When we think of any hill station in the peak season, we mostly also think about the chaos that goes around like heavy traffic, honking, pricey stays, high commutation charges, etc. But luckily, the smallest hill station of India – Matheran in Maharashtra is saved from all these because the place has no vehicle access and hence is eco-friendly. I wish we could have more such hill stations.
But are you wondering, how people wander here? Guess what – there’s a Toy Train in this little hill station, horses, and man-pulled rickshaws on which one can take a ride to reach their destinations or can simply choose to stroll.
My Journey to Matheran Hill Station
Pune – Lonavala – Karjat – Neral – Dasturi Naka – Matheran Hill Station – Gmaps Link – ~125 km drive
After long but fun local train journeys (Pune – Lonavala, Lonavala – Karjat) and cab rides (Karjat – Neral – Dasturi Naka), My friend and I finally made it to Dasturi Naka from Pune. At this point, everyone has to buy an entry ticket to the Hill Station (Adult – 50 Rs, Child – 25 Rs).
Dasturi Naka is the last motorable point and the distance from Dasturi Naka to Matheran Hill Station is ~2.5 km.
The only options to reach Matheran Hill Station from Dasturi Naka are toy train, horse ride, or by walk (unsure about man-pulled rickshaws here). We chose the latter in a way to enjoy “slow travel” here, also because we didn’t want to take a horse ride or rickshaws and kept the Toy Train ride for our return journey.
If you do not wish to walk or take a horse ride then you can choose to go by the Toy Train that plies from Aman Lodge (walk 2-3 mins from Dasturi Naka) and takes approx 15-20 mins.
An hour of strolling beside or on the railway track and muddy pathway, stopping for pictures, enjoying some local delicacies on the way, being in nature was all so much fun.
Also, on the way, there are small shops to stop and munch on Vada Pao, Golas, Pav Bhaji, Maggi, some local delicacies (maybe monkeys can accompany too). 😛
If one doesn’t wish to stay in or near the Matheran Market, then there are also a few hotels and resorts in between Dasturi Naka and Matheran.
Matheran Hill Station
As we reached the Matheran Market, I was a bit disheartened to see ample shops and restaurants. Because more than a decade ago when I had first visited this place with my family, and as far as I could recollect, there were not many shops, travelers, and the place were very quiet and unspoiled. But now owing to the increase in tourism, it has been highly commercialized. And eventually, the place seemed to have lost its charm to a certain extent.
But still, it’s pretty and worth visiting and one of the glorious Western Ghats weekend gateways near Mumbai (~80 km) and Pune (~120 km).
If you enjoy tasting local food and local shopping, in the Matheran market, there are ample eateries, shops, hotels, and local items like Chikkis, honey, Corsia clothes, and bags, etc.
Being a very tiny hill station – ~7 km², it is possible to cover most of the places by walk but going around in Matheran can get a bit tricky. There are “38 viewpoints” in Matheran that are shattered in different parts and give contrasting views. If you are trying to cover places of interest in a day or a couple of days, then probably, you will have to ride/walk a lot, by a lot I mean A LOTTT. 😀
If you want to relax and not rush then you can probably cover a few places and soak in its beauty! To cover all the points, one requires at least 2-3 days.
Also, check out the lookout points Map there before traversing to different viewpoints.
Out of 38 points, we visited a few good viewpoints and relaxed at each place than rushing everywhere.
Some of the good ones are –
- Charlotte Point and Lake
- Porcupine (Sunset Point)
- Lord Point
- Louisa Point
- One tree hill
- Panorama Point
- Sunrise Point
- Echo Point
After half an hour’s walk (nearly 2 km) from the market, this place welcomed us with a charming lake, dam and greenery surrounded all sides also ensuring a lot of peace. There’s also a temple near it and other viewpoints like – Sunset point, Louisa, and Lord Point.
In a day, almost 10-12 points can be covered because they are in the same proximity.
We then reached the Porcupine (sunset) point to chase the sunset and it was totally worth it with the beautiful mountain ranges, lovely weather, and views in the backdrop.
We took this trip in February so the weather was clear and the views were mesmerizing. In the rainy season or when it’s foggy, it may get difficult to see the ranges and the sunset but all over there will be a lot of little waterfalls and greenery around.
Matheran is considered safe but it gets extremely dark at night near the points as there aren’t any power supply or light poles. So plan accordingly to ensure safe return back to the market.
Toy Train from Matheran Hill Station to Neral
Now, the trip to Matheran would remain incomplete without taking a toy train ride there. 😀 It takes longer to reach the destination by it but can be experienced one time.
To get the train ticket one has to reach the station before 2 hours (which I felt isn’t very much feasible) and there isn’t any online facility yet.
The journey costs 75/45 INR (second class) and 300/180 INR (first class) from Matheran Hill Station to Neral.
The thing that gave me a nostalgic feeling and made me glad was the cute little ticket that we used to get at stations in our childhood. 😀
The thrilling zigzag journey was through the hills and on the ridges mostly, so the ride was a bit adventurous and fun at the same time because of the pretty valleys and mountain views. But don’t go with high expectations, because it’s a super slow train journey that takes ~3-4 hours for ~20 km and you may get bored after a certain point.
The toy train remains inoperable during the monsoon season because of landslides (the railway track is mainly built on the ridge).
The train is a bit compact and ensures views from all sides but to enjoy stretches completely try to have a window seat towards the right side if you are returning. There’s also a huge Ganpati God statue in the mountains.
The train halts at three stations if in case you just want a short detour – Jummapati, Waterpipe, and Aman Lodge Railway Station.
Ways to reach Matheran from Pune and Mumbai?
Matheran is a weekend getaway from Pune (~120 km) and Mumbai (~80 km). The nearest railway station to Matheran is Neral (10 km).
The two most feasible ways to reach Neral – local train or self-drive/cab.
Local trains –
- Pune – Lonavala (change the train) Lonavala – Karjat (No trains to Neral)
- Mumbai – Neral (Many direct trains)
From Karjat/Neral, many shared/private cabs ply to Dasturi Naka (the last motorable point there).
Self Drive –
- Everyone has to park their vehicle/cycle at Dasturi Naka by paying a parking fee.
Places to Stay
You can find a lot of stays option, there are ample budget hotels and you can spontaneously go without a pre-booking. Check out the location and stay there that suits the best for you. Still, here are my some recommendations –
- Alexander Heritage and Rainforest Resort – For Camping
- Rangoli Retreat – Stay near the Matheran Market
- Dune Barr House – Stay in the Forest
Places to Eat
There are umpteen small places to eat in Matheran, with no specific suggestions I have. We stopped whichever place looked good to us. But I would suggest to try out some authentic local Maharashtrian food, if likely.
How much Matheran trip may cost?
Matheran isn’t a luxurious place and hence isn’t pricey but a bit touristy. Still, the hotel and food rates are nominal and it would cost around 300-1000 INR person/day.
Best time to visit
A trip can be taken here “All round year” but I would recommend post-monsoon months (August – December) as there will be a lot of waterfalls and greenery.
Other things to do in or near Matheran
Matheran is a nature lover paradise that is mainly visited for its viewpoints and the toy train ride through the ghats. But there are a few more things that can be considered if one wants to be adventurous or experience more raw beauty –
- Overnight camping at a few campsites in Matheran
- There are some Beginners – Moderate level Hill Treks to Ambewadi, Peb Fort, One tree hill, Garbett Point, or Karnala Fort near Matheran
- Dodhani Village Trek
- Trek to Chanderi Caves
Bits of Advice
- Totally avoid heels or uncomfortable footwear, prefer shoes or flats as you may have to walk or ride a lot. Also, travel light – with not much luggage.
- Don’t rely on ATMs, carry sufficient cash.
- The rainy season can be avoided because the pathways get muddy and slippery. Carry extra clothes, footwear, and a full raincoat if you are planning a trip during the monsoon.
- It is good to carry your own water bottle and avoid buying plastic bottles there (stay nature friendly and travel responsibly!). Also, please follow and advise people not to litter here!
- Avoid a horse ride if you can walk, they undergo a lot of pain and are being maltreated, and remain malnourished.
- There can be monkeys menace, so stay cautious!
- Wear or carry warm clothes/jacket because it gets cold at night.
So, if you are planning to ditch city life and concentre jungle, then a trip to Matheran Hill Station can surely be your next travel destination that sits atop the jungle ensuring fresh and crisp air. Also, being near to Mother Nature experiencing tranquility and serenity can surely be the best bet!
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