When we search online for ‘Great Drives Near Mumbai’, we typically get similar results (Mumbai-Pune, Alibaug, Lonavala etc). But over a period of time, we have been losing these beautiful drives to over-‘development’ just as we are losing our environment, clean air and water, bio-diversity, silence levels and night skies (amongst many other things.) Beautiful drives are a resource too, and losing them is a huge loss in every which way.
Actually there aren’t many beautiful drives left anymore. When you search for this query, you will find many articles claiming the following as great drives. But in the last 10 years, we have destroyed the scenic beauty on these routes. Check for yourself:
Mumbai to Lonavala Khandala Drive : These twin cities have become super congested and hot (weather wise). The approach to them via the Mumbai – Pune Expressway or Mumbai Pune Old Highway are both no longer charming. Rampant construction, skyscrapers that cover the hill view and increased traffic ruin the experience. Also once in Lonavala Khandala, the only thing you notice is every shop selling Chikki and all routes are now covered with holiday homes in varying stages of construction. No charming cafes. No beautiful homes. Just concrete. Now Lonavala even has a large Mall with McDonald’s. The drive is best avoided. (Bad photography warning).
Mumbai Pune Expressway Drive : About 15 years ago, it was a beautiful scenic and mostly empty highway stretch with agricultural fields on either side. Not anymore. Billboards, skyscrapers, holiday homes, investment homes, educational institutes eating into the hills, and vastly increased traffic have killed the charm of this once beautifulk drive.
Mumbai – Goa Drive : Busy highway, full of rash drivers, mostly single lane, and heavy accident rate. It used to be very scenic but increased traffic and lots of slow moving trucks on a single lane ruin the experience. In places the highway is being widened but the construction never seems to be over. Be happy if you cross Vadkal Naka without much traffic. I avoid this route. See this: Mumbai Goa Highway Sees 1000 Accidents A Year.
Mumbai – Alibaug – Kashid Drive: The same as above. Only the last few kilometers are decent.
Mumbai – Malshej Ghat Drive : Terrible till about 20-30 km AFTER Kalyan. From anywhere in Mumabi till Kalyan it’s full of traffic, road construction, holiday homes, and an annoying number of large speed breakers (I once counted some 23 speedbreakers within Kalyan). Hopeless. Only after 20-30 km after Kalyan does it start to become somewhat nice. But its not going to last, considering whats panned out in the past. Large townships, skyscrapers and investment homes are already being constructed.
Kamshet – Matheran Drive : Much of this route is only accessible via the Mumbai Pune Highway so read above.
Mumbai Mahabaleshwar Drive : Same as Mumbai Pune Highway. Only the last few kms are half decent. Mahabaleshwar itself has become densely congested and over priced with vast traffic jams.
Mumbai – Igatpuri Drive : Very bad. From Mumbai till a little ahead of Kalyan Bhiwandi the highway is full of truck traffic and construction. There is a tiny stretch in Kasara Ghat which is as yet beautiful (about 4-6km, July 2017). The entire hills around Igatpuri, and surrounding villages have their trees chopped off and you get a view of naked hills. In summers even these are set on fire so all you see are charred hills. Definitely not pretty. When returning, be prepared for dense traffic around Kalyan crossing.
In early summer/spring you will find the entire region (all of the drives mentioned above) full of smoke. Forests are burnt and the smoke hangs thick in the air. The drives are no longer to enjoy the scenic beauty (which are are losing at a rapid pace) but more to be able to drive, because we aren’t able to, in our cities. Well, looks our like highways will soon resemble our city roads.
There are still some good drives left, but I take pains not to write about them, lest the selfie wielding, ‘like’ seeking crowds populate these too. But obviously that isn’t the answer. Maybe we need some kind of protected status for highway scenery too?