Pratapgad Fort, built by Shivaji in 1656 (and still owned by his descendents), straddles a high mountain ridge 24km northwest of the town of Mahabaleshwar. In 1659, Shivaji agreed to meet Bijapuri General Afzal Khan here in an attempt to end a stalemate. Despite a no-arms agreement, Shivaji, upon greeting Khan, disembowelled his enemy with a set of iron baghnakh (tiger’s claws). Khan’s tomb (out of bounds) marks the site of this painful encounter at the base of the fort.
Pratapgad is reached by a 500-step climb that affords brilliant views. For ₹300 a guide will take you to 20 points of interest over the course of an hour or so.
Fresh fruit, juice, snacks and simpler restaurants are scattered about the staircase to the fort.
From the bus stand in Mahabaleshwar, a state bus tour (₹165 return, one hour, 9.30am) does a daily shuttle to the fort, with a waiting time of around one hour. Taxi drivers in Mahabaleshwar charge a fixed ₹1000 for the return trip, including one hour's waiting time.