If you are wondering whether or not there are any pollution-free spaces in India, let us put an end to that thought right now. Although it is hard to believe, but this tiny hill station in Maharashtra, Matheran, is the only vehicle-free hill station in Asia. The only way to commute here is by walking, hand carriages or by horse riding. Hotels in Matheran are easily available at decent rates. Here are some of the interesting activities assorted for you to indulge in this little piece of passive wilderness and solitude.
Walk the Red Earth
Matheran has lots of points like the Sunset Point, Louisa Point, Panorama Point, Heart Point, etc. You can simply start a walking trail on your own. You can find signboards at every trail. However, if you find a place low on public traffic and are unable to find a signboard, it is advisable to wait at a crossroad for passers-by to show you the correct way. If you still have doubts on your sense of navigation, you can always count on hand carriages and horse rides.
The exhilarating walks: There are approximately 33 viewpoints and it may take more than a day to cover all of them. If you don’t like much crowd, you should definitely visit the Charlotte Lake and the One Tree Hill. All these lookout points offer mind blowing hills and valley views. The best time to visit this pleasant hill station is between October and May. Although, monsoon enhances the beauty of Matheran, you should be careful of the mucky slippery trails.
Witness the Local Culture
Spend a quiet evening in the market and sample the local delights such as Maharashtrian Misal, poha, khichdi, sabu dana wada, etc. You can find out about many local legends by striking up casual conversations with the locals.
Try out Chikkis: You can go chikki-tasting at the shops in Matheran. It is a popular sweet made of jaggery and groundnuts. You can literally find a whole gamut of chikkis here of different flavours, colours and textures.
Trekking and Hiking
Matheran is filled with trekking routes. You can take the route from Neral to Matheran or Dasturi to Matheran. There are several other routes to be discovered. The lush greenery, hills, healthy horses and toy trains running along the tracks will keep you great company. Wear comfortable footwear to walk the dusty trails with ease.
Carry Enough Cash
It is advisable to carry enough cash on your Matheran trip because there are about 1 to 2 ATMs in the entire area which remain mostly out of cash.
Monkey alert: You must avoid carrying food in your hand or in an open handbag. Monkeys here are very temperamental and do not easily let go off tourists carrying food. Besides, why court a tussle with the monkeys?
Enjoy a Budget Stay
There are accommodation options for travellers to suit every budget. Besides hotels in Matheran, you can also check out homestays. Due to an increase in tourism, many locals have transformed their houses into cottages for tourists. But if you opt to stay at these homestays, do not expect much service.
Check these out: Ashirwad Cottage is a budget accommodation popular among the backpackers. With 20 rooms spread across 3 floors, this place offers free breakfast service and internet access on a chargeable basis. Hotel Valley View is located near Matheran Railway Station. There is a total of 20 well–maintained guestrooms. It also features a swimming pool and free breakfast service. Westend Hotel is a popular 3-star hotel in Matheran. With 21 cottages and bungalows, this accommodation is surrounded by lakes, valleys and hills. You can enjoy the pool side buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
How to Get There
To reach Matheran, you need to reach Neral first. You can avail the central line trains from Mumbai and Pune to Neral. Upon reaching Neral station, you have to take the toy train to Matheran which will take around 2 hours to reach. You can also take vehicles from outside Neral station. But that will take you till Dasturi point, beyond which no automobiles are allowed.
Easy conveyance: Avail trains to Neral, available from Mumbai and Pune, to reach Dasturi point – barely 22 minutes away from Neral.
Pay an entry fee which is mostly about INR 50 for the adults and INR 25 for children to enter Matheran hill station at the toy train station or at Dasturi Point. These charges go into the maintenance of the forests considering its brittle ecosystem. Choose from an array of hotels in Matheran that sits best with your needs for your next weekend.