People keep asking me, “I am in Mumbai this weekend, what are the places near me, where can I go?”. This is not generally the kind of article we would write, but here we are. Where CAN one go? Well, wherever there is peace and fewer crowds, good ambience, a nice place to stay and good food.
Like every city, Mumbai has plenty around it for visiting. And I shall not mention the overdone Lonavala/Khandala.
For starters one can try Kamshet. A small village around 110km from Mumbai, Kamshet is located next to Indrayani River and a few lakes around. Kamshet has paragliding companies, and is generally a sleepy little place to chill. It also has an Arts and Theatre Festival. There are places where you can stay just to write your book, as there are few distractions. Do search for it all.
Pune itself is a large city now, with plenty of traffic, but it is very close to my heart. I find the city very charming, with its old bungalows, nemerous cafes, many many restaurants, and quaint streets. Pune is worth a visit just for its eating out scene.
Near Pune, is Saswad. beautiful grasslands, home of the critically endangered Indian Grey Wolf and the Chinkara, Saswad has one or two decent places to stay but the landscape is woth visiting for. Try monsoons are winters here.
Bhigwan is further ahead of Pune, but it has a beautiful birding site and is listed as an Important Birding Area.I had visited it many years ago where there was no place to stay. I guess another visit is pending.
Mulshi – Pavana : Another decent place to visit is the area around Lakes Mulshi and Pavana. Over a period of time, many home stays and resorts have cropped up. Also some 170km from Mumbai, Mulshi is hot in summers, brilliant in the monsoons and cool in winters. Drive through Mulshi towards Tamhini Ghat in the monsoons for an excellent experience of waterfalls, jungles and mist.
For someone willing to go a little further, I would suggest Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, even though they are a good 280km from Mumbai and take around 6-7 hours to reach, and avoid weekends. Considered ‘hill-stations’, the twin towns of Panchgani – Mahabaleshwar have cool winters, very heavy monsoons (last year Mahabaleshwar had heavier rains than Cherrapunjee), but many places to stay and some decent places to go for walks. You have to be very careful when choosing where to stay, as most places are mediocre. The food is generally bad. The weather can be better.
Around 130km from Mumbai, through a 70% terrible route lies Malshej Ghat. A beautiful village on the Sahyadri mountains, surrounded by hills and forests, Malshej Ghat is windy most of the year. It has a large lake nearby, the Pimpalgaon Joga, and has numerous trekking routes nearby, The food is mediocre.
Not far from Malshej Ghat is Junnar. Near Junnar are the Shivneri Hills, where the great Shivaji Maharaj was born. Another reason that attracts us to Junnar is its forests and that Junnar has one of the highest densities of Leopards. There are some good agro-tourism stay options available here though we haven’t stayed there yet. It seems the food there is nice.
Bhimashankar is a beautiful dense forest around 210km from Mumbai. A notified wildlife sanctuary, Bhimashankar is worth a stay and a trek. Spend a good few days walking throuigh the jungle, exploring the wildlife and just recollecting your thoughts. Choice of stay arent great, but the place is amazing.
Somewhere around this area likes Matheran, an old ‘hill station’. The unique thing about Matheran is no vehicles are allowed inside the town. You can only walk or use horse carriages or horses. (Maybe this is the reason I haven’t visited Matheran in the last 14 years). It has plenty of old bungalows converted into hotels, resorts and home stays. Depending on where you stay, the food can be amazing. There is a toy train that can take you up to Matheran or you can drive your car and leave it at the common parking lot (a feeling that doesn’t settle well with me, I love my car way too much). But the forest walks and views are amazing. Matheran is awesome all year round, though summers can be hot in the sun and monsoons, it can rain too much.
Head over to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, which is so close to Mumbai. An Important Birding Area, it has a Fort to trek up to. Not many great places to stay, but it’s barely 75km from Mumbai.
Around a similar distance is Nashik. On the banks of the river Godavari, considered a holy city, Nashik is also called Dakshin Kashi. (In fact the river Godavari starts from a place called Trimbakeshwar on the outskirts of Nashik). Apart from many religious sites, Nashik is the wine capital of India with numerous vineyards and their stays which have mushroomed recently. Apart from the Vineyards, Nashik has a good vibe, a place to relax and unwind. The food is generally nice. Very close to Nashik is Deolali, an old Cantonment Town which has many old Sanatoriums and bungalows to view. Worth a visit.
In the same direction as Nashik is Bhandardara, a small hill village. It is situated on the banks of lake Arthur, one of the largest lakes of Maharashtra. An ancient temple of Amruteshwara is worth visiting in the forests of Kalsubai Wildlife Sanctuary which surrounds Bhandardara. There are numerous trekking routes here. Food is mediocre. Views are stunning.
Coming towards the coastal side, what is known as Kokan, are many places which are worth mentioning. Alibag to begin with. But it is very well known here and I won’t go into the details.
Somewhere along this stretch are places like Lonere, Chiplun, Roha etc which have a deccent place to stay at here and there. Not mentioning individual home stays in this article.
Go a little south from Alibag and you reach Kashid. A beautiful beach on one side, and the Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary on the other, Kashid is worth visiting. Also nearby to Kashid is the huge palace of Murud Janjira. Built on an island in the Arabian Sea at Murud Janjira, visit the awesome fort of Padma Durga. The food in this stretch can be mostly disappointing unless you find something very authentic and then the tastes can blow your mind. There are some decent places to stay here. Search around.
Further down from Kashid is the temple town of Harihareshwar. The old temple dedicated to Lord harihareshwar, or Shiva, is gorgeous and worth a visit. It has become very popular now, but almost 18 years ago, as a student, we were shooting something nearby and had stayed at the temple. It was far less crowded then. Harihareshwar has a beautiful rocky sea front full of many many crabs. And on either side of this temple town are two beach towns of Diveagar and Shrivardhan. Both beautiful towns and good beaches. Find some decent stays here and eat local food. The local food in Diveagar we had was awesome. Avoid any menu that is non-local.
There are many small and beautiful beaches along this stretch, like Harnai, Velas, Ganapatiphule, Ratnagiri etc, but they keep becoming further from Mumbai and perhaps not exactly for an article titled “places to visit near me”.