By Juhi Bansal
Nashik has been on our to-do list for a few years now. We’ve planned it in our heads several times- take a flight to Mumbai then drive down to Nashik or take a flight to Pune and then drive down to Nashik but somehow all of this felt too cumbersome for a weekend trip and we kept postponing it.
So, when the direct flight from Ahmedabad to Nashik started we thought it was a sign and when my birthday fell very conveniently at the end of a long weekend- K and I knew instantly what the universe was conspiring for!
So apparently, Ahmedabad is one of the only two airports Nashik plies flights from! How lucky for us. There are two airlines- Air India and Trujet with less than an hour of flying time and reasonably priced tickets. You can leave on Day 1 afternoon and be back on Day 3 morning and make it into an ideal weekend getaway with almost the same expense as any other weekend trip. Move over Udaipur!
There are plenty of reasons- religious being one. Hiking and nature trails another. For us it was wine tasting and tours (single track mind)
We rented a self drive from Zoomcar because the vineyards are far apart if you want to do more than one. We also like the freedom of having our own car. However, Uber and Ola are available aplenty in Nashik and serve most areas atleast till late evening.
Also, a quick feedback on Zoomcar. We’ve rented self drives across the world and Zoomcar previously and it was always a delightful experience. However, the Nashik experience left us with a bad taste- the car was in a bad shape and the pick up was anything but “seamless”. Zoomcar hopefully this was one of because we love self drives and you are our best bet in India!
Day 1 was a whirlwind for us. We landed, picked our rental car- had a quick lunch at the city mall, met up with some friends and then proceeded to check in. It was a day of light showers and our earlier plan of hiking up to the Pandavleni caves didn’t materialize. We stayed at Ibis Nashik on the first night. It’s in the centre of the city. For dinner we decided to drive down to Vallone Vineyards which is a good one hour drive away. The drive itself is not very comfortable- broken roads and crowded villages dotted the entire drive. However, some bits of it are beautiful especially if you catch the setting sun.
You can choose to do another vineyard- there are several. The top ones include York, Soma and Grover apart from Vallone and Sula which were on our to-do list. Our top two choices were based on 1. Ratings and reviews 2. Eateries on the premises.
The Vallone property is small but the view is gorgeous nonetheless. We dined at Malaka Spice (Malay cuisine) (a big reason we drove all the way) and shared a bottle of their best white. Since we were driving back after dinner- we packed the remainder of the bottle and decided to finish it at the hotel. That’s also one of the reasons we couldn’t order their highly recommended Sangria because they don’t let you order by glass. However, if you’re staying there or have a designated driver- do order the sangria pitcher- it looked delectable.
The rest of the day (night) was spent with K and I sharing the remaining bottle back in our hotel room while Iy snored peacefully.
We began Day 2 with a drive down to the Pandavleni caves. It’s a small hike up and the view from the top is worth all the trouble. One of the oldest caves in Maharasthra, they were residences of Buddhist monks and date back almost 2000 centuries ago. Since they face eastwards, they look beautiful in the morning and I am glad we couldn’t make it there the previous day.
Post our hike we started our drive towards Sula.
We (which means me) researched a lot before zeroing in on the vineyard we wanted to stay at. Nashik has several well known vineyards. However, while looking up properties and reviews online I realized Sula was a non-brainer. We were looking for a staycation weekend and almost all other vineyard properties were non-impressive. They were smaller with not a lot of options to eat or things to do and cost almost the same. From the on location restaurants to the activities on the properties to the spa and temperature controlled swimming pool to the sheer size of the property- everything was just north of amazing at Sula!
Sula has two properties in Nashik- Source and Beyond. We chose to stay in Source for the reasons mentioned above and I have to say that comfort and luxury aside, they won us over with their service. From the welcome drink (which was a bubbly btw) to the wine tour to our complimentary suite upgrade the moment they realized it was my birthday- each instance was delightful to say the least. Their hospitality is unparalleled and was a highlight of the entire stay!
You need an entire day minimum at Sula to be able to experience everything it has to offer. Some of these are:
Wine tasting and tour (included in your stay)
Temperature controlled pool and games room etc
Spa (don’t miss the grapeseed oil massage)
Restaurants- we loved all of them! (Little Italy (fresh Italian), Tasting Room (for wine and view), Janus and Rasa (for Indian))
Huge property for you to walk around
Pro tip: I am a huge Chardonnay fan and it’s normally my go-to order wherever I go. At Sula however, I realized their Chenin Blanc was better so go for that one! Also, don’t forget to pick up a bottle of their signature grape seed oil from the store.
We also went to Sadhana Village for some local fare- Sev Puri and Misal Pav but unfortunately they were closed by then. If you do decide to stay at Source by Sula- do walk down to Sadhna it’s right next door and enjoy some spicy breakfast on our behalf as well.
After breakfast we drove down to the airport and boarded our flight back to Ahmedabad.
If you’re really craving a weekend trip and you’ve overdone Udaipur, Mt. Abu, Goa and the like (like us) – Nashik should be at the top of your list.
We’ve been on several wine tastings around the world- Napa in California, Chianti Valley in Tuscany and Paarl & Stellenbosch in South Africa but I must admit that experiencing it in India at Sula was quite special.