About Sondai Fort:
Located in the Karjat district of Maharashtra, Sondai Fort is among the many other lesser-known attractions of the town. This small hill fort is a part of the Matheran mountain range. The name Sondai is derived from the name of a goddess named Sondai Devi. Once you climb to the top of the fort, you will find a temple which is dedicated to Sondai Devi. You can take steps that are carved out of rocks to reach the top. Although the villagers have also placed two ladders to make the climb a lot easier. One of these ladders reaches the peak while the other goes to the water cisterns at the fort. There is no fortification available here apart from the 3-4 water cisterns. This fort was supposedly built as a watch tower for the surveillance of the nearby villages. It is about 365 m high and is present at the base of two villages, Sondewadi and Wavarle. Being at the fort, you can get a very clear view of Morba Dam, Songiri, Rajmachi, Karnala Fort, Prabalgad, Irshal forts, and the Matheran mountain range which is very beautiful. The view of Vavarle Dam from this fort, holding the monsoon rainwater is breath-taking. Being on this fort will provide a 360 view of the surrounding mountains.
The fort is at an elevation of 1200 ft and its trekking level is easy. The base village is Sondewadi while the nearest railway station is at Karjat. The time required to reach the top of the hill is about 1 hour. You should visit this place between June to January as the mild weather will make the trek for you comfortable. This trail becomes a little hard during the monsoon as the rocks become quite slippery. There are several shops opened by the locals that offer snacks, water, fruits, and nimbu paani which can help in case you get exhausted. There are various camping grounds available too. You can book a tour package if you wish to do this trip in groups. There are two routes to reach Sondai. One of them is from Sondewadi while the other is from Wavarle. Among these two the one from Sondewadi is more preferred since the route passes through dense forest and has a slightly more difficult approach.
About the Sondai trail:
The distance from the base camp to the top of the village is 1.7 km which would take an average person about 2-2.5 hrs to complete the trek. You don’t really require any local guide as the trek is very easy and beginners friendly. The trail can be explained in 3 parts. The 1st part is the travel from the parking spot from the base village to the 1st plateau with a gradual climb of 10-15 mins. The 2nd part is the part where you will be going through the forest and reach a point where you have to cross 2 tricky rocky sections. This leads to the 3rd and the final part of the trail which has 2 staircases, one leading to the peak and the other leading to the water tanks.
How to reach Sondai?
By road: via road, if you are coming from Mumbai to Sondai, you can take the Sion-Panvel Expressway or can use the Eastern Express Highway. Whereas if you are starting off your journey from Pune, you can take the Mumbai-Pune expressway to reach Khopoli and from there, head towards Talawani via the Khopoli-Karjat road.
By train: trains are considered the easier way to travel to Sondai as there are direct trains available from Mumbai and Pune for Karjat. To reach Sondewadi, which is the base village, one has to take a tumtum, a 7-seater rickshaw as there are no direct buses available till the base of Sondai Fort. Although you can also go by ST bus, being on tumtum is going to be more fun if you are having time. The distance between Sondai fort and Karjat is about 10 km.
Nearby places to visit and other things to do at Sondai
Being at the fort you can enjoy the beautiful sunset as the view is mesmerizing. In case you are visiting during the monsoon, you can’t miss the chance to have a dip in the Changewadi Waterfalls to cool down after the trek. There are various local restaurants and you should give a try to the delicious Misal Pav sold here.
Apart from this, there are several other nearby places to visit once you are done exploring this fort. You can visit Irshalgal Fort which is at an elevation of 3700 ft. You can also go for a visit to the Morbe Dam and the Karnala fort which are not very far away. The Rajmachi fort is yet another tourist attraction near the Sondai Fort