For the ones living in the big cities, a day trip to a nearby locale is rejuvenating. If you are in the city and suburbs of Mumbai or Pune, the old settlement of Matheran is perfect for a day trip. Nestled in the lap of the Sahyadri mountains, this cozy little hill town gives you the much-needed dose of nature. If you’re looking for a break away from your hectic life, book Pune to Matheran cabs for a well-deserved vacation. The natural trails of red soil, cutting through the evergreen forests and opening up to awe-inspiring views of the Western Ghats, are sure to refresh you.
Established as a summer retreat by the British officials of erstwhile Bombay, Matheran evolved as a popular destination for neighboring tourists. The best time to visit this town is in monsoon when the Western Ghats are wrapped in all shades of green and the fresh smell of the rain. Alternatively, you can also visit in winter, to experience the chilly mountain weather.
Matheran is about 90km from Mumbai and 120km from Pune. To make the most of a day trip, make an early start and return around sundown. If you are traveling from Mumbai, there are outstation trains from CST station (Mumbai city terminus) which takes you to Neral. You can also take a local train to Karjat and take a Neral-bound train to Matheran. From Pune, the Sahyadri Express leaves at 7am and reach Neral around 10am. You can also do the Pune-Karjat-Neral train route. Once you reach Neral station, there are three options to go to Matheran.
1. Get onto the narrow-gauge toy trains to take through the hills. But note that the departure and travel times of these trains might vary. So, if you don’t mind sparing two hours, be in for a scenic ride through the dense foliage and soak in the views of the landscape.
2. You can book Mumbai to Matheran cabs and reach Dasturi Park in Matheran, which is about a 20-minute ride from the Neral station.
3. Recently, minibuses are introduced for tourists, which take you to Dasturi Park from Neral Station in about 30 minutes.
The town of Matheran was declared as an eco-sensitive zone by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. And, that is why there is no vehicle access beyond this point. So, you can either do a short trek of 30-40 minutes up the hills to reach the main market or do a horse ride from Dasturi Park. But, don’t forget to negotiate the rates in advance.
Sightseeing & adventure
There are 30 viewing points, 1 lake and 3 temples in Matheran. Depending on your interests and agenda of the trip, you can plan your way ahead.
If you want to truly absorb the nature and unwind, continue your walk through the forested hills and perch yourself at the Panorama Point. This is one of the most visited and famous points of Matheran. Though the farthest from the central area, the panoramic views of the Sahyadri range and the breathtaking sunrise will make it worth. Other points like the Heart Point, One Tree Hill or Monkey Point are also notable. The Luisa Point is known for its view of the waterfalls from the Charlotte Lake, in monsoon.
If you are in for some adventure, then don’t forget to do the Valley Crossing. This is a one-way, U-shaped crossing from the Honeymoon Point to the Luisa Point, on a hanging rope over a 1,000 feet deep valley.
After you are exhausted with the long walks and treks, stop by at the central market for a good meal. There are plenty of tea-stalls and small eateries serving local snacks. For a hearty lunch, stop by Gujarat Bhawan for an unlimited thali or at Khan’s for their meaty delicacies.
The way back
To come back to Neral Station, you can take the last toy train at 4.30pm to Neral station or trek back to Dasturi Park. And, with that, your day trip to this quaint hill station comes to an end. Even after you leave behind the trails, the freshness of the mountains will linger for quite some time.