Matheran: Quick weekend getaway near Mumbai
Matheran is a popular hill station near Mumbai. It is in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. It can’t be called the best hill station in Maharashtra or Western India, but it makes an excellent weekend getaway for people living in Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Navi Mumbai. People from faraway places also visit Matheran in summer because of its pleasant and cool climate. Matheran is part of the Western Ghats and has an altitude of about 800 meters or 2,625 feet.
Matheran means ‘forest on the forehead’. The most interesting thing about Matheran is that it is automobile free hill station. Even cycles aren’t allowed here. Horses and hand-pulled rickshaws are the only modes of transport available here. This makes it a one-of-its-kind hill station in Asia. Read about the top 10 hill stations in India.
Matheran has several tourist attractions. The Panorama Point (Sun Rise Point) is one of them. From here you will get a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. It is a great place to watch the sunrise because the view is simply dramatic. The Louisa Point is another popular destination in Matheran. From here you can see the Prabal Fort. Other points of interest are the Heart Point, One Tree Hill Point, Porcupine Point (Sun Set Point), Monkey Point, and Rambagh Point. Matheran is one of the most developed tourist areas in Maharashtra. There are several hotels here so finding accommodation is hardly an issue. The old colonial style buildings built during the British Era are well-preserved and attract visitors. Matheran has several Parsi Bungalows too. The roads in Matheran aren’t metalled, so you will be walking on red laterite soil.
Matheran was discovered by Hugh Poyntz, the then district collector of Thane in 1850. The British later developed it as a major hill station.
Forest and wildlife
Matheran is an eco-sensitive region. Plenty of medicinal plants and herbs are found here. Lake Charlotte is near Matheran and provides drinking water to the hill station. Numerous monkeys are found in the forests surrounding Matheran. Wild animals like Barking deer, leopards, foxes, mongooses and wild boars also live in the forests. Matheran lies at a higher altitude and enjoys a cooler climate. This makes it a popular summer destination.
How to reach there?
Matheran has benefitted considerably from its strategic location. It is about 90 kilometers from Mumbai and about 120 kilometers from Pune. The nearest railway station is Neral. There is a narrow gauge railway station in Matheran. The Matheran Hill Railway operates several train services between Matheran and Neral on a daily basis. Neral is a railway station on the CST-Karjat Route. The toy train between Neral and Matheran covers only 12 miles per hour, so travelers can savor the beauty of the surroundings as the train goes up the hill. It takes about 2 hours to reach Neral from CST (Mumbai railway station) by train. Board the toy train to Matheran from Neral. Trains depart at 8.40am, 11.00am and 5.00pm.
State transport buses are available from Panvel. If you enjoy trekking this is the best option. Get off at Dodhani and trek to the Sun Set Point (Porcupine Point) of Matheran. It takes only about an hour. This trek is easy and safe. Monsoon is a great time to undertake this trek. Since you will be walking through the forest, you will get to see the lush green forests drenched in the rains. You will also find numerous streams along the path.
Places of interest
Matheran has 2 lakes, 2 parks, 28 points, 4 places of worship and a racecourse. If you want to explore all of these places, you will need 2-3 days.