Bhandardara

A beautiful village nestled amongst the vast and green hilly ranges of the Western Ghats, Bhandardara is a trekker’s paradise. With its bright blue skies, green paddy fields, cascading waterfalls and surrounding blue-green hills, this quaint hamlet acts as a perfect retreat for families seeking to escape the bustle of the city for a long weekend. Located at a distance of about 185 km from Mumbai, Bhandardara lies to the north of Ahmednagar district. The Wilson Dam in Bhandardara and its adjoining Arthur Lake, add to the scenic beauty of the village and provide some good camping opportunities for adventure-seekers and astronomy enthusiasts. A circular waterfall called the Umbrella Waterfall because of its distinctive shape, can be seen forming at the dam during the rainy season. There are many cosy resorts in Bhandardara that offer glorious views of the dam and the lake. Another highlight of this region is the majestic 2,000-year-old Ratangad Fort, which has a distinctive natural rock formation at the very top with an arch-like cavity that overlooks the valley below. The four gates of this fort called Ganesh, Hanuman, Konkan and Trimbak are noteworthy. The availability of water at this height, once made this fort precious to Chhatrapati Shivaji. There are many wells in the fort and the River Pravara, on which the Wilson Dam is built, also originates from this fort. A trek up the ramparts of the fort gives you a bird's eye view of the entire Bhandardara region. The village at the base of this fort, Ratanwadi, can be accessed by boat from Bhandardara. The main attraction in the village is the Amruteshwar Temple that dates back to the 8th century. This ancient Shiv temple draws many tourists annually, both pilgrims and those who are archaeologically-inclined.

Bhandardara

Deolali

Located about 16 km from Nashik and 262 km from Mumbai, the hill station of Deolali is a popular getaway. Also known as the Deolali Camp, which is one of the oldest military centres in the country,  it was set up the British in 1861. Deolali is nestled amidst the beautiful Sahyadri range, surrounded by lush gardens, spacious grounds and trees. There are many military establishments here, including, the Military psychiatric hospital, the School of Artillery of Indian Army and the residential Barnes School. For the spiritual traveller, Deolali hosts many temples like the Muktidham Temple, Pandava Caves and Khandoba Temple. Shoppers would also have a delightful time in this quaint hill town, as the markets are lined with stalls selling various souvenirs and knickknacks, and have a very lively ambience.

Deolali

Lonavala and Khandala

The twin hill stations of Lonavala and Khandala are popular weekend holiday getaways for those who come to Mumbai. Lonavla is about 96 km from Mumbai and about a 10-minute drive away from  Khandala. Well known for chikki (brittle sweet made with jaggery and peanuts) and fudge, these hill stations offer scenic views of the valley, hills and tiny villages tucked away in the folds of the Western Ghats. Lonavala offers many picnic spots options like Ryewood Park and the garden adjacent to the Valvan Dam. Duke’s Nose, a cliff about 12 km from Lonavala, is popular with hikers and thrill-seekers. Tiger’s Leap, also known as Tiger’s Point, is a clifftop with a sheer drop of over 650 m, giving a panoramic view of the region. Sunil Kandaloor’s celebrity wax museum is another popular attraction for tourists who come to Lonavla and Khandala, where they can click selfies with popular Indian and international celebrities, including Sachin Tendulkar and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

Lonavala and Khandala

Matheran

When in Mumbai, you can head to one of India's smallest and most quaint hill stations, Matheran, for a quick weekend getaway. One of the coolest spots in the Karjat Tahsil, Raigad District of Maharashtra, it is located in the Western Ghats. Matheran literally means forest on top or woodland overhead and the name aptly fits the 800-m-high hill town. The interesting thing about Matheran is that vehicles are banned here and one can easily be transported to the quaintness and peace of times long ago while vacationing at this spot. It's proximity to major cities makes it a more viable option.

It lies about 90 km from Mumbai, 120 km from Pune and about 320 km from Surat. This pocket in the hills was discovered in 1850 by the then British Collector of Thane, Huge Mallet.

Matheran

Karnala Bird Sanctuary

A popular stopover for birdwatchers, the Karnala Bird Sanctuary lies at a distance of about 52 km from Mumbai. The biodiversity of the Western Ghats makes it a great habitat for birds and the sanctuary was especially favoured by renowned Indian ornithologist Dr Salim Ali. Its proximity to the Patalganga river and the richness of the woodland vegetation ensures that this park boasts an extremely diverse flora and fauna with over 150 species of resident and 37 species of migratory birds, which visit the sanctuary in winter each year. Around 23 water dishes made of cement are kept at strategic places to provide water to animals and birds. The Hariyal Nature Trail in the sanctuary offers great bird-sighting experiences, especially during the monsoon. For those seeking a more in-depth insight into the fascinating life of birds, the 6-km-long Mortaka Trail is an amazing spot with its fascinating array of bird and butterfly life. Apart from the many hiking trails and picnic spots, this sanctuary is also known for the Karnala Fort that rests on top of the hills. Located at an altitude of 445 m above sea level, this fort was built in the 12th century as a vantage point to govern the trade route between Bhor Ghat (a mountain passage in the Western Ghats) and Mumbai. At the bottom of the funnel hill of the fort there are 12 water storage tanks built with basalt rock to collect and retain rain water all around the year. The Karnala Bird Sanctuary is home to exotic bird species like the peregrine and shikra and also invites many trekkers who come here to escape the city and soak in the tranquility and isolation of this region. 

Karnala Bird Sanctuary