This imposing fort, 20 km northwest of Kolhapur, is built on an outlying spur of the Sahyadris, rising more than 400 m above plain, and is the largest of all the Deccan forts. The strategic importance of Panhala, guarding one of the principal routes through the Western Ghat, can be judged from its long and varied history. Built between 1178 and 1209, it first served as the headquarters of the Shilahara ruler Bhoja II, and subsequently passed into hands of the Yadavas. It was a favorite outpost of the Bahamanis of Bidar; Mahmud Gawan, the powerful prime minister, encamped here during the rainy season of 1469. By the beginning of the 16th century Panhala was absorbed into the kingdom of Bijapur. The Adil Shahis were responsible for strengthening and rebuilding the ramparts and gateways. The fort was raided by Shivaji in 1659, but it was not until 1673 that he was able to occupy it permanently.
After Sambhaji’s death in 1689, it was captured by Aurangzeb. However, it was re-captured in 1692 by Kashi Ranganath Sarpotdar under the guidance of Parshuram Pant Pratinidhi. In 1701 Panhala was finally surrendered to Aurangzeb, and it was here that the Mughal Emperor received the English Ambassador, Sir William Norris. Within a few months the fort was retaken by the Maratha forces under Pant Amatya Ramachandra. Tarabai who asserted her autonomy by founding an independent dynasty. In 1782 these rulers shifted their headquarters to Kolhapur. After a local rebellion in 1844, Panhala was taken by the British. More than 7 km of fortifications define the approximately triangular zone of Panhala fort. The walls are protected for long sections by steep escarpments, reinforced by a parapet with slit holes. The remaining sections have 5-9 m high ramparts, strengthened by round bastions. Unfortunately, the East Gate called Char Darawaja, through which the road passes on arrival at fort, was demolished by the British.
The fort has another satellite fort visible . It is said that there were wells full with Ghee to cure the soldiers . The well-known poet Kavi Moropant Stayed here . Nearby are the Sambhaji temple, Someshwar temple, Teen Darwaza, and Raj Dindi. Sajja Kothi, where Sambhaji was imprisoned. Ambabai Temple, where Shivaji used to seek blessings before venturing on expeditions. Pavankhind, where Baji Prabhu Deshpande laid down his life to cover Shivaji's escape.
Several private hotels can also be found.