I was always skeptical of planning a day trip to Matheran. At the back of my mind ran questions like…..
- Is it doable?
- Will it be hectic?
- How long would it take to reach?
- What about toy train timings?
- Do toy trains run during monsoons?
- How much would I have to trek if I chose to not take the toy train?
- How much time do I give myself to sight-see if I return on the same day?
I have pretty much got answers to all these questions after my recent day trip to Matheran. And I am going to answer these questions in this post so you can conveniently plan a trip to this hill station.
Day Trip to Matheran
Matheran needs little introduction. The smallest hill station in India is a popular getaway just over 90 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune. It has been declared an Eco-sensitive zone by the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest. The most special reason to visit Matheran though, is to get a glimpse of the only town in India that bans vehicles.
Back during the pre-independence era, Matheran used to be a popular summer retreat for the British. Even today, Matheran looks like a town straight out of the 1800s with limited urbanization and no sight of vehicles.
Dense forest enveloped in thick mist whilst trekking towards Matheran (Photo: Vishal Singh)
How to reach Matheran
Getting to Matheran is fun (if not convenient). Start early morning and take either the Deccan Express (7am from CST) or Koyna Express (8:40am from CST). One can even take the Karjat bound local train from CST at 6:45am. Get off at Neral station, two stops before Karjat. The journey is approximately an hour and a half. I suggest Karjat bound 6:45am train or Deccan Express are good options since your arrival at Neral coincides with the early morning timings of Matheran bound toy trains.
If you are patient to give yourself two hours in the leisurely paced toy train, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Sahyadri hill range (and cascading waterfalls during monsoons).
If not for the toy train, an alternative is to hire a cab from Neral station to Dasturi Park. Vehicles are not allowed beyond this point. From Dasturi Park you either trek along the railway tracks or hire a horse or hand pulled rickshaw to Matheran.
What did we do?
We took the Karjat bound 6:55am from Dadar and got off at Neral. From there we hired a cab to Dasturi Park for Rs. 75 per head. We reached Dasturi Park in 20 mins and trekked another 40 mins to reach the main market area in Matheran.
Trekking to Matheran
Sightseeing in Matheran
Matheran is a small town spread across less than 8 km². There are over 30 points, 1 lake and 3 temples in Matheran. The points offer spectacular views of the Western Ghats. During monsoons, waterfalls add character to the mountain ranges and the view is awe-inspiring.
What did we see?
We entered Matheran at 11 am, had some tea and went off to explore. Sure, Matheran has over 30 points but given the time at hand, we decided to check only a few. Besides, covering even 15 points would have been an overdose of points for a single day. After sometime, they would all look the same. So here are some of the recommended points you can cover on your short trip – Alexander Point, Louisa Point, One Tree Hill, Lord Point, and Charlotte Lake.
Returning from Matheran
How did we return?
We actually skipped the toy train since leaving at 4:30pm gave barely any time in Matheran. After all our sightseeing and lunch we bid good bye to Matheran at 6:30pm and started our trek back to Dasturi Park. We took a cab from there to Neral station and boarded the 7:55pm train to Dadar. We were all home by 10pm and the journey was NOT at all hectic.
What about Food in Matheran?
Lunch could mostly be in the main market area, aka, M.G. road. Hotels, restaurants and small tapris selling Tea, Vada pav and Maggie line up the pathway. Choose from any of these based on your liking for cuisine or budget. Since tourism is the only way locals can make money, food and other items purchased could be pricey. (Our Maggie costs Rs. 40 which in actuality was a Rs. 5 packet if purchased from a general store).
The Main market area, aka, M.G. Road in Matheran
Key tip for your short trip:
The toy train to Matheran is over-hyped. It moves at a snail’s pace and can make you borderline impatient. Having said that, it is a unique experience one must undertake at least once. If you decide to take the toy train ride in your single day trip, make sure you do this in the morning. You can trek back in the evening giving yourself more time in Matheran.
Other travel essentials:
- Don’t get confused between Neral station and Nerul station. The latter is in Navi Mumbai.
- The toy train has a scheduled time table but its on-time departures and arrivals are questionable. Also, they may not operate if there is rough weather or heavy rainfall. The only way to find out is when you get there.
- There is an entrance charge for visitors to Matheran of apprx. Rs. 50 per head towards maintaining its ecosystem. This needs to be paid at the Matheran station if arriving by toy train or at Dasturi Park if reaching by cab.
- In case you change your mind and plan to stay for a night in Matheran, some good hotel options are Cecil Hotel and Veranda in the forest.
(Note: Amounts and figures mentioned above were correct at the time of publishing the post)
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