Longing for a weekend getaway from Mumbai? Visit Matheran hill station |
Situated barely 95km from Mumbai, the financial capital of India, is the tiny hill station of Matheran- the most popular weekend destination for residents in and around Mumbai. With a reputation to be Asia's only 'pedestrian' hill station, Matheran offers the tranquility and idyllic settings that visitors long for in a weekend getaway with family and friends. The term 'pedestrian' has a different connotation in the context of Matheran- it is so called because motor vehicles are not allowed beyond a certain point.
The easiest and most economical way to reach Matheran is using local trains. If one enjoys a challenge of a different kind, then a travel in a Mumbai local train can be quite an enjoyable experience.
Your journey to Matheran starts from Neral railway station. If you are starting from Mumbai, then board a train going to Karjat or Khopoli and alight at Neral. If you are traveling from the other side (Pune side) then alight at Karjat and board a train towards Mumbai and get down at Neral, the station after Bhivpuri Road.
If you have the time and the inclination to enjoy the lush greenery and earthy smell of the fields, you may consider walking the distance that can take 4-6 hours. The other option is to take one of the private cabs outside Neral railway station that costs only about Rs.50 per person (a little over US$1). You can expect the drive right up to the basement of Matheran, popularly known as "Dasturi", to be completed in about 30 minutes. At Dasturi, you have to pay an entrance fee of Rs.25 to enter the precincts of the world's tiniest hill station, Matheran.
Moving around the 'enclosed' hill station
To minimize pollution and protect the inherent appeal of Matheran, external motor vehicles are not allowed entry. If you have driven all the way from your home, then you will have to park your vehicle at Dasturi and give your legs a bit of a workout.
Of course, you can opt for the more regal arrangement- go for a horse ride through Matheran. Cost-wise, it will set you back by about Rs.600 - Rs.1000/- per day (roughly US$15-US$20).
Personally though, I suggest you to enjoy the walk, which will be an amazing experience. It will undoubtedly take some time to reach and view the key sightseeing points, but the fun is in the journey as the serene, scenic settings of Matheran recharges and rejuvenates you.
Typically, at least a 2-day halt is needed to cover the main tourist attractions in Matheran.
Accommodation in Matheran: book a hotel or cottage in advance
If you are planning to visit Matheran with your family, it is always advisable to book a hotel room prior to the journey. Some of the decent hotels / resorts in Matheran are Kumar Plaza, Rainbow Retreat, AnandRitz, and Hotel Horseland. While these hotels may be more expensive than some of the other commonly available accommodation, it is worth spending that money for experiencing a hassle free, pleasant stay at Matheran.
If you have not booked a hotel or cottage to stay in advance, then take some precautions when you hunt for accommodation. Don't trust the touts at Neral station [commission agents to hotels and cottages located at Matheran] who promise you good rooms in hotels whose names you are not aware of.
Book a hotel room only after checking the place and the amenities they provide [the beds, bathrooms and the toilet flush]- particularly if you are going for budget/ economy accommodation. While the touts might create a sense of shortage in supply of hotels/ cottages, it may not usually be the case, unless you are visiting Matheran during the hot summer months from March - June and in October-November.
The price range for a per-day stay varies from anywhere between Rs.200 (less than US$5) to Rs. 6000 (about US$150), typically based on the type of hotel/ cottage you choose and the season. During the peak tourist season, the charges may shoot up to almost five times the actual cost) but it should not exceed more than Rs 6000 per day. Also while booking the rooms / cottages confirm the check-out time, as this may create some confusion and spoil your entire vacation.
When he is not meeting prospects and clients, Sujit Nair loves an escape to Matheran. He enjoys the weather and the place, but would do anything to do away from the touts at Neral selling budget accommodation. As they say, once bitten, twice shy?
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