Maharashtra is a popular tourist destination and the state boasts of some very famous attractions for travelers. Popular destinations include the city of Mumbai, Lonavala, Nasik, Aurangabad, Pune and hill stations like Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Lonavala and Matheran.
Matheran is situated in Raigadh district of Maharashtra. Matheran is well connected by road and the nearest railway station is the town of Neral, which is situated down the Matheran hill by about 21 kilometers. One can actually reach the town of Neral from Mumbai or Pune and then make use of the road services to reach the hill station.
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It takes almost half an hour from Neral to reach the actual hill station of Matheran. The most popular tourist attraction for travelers coming to Matheran is the toy train ride from Neral to Matheran and the journey takes about two hours, passing though curves and valleys, offering a spectacular view of the hill station and this covers a total distance of about 21 kilometers in total.
Matheran is a region in the Western Ghats that has developed into an eco-tourism spot and government has taken huge steps to develop the hill station into a recreational center and support tourism activities here. Marathi is the main local language spoken at Matheran.
Matheran was first explored by the Britisher Hugh Malet in 1850 but the person responsible for developing the place into a beautiful hill station is Lord Elphinstone, also a Britisher. The point called Dasturi Naka is about 9 kilometers from the centre of Matheran and government officials restrict the entry of vehicles till this point.
No vehicles will be allowed after this point as the pollution is bound to cease the beauty of nature. The 21 kilometer stretch of the Matheran hill railway was built by Sir Peerbhoy in 1907 to offer connectivity to the place that is totally covered by valleys and thick forest area all around.
One can experience the richness of flora and fauna when sightseeing at this place. Like Mahabaleshwar, this hill station is also found in the lap of Sahyadri hills at about 24000 feet above the sea level.
Rich Flora and Fauna
Matheran is famous for its production of mangoes, jack fruits and most importantly, black berries. The black berries found in this region are very unique compared to any other region and offer high nutritious value. The region also boasts of a high honey production valley and is used for commercial purposes as well.
The forest cover is in abundance and boasts of high variety of medicinal trees, decorative plants and other kinds of ornamental shrubs and useful herbs. Some of the common varieties of plants found here are shikakai, Tamalpatra, kokamb etc. Spices are prepared from the barks of many of the trees found here.
The thick forest cover also acts as a home to many of the rare bird species in the world. Many of these birds offer music that relaxes our soul and calms our mind. Common birds found in this region are cuckoos, bulbuls, sunbirds, parrots and shrieks.
The cuckoos and bulbuls can be heard with their sweet voices during the rainy season as they seem to enjoy the monsoons and sing merrily making sweet tunes. Tourists can enjoy a ride in the forests by enjoying the sweet chirps and melodious, soothing music at evenings from the cuckoos.
Monkeys and horses are a common sight at the Matheran hill station. Since vehicles are restricted in the area, the interiors of the place are accessible by horse rides.
Toy Train rode at Matheran
The main attraction of this hill station is the toy train ride that was actually devised and implemented by the British during their rule in India. Of late, the UNESCO has declared the railway site as a heritage site. The railway line is made of a two feet gauge railway line and it covers a distance of twenty kilometers from Neral to Matheran.
The railway lines are constructed in a zig zag manner from the Neral station reaching up to the top of the hill station. There are a total of four trains running at different times operating on this stretch. During rainy seasons, owing to the difficult terrain and the risks involved in running the train services, added with visibilities reduced due to fog coverage, only two trains are operated.
This happens during the monsoon season from June to September at Matheran. The train offers breathtaking views of the entire valley of Matheran. The scenic plateau of the Sahyadri range in full view can be experienced during the two hour toy train journey ride from Neral to Matheran.
The main highlight of the journey is the zig zag railway line passing through the valley offering nature’s best scenic views in a panoramic way.
Food and Shopping at Matheran
Variety of food is available at the hill station. The variety of food ranges from both vegeterain and non vegetarian food, but majority of the dishes are vegeterain only. Fruit juices and chocolates are other varieties of snack items available here. Plenty of fruits are available at Matheran that one can buy and the black berries of this place are especially popular for their small size.
The hill station of Matheran has a small market area. The forest products are quite popular in this market and people get to buy a lot of items like fruits, honey, dried flowers, decorative flowers, spices and leather items.
This place is quite popular for jaggery as well as a locally prepared sweet confection which is a combination of peanut and jaggery and tourists who visit the market place usually buy plenty of them without fail.
Popular places to Visit
Like any other hill station, this place too has many view points, each one offering a different view of the forest-covered valley and an enriching experience of its own. Some of the popular view points of this place include Louisa point, porcupine point, panorama point, Alexander point and khandala point.
There are other popular points in this place and each offers a unique and breathtaking view of the Western Ghats and the mountain range of the Sahyadri hills. The porcupine point is actually a sunset point and tourists flock to the point during sunset to catch a beautiful glimpse of nature’s beauty.
Prabal fort is a less explored view point that also shows a very beautiful landscape of the valley from its view point. The climb up to the fort is quite a risky one and people prefer to stay away from the fort during monsoons. The risky part of climbing the fort makes it a not-so-preferred hangout for the people. The Charlotte Lake is another place that many tourists prefer to spend time at. The lake also offers refreshing views of the valley.
Overall, Matheran has much to offer in terms of its scenic beauty and amazing views, the magnificent valleys and the thick forest cover. Government has taken up many initiatives to turn the forest reserve into tourism spot where many kinds of recreational activities can be conducted.
This is a right step in the direction of making the hill station a popular tourist spot and encourage participation from private players to make it a profitable tourist attraction. Also, the main highlight of the place is the practice of eco-tourism offered at this place.
There are very few places in our country where vehicles are banned to curb pollution. To maintain the scenic beauty of the place and to conserve the flora and fauna, vehicle movement is restricted within the valley and one has to rely on horse carts and other modes of transport to reach the hill top.
The variety of forest products on offer makes one think of the huge forest cover that the valley has in its lap. The red mud found in this area is ideally suitable for the cultivation of medicinal plants. Many of the trees that are found here offer such medicinal value that they can be tapped for commercial and industrial purposes.
Another main attraction of the place is the toy train ride that offers a rich and memorable experience to tourists’ right from youngsters to adults. The two hour ride from Neral railway station to Matheran gives a pleasant experience and is much of a delight to the traveler.
The place is easily accessible from Mumbai and the locals at Matheran are very kind and co-operative and help tourists during their exciting journey.