Matheran the best hill station near Mumbai and Pune
This is one of my favorite hill stations, and was always my favorite weekend getaway. Located on a plateau in the western ghats of India, it remains a favorite because it is still pure and untouched. It is probably the only place in India where motor vehicles are not allowed. That is why it remains unpolluted and has retained its closeness to nature. If you like pure air, greenery, a hilly terrain and long walks by the lake, you will love Matheran.
To get around one has to walk or use a horse or a hand pulled rickshaw which is a single seater. In fact that is the main activity here. Walking or horseback riding. The view from different ‘points’ like Alexander Point and Khandala Point can be quite breathtaking. Its no fun traveling in the rickshaw though, and we generally hire a rickshaw to carry our luggage up, if necessary.
In the last few years plenty of fancy hotels have come up and you have something for every kind of tourist – you can get a fancy meal, swimming pool and satellite television. And also your dal roti, street chinese and rolls.
The Lake is one of the main attractions although there is no boating or swimming allowed. Walking around the lake can be a real pleasure. You see those trees on the bank? Well, there is a road behind them and its dark, shady and beautifully rough! A great place to wander around and absolutely safe.
Be careful of monkeys though. Generally tourists are advised not to eat anything while walking, or carry food in bags and monkeys could snatch it away. However the monkeys generally do not harm human beings but to be on the safe side don’t let your kid wander about alone.
To reach Matheran, one can either drive (it is about 2-3 hours from Mumbai) and park one’s vehicle at Dasturi Naka. From here one can either walk (about 2 kms uphill) or take a horse or rickshaw. It takes about 45 minutes to walk up if one goes at an average pace. Some sort of canteen is available at Dasturi Naka for tea and snacks, but nothing great. Some drivers sleep in their cars here until their employers return from their trip up in Matheran. You need a good car to drive up to Dasturi Naka. The ghat, though short, is fairly steep. Roads are narrow and there are hairpin bends.
Another way to reach Matheran is by train. This light railway started in 1907 and its starting point is at Neral, which lies inbetween Mumbai and Pune. Neral is well connected by train from both from Mumbai and Pune. It is quite a delight to travel by this train! Children specially love it as it is like riding on a toy train. The view along the way is fantastic. The air pure. This train had shut down recently (usually it does during the monsoons) as the very heavy monsoon in 2005 had washed away the tracks but the train is now running again after a gap of two years.
There are all kinds of hotels here and there is something to suit every pocket. Whether you are student, a family, or a couple who wants a romantic getaway, you will find something to suit your needs and your pocket.
There is not much to buy here though the main road is choc-o-bloc with shops selling everything from sweets and chikkis to chappals and trinkets.
Related Reading: Matheran Hotel review – Verandah in the forest