Matheran Hill Station
With the concern about air pollution snowballing into a major unavoidable debate in India, Matheran serves as a saviour. Situated in Raigad, it is considered the smallest and the most peaceful hill station. It is one of the most popular tourist destination in Maharashtra.
The reason for the latter is something unique to this place. It is the only hill station where vehicles are BANNED. All vehicles are banned so, you will be left with no choice but to walk, ride a horse or hire a hand pulled rickshaw. We had the same anxiety that you have right now while planning a trip there. However, Matheran did not disappoint us in any way. It makes the dreary walks pleasant with its breathtaking greenery. The beautiful birds which flutter around the entire hill station will never let you get bored.
With Matheran being situated 800 metres above sea level on the Western Ghats, the name ‘Matheran’ rings true to its meaning. Etymologically, it refers to ‘forest on top’. There are thirty-eight look-out points that gives the feeling of being in a forest located at a considerable height. While traversing through the area, you will feel the beauty and power of nature at its best. The forest cover through which you negotiate to reach those look-out points is dense but, the view from above is spectacular. You can stand at the Panorma point and look around to get a 360 degree view. Some other vantage points are named ‘One Tree Hill Point’, ‘Hart Point’, ‘Monkey Point’ etc.
The ‘One Tree Hill Point’ resonated with the famous TV series of the same name. This perked us up to trek to that point and see for ourselves the beauty that it reflects. We trekked up through a picturesque environment and reached the beautiful serene point. You can regale in the stillness and the quietness of the place for hours. The journey back can be through Shivaji’s Ladder Road, which according to a popular legend, was discovered by Hugh Malet, the British collector of Thane. Infact, Matheran was also discovered by Malet in 1850 and it was soon patronised by the British.
Malet’s contribution is appreciated in the form of his statue situated in the famous Paymaster Park. The park is infused with various varieties of flowers and plants and you are sure to find numerous monkeys there. Keep your snacks safe and don’t feed them!
Rambaug Point is located on the way to One Tree Hill Point and can be visited along with Alexander Point and Little Chowk Point. Although the walk is rejuvenating, if you are feeling lazy, you can hire a horse and cover all these points. From Rambaug, you can even look as far as Khandala and Karjat. The other points, Echo and Louisa are near the famous Charlotte Lake. It is a picnic spot for tourists and located far from the crowded tourist destinations. It observes a pleasant silence and is the primary source of water for Matheran. There is a Pisarnath temple nearby which also serves as a place of attraction.
The Matheran toy train starts from Neral and takes about two hours to cover the distance between Neral and Matheran. This would be the most pleasant journey you have ever had! The train slithers through the mountain to fascinate the tourists with beauty along the route. It will also take you to all 38 designated look out points. Apparently, it is the only way to reach the plateau top of Matheran. Some people fondly call the toy train as ‘PhulRani’. The service is halted every year during the monsoon. Tickets for the train can either be booked online or purchased from Neral station about 45 minutes prior to departure.
Matheran has been declared as an eco-sensitive region by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India because of its ‘zero’ pollution level. It might come across as a retrograde place where vehicles are not allowed. However, with the vistas of radiant trees, vibrant birds and exhilarating greenery, Matheran serves as the best weekend getaway from Mumbai and Pune. It is about 90 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune. The feeling of enrapturing peace and beguiling beauty is intoxicating. You will drool over the ubiquitous greenery of the place and come back with a relaxed mind and satisfied heart.