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There are weekends when have you no plans at all and all you want to do is relax, and maybe catch up with a bit of writing. Plus, you want to be perhaps pampered a little bit and possibly explore something new. It was one of those weekends when I ended up at Novotel Imagica with no no agenda whatsoever, but to chill.
I have been to Imagica Theme Park in the past and loved it as well (yet to write about it though), but it was a day long visit and was largely spent screaming on numerous fun rides at the park. Food and stay were the last thing on our mind, though in retrospect, we could've actually stayed overnight instead of going back home so late in the night. So when I visited Novotel Imagica this time, I chose not to visit the Park at all but do other things in the neighbourhood, like explore a local and largely unknown natural lake.
Novotel Imagica is a fairly large and well run hotel right next to the theme park. It's owned by Imagica and run by Novotel, which in itself is a part of Accor Group. I have stayed previously at Accor group hotels at Grand Mercure, Goa and Sofitel, Mumbai and was highly impressed with the facilities and the services for the guests. Not surprisingly, the one at Imagica also matches up to it all - after all it's an Accor hotel.
I also found the staff to be very prompt. I actually had a lovely room overlooking the swimming pool and the hills beyond that, but there was a wedding happening at the hotel and so it was a bit noisy. I reached out to the front desk and within minutes I was given a different room on the other side which was quieter and I ended up sitting on the balcony and reading a book.
The pool is great too, though it's not very large. Surrounded by green foliage, it's a perfect place to relax. There is a pool-side bar as well, and you can always take a break from swimming to cool down even more! :)
The hotel doesn't yet have a fully functional spa, though work is on and it will be functional in the next three months or so. Spa services are available, though I would recommend you to wait for the full spa to open and then give it a try.
The best part of the hotel was my food experience. There is an all-day dining, The Square, and I had all my meals there. The breakfast starts everyday at 6.30am (which was awesome for me as I get early even when I am vacationing) and it's quite sumptuous. Though there is only one full fledged restaurant, but the variety of food that you get here is rather impressive. My last dinner was perhaps the most elaborate, but I loved it all, especially the desserts. They experiment in desserts too (like the boondi cheesecake), and I give them full marks for that.
By the way if you travelling with your family, there is one event you must absolutely not miss - Irolic Parade! Wondering what that is? Here's a quick video of the live session during my stay there :)
So if I didn't go to the theme park (which is right next to the hotel), what exactly did I do? Khopoli (the only big town close by) isn't really a regular tourist spot, so what was a traveller like me doing there?
Well, I was doing what I enjoy doing the most - explore places which are previously lesser known. One of the finds was Bhatti Lake, located a few kilometres walk from the hotel. Though I had actually planned to go walking there, I ended up finding a completely new path to the lake. To capture the pre-monsoon clouds, I decided to go up a small hill, and voila on the other side was the lake. I walked down and almost immediately a dog from a nearby village became friends with me and gave me company for the entire stay. I spent quite sometime there and it became the highlight of the visit.
The other interesting place to visit are the historical site of Bhaja Caves. A visit to Bhaja caves makes a lot of sense especially if you are coming from Pune, as it is on the way (about 45 minutes drive from the hotel). The Buddhist caves were built from 2nd Century BC to 6th-7th Century AD. The caves are beautiful and the place is also well-maintained.
Another Buddhist cave complex close by is Karla Caves, though I would suggest skipping it altogether if you intend to go there to see the Buddhist caves.
Zenith Falls is another popular place to visit and it's close to the hotel also. You need to do a bit of a hike to reach them, but I am told they are very nice. However, they come alive only during the monsoons.
However, I will have to admit that most travellers who come here usually come to enjoy the Theme Park, and if you haven't done it already, you must go there as well. My only tip is to take the fast-track line ticket - you will spend more money, but spend so much on time. It's absolutely worth it.
By the way, there is a ticket inside the hotel also, so buy your tickets there - you can beat the lines on the ticket counters outside!
Beyond the weekend stay, there are a couple of other things that the property is also very popular for.
While I was there a wedding was also taking place and I realised later that it's actually a very popular wedding destination. If you want to get married in a different way, you can even book the park in the night and get married inside as part of the theme wedding. Did I mention that you can even get a chariot of your own if you want?
It would certainly be a wedding with a difference!
It's also a hugely popular destination for meetings and corporate events. If you want to plan one, do reach out to the hotel and they will guide you to it. Alternatively, if you are a family travelling there for some quite time, it's good to check if there are any such events planned on the days that you plan to go, and then you can make your decision final.