Mysterious jungle trails and more: Explore the magic of Matheran
Matheran, a peaceful and quiet refuge capping the rugged Sahyadri Hills, endowed with dense forests, wildlife-rich routes and breath-taking views. It is indeed the most elegant hill station of Maharashtra and that too, within spitting distance of Mumbai.
Mr. Hugh Poyntz Malet, the then Collector of Thane, gets the credit for discovering Matheran (meaning “forest on the top”) in 1850. Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Mumbai laid the foundations for the future development of Matheran as a hill station.
Getting to this town is half the fun. While speedier options are available by road, one could also take a Mumbai local train up to Neral, and then either the narrow-gauge toy train along a 21km scenic route to the heart of the settlement or a shared taxi from Neral station.
The toy train is an adventure in itself. It chugs along slowly without a care in the world. During the two hour ascent, food vendors and monkeys jump on and off as the valley glides by sedately
Motor vehicles are banned within this hill resort, making it an ideal place to give your ears and lungs some rest and your feet some exercise. Or if you aren’t in the mood for exercise, you could hop on to a horse or be taken around in a handcart pulley.
The adventure starts right from the moment you pay the capitation fee and enter the gates of this hill station. The feeling is nothing short of entering a 17th century theme park. There are no concrete roads here, so either you are walking on the red mud paths or following the jungle trails. In terms of attractions, this town has a lot to offer.
This is a serene and scenic spot with forest all around. The water of this lake is also the prime source of drinking water in the Matheran region. During the monsoon, there are waterfalls that spill out around the lake, making this a splendid site.
Matheran has more than 30 look-out points that offer picturesque views! Porcupine Point, Echo Point, Monkey Point, Panorama Point and Heart Point are some of the popular points to visit. Apart from these, there are other points too, where you can experience the most stunning views of the sunrise and sunset on the Western Ghats, the Sahyadri range and its valleys.
The central bazaar is a must visit for all those wanting a taste of the local culture. The leather items are quite famous of Matheran so ensure that you buy that belt or that footwear. The ambrosial sweet ‘chikki’ is also a prime attraction. You must taste the honey here, considered the best in India.
For the adventure seekers, Matheran is a pure treat. There are multiple trekking routes to this town. The most famous being the one through the Garbert Plateau. The journey starts from Bhivpuri station and the climb is particularly special in the rainy season as there are many rivulets and streams that crisscross the expedition.
This is a popular pastime in Matheran and a great way to commute too. There are numerous horses on hire, and although the rates vary depending on the hour and the distance, this is a great option for horse lovers and those who do not wish to walk.
A blessing for all nature lovers comes in the form of the jungle tracks of Matheran. You would especially enjoy this walk after the monsoons, when the wild flowers are in full bloom. One can commonly find golden langurs, giant squirrels, and other wildlife on the way.
Where to stay: Check the reviews and book your accommodation as per your budget. My advice would be to check into a place that is not in the center of the town. There are quite a few resorts / hotels in the jungle. The adventure in walking through the jungle to reach your room will be worth the walk!
What to eat: Food is the usual here. From early evening onwards, vairous street food vendors pop up in the main area. Apart from these, there are a few multi-cuisine restaurants. My advice would be: don’t expect much in this area!
When to go there: Temperature varies around 16° C in winters and about 32° C in summers, with an annual rainfall of 524 cms. October to May is the best time to visit!
Must carry items: Cash and Torch. If you run out of money and so does the ATM here, you’re stuck! Torch is a must as the jungles in the night are not lit (still safe).
All in all, Matheran is a refreshing change for all those who wish to escape the city madness. Just pick your dates, pack your bags and get ready to be high on nature.
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