A sea of greenery rolling endlessly in front of you playing hide and seek behind a flock of seasonal monsoon clouds, jagged rocky peaks jutting randomly out of the surrounding flatlands, a sudden burst of rain leading you to scurry to the nearest chai wala’s yellow makeshift tent, a curious pair of eyes with a tail hanging behind, watching you intently, fixated on the steaming corn in your hand, a gust of fresh mountain air hitting your face rejuvenating your senses; yep, that’s the sensory enlightenment (shortest possible narrative) you’d experience during a day trip to Matheran.
Don’t miss the comprehensive list of 10 tips for an incredible day trip to Matheran at the end of this post.
Looking for another monsoon getaway, check out our post on a weekend trip to Ganpatipule .
A day trip to Matheran
Located only 90kms from Mumbai and 120kms from Pune, a day trip to Matheran is seldom missed by a Mumbaikars & Puneits. Perched at an altitude of 2625ft and been tagged as the smallest hill station in India, this gem of a place fascinates hikers, bikers, and drivers alike; driving being the most calorie saving option.
However, as much fuss as you might make out of this, you can’t drive to the middle of this hinterland. An amazing initiative to keep the already fragile ecosystem intact. The last place you can drive to is Dasturi from where the game of elements starts. In short, the red laterite sticking to your boots, the frequently lashing rain showers and the spooky ghostly mist that flows in an out like a Ramsay brother’s horror movie scene.
I’ve visited this place 3 times in 3 years and every time there’s something new waiting to fascinate me, from a bird I’ve never seen before to a newly discovered waterfall flowing calmly amidst a constant pitter-patter of rain drops drumming on wide open leaves to form muddy poodles below aka booby traps for your boots.
I’ve drenched myself endless times trying to capture a bird in motion or a monkey enraged at my trespass. From dead trees draped in moss to sneaking sun rays revealing a hidden pond, a day trip to Matheran never ceased to amaze me.
The monsoon weather
The monsoon weather in Matheran varies constantly like the mood swings of a 1st-trimester pregnancy. Mostly enraged downpours. One minute the sky opens up like that beautiful coveted smile that you had been waiting for hours to see and the next moment all hell breaks loose with a thunderous downpour leaving you to wonder what the hell went wrong this time.
The trek during a day trip to Matheran
The trek on top of Matheran is a straightforward one and only require some walking skills which I guess we learned during our first year of existence 😉 . But trek “To” Matheran usually refers to the uphill trek from the plains. This might require some hiking skills. I never tried it. I drove twice and biked once to the top. But my next visit would be a hike for sure.
The two famous trek routes are via Garbett Plateau that starts at Bhivpuri (base village) and via One Tree Hill Point that starts at Ambevadi village (base village). The treks are around 2-3hours, and from what I’ve heard and read about I feel like a fool to miss these until now.
The Matheran Trail
Nothing that runs on an engine passes through the gates at Dasturi except the toy train from Neral. Yep, motor vehicles are a strict no inside Matheran. So the only way to explore this 7sq km area is to walk, ride a horse or board a hand-pulled rickshaw. I’d prefer to walk (and I’ve done it all 3 times) as it’s the best possible way to explore the hidden gems up close.
The trail from Dasturi to the main market area runs simultaneously with the narrow gauge rail track. I guess people have to scamper to the sides when the train arrives. Personally, I never had an encounter with the toy train. From the main market area, the trails to all the viewpoints are well marked with signboards so there’s no chance of getting lost. Horse rides are tricky to bargain and might burn your pockets just to visit a few viewpoints (around Rs.1100 for 5 points).
The Matheran town is a 45-minute walk from the car park at Dasturi. Dotted with timeworn colonial bungalows and bisected by a narrow gauge rail line running through, the town has a rustic charm to it. There’re numerous shops here where you can buy some food and drinks. But the allure lies ahead in the viewpoints, so there’s no point wasting time here. If your legs are already tired of walking and begging for a pit stop, then rest at the viewpoints. I promise that will rejuvenate you way better.
In spite of being the smallest hill station in India, Matheran has an impressive list of 38 viewpoints to mesmerize you during your long walk. A day trip to Matheran might not be enough to cover all of them but there’s always a next time right! And don’t worry, “38” is more like a sales figure 😉 .
Some famous viewpoints for a day trip to Matheran (and how to plan the route)
1. Panorama point: The name itself speaks for it. Also known as the sunrise point, it offers a panoramic view of the Western Ghats landscape with towering hills of the Sahyadri range jutting from the rugged valley below. The Ulhas river meanders through the valley like a silver necklace concealed in a green carpet.
The only disadvantage is its far-flung location. It’s about 6km from the main market center which requires a 30-minute walk.
2. Little Chowk Point: This point is famous for a huge Ganpati idol carved out on a rock. The only way to reach here is to hike or take the toy train ride. The point is visible from Panorama point which is why I decided not to trek to it.
3. Louisa Point: This is one of the most recommended look-out points on Trip Advisor for spectacular views of the hills dissected by several waterfalls with vertical drops exceeding hundreds of feet. The point is located about 2 km from the main market area and the route is well marked. Louisa point is visible from Echo point where you can hear your voice reverberate through the hills. Although it felt more like an urban legend.
4. One tree hill point: As the name suggests this point has a single tree on a hilltop giving you sweeping 360-degree views. Getting to the top requires some serious hiking skills. If you are already planning Panorama during your day trip to Matheran and it might be better to give this a miss. The hike starts from the base village Ambewadi and takes about 3 hours to scale an elevation of 600m.
5. There are other points like Sunset point, Garbut point, and Alexandar point, so basically you need to prioritize your route for your day trip to Matheran.
The Route Plan for a day trip to Matheran
The need for a pair of waterproof trekking shoes
The trails in Matheran are uneven and muddy, filled with gravel. But I guess that’s how all trails should be right! Usually, the natural drainage is good, so the tracks dry up quickly after a downpour. But at places where drainage is poor, you’ll find poodles, sometimes big enough that you can’t jump to the other side. The best preparation, in this case, is to wear a pair of waterproof trekking boots.
We crossed so many during our trek happily splashing water on each other. The blood red lateritic clay sticks to your boot like the baby monkey to her mother’s chest. The elevation varies but not more than 20-30 feet probably.
The creepy moment
We were walking through a trail covered in a dense canopy that led to a flat land where small boys were playing football. There was no sign of rain or fog, but as soon as I pulled out my camera a veil of mist emerged out of nowhere. Within a minute we could barely see only a few feet ahead. The boys playing football slowly vanished in the mist although we could hear their cheerful voice as if floating from a distance.
Kingdom of the dead
As I walked ahead randomly clicking pictures of everything around me, something very interesting grabbed my attention. Two white pillars, worn out and mud-stained, braving the elements, stood there in the middle of the forest. It looked as if they carried the burden of a heavy iron gate on them a long time back. But there was no sign of a gate or fence. This definitely left me intrigued to explore more.
There was something inscribed on both the pillars. I couldn’t read the language on one but the other read – “LAST RESTING PLACE FOR PARSIS”. There was a trail running through the gate into the forest. Thankfully the mist was gone by now so we decided to explore further.
As we walked the trail, there was a creepy silence and all heard were the rustling leaves and our own chatter. The trail shortly led us to a very old Parsi cemetery dating back to 1900. There was a 2nd gate painted in white that led us to a beautifully curved tombstone.
People say this tomb belongs to the Lord family of Matheran although I couldn’t find anything on this tomb during a google search later.
It was kind of scary to discover a graveyard in the middle of a forest, that too well maintained. We didn’t wait for anyone to show up and left the place soon.
The trails in Matheran cross each other, but due to properly marked sign boards, there’s a very slim chance of getting lost. We started trekking back towards Dasturi by late afternoon. We crossed some nice viewpoints on the way.
The weather turned real nasty as we started to walk back. Dark clouds invaded the sky and daylight faded to a late evening shade. The wind started to howl echoing from the forest. We picked our pace to get some cover. Thankfully it didn’t rain as we expected.
10 comprehensive tips for a day trip to Matheran
1. There is an entry fee of Rs. 50 for adult visitors and Rs. 25 for children, charged by the Matheran Municipal council, which you need to pay at the Dasturi gate.
2. The toy train runs from Neral to Matheran. If you are willing to hop on it for your day trip to Matheran make sure you reach Neral early.
The counter opens about 45 minutes prior to departure. There’re 6 trains running each way from 6:40 am to 5.05pm. You can get the timetable and fare details here . To book online you can check the Indian Railways site here. Although the site is dead most of the time so the best bet is to reach Neral early and queue for the ticket.
During monsoon, the toy train doesn’t run from Neral. It runs from Aman lodge midway to Matheran. Usually, it resumes operation from early October. (Currently it’s not running).
The train is not running many times because of track repairs and maintenance. The IRCTC website says to give a call to 02222644378 /79, 22655624/25/26 before booking. I would strongly recommend to give it a check. Call timings mentioned in the website are between 10 am to 6 pm (Mon to Sat).
3. If you happen to miss the train ride, hop on a cab, which takes about 30 minutes to reach Matheran. From Neral to Matheran the cabs charge about Rs. 70 on a sharing basis and about Rs. 350 if you hire the entire cab. This also has the added advantage of reaching early for your day trip to Matheran.
4. The food in the restaurants is not out of the world but after a 10-kilometer trek, even rocks taste like butter chicken. You can pack your own snacks too. Just make sure not to litter.
5. For adventure enthusiasts, there’s a Valley Crossing in Matheran where you’ll hang on a ropeway more than 1000 feet above the ground and slide across a span of about 900 feet from Honeymoon point to near Louisa Point. Make sure to give it a try.
6. For horse rides make sure you know about the place before. Otherwise, there’s a fair chance you might get duped.
7. Some reviews on the internet say Monsoon is not the best time to visit Matheran. I totally disagree on this. Monsoon is THE best time to visit. If you are not comfortable getting wet, then you can choose a time towards the end of the season like September end. It’s the lush rain-soaked flora here that gives life to Matheran. The vibrant green landscape is something you wouldn’t forget in a long time.
8. Don’t forget to carry your own water bottle to avoid dehydration.
9. A waterproof bag for electronics is a must if you’re visiting in monsoon.
10. Use a rain cover/coat instead of umbrellas. This keeps the hands free while protecting you from the rain. Sometime umbrellas can’t sustain the strong winds.
We would be really glad if this post could help you in any way to plan a trip to Matheran. Do let us know through the comment section if you have anything else to add 🙂
Signing off for now………..