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Like a Breath of Fresh Air – Holiday Spots in Maharashtra

Maharashtra has yet another facet – it is full of wonderful holiday spots, perfect for quiet lazing or for more strenuous adventure or even for some spiritual salvation.

Maharashtra is not just about Ajanta and Ellora with their magnificent art treasures. Neither do the charms of Maharashtra reside solely in its many small and large towns like Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Aurangabad. Hill resorts, wildlife parks and temple towns dot this state, one of the largest in India both in terms of area and population. So if you want to experience something great or just let your hair down, head for Maharashtra.



The nearest hill station from Bombay, Matheran means jungle topped a name aptly derived from the hills clothed with the verdant green of a thousand trees. At an altitude of 700 to 800 metres, much of Matheran’s cool clime is due to the abundance of trees. Getting to Matheran is great fun – you get to ride the toy train from Neral, a two hour journey up the 12 km route. The views are wonderful as the train moves along the turns of the hill track and food and drink vendors are aplenty all along the journey. There is major excitement as the train passes through a tunnel called the “one kiss tunnel”. And soon, the train gets you to your destination.

Matheran was a popular hill station during the Raj period – Hugh Malet, the Collector of Thane discovered it in 1850. He was camping in t he nearby village of chowk and had gone for his morning walk when he chanced upon Matheran. He then had paths cleared to the summit and several other ventage points and had a footpath constructed from the village Chowk to the summit on a government grant of five hundred rupees.

Matheran is excellent for trekking – the trekking route spreads over 11 km. Walking tracks lead to most vantage points such as Monkey, Porcupine or Hart from where one can see the lights of Bombay on a clear night. If you are keen to watch sunsets then Porcupine and Panorama Point both on the northern side, have the finest views. The western side from Porcupine to Lousia Point is known as Cathedral Rocks from where Neral can be clearly seen. To the south is the trail called Shivaji Ladder, so called because the Maratha leader is said to have used it. In Matheran, you can definitely avoid the noise and pollution of motor vehicles for the only form of transport allowed in the town are rickshaws pulled by three people at a time. When in Matheran be sure to try the honey and chikki (peanut brittle) available there – they are the specialities of the place. For shopping, Matheran has some exciting bargains in cane and leather.


A very popular hill resort just a few hours away from Bombay, it is just a station before Lonavla and is a convenient point to take off for the Karla caves. Khandala offers some excellent views of the Ghat range and with its refreshing cool breeze, it provides relief from the stifling heat of the plains. The waterfall here is magnificent, dividing itself into two characters during the monsoon with the upper fall revealing a sheer drop of over three hundred feet.


A charming hill resort, three hours away from Bombay and one hour away from Pune, Lonavla makes for a perfect weekend gateway – not too far from civilization and yet far away from the madding crowd. Amble along the Lonavla Lake, the Bhushi Dam and visit the evocatively named Tiger’s Leap and Barometer Hill. Lonavla is well connected by road and rail to Bombay and to nearby tourist spots like Khandala and the Karla and Bhaja caves. Be sure to try out the famous Lonavla chikki.


A very popular hill station, Mahabaleshwar is the highest resort in the Ghat region at nearly 1372 metres. The old village of Mahabaleshwar was considered a holy site and in 1215, the Yadav King Singhan built a temple here dedicated to Lord Mahadev. Mahabaleshwar is considered to be derived from the words in praise of Mahadev – Maha Bala Ishwar or the God of Great Power.

Mahabaleshwar is interesting both for its connections with Shivaji, the great Maratha and later, with the British. The Pratapgarh fort, 24 kilometres away from the hill station is the site of one of Shivaji’s daring feats. It was here that Shivaji met with General Afzal Khan. Neither were supposed to carry any arms but Afzal Khan took out a dagger and stabbed Shivaji who was wearing an armour under his robe and had concealed a set of tiger claws in his left hand. Shivaji then drove the claws into Khan and disemboweled him.

During the Raj, Mahabaleshwar was the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency. The hill station was founded in 1828 by Sir John Malcolm. However, the first Englishman to have visited the region is said to be Major Lodwick in 1824 who was so impressed with the beauty and climate of Mahabaleshwar that he campaigned vigorously for it to be a hill station. In 1828 the Governor of Bombay visited Mahabaleshwar and was so impressed that he signed a treaty with the Raja of Satara giving him title to the village of Khandala in exchange for Mahabaleshwar. In honour of the Governor the new station was called Malcolm Peth but the Governor retained the old name as an honour to the Rajah who had by then become a good friend. Today, only the bazaar is called Malcolm Peth.

Like most other hill stations Mahabaleshwar offers many wonderful walks and views. Go to Elephantine Point, Babington Point, Bombay Point and Kate’s Point for fine scenic views or visit the charming waterfalls like the Chinaman’s Waterfall, the Dhobi Waterfall or the Lingmala Waterfalls. In the old Mahabaleshwar village visit the Krishnabai or Panchganga (Five Streams) Temple which is said to contain five streams including the River Krishna.


Another popular hill station just 19 kilometres away from Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani was founded in 1850 by Mr. John Chesson a retired Warrant Officer of the East India Company who wanted to find a place suitable for a permanent European settlement. The heavy monsoon downpour at Mahabaleshwar made it quite uninhabitable during the rains. Panchgani with its much drier clime was therefore deal. The name Panchagani is said to be derived from the cluster of five hamlets Chesson initially found here. In 1863, Sir Bartle Frere, the Governor of Bombay recognized Panchgani as a hill sanatorium and rewarded Chesson for his efforts by making him the first Superintendant and magistrate of Panchgani.

At an altitude of 1333 metres, Panchgani is often called the mecca of Maharashtra in tourist brochures. There are many boarding schools here. On the way to the Panchgani Caves is Wai with its famous Ganesh temple.


An interesting hill station off the beaten track, Panhala houses a fort with an intriguing history. It was originally the stronghold of Raja Bhoj II in 1192 and also figures in another interesting exploit of Shivaji – his valiant escape from the forces of Siddhi Johar. Panhala has many interesting ancient temples for the religious minded – the Sambhaji temple, the Someshwar temple and the blue basalt temples on the sacred Jyotiba hill.


A truly offbeat gateway is Toranmal in Dhule District. Tucked away in the Satpura mountains at an altitude of 1461 metres, Toranmal is an ideal spot to soothe frayed nerves. Far away from the hustle and bustle of city life, it is possible to relax here. And if you are in the mood to explore, you could visit the Seetha Kali temple or the many old temples in the area or perhaps walk along the Yashwant Lake.


For wildlife enthusiasts, Maharashtra offers many exciting avenues to pursue their interests.


Chikhaldara in Amravati district offers the happy combination of a wildlife resort with a hill station. Situated in the Vidarbha region, this picturesque his station teems with an abundance of wildlife. View the magnificent tiger at the Dhakana-Kolkaz National Park where the Melghat Tiger Project is based.


The Dajipur Bison Sanctuary is situated on the border of Kolhapur and Sindhudurg district. The Jungle Resort is a scenic spot near the backwaters of the Radhanagari dam. It is surrounded by hilly areas and thick forests abundant in wildlife. You can spot bison, wild deer, chital, gawa etc., here.

Malshej Ghat

If you want to see flamingoes at their best take a trip to Malshej Ghat, their home during the monsoon. Nature has been generous in bestowing her charms here and Malshej Ghat is a dream come true for trekkers and adventure lovers. Malshej Ghat also has a strong link with history – 40 kilometres away is shivneri, the birthplace of the legendary Shivaji. This hill also has Buddhist caves dating back to the 3rd century.

Nawegaon Bandh

The most popular wildlife resort in the Vidarbha region, Nawegaon is teeming with bird and animal life. Founded by Kolu Patel Kohli in the beginning of the 18th century, Nawegaon centers around a picturesque lake set amidst hill ranges. Nearly a third of bird species found in Maharashtra have been recorded here at the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. For eager bird-watchers, the ample number of watch towers built in the forest should provide an ideal opportunity to see these feathered creatures from close. For children there is a special children’s park and three beautiful gardens to play in. To experience the jungle in all its glory, spend some time in the unique tree-top retreat.


One of the world’s five larges craters formed by meteorites, Lonar is around 30,000 to 40,000 years old. The saline lake contained within the crater is where hundreds of birds gather – the resident pea fowls who have made the crater their home and many migratory birds. One can also spot monitor lizards and langurs and if your luck is in, the chinkaras and gazelles.



A famous pilgrimage site, Mahurgad is the birthplace of Lord Dattatray and has many exquisite temples like the Anusaya temple, the Kalika temple and of course the temple of Renuka Devi. Thousands of people visit the town especially in October when a special fair is held here on Vijaya Dashami.


A small town in Buldhana district, Shegaon is famous for the samadhi of Shri Gajanan Maharaj, a mystic saint. He has a large following and his devotees come in large numbers to pay their respects at the samadhi, especially on Thursday which is regarded as a special day. He is considered to be as popular as the Saibaba of Shirdi. The temple of Shri Ram in the same premises is worth a visit. During Ram Navami and Rushi Panchami, magnificent fairs are held here.


A temple town literally, Titwala is renowned for its Mahaganesh temple, the temple to Shri Vithoba and the ancient Ambarnath temple dating back to the 11th century. A sacred spot indeed!


Considered to be one of the five Jyotirlingas in Maharashtra, Trimbakeshwar is a well known religious town. In February-March a large fair is held on Mahashivratri day and every twelve years, there is the grand Sinhasta fair, second only to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. The surroundings of the town resonate with religious names – the Brahmagiri Hill, Neel Parvat, Kushwart Teerth and Gangadwar.



By Air: The nearest airport is Bombay (100 kilometres)

By Rail: Bombay-Neral-Matheran is 108 km, Neral-Matheran by toy train

By Road: Bombay – Beral 90 km, Neral-Matheran 21 kilometres Pune-nearly 120 kilometres.


By Air: The nearest airport is Pune (66 kilometres)

By Rail: Lonavla is on the Bombay-Pune line and there are many trains

By Road: Lonavla is on the Bombay-Pune highway, 104 kilometres from Bombay and 66 kilometres from Pune


By Air: Nearest airport is Pune 120 kilometres

By Rail: Nearest railhead is Wathar but Pune is a convenient railhead

By Road: Bombay- Mahabaleshwar via Pune 290 kilometres, Bombay – Mahabaleshwar via Mahad 247 kilometres.


By Air: Nearest airport is Pune 98 kilometres

By Rail: Nearest Railhead is Wather 45 kilometres on Miraj-Kolhapur section of South Central Railway.

By Road: Bombay-Panchgani via Pune 295 kilometres. Bombay – Panchgani via Mahad 266 kilometres.


By Air: Nearest airport is Belgaum 123 Kilometres

By Rail: Nearest railhead is Kolhapur 18 kilometres on South Central Railway.

By Road: Bombay-Panhala 428 kilometres via Kolhapur.

Kolhapur-Panhala 18 kilometres.


By Air: The nearest airport is Nashik

By Rail: The closest railhead is Nandurbar 76 kilometres on the Surat-Bhusawal line of western Railways. Another convenient railhead is Dhule 128 kilometres away.

By Road: Bombay – Toranmal via Dhule. State Transport buses ply from Dhule, Nandurbar and Shahada to Toranmal.

The Wildlife Trail


By Air: The nearest airport is Akola 150 kilometres away

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Badnera.

By Road: Bombay Chikhaldara is 763 kilometres, Nagpur- chikhaldara is 230 kilometres and Amravati-Chikhaldara is 100 kilometres. State Transport buses ply from Nagpur and Amravati to Chikhaldara.


By Air: Nearest airport is Kolhapur 80 kilometres

By Rail: Nearest railhead is also Kolhapur on South Central Railway

By Road: Bombay-Dajipur 490 kilometres, Kolhapur-Dajipur 80 kilometres.

Malshej Ghat

By Air: Nearest airport is Bombay (154 kms)

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Kalyan

By Road: Bombay-Malshej Ghat is 39 kilometres.

Nawegaon Bandh

By Air: The nearest airport is Nagpur 142 kilometres away

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Devalgaon, 1 km away on the South Eastern Railway

By Road: Bombay-Nawegaon is 995 kilometres, Nagpur-Nawegaon is 132 kilometres. State Transport buses ply from Bhandara, Nagpur and Devalgaon to Nawegaon.


By Air: The nearest airport is Aurangabad, 122 kilometres away

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Malkapur on the Bombay – Bhusawal line

By Road: Bombay-Aurangabad – Jalna – Lonar is 600 kilometres.

Lonar – Buldhana is 95 kilometres.

Temple Tour Mahurgad

By Air: The nearest airport is Nagpur 200 kilometres.

By Rail: The nearest railhead is Kinwat (50 kilometres) but Nanded (126 kilometres) is the convenient railhead on South Central Railway.

By Road: Bombay-Mahur 717 kilometres.


By Air: Nearest airport is Nagpur 316 kilometres

By Rail: Bombay-Shegaon 600 kilometres (Bombay-Nashik-Dhule-Jalgaon-Khamgaon).

Nagpur-Shegaon 316 kilometres (Nagpur-Amaravati-Akola-Uraal-Gaigon-Shegaon). Akola-Shegaon 45 kilometres. (Akola-Ural-Gaigon-Gaigon-Shegaon).


By Air: Nearest airport is Bombay 74 kilometres.

By Rail: Titwala is a station on Central Railway but the convenient railhead is Kalyan.

By Road: Bombay – Titwala 75 kilometres via kalyan. (Can be visited from Thane, Kalyan and Bombay).


By Air: Nearest airport is Nashik 39 kilometres.

By Rail: Nearest railhead is Nashik Road 44 kilometres on the Central Railway.

By Road: Bombay – Trimbakeshwar 180 kilometres. Nashik – Trimbakeswar 28 kilometres.