Tucked into a little corner of the Western Ghats, Matheran, literally 'Forest on Top', could have been the mountains' best kept secret. Discovered in the 19th century, it has instead become a popular retreat for the weary souls.
Walk, walk again and then walk some more!
Leave your four-wheelers and your sense of city-bred urgencies at Dasturi Naka, a 40-minute walk away from central Matheran, for all motor vehicles are banned from entering the hill station. If you can't muster the strength to lug your weary bones and bags, clamber onto one of the waiting horses; the only other means of transport besides the hand-pulled rickshaws.
On a hushed winter morning nothing can replace the bliss of an amble through the red laterite mud roads of Matheran. For, nature resides quietly here, draped in subtle shade and fulgent patterns of sunlight.
The point of it all To protect its flora, including its plethora of medicinal plants, Matheran was declared an eco-sensitive region by the government. Echo Point, Louisa Point and Belvedere Point are among the most visited. Be wary of the teeming population of Bonnet Macaques and Hanuman Langurs who inhabit these locales. They have little regard for their guests. Avoid carrying any foodstuff in the open or they will be unceremoniously snatched.
Make sure you take your eyes off the monkeys once in a while to espy the big Blue Mormon butterfly darting aimlessly around. Matheran's key water source is the picturesque Charlotte Lake. Even if you are not an avid trekker, trekking up to Matheran is an invigorating experience. There are a couple of popular and well-trodden paths. One is from Bhivpuri, hitting the trail via the Garbet Plateau. This 13 km. route passes through villages and forests and is a little more challenging as compared to the climb from Nerul/Karjat that takes about three and a half hours.
There is no dearth of accommodation here and Matheran tends to be crowded during long weekends and prime vacation time. Yet, the allure of this tiny hill station remains. For even after you leave the place, its unhurried charm lingers in your mind and makes for idyllic memories.