Ratangad fort is a part of the Kalsubai range, which consists of some of the highest peaks in the Sahyadris. Ratangad gives you the best views of surrounding peaks and Bhanadardara dam. Experience the colossal cliffs unfolding in front of your eyes, one behind the other as you walk on the edge of the fort.
The robustness of Sahyadris can be experienced only from a few forts and Ratangad is one of them. Standing in the “Eye of the Needle” is a major attraction.
If you want to experience staying in caves, Ratangad is the perfect trek to do!
- Altitude: 4,255 ft
- Time taken: 5 hours
- Trek gradient: Moderate
- Water sources: None on the trail. There is a cistern inside the fort that has potable water through the year. Carry 2 litres of water for the trek.
The trek begins from Ratanwadi village. Make your way to Amruteshwar temple once you reach the village. This is a 1,200 year old Hemadpanti temple. The walls of this temple are adorned with beautiful and intricate stone carvings and sculptures. The Pravara river flows by the temple.
The trail starts from the left side of the Pravara river, exactly opposite the Amruteshwar temple. Ask villagers to show you the route.
From this temple, with your back towards Bhandardara dam, you can see gigantic Ratangad right in front of your eyes. It can be easily recognised by its nedhe (Eye of the needle) on top of the fort. On the right side of the fort, you can see a thumb shaped pinnacle, which is known as Ratangad Khutta. Although the complete trail has been marked by white arrows on stones after every 5-10 minutes, there are chances that you may get confused as there are many offshoots from the main track. It is advisable to take a guide from the village.
The trail initially goes through the village fields and is fairly flat till you come across a dam recently built on the river. Cross the river here and climb up dam wall to now keep the river on your left. The trail goes along the edge of the water body formed due to the dam. The views of the dam water and the surrounding forest are worth spending some on. They also make for good photographs.
This trail is fairly flat with slight ascents till you hit the base of a hill. You need to climb up this small hill which is in front of the fort. After climbing up the hill you reach to a small clearing. It takes about 45 minutes to reach here.
The main trail has a number of offshoots formed due to the cattle left by the villagers for grazing. Follow the comparatively wider trail going up the hill and keep a look out for white arrow markings. The trail is confusing only until you reach the opening up ahead on the hill. Once you get here just keep following the trail.
After the clearing, the trail enters a dense forest. Here, it ascends moderately. Since the trees provide a good canopy, the trail is cool and enjoyable even in summer. Karvi, Terda, Barka, Sonki are some plants which you see in the forest. You reach to the second clearing in 30-40 minutes.
Villagers run a shack here on weekends. They sell tea and snacks. You can also get fresh lime juice to drench your thirst.
There are two trails from this clearing. The one to the right climbs up to Ratangad. The trail straight ahead takes you to Harishchandragad. There is also a small board showing both the ways.
After taking right, there is a climb for about 10-15 minutes again through dense forest. This route opens up into huge rock patch. Don’t worry you do not need to do any rock climbing. There are 3 steel ladders which take you to the top of the rock patch. Be careful while climbing these ladders as some steps are lose and broken. If you are trekking in monsoon, ladders may get slippery. Climb slowly and steadily, one person at a time. Keep your cameras and mobile phones inside and do not click photographs while climbing up the ladders. Before starting, turn around and take a look. Ratanwadi village, Bhandardara dam, Pravara river and surrounding peaks appear as a scenic landscape.
After climbing the ladders you’ll reach the first gate of the fort. Walk ahead for 2-3 minutes till you reach the fourth ladder. On ascending this ladder, you will see a large cave to your right. If you wish to stay on the fort, this cave can be your shelter. 30-40 people can easily be accommodated here. On weekends villagers put up a shack in this cave, where you can get lime juice, tea, snacks, Maggie. They also arrange lunch and dinner on request.
Once you reach to this cave, you are almost at the top. There are a few stone steps to the left which lead you to the second gate of Ratangad. There are beautiful stone sculptures and carvings on this gate. Few more steps ahead and you reach the top of the fort. A round bastion is seen on right. (When I did this trek, few people had pitched 2 tents on this bastion). It takes about 2 hours 30 minutes to reach here.
Before going anywhere else, follow the trail towards left. It takes you to the edge of the fort. Hold your breath as you see colossal cliffs unfolding in front of your eyes, one behind the other. The robustness of Sahyadris can be experienced only from a few forts and Ratangad is one of them. You can take a break here.
Now start the tour of the fort from the left side of the round bastion. Keep walking on the trail. You can see a series of water tanks and cisterns on the fort. You’ll come across one more bastion with a gate on your left. Spend some time on this bastion. Enjoy the views of the deep valleys. From the bastion, with your back towards the fort, on the right hand side, you’ll see a gorge within the plain plateau below. This is the famous Sandhan Valley.
Continue walking on the same trail from the bastion as one more surprise awaits you. Keep looking for a large 7-8 ft deep pit on the right side of the trail. Once you reach the pit, you’ll see a small opening at the bottom of the opposite wall. Get down into the pit, switch on your torch and crawl into the rectangular opening. This opens up into a pitch dark cave. Mind your head as the height of the cave is only 3-4 ft. On the left side of the opposite wall of the cave, there is one more opening which opens into a large water cistern! This cistern is full of water throughout the year. This water is chilled and potable.
Coming back onto the trail, walk till you see the nedhe on the top right of the fort. There is a steep ascent of 15 minutes to climb up the nedhe. Stormy wind blows through the Eye of the Needle. You can even climb up on the top of the nedhe. Be very careful while doing so. The route is a bit risky because of the scree. You are now at the highest point of the fort! The view from the top is mesmerising. You can get a complete 360 degree panoramic view from this point. Alang, Madan, Kulang, Kalsubai, Bhandaradara dam (Arthur Lake), Harishchandragad, Sandhan Valley, Ratangad Khutta offer some breathtaking views. You can sit for a while in the eye of the needle.
Climb down from the other side of nedhe. After climbing down, one route to the left takes you to another gate. As you take right, the trail becomes very narrow and is covered with tall grass on both sides. There is steep valley on left. This route will take you back to the second gate, via the round bastion. With this you’ll complete the full round of the fort, which takes about 2 hours.
Now, follow the trail by which you climbed up to reach Ratanwadi. It takes about 2 hours to reach the base.
This trek has been researched and documented by Swarada Ghangurde.
How to Reach Ratanwadi
Ratanwadi is where the Ratangad trek begins. This is 56 km from Igatpuri.
Igatpuri railway station is 56 km from Ratangad. Many trains are available to reach Igatpuri from Mumbai and Nasik.
If you are traveling from Pune, get down at Kalyan and catch a train going to Igatpuri. You can hire a local, shared jeep from Igatpuri to Ratanwadi. It takes about 2 hours 15 minutes to reach Ratanwadi from Igatpuri.
Taking your private vehicle is always advisable to save time.
Trekkers coming from Pune and Nasik: Take Sangamner-Akole-Bhandardara Road. Just before the Bhandaradara dam, there is a diversion on left side which goes to Ratanwadi.
Trekkers coming from Mumbai: Take Igatpuri-Ghoti-Bhnadardara Road. After the Bhandaradara dam, take same diversion as above. Now this diversion will be on your right side.