Matheran: A Beautiful Hill Station in Maharashtra

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Matheran, at 800m height, is on the Western Ghats and is a famous getaway for all those looking for a respite from the hectic city life. This is at a distance of 120km from Pune and 90km from Mumbai. Besides the lush vegetation, you breathe in clean air and experience a comfortable climate. This is one hill station that is free of any automobiles.

Matheran History

Matheran stands for ‘forest of the forehead’. It was only in the 15th century CE  this town was heard. The Muranjan fort, now known as the Prabalgad fort, built by the Sultanate of Bahamani, was for keeping an eye on the provinces of North Konkan. The Mughals captured this fort with the Sultanate collapsing. This fort was, then, captured by Shivaji Maharaj in 1657. At that time the Dhangar tribe inhabited this hill station.

It was only in the year 1850 that Hugh Malet, the Raigad district collector, rediscovered this hill station. The foundation was laid by Lord Elephinston. Sir Adamjee Peerboy, in 1907, developed the famous railway line (meter-gauge). This line was a connection between Neral and Matheran.

Best Time to Visit Matheran

Anytime from November to May works out the best time to visit this hill-station. It is advisable not to visit here during the monsoons due to the ‘leeches’ menace. In case you plan to visit during the monsoons, ensure you are totally covered.

Weekends you find a crowd here as most of the people find this period comfortable. You will not enjoy the calmness of this place during this time due to the crowds. There can also be a problem with the vehicles at Dasturi Naka, the parking area. It gets tough to climb the ghats at times due to the traffic.

Reaching Matheran

You have the option of hiring a taxi from Mumbai but again, it is advisable to leave at around 6 am due to traffic congestion. Once you have left the city, try taking the road from Karjat to Neral. You can hire an Omni car or hire a driver if you are already in your car. This is due to the fact that the incline is steep, around 70 degrees and it is always safer to consider safety.

Toy Train

You can request the schedule of the toy train from your hotel in case you are interested. This train is from Matheran to Neral and back,. This train takes around 30 minutes. You need to stand in queue at the ticket counter as there is no online booking available.

You have the choice of taking a break at Dasturi before you carry on your journey to Matheran. This parking is notorious for monkeys creating a nuisance. Ensure you carry water and food in a bag and not leave any luggage unsupervised.

You need to walk around 400m to Aman Lodge from Dasturi Naka for tea. This lodge is a railway station from where the toy train leaves for Neral. You have the choice of either taking this train or even hiring a horse or a cart. This train from Neral to Matheran takes only 15 minutes.

Trekking

You can either hire a porter or backpack, if you are interested in trekking all the way to Matheran. This can take around an hour or so. The road is a ‘gentle’ climb but is not concrete. It is paved in a few places but most of it has laterite stones. It is important to carry a good pair of trekking shoes so that you do not lose your balance. This walk is quite comfortable due to the cool air and the tree coverings.

Where to stay?

There are a lot of good options available here. It totally depends on your budget and also how long you are planning to be here. Most of the lodges and hotels are affordable. Some of these even offer meals at a fixed package rate.

Before you book your hotel/lodge, make sure you check out the distance between your place of stay and the center of the town.

What to see in Matheran?

You have wide choices of places to see in or around Matheran. You find 3 paths. The 1st one is from the south, Alexander point. This goes through the Rambaug point and one tree hill, the race course of Olympia, and finishes at Belvedere point.

The next path is from the Lord’s point located in the west and finishes at Louisa point.  The longest path is the last one, which starts from Malang Point located in the West right up to the North, Porcupine point.

In Matheran you find almost 38 ‘view’ points. These include the Louisa Point and also the Panorma Point, Heart Point, One Tree Hill point, Rambagh point and the Porcupine point. It is advisable to explore the different points on foot instead of opting for the horses. You can get a better experience. At every point you can get refreshments and make sure you carry enough cash as there are no cards or online payments accepted.

Railway Station of Matheran

One site that is popular among the tourists is the Matheran Railway Station. This is quite ‘quaint’ and has a unique charm. This is situated in the main market. You find only 2 train tracks present here, and that too only of the meter-gauge. You can also pay a visit to the locomotive. These tracks were damaged badly during the 2005 floods. It re-opened only in 2007 after the required renovations and repairs. The train of Matheran did not become a world heritage site.

The Market Street

Market Street is the ‘heart’ of this place. This is situated around the station. You find many shops, restaurants, game stalls, hotels and café here. Most of the tourists like to stay around this place so that they can enjoy the night life. The shops are open from 6 in the morning to 11 in the night.

All the shops do not open during the weekdays as they find the required business during weekends. You can enjoy the local food and shop for souvenirs during week days.

The most popular souvenir of this place is a small shoe that can be stuck on the wall. These are ‘finger’length’ and are made of leather. You can also shop for belts and footwear at reasonable prices. Those who love sweets can shop for fudge, chikkis or fig rolls.

The Charlotte Lake

Charlotte Lake is a place you normally would find on post-cards. The blue sky, the green canopy around and the clear water surpasses beauty itself.

You cannot swim in this lake as this is the source of drinking water here. A dam is the origin of this lake.

Pishamrnath Mahadev Mandir

The ancient Pisharnath Mahadev Mandir is at a small distance from the lake. This is Matheran’s presiding deity. The lingham in this temple is self-manifested or Swayambhu. The Shivalinga here is smeared with vermillion, unlike other temples.

Though this temple is in the tourist spot area, there is a specific stillness and calmness present. This temple has been in existence since ages.

Olympia Race Course

This heritage structure, the Olympia Race Course, is one of the popular places you need to visit. You have horse races here even at present.

Holy Cross Church

The Holy Cross Church was built in the year 1853, when the British discovered Matheran. In 1906 this church was renovated. There was a resident priest in this church till 1947. After which, this was served by the priests of ‘Our Lady of Glory Church from Byculla in Mumbai.

Matheran Treks

An intermediate or advanced level trekker can trek towards Vikatgad or Prabalgad. These forts held a great deal of importance during the Marathas reign.

Vikatgad was used for storing grains and Prabalgad was used for military operations. You can hire a guide to reach these forts. At the base of the hill station you find few Adivasi villages. You can isit these places if you are interested in getting to know their culture.

Locals of Matheran

You find very down-to-earth and humble people here. The shopkeepers and also the ‘hand-cart’ pullers are very accommodating. Most of these locals are Thakars, Warlis, and Katkaris. They are always helpful to the tourists. They travel for almost 2 hours to reach Matheran for their livelihood.

Ambulance is the only automobile available here. You also find a functional hospital here.