Pratapgad Fort, built by Shivaji in 1656 (and still owned by his descendants), 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. Fresh fruit, juice, snacks and simple restaurants are scattered about the staircase to the fort.
From the bus stand in Mahabaleshwar, a state bus tour (₹150 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.