Madhya Pradesh’s only hill station is surrounded by waterfalls, cave temples and the forested ranges of the Satpura Tiger Reserve and offers a refreshing escape from steamy central India.
Even if you don’t go on an organised trek or 4WD safari, you can easily spend a couple of days here cycling or hiking to the numerous sights before taking a dip in one of the natural pools that dot the area.
Explorer Captain J Forsyth ‘discovered’ Pachmarhi as late as 1857 and set up India’s first Forestry Department at Bison Lodge in 1862. Soon after, the British army set up regional headquarters here, starting an association with the military that remains today.
Satpura Tiger Reserve
This reserve, entered from Madhai 93km northwest of Pachmarhi by road, counts an estimated 40-odd tigers and unknown number of leopards; chances of sighting the latter, along with Indian gaurs, sloth bears, monkeys, deer and birds of all type, are decent. Safaris can be arranged through agencies, online (www.mponline.gov.in) or at the gate itself.
On top of your 4WD entrance fee, you will need to pay for a guide per vehicle (₹300). 4WDs hold up to six people in addition to the guide and driver. Boat safaris can also be arranged for up to 10 people (per boat ₹4000, 45 minutes). Accommodation in the reserve is limited and expensive, but there’s an affordable Forest Rest House bookable from Madhai Gate itself.
To reach Madhai, shared 4WDs leave when full between 6am and 8pm from the Pachmarhi bus stand
About 3km beyond Priyadarshini the road ends at this holy cave, where a path 30m into the damp gloom reveals a lingam with attendant priest. This is the beginning of the 1365-step pilgrim trail to Chauragarh (five hours’ return hike).
South of Jaistambha is the road that leads towards Chauragarh (1308m), Madhya Pradesh’s third-highest peak. The Shiva shrine at the top attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims during Shivaratri Mela. On the way, stop at Handi Khoh , also known as Suicide Point, to gawk down the 100m canyon into the dense forest. You’ll spy Chauragarh in the distance from here as well as Priyadarshini (Forsyth Point), further along the road.
About 3km beyond Priyadarshini the road ends at Mahadeo Cave , where a path 30m into the damp gloom reveals a lingam with attendant priest. This is the beginning of the 1365-step pilgrim trail to Chauragarh (five hours’ return hike).
On the way to Chauragarh, stop at Handi Khoh , also known as Suicide Point, to gawk down the 100m canyon into the dense forest. You’ll spy Chauragarh in the distance from here as well as Priyadarshini (Forsyth Point), further along the road.
Just southeast of Jaistambha, you’ll find Pandav Caves , which are believed to have been carved by Buddhists as early as the 4th century. The foundations of a brick Buddhist stupa have been excavated on top of them.
Further along the main road, past the trailhead, you’ll find the access roads for Duchess Falls, the two beauty points known as Reechgarh and Astachal, and a small, crystal-clear pool called Ramykund.
his cave temple is in a beautiful gorge about 2.5km along a good track that’s signed just north of the town limits. The small Shiva shrine is hidden under a huge overhanging rock.