prosperity. According to the legend, the godly couple of Vishnu and Lakshmi used to leave in the area where the temple was later constructed. Built in the 7th century, it’s an interesting example of the ancient temple architecture and is recommended to visit regardless your religious beliefs.
Just before offering the lotus flowers to the gods, these elderly ladies asked me to take a photo with them. I wish I asked someone to take that photo with my camera as well! Just imagine, 6-7 women in colorful sarees, and each of them smiling and holding a lotus flower in her hands! “One photo, madam” is an inevitable part of my travel experiences in India, and this was one of the rare cases when I genuinely didn’t mind to pose.
When traveling, I’m always on the lookout for original architectural forms. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, perhaps you remember my excitement for the stepwells? It’s all started with the Adalaj Stepwell, and then there was Rani ki Vav in Patan, Adi-Kadi Vav in Junagadh and many more. In Kolhapur, I was fortunate to discover these huge oil lamp pillars. Although people told me this is a common sight across Maharashtra, these pillars are something I have never seen before, and they definitely rank high in the list of my personal travel discoveries 2018 🙂 Standing near the Mahalaxmi temple, they must be looking heavenly when lit.
The Rankala Lake
If I happen to live in Kolhapur, I would imagine myself spending quite a lot of time in this part of the city, near the Rankala lake. It’s a lovely spot for gazing at placid waters of the lake, lined up with palm trees which are standing proudly against the backdrop of the sky. It’s a manmade lake with a religious significance. A pleasant pathway around the lake is complemented by the garden, play area for kids and lots of food stalls with both veg and non-veg snacks.
Located in the historical part of the city, Bhavani Mandap is a testament to Kolhapur’s grandeur in the olden days. The courtyard is a popular place for the locals to spend evenings with family and friends.
The Old Palace (Rajaram College)
16 years ago I graduated from the Pedagogical University in Kherson, Ukraine. Yes, in case I didn’t mention it before, I’m a qualified philologist with a master’s degree in the Ukrainian language and world literature. And although I enjoy learning and gaining new skills, I don’t think anything in the world can motivate me academically once again. The only exception would be an opportunity to attend a college as beautiful as the Rajaram College in Kolhapur. When the Maratha rulers moved to the New Palace, they generously let the Old Palace to be converted into the college. The building is exquisitely beautiful with all its arches and stonework intricacies.
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The New Palace
Constructed in the end of the 19th century, the octagonal building of the New Palace is an awe-inspiring example of the regal architecture. Just like many royal palaces in India, it combines the traces of different architectural styles to reveal the most charming results (remember the stunning Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara?)
The NEw Palace is still home to the direct descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and the ground floor houses a museum, dedicated to the royal lifestyle of the kings of Kolhapur. Here you’ll find weaponry, costumes, photographs and oil paintings, jewelry and furniture. A large section of the museum displays stuffed animals and photographs of royalties with their hunting trophies – it seems hunting was one of their favorite pastimes.
The galleries of the New Palace museum left me indifferent, to be honest, but if there is one thing I wouldn’t recommend to miss, it’s the Darbar Hall. For my non-Indian readers, Darbar Hall is equivalent to the king’s court in Europe – it’s a highly ornate hall where a ruler received his guests and had formal meetings. By now I’ve seen quite a few Darbar halls in the Indian palaces, but the one in Kolhapur easily beats them all. Unfortunately, the indoor photography was not allowed.
It seems they’re really fond of waterlilies in Kolhapur – I saw at least three lilyponds during my short visit: near the New Palace, in front of the Town Hall and somewhere else in the public garden.
In front of the palace area, there is a pretty lake with an adjacent mini zoo, where the deer, geese, peacocks, and emus are allowed to roam around freely. The animals were obviously well fed and cared of.
The Town Hall Museum
Surrounded by sprawling gardens, the quaint 19th-century building of the Town Hall is another “must see” place in Kolhapur. Our rickshaw driver (whose name was Shivaji, by the way, I’m not kidding!) said half an hour would be sufficient for the Town Hall, but I spent at least one hour extra, enjoying the lush greenery and the quiet alleys after visiting the museum. Although very small, the museum was rather decent, with various exhibits ranging from ancient findings to the oil paintings, marble busts, ivory figurines and sandalwood work.
The Panhala fort
Conveniently located 20 km from Kolhapur, the ancient Panhala fort is a quaint hill station and a pleasant day trip destination. The medieval structure overlooks the Sahyadri mountain range, so rest assured to observe some breathtaking views.
I visited Kolhapur during the monsoon, and this is that time of the year when roasted corn on the cob tastes especially appetizing, with its mix of spices, salt, and lemon juice. I’ll even go as far as saying that for me it defines the taste of the Indian monsoon. Exploring the remainings of the Panhala fort with a “bhutta” (the Hindi word for corn) in my hand was a charming experience.
These are just a few places to visit in Kolhapur, but there are other attractions in the region I had to skip due to the lack of time. One of them is the remarkable Kopeshwar temple, located approximately 80 km from Kolhapur. Hope to make my way to this architectural wonder one day!
Where to stay in Kolhapur
There is no lack of budget (and not so budget) places to stay in Kolhapur. To get the best deals, enter your dates in one of the search forms below:
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