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Kaas Plateau: Western Indias very own Switzerland

Kaas Plateau, also known as Kaas Pathar is a volcanic plateau located in Maharashtra, a half an hour drive from Satara and around 130 km from the city of Pune.

This 1000 hectare plateau has only recently gained popularity since it was declared a bio-diversity site by  UNESCO in June 2012.

By Road

There is a pretty decent four-lane highway that connects Pune and Satara. You will pass very close to Mahabaleshwar on this highway as well. The 3 hour drive to Satara from Pune can be made easily in one’s own car or in a rented car. There are also buses that ply between Pune and Satara.

The drive is pleasant most of the way with the views getting remarkably spectacular as you begin the last leg of the ascent to the top of the plateaus. The surroundings include distant views of the massive Shivsagar  Lake and you can sometimes see the  Sajjangadh Fort in the distance.

Climate

The monsoons and the period just post monsoon are the best times to go to Kaas. So we’re talking August, September and October. The climate is amazing at this time with light drizzles and lovely cloudy weather which makes long walks on the plateau not just easy but also quite pleasurable.

Within this 3 month period, the span of 3 weeks between the second week of September and the first week of October are the best time to visit and see what can only be called a phenomenon. Kaas turns into a valley of wild flowers with huge patches of different colours visible even from the distance.

Where to stay

I would recommend Kaas as a day trip because there aren’t really many stay options available here. Apart from a few homestays and a camping option, there are only villages surrounding  the Kaas plateau so if you do choose to spend the entire weekend away from the city – Mahabaleshwar is your best bet (it is around an hour away). You could stay in Satara but it is a regular small town with nothing out of the ordinary.

Food

You will pass a few popular Maharashtrian towns enroute Satara. In Wai, stop for MisalPav or Wada Pav. There are a few tiny restaurants that are very famous for local cuisine. The rows of cars parked up on the highway should give you a good idea on where to pull over.

On the plateau, you’re not allowed to carry any food but before you reach the top, there are a few tiny food and beverage stalls on the roadsides.

Places of Interest

Since the declaration of the Kaas plateau as a UNESCO bio-diversity heritage site, hundreds of thousands of tourists throng this tourist spot. Naturally, this increase is number of visitors has put this secluded spot in danger of being polluted. For this reason there are a few guards standing around at most entry points onto the plateau while most other areas are barricaded.

I’d urge all the readers of this article to ensure that if you do decide to visit Kaas, you take special care to follow the rules and preserve our natural heritage. A couple of boards here and there will tell you the basic stuff – No trampling or plucking flowers, No food and drinks on the plateau, No  smoking, No throwing stuff.

Take a hike

Yes, literally. Walk around this 1000 hectareplateau because that is one of the best things to do.During September and October, this entire flat land becomes a lush green carpet with beautiful pink, purple, yellow and white embroidery. Locals say the plateau gets its name from the native Kaasatree which has red leaves that turn green on maturity. Whatever the story, this is a beautiful place to spend a few hours unwinding from the hectic city life.

Explore the Flora and Fauna

The Kaas plateau is known to be home to around 850 varieties of plants of which around 600 are flowering plants. Having peculiar volcanic rock soil, the plateau has become home to many endemic species of plants – those that can only survive in this region. It was absolutely amazing to see so many different flowers with the slightest differences in hue, making the plateau a Technicolor carpet. I managed to spot around 15 varieties of popular flowers.

Look for Rare Plants

While I tried hard enough,I didn’t end up spotting a single  Venus Flytrap or DroseraIndica. I had a strong desire to spot an insectivorous plant in action. Since these varieties are found in abundance in the Kaas region, it shouldn’t be hard for you to spot some if you spend a few hours there.

Kaas also has around 33 endangered species. These species are only found in rocky lands and are on the brink of extinction due to the changes in climatic and geological conditions.

Sit by the Lake

A little down-hill from the Kaas plateau is the moss green KaasTalav which usually has a lovely waterfall flowing into it in the peak of Monsoon. The shore of the lake is flat and sandy like the ocean shore making it a great place to hang out or even pitch a tent for the evening.

Closure Line

While it’s a great place for botanists and plant enthusiasts to study them and for kids to see our varied bio-diversity, Kaas is not so Khaas for general weekend tourists. To a regular tourist, it is hard to differentiate between the different types of flowers. Within the vast expanses of pink and purple that you see, there are actually multiple varieties of flowers. It was only after I returned home and went through the pictures I had clicked, that I realized I had actually seen around 5 different flowers that were almost the same shade of pink.

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