What to Do around The Westin Pune Koregaon Park

Pune, the old capital of the Maratha Empire, is a cultural and educational hub often referred to as the Oxford of the East. A big attraction is the leafy quarter of Koregaon Park—full of drama, mysticism, and sprawling mansions, all built around ancient banyans.

2nd floor,730/32,Sadashiv peth,Above Lavanya Sarees,, Kumthekar Road,Pune, Sadashiv Peth, Pune, Maharashtra 411030, India
There are many secrets and many stories hidden beneath Pune’s bustle, waiting for you to uncover them on this fascinating three-hour walk. Duck into narrow alleyways—some forgotten by time, others stuck in a time warp—to uncover medieval royal courts, ancient temples, erstwhile aristocratic dwellings, and aging bazaars. You have 2,000 years of history at your disposal, and a well informed volunteer guide to lead the way. If historical facts and dates aren’t your thing, join the walk for a look at the pace of life in old Pune, where the new jostles with the old, and the old with the ancient. A number of families continue to inhabit their ancestral homes in the old core, particularly in the wadas of Pune. A wada is a traditional residential structure. It consists of two or more floors with multiple rooms built around one or more inner courtyards. The more ornate wadas belonged to wealthy families (merchants, aristocrats, and so on), while the simple ones were designed as community housing, with many families living there. The walk ends at one of Pune’s most well known wadas, Vishrambaug Wada.
For years now, Koregaon Park has been associated with a hint of mysticism. It all began with the formation of the sprawling Osho International Asharam on the quiet and leafy Lane 1. The commune was established by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a controversial philosopher and guru who died in 1990, and is a center for spirituality and meditation. With its distinct black tiles and white marble pathway, the massive property is easy to identify; followers are often seen in maroon robes, on their way in and out. The focus here is on relaxation and de-stressing. Visitors can amble along the green estate, sign up for a meditation workshop, get a massage or some other therapeutic service, mingle with visitors from across the globe over a cup of tea, or even go for a swim.
Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra, India
Take the afternoon off and wander along the many lanes of Koregaon Park. You’ll encounter an eclectic mix of establishments: Hole-in-the-walls, chic cafes, pubs, food stalls, fine dining restaurants, fast food chains, designer boutiques, and street markets. You’ll also get to see how the other half live. Sprawling bungalows with ornate gates and name plates dot these lanes, each one grander than before. The sheer opulence of the houses here will make your jaw drop. But the real magic of a walk in these parts lies with the ancient banyan trees lining the streets. They stand tall and wide with their aerial roots dropping down in clusters and almost matching the length of the trees, creating a strange but beautiful canopy. Despite the constant flow of traffic on the main outer road, there is quiet to be found here. The car horns are replaced by chirping bird calls, and an occasional laugh might float through an open window.
54, Wellesley Road, Opposite Govt College Of Engineering, Baluchi Vasti, Shivajinagar, Pune, Maharashtra 411005, India
“What better way to understand yoga than to travel to its birthplace?” says Katie Christ. Two years ago, the food stylist put her life in San Francisco on hold to spend two months studying at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. “It was the biggest luxury I have ever allowed myself.” Katie had been practicing Iyengar yoga, a style of hatha yoga that focuses on alignment and uses props like blocks and belts, for more than 10 years when she decided she wanted to study in India.

She applied to RIMYI, where the venerable B.K.S. Iyengar (above), the founder of Iyengar yoga, occasionally teaches with his son and daughter. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” says Katie. “There’s no music. No incense.” RIMYI requires each applicant to have eight years of Iyengar experience plus a letter of recommendation from his or her yoga teacher. Acceptance can take up to two years. The year before she attended, Katie traveled to Pune for two weeks to experience life in the city.

That first visit happened to coincide with B.K.S. Iyengar’s 90th birthday. “I had no Indian garb appropriate for the festivities, so I went shopping, and in one afternoon I saw so much. A woman making a rangoli, a traditional folk art design, let me try to draw one with colored powder on the street. At the market I saw a man whose sole job was to peel garlic bulbs. I tasted the most amazing chai, made by a chai wallah who used pliers to crush fresh ginger into a pot of milk with tea leaves and ground spices. I knew I wanted to stay. [On my second trip] these experiences would become part of my everyday routine.”

The institute doesn’t provide housing, so Katie used her first visit to find a flat to rent for her two-month stay. “I had the perfect commute: a 10-minute walk through a public garden where I would watch teens flirting on benches and women in saris and sneakers taking their morning power walks.” Classes were held six days a week: two-hour sessions led by a member of the Iyengar family and three hours of open practice each day, and an hour of pranayama (controlled breathing) once a week. “In open practice, I experienced incredible generosity from students who were advanced teachers,” says Katie. “If someone recognized that I was struggling, they would come over to help me achieve better alignment. Several times Geeta Iyengar [the daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar] called out to give me specific instruction.

I felt incredibly fortunate, considering there were up to 120 students in a class.” When she wasn’t in class, Katie and her Australian neighbors, all senior Iyengar teachers attending the institute, would hit the markets and seek out the best chai, Indian sweets, and chappals (sandals). On Sundays they took trips to sights like the ancient sculptures and paintings in the Ellora and Ajanta caves. Katie felt her body becoming stronger and her head becoming clearer with each passing day. “The goal of yoga is to calm the chatter of the mind. When I arrived I had tons of chatter,” she says. “After practicing so intensely every day for two months, the chatter became a murmur.”

From $450 for a one-month program, not including meals and accommodations. 91/(0) 20-2565-6134, bksiyengar.com. This story appeared in the January/February 2012 issue.
103, 104, 1st Floor, Power Point Opposite Murphies Above Menchie’s Pingale Chowk, Lane 6, Ganga Fortune Society, Meera Nagar, Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra 411001, India
Set aside some time to indulge in a spot of pampering and preening. The lanes of Koregaon Park are home to a number of salons and day spas, many of which are adjacent to each other—so you can enjoy a set of salon treatments before stepping next door for a spa appointment. A good spa to visit is Four Fountains, which offers a full suite of therapies for de-stressing, detox, and beauty. Treatments include aromatherapy, reflexology, Ayurvedic massage, and the intriguing coffee and cane sugar body polish.
In 1994 a nullah (the Indian equivalent of a wadi) of stagnant water was reclaimed, regenerated, and converted into one of the most beautiful Japanese Zen gardens in Pune. The five-hectare Osho Teerth Park, within the Osho commune grounds, gives the busy Koregaon Park area some much needed breathing space. You’ll find perfectly manicured lawns and areas of lush foliage spread out around a small lake. Wooden bridges connect the different parts of the park, leading over small water cascades and past bamboo clusters. Birds, colorful flowers, and the gentle sound of flowing water give the park an air of tranquillity, making it an oasis of calm in the middle of a chaotic city. Drop by for a stroll and some fresh air, find a corner to practice yoga or meditate, or simply curl up on a bench with a book.
Dholepatil Farms Road
If you’re looking for a little adventure, DownTown Racing boasts India’s longest and most sophisticated go-kart track. With bungee jumping, ziplines, ATVs, quad bikes, and paintball, this place is great for groups and adrenaline junkies. The facility also has an arcade and games section for those hunting virtual adventures.
Samadhi Road
There is majesty in the sheer structure of the Aga Khan Palace—in its manicured gardens and in its Italian arches. The palace and gardens were commissioned by Sultan Aga Khan III in 1892 in an effort to boost the economy of the then famine-affected region. The Aga Khan Palace is also closely linked to the Indian Freedom Movement. A number of prominent Indian leaders were imprisoned here through the period, including Mahatma Gandhi, 1942–1944, and his wife. She would later die here, and people still come to visit her memorial. Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are preserved here as well, and the palace is more commonly known as The Gandhi Memorial. There is a museum dedicated to him and to the freedom struggle. It contains a number of Gandhi’s personal articles, including photographs, letters, clothes, and prayer beads. Hoeppner/Flickr.
no. E Off, White Flint Nest, Near Lane No. 05, N Main Rd, Meera Nagar, Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra 411001, India
If splattering paint, caked palettes, and pungent wafts of turpentine make you giddy in a good way, head out for an art walk in Koregaon Park. One of the most interesting studios is the Emblem Art Studio on Lane 5, which works with contemporary styles and dabbles in multiple disciplines. But there are plenty of art galleries and exhibits around the area, and it’s also worth checking out the Art Hut, Bliss Art Gallery, and the Pune Art Gallery. Don’t forget to admire the art that decorates the streets, like the fun and quirky Sugar Villa on the junction of North Main and Lane 5. You can’t miss it—not with that retro Volkswagen Beetle on the roof.
Pune, Maharashtra, India
Getting a ride in Pune can be a challenge. Traffic is thick, drivers are aggressive, and roads are always hectic. The auto-rickshaw is one of the most common means of transit, less expensive than a taxi but more comfortable than a bus. While the government mandates a set fare for auto-rickshaws, you might be charged a higher rate for late nights, extra-long or short distances, or just because the driver feels like it. Autowale is an Indian version of Uber. You can use it to order an auto-rickshaw by text. Providing your pick-up and drop-off points, you can avoid drivers who charge a marked up fare (or refuse to use the meter) and ensure you get where you want to go. Book at least an hour in advance; rates follow the meter, plus a convenience fee of a little more than a quarter. You can also book them for a block of time, from 4–10 hours.
28, Queen's Garden, Near Old Circuit House, Band Garden Road, Camp, Pune, Maharashtra 411001, India
The walls are adorned with colorful masks and wall murals. The displays include rustic kitchen utensils and chunky hand-crafted jewelry. A trip to the Pune Tribal Museum opens up a window into the vibrant cultures of the tribes that live in the state of Maharashtra. This isn’t the biggest museum in Pune (the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum has a huge collection of artifacts from the region), but each tribe—such as the Warli, Bhil, Gond, Koli, and Kolam, to name but a few—represents a unique cultural and socio-economic heritage, and that is what makes the Tribal Museum such an interesting visit.
Chokhi Dhani, Maharashtra 412207, India
If the hustle and bustle of Pune gets too much, escape to a themed Rajasthani village for a few hours. Chokhi Dhani is a mock-up Rajasthani village that comes alive in the evening and transports its visitors to a simpler, more carefree place. The village is set up like a village fair, with a crafts market, local artisans hawking their talents, and even camel rides. Authentic replicas of traditional Rajasthani dwellings double as venues for art and music. Your kids will love the traditional puppet shows and the magic. You can also try your hand at Indian fair games, have a henna tattoo, or consult with astrologers and fortune-telling parrots. The entry ticket includes the option for a vegetarian Rajasthani meal.
1170/15B, Kushabhau Jejurikar Rd, Revenue Colony, Shivajinagar, Pune, Maharashtra 411005, India
Pune’s Pataleshwar Caves date to the 8th century, when they were cut out of rock and dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. They are protected by the government as historically and culturally important monuments. Shiva’s victory over demons is celebrated during Tripuri Pournima, the full moon day of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar. On this occasion, thousands of oil lamps are lit, turning the temple—which is always open for free to the public—into a particularly impressive sight.
Ganpati Bhavan, 250, Budhwar Peth, Pune, Maharashtra 411002, India
Pune has an abundance of temples and sites of historic and religious interest, but it’s said that the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati Temple is the most visited of them all. Dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesh, this temple has an over-the-top gilt icon of Ganesh in the form of an elephant, and it’s insured to the tune of 10 million rupees (more than $150,000). The temple hosts services daily and is also the focal point of an annual festival, typically celebrated in September.
Iskcon Nvcc Road, Katraj-Kondwa Bypass, Tilekar Nagar, Kondhwa Budruk, Pune, Maharashtra 411048, India
If the formal name of this temple—Sri Sri Radha Vrindavanchanda—is too difficult to pronounce, just say ISKCON. That’s short for “International Society for Krishna Consciousness,” which you’re more likely to know as the Hare Krishna. Inside, the temple is decorated with statues and images of Lord Krishna, with vivid pops of color everywhere. Outside, visitors who have worked up an appetite can get sated with South Indian street food thanks to a number of vendors in the nearby park.
Many visitors enjoy the colonial and pre-colonial architecture in Pune. However, they often miss taking in some of the city’s interesting and unusual 20th and 21st century structures, such as Infosys, one of India’s largest tech firms. While visitors won’t be able to go inside the building, its ovaloid, slightly off-kilter, flattened dome is unusual and compelling enough on the outside to draw attention and make visitors want to pull out their cameras.
11,Hill View Resort, Nadkarni Complex,Lonavala Holiday Home Mumbai - Pune Expressway
Many visitors in India find themselves wanting to help ameliorate some of the issues—poverty, homelessness, and hunger chief among them—that they witness, especially when they see how these problems affect children. Shikshangram Shelter for Children offers travelers the opportunity to have hands-on experiences through voluntourism. Typical volunteer vacation experiences also include excursions to see top cultural, historical, and spiritual attractions. The shelter offers several options for short-term visitors.
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