A change of scenery is only a drive, train ride, or quick flight away from Mumbai.
Matheran, meaning “jungle on top,” is a peaceful tourist destination located 90 km from Mumbai. Vehicles are banned in this tiny hill station, making Matheran the perfect escape from Mumbai’s traffic, noise, and pollution. Matheran offers panoramic views, Charlotte Lake, a racecourse, several restaurants, and a good range of budget and high-end heritage hotels. The bulk of activity in town centers around the market where people shop for leather goods, local honey, peanut brittle, and fudge.
Matheran is connected by the toy train from Neral. From Mumbai to Neral, you can travel either by rail or by road. Once in Matheran, you can get around on foot, by horse, or by man-pulled rickshaw. Kids would enjoy the toy train.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Ajanta and Ellora are hand-cut rock caves which depict the story of Buddhism and are some of the most outstanding specimens of ancient Indian heritage. Ajanta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The caves are located are 400 kilometers away from Mumbai, near the city of Aurangabad. You can travel by rail or by road. You could also fly to Aurangabad (Flying is by far the quickest way to get there.) A number of tours operate from Mumbai to Ajanta and Ellora caves, and there is a two hour drive between the two cave sites.
Children younger than 15 are admitted for free. Admission for foreigners is $10.00 for the Ajanta Caves. Admittance to Ellora is free, but there is a $5.00 charge to visit the Kailasa Temple.
The Malshej Ghats are famous for its misty tops and ice-cold cascades during the monsoon season. The Malshej Ghats, a heavenly mountain range for trekkers and hikers, are home to hundreds of types of flora and fauna. The nearby Shivneri Fort is the birthplace of Shivaji, one of the great past rulers of Maharashtra.
Malshej Ghat is about 150 kilometers from Mumbai or approximately three hours drive. The nearest rail-heads are at Kalyan and Karjat. Shared auto rickshaws from Kalyan transport passengers for Rs 150.
Because the main appeal of Malshej is trekking, a trip here is best suited for teens and adults.
Sula Vineyards, Nashik
When it comes to wine, Nashik is to India as California is to the United States. The relatively new Indian wine industry is on the rise due to a number of successful Nashik vineyards, such as Sula Vineyards. Sula is a popular weekend destination for Mumbaikars, complete with wine tasting rooms, an Italian restaurant, and spectacular views of the vineyards and the Western Ghats. Tasting sessions are conducted seven days a week throughout the year, and the harvest and crush seasons are from January to March.
Winery tours and wine tasting take place daily from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm. For Rs 100 you can taste five wines. For additional Rs 50, you can taste Sula’s premium red wine and Dindori Reserve Shiraz.
Nashik is 110 kilometers or three hours drive northeast of Mumbai. You can also travel by train, taking about four hours each way. For detailed travel directions visit: http://www.sulawines.com
Lonavala is a popular hill station about 100 kilometers from Mumbai. This town comes to life during the monsoon season as the countryside turns a lush green. There are many places of interest in Lonavala, including Karla Caves, Bhaja Caves, Bedsa, Lohagad and Visapur forts, Rajmachi Point, Ryewood Park, Tungarli Lake, Valvan Dam, and Duke’s Nose. Visit Lonavala for a break from pollution, a romantic getaway, and hiking and trekking. You can rent a bicycle upon arrival for about 120 rupees a day to enjoy the scenery. It is a relaxing environment for everyone, including children.
Lonavala has a rail station and almost all the trains on the Mumbai-Pune stretch stop at this station. It is 2 hours from Mumbai by train and 3 hours from Mumbai by road.
Goa is India’s smallest state and is famous for its beaches, places of worship, world heritage sites, fish curry, and feni. Hundreds of thousands of international and domestic tourists visit Goa each year. The best time to visit is November to February when the weather is the most pleasant.
The Goan pace of life is much slower than Mumbai’s. Visit Goa to sunbathe, swim, and relax. Great for kids, too.
Goa has an international airport and a good rail connection with Mumbai. The 700 kilometers from Mumbai to Goa can be covered by a 12-hour car drive, a 1 hour flight, or a scenic ride on the Konkan Railway.