चले थे जिस की तरफ़ वो निशान ख़त्म हुआ
सफ़र अधूरा रहा आसमान ख़त्म हुआ ….
For the time-poor individuals looking to get away from the mad rush of city-life, here’s a getaway where you should ditch the unnecessary tensions and enjoy the nature.
Imagine a place where there are no vehicles allowed – not even a bicycle!! You might be thinking how the hell will you commute in the city?? What if I say it is the smallest Hill station in India and the best way to experience it, is just by walking and hiking. Would you still be interested in visiting? Let me end the anxiety. Have you heard about Matheran Hill station?
Yes, India’s one of the smallest hill stations – Matheran literally means forest on top and it is. Matheran is declared as the eco sensitive region by ministry of environment forest and climate change government of India. It is located in the Sahyadri hill range in Raigad district of Maharashtra State at the height of 803 m above the sea level, and a narrow gauge railway line connects Matheran hill station to Neral.
It was mainly out of curiosity that I chose to visit MATHERAN with my family. A town where vehicles are completely banned was the foremost reason what brought me to Matheran.
The question here is HOW DO WE REACH THIS ECO- SENSITIVE HILL-STATION?
Matheran is a weekend destination for most of the families, living near MUMBAI & PUNE. So, From Mumbai take a Karjat bound local train and get down at Neral Station. If you are coming from Pune, catch any Mumbai-bound train and get off at Karjat. Now catch a CST-bound local train and get down at Neral.
From Neral, you can reach Matheran hill station by following options:
- From Neral you can catch the famous Matheran Light Railway toy train which takes around 2 hours to reach Matheran. The train is often full, so turn up in good time to ensure you get a ticket (or) plz book toy train in advance on irctc website. Due to frequent landslides in monsoon season, the toy train services are often terminated. You should travel by this toy train only if you have the patience to sit through the painfully slow journey. But, yes the views in the vicinity are just spectacular.
- Alternatively, just walk by the Neral station and you will find many shared taxis that will drop you at Dasturi Point. Beyond Dasturi Point no vehicles are allowed, and you can walk along the rail line and reach Matheran in about 30 min. The walk is through the jungles full of lush green wood, and you will enjoy every bit of it. You can also opt for a horseback or man-pulled rickshaw ride along a mud track.
- Personally, I feel the horse rides & taxi’s are pretty expensive. It would rather be better to carry less luggage and take a walk to matheran from Dasturi. (Ps. Don’t get influenced by the horse riders )
- There is an “Entry Fee“ to enter Matheran hill station, which is to be paid on arrival at the toy train station or at Dasturi point. The cost is 50 rupees per adult, and 20 rupees per child.
TRAVEL AROUND MATHERAN
Being an automobile-free hill station, you need to opt for other options to get around. To enjoy nature to its fullest, walking is the best choice. All the trails have signboards, and the locals are very helpful to let you know the correct way. A stroll amidst clouds floating around you is majestic. If you are feeling a bit lazy, you can always opt for a horse ride. (Ps. Horse riders do cheat a lot, so be aware when they quote a price.)
With an area of 7 Km sq., I chose to explore it one foot at a time. Around the mountains of Matheran, there are close to 33 designated look-out points and 2 to 3 days are required to cover the same. But I just had one day and we reached Matheran around 3PM so I had planned to see the sunset along with 2-3 other points.
My day at Matheran started with a bad experience so I didn’t have the patience to take a walk and go around the points, so I planned to take a horse ride & can you believe these people just cheat. My expectations from Matheran were different. We were completely exhausted, the serenity and the scenery made us forget our painful experience. The experience begins the wilderness, steep valleys, forest, calmness. You can hear just two things either birds chirping or the other person talking. These points are gateways to delight you with breathtaking mountain and valley views. The popular ones being Panorama Point, Heart Point, Monkey Point, Echo Point, Porcupine Point, Louisa Point. Other than this I would also recommend you to visit Charlotte Lake, One tree hill, and the main market area. The point which I found truly remarkable is:
Echo Point: The view of mountains kissing the clouds and the deep green valley at its foot is just mind-blowing. You can have some yummy MAGGIE & spend your time chilling and drinking kokam sharbat with the view.
Tip: More or less all the points are similar offering you great glimpses of valleys .So, it would be my advice to all the readers is to view only the selected ones.
I had taken the toy-train ride on my way back to dasturi. It was OK-OK. A slow ride but kids will enjoy it. There is a first class and a general class in the train. There are not much differences between the qualities, but the prices are really standing at two extremes – 240/ and 40/ respectively!!! The first class only has some window curtains and colored seats – that’s it.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MATHERAN:
Matheran’s beauty only doubles during the monsoon. So you can consider vacationing during June to September months. But beware of muddy slippery trails. Hence, do carry a good pair of shoes for dusty trails.
STAY IN MATHERAN:
Matheran is a small hill station, and its hard to find good places to stay. I would suggest you to book your hotels in advance near the main market. There are very cheap stay options for backpackers but don’t expect too much service. For families, you can book family rooms. The best places to stay in Matheran are Radha Cottage, Westend Hotel, Adamo- The Village, Rangoli Retreat. But these are a bit far away from the market area.. So I preferred to stay at Mandakini Lodge which was just opposite the main market area.
Special Tips for Matheran:
- Take enough cash with you as there are just 1 -2 ATM’s there, mostly out of cash.
- Don’t carry too much luggage.
- Beware of the auto & horse drivers as I have faced a bad time interacting with them.
- Please have a look at the TOY TRAIN schedule. It is not very easily available .
Frankly, I would give Matheran only 2.5 stars out of 5 stars asI didn’t enjoy it that much but Matheran has something for everyone, from backpackers and nature enthusiasts to lovely-dovey couples looking to spend some romantic and peaceful time.
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