This is a car free hill station - Matheran


The winding red pathway stretches away in opposite directions languorously, reminding me that the biggest luxury these days is time. And here, in the hill station of Matheran, nestled in Maharashtra’s Sahyadri mountain range that is a part of the mighty Western Ghats, I feel that there always seems to be enough. Time to wander, time to be lost, time to discover that all paths eventually lead where one wants to go.

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Places to visit:-

Olympia Racecourse: Shaded paths open onto this elevated expanse that is stunning in every season, with golden grass waving cheerily in the summer sunshine and glorious mist rolling over the deep green velvet of the monsoon. Still a venue for horse races in the cooler months, this is a great location for an impromptu picnic (and one of the very rare spots where the zealous monkeys of Matheran won’t find you!).

Paymaster Park: There are plenty of gardens in Matheran, most notably the Nowroji Lord Garden and Panday Playground, but our favourite is this park that’s less frequented but oozes atmosphere. Well laid out with plenty of pretty pathways and ornate benches, it also boasts a bandstand with intricate wrought iron railings and cornices and old statues dedicated to men such as Malet, Paymaster, and Panday, all of whom were responsible for the development of Matheran in various ways.

Photo of This is a car free hill station - Matheran by Bloggers Without Borders - (BWB)

Municipal Library: Established in 1897, the Karsandas Mulji library is a sleepy little structure filled with books dating back to pre-Independence India. You don’t need membership to browse or even to sit and read to your heart’s content. Several long-staying travellers are regulars, says the young librarian.

Colonial bungalows: We don’t actively advocate this, but as long as you are not damaging any private property, it’s a lot of fun to get a glimpse of history through mullioned windows, of long-forgotten homesteads with cobwebs festooning four-poster beds and crystal chandeliers. Large inviting verandahs with red honeycomb tiles and Bombay fornicators (long-armed easy chairs) bring to mind snoozy summer holidays. Watch out for cantankerous caretakers and their territorial canines.

Photo of This is a car free hill station - Matheran by Bloggers Without Borders - (BWB)

Best hotels and homestays in Matheran:-

Parsi Manor: The four-bedroom villa with old-world charm and modern amenities is close to nature and far away from cell-phone reception. Run by SaffronStays, it can host up to 15 guests. You can book just one room for two or the entire villa if you’re going with a larger group. The beautifully restored bungalow just a kilometre from the railway station boasts some stunning common areas like the covered verandahs and sitting and dining rooms. The tastefully done up rooms feature four-poster beds, wooden dressers, and modern bathrooms. There’s a dedicated chef serving up authentic Parsi and Maharashtrian cuisine.

The Byke Heritage Resort: While the rest of the resort is relatively new, this property has the distinction of having been built around the original Malet bungalow, the oldest one in Matheran and the erstwhile home of Hugh Malet. A stay in their heritage rooms (high-ceilinged and draughty as they are) gives you a real taste of the old Matheran. The newer AC ones may be more comfortable but have less character. A great al fresco breakfast by the poolside and unlimited vegetarian thalis in their dining hall for lunch and dinner are delicious and reasonably priced.

Lord’s Central Hotel: Murree-born Zenobia Lord fell in love with Matheran enough to get married to the owner of this iconic hotel in 1960. Today, she’s the enthusiastic octogenarian owner who will show you around the heritage hotel, keep you enthralled by its history and colourful tales. The AC heritage rooms have the basic amenities and offer fabulous views of the valley and a peek into Matheran’s past. At mealtimes, Mrs Lord will feed you lavish Parsi and Continental fare.

Radha Cottage Heritage Resort: Once belonging to Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, this majestic heritage bungalow which was earlier called the Rose Cottage has now been refurbished by its fifth owner to keep its colonial charm but with spruced up room interiors. The non-AC heritage rooms have comfortable four-poster beds and the original China mosaic flooring, while the other room categories have been beautifully redesigned to suit more modern tastes. A very pleasant dining hall called the Revlon Forest Restaurant serves up a surprising array of plant-based as well as non-vegetarian dishes, including a buffet as well as the option of ordering a barbecue by the kilo.

Hope Hall Hotel: One of the oldest hotels dating back to 1875, it brings you rich heritage on a budget, along with friendly furry friends, and Matheran stories from the welcoming owner Maria Vaz. The large non-AC rooms are quite basic but give you access to an airy verandah and a TV. Hot water is available in the morning. You’re encouraged to bring your own towels. And badminton shuttlecocks, and table tennis, and cricket balls if you’d like to play. A limited but affordable breakfast menu with vegetarian Indian, cereal, and omelettes is served in their ‘canteen’.

Dune Barr House: Called The Verandah in the Forest, the gorgeous and well-preserved heritage home that was built by Captain Barr in the 19th century even has a suite built into a turret, and rooms that have unique Raj-era décor. The 11 rooms are a throwback to Matheran’s glory days, with names that reflect the British, Parsi and Bohra heritage of the hill station, antique furniture, and modern fittings. No AC, no TV, and they use solar hot water systems, LED lighting and organic linen and bathroom amenities to be in tune with nature. The pretty restaurant sets the mood for a repast from the past, and you can enjoy Indian and European fusion cuisine and some Parsi and Bohra specialities. Room service and private dinners in special locations are available on request.

Where to eat in Matheran:

The options for quality fare are rather limited (read almost non-existent), but each of the hotels/resorts we have recommended offers excellent meals, some going so far as to replicate European classics, others offering private dining in perfect nooks. The eateries in the market are basic, serving the usual mix of popular desi dishes. Divadkar’s for vegetarian snacks and a thaali, Khan’s for non-vegetarian, and a variety of casual joints for dosa, pav-bhaji, boiled corn, etc have been the go-to for decades. In summer, stop by at Sakvill Refreshments for homemade kulfi and real fruit-and-milk ice candy. Apart from leather bags and shoes, take home multifloral honey, local confections like fudge and chikki, and fresh fruit such as jamun and mulberry.

Please make sure you travel responsibly and keep the place litter free.

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