Vetal Hill in Pune is not just the highest point in the city, with an elevation of 2600 ft, but also qualifies to be called the lungs of Pune (akin to the famous Central Park in New York). Most months of the year (November to June beginning) the Vetal Hillis rather dry, though it still attracts its fair share of daily walkers and bird watchers.
Vetal Hill (or वेताळ टेकडी as it's called in Marathi) is also rather large, with Pashan Road on one side and S B Road on the other, with the entire Kothrud on the way. On a clear day, especially morning, you can see almost the entire Pune from top and its quite a beautiful sight. It's also the perfect time to take pictures :)
The tekdi is also home to ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) which occupies a sizeable part of it and there is also an Observation Deck maintained by the Indian Forest Department. Much of the Vetal hill belongs to the Defence and is not accessible to the public, though often kids cross over from the fence to explore the world out there :)
There are plans to develop walking trails here, which will be used to educate the people visiting the hills on the various aspects of the area which are unknown to the people - especially about the diversity of flora and information on migratory birds coming here. There would also be an entry fee charged for these trails.
There is an interesting story on why the hill got its name. There was a Vetal temple on the hill top before the hill became popular and the hill also started being called Vetal hill after the name of the temple. The temple exists even now and its quite a popular destination still for many who come up here.
I go there quite often (for a walk or a run) but I never even carry a phone, let alone a camera. It's just so much more convenient to be away from the distraction. However, recently I took a walk with my phone, and so decided to take a few pictures to share here :)
The tekdi is different in different seasons and that makes it a unique place all year round.
The Vetal Hill is extremely close to the heart of all Puneites. In recent times there have been proposals from government to claim the hilltop and develop theme parks etcetera. This was vehemently opposed and finally the government gave in into people's wishes. There is another proposal to build a road right through the tekdi which will also result in cutting down of many trees. There is much opposition to the idea, though the decision has not yet been reversed.
The forest department had also plated many exotic varieties of plants on the hilltop and many believe that they also resulted in the destruction of the original flora here. The people visiting the tekdi are also a conscious lot, with many spending their morning watering the plants during the summer season. Small water tanks are built at many places and water can be taken from these for watering purposes.
Forest fires often destroy some flora here everywhere. In the last hundred years or so, the hill has also lost about thirty varieties of plants due to natural as well as man-made reasons.
Based on what one enjoys, there are multiple things that you can do up on the hill.
Birding is extremely popular on Vetal Tekdi and on weekends it's common to find young photography enthusiast looking for different birds. The tekdi has the most diverse bird population in the city and you can see bulbul, bee-eaters, pea fowls, sunbirds, Indian Robin, White breasted Kingfisher, Small Minivet, Oriental white eye, Francolins and more.
Vetal Hill is accessible from multiple points if you intend to climb, based on where you start from. You can climb up from Chhaturshringi, Kothrud (Paud Road) and also from the Pashan side. These climbs are no really marked and you will have to ask around to find the right path if you intend to come up here.
If you want to come up on your car, there is only one road which starts from the Paud Road. If you coming from Deccan side, take the first right turn after the flyover on the Paud Road. There is a temple on the right side just where you turn and start the ascent. The road is narrow and passes through the slums, so it's a busy right, at least in the beginning. There are two parking spots on top and they are rarely ever filled. However, I think its best to climb up and enjoy the trek and then you can savour the walk on top, which is fairly flat.
There is no specific timings, though going up later in the night is not recommended. You can find walkers up on the hill as early as 5 am and generally a few as late as 9 pm. But there are no lights up there and so walking becomes difficult in darkness.
For those residing in Pune, do share the article with friends who love exploring Pune and around. I will keep updating it with Pune stories very regularly :)