To find recluse in the lap of nature and escape the never ending days of the Maya Nagri, here is my list of quick getaways around Mumbai : -
Lonavala and Khandala
- 3 hours by road (Panvel Pune highway) and 3 hours by train (Khandala station)
- Best time to visit August - September or December - January
- Lonavala and Khandala provide perfect weekend destination for all the busy bored Mumbaikars. During monsoon the sudden rains , numerous waterfalls and lakes and complete fog cover makes the visit memorable while winters, well they are hill stations so need I say more?
- Places worth visiting – Khandala valley, Tiger point, Shiv Sagar dam, Bhusi Dam, Pavna lake and Trekkers - Lohagad Fort(closed during monsoon) and Karla and Bhaja caves.
Alibaug, Nagaon, Kashid and Kihim
- 3-4 hours by road (Panvel Road) 1-1:30 hours by ferry (from Gateway of India)
- Best time to visit – Any time, though water sports are not available from July to August.
- Why run to Goa each time for enjoying the costal bliss when all that is available not very far from Mumbai. These beaches are one of the most scenic and clean beaches of Maharashtra (Malgund beach and Anjarle near Ganpatipule beat these though). You could enjoy n number of water sports or simply laze around and spend your weekend relaxing in these pristine corners of Maharashtra.
- Places worth visiting – Kashid is the cleanest of the lot, Alibaugh fort and Murud Janjira fort (A 15th century impregnable 22 acre stone fort built inside water), Nagaon Beach with its close to beach canopy of Betel and Suru trees. Also for all these places the most suitable place to stay overnight is Nagaon hamlet and no resorts but the cottages of the natives that they rent out to the tourists. It gives you a chance to see and enjoy their lifestyle closely, even if it is for a day.
Bandardhara and Malshej Ghat
- 3 hours by road (Panvel – Igatpuri road)
- Best time to visit – August to January
- Amidst the dense Sayadris, north of Mumbai, is Malshej Ghat and close by is Bandardhara both famous picnic spots during Monsoon and equally attractive spots during winters.
- Places worth visiting – Malshej Falls, Shivneri fort, Arthur Lake, Wilson Dam, and Maharashtra’s Highest Peak – Mount Kalsubai (Bandardhara is the base point for the trek)
Nasik, Shirdi and Trambakeshwar
- 3-4 Hours by road (Panvel – Nashik highway) 4 hours by train (Nasik Station)
- Best time to visit – November to March
- Although mostly known for its religious front, these places are also historical places and beautiful hill stations. Night walk in Sirdi and Badam milk or tea in Kulhads, nothing beats that feeling. You would also end up wondering how a tiny, frail stream of water originating on the mountains facing the jyotirling Trambakeshwar becomes the mighty Godavari after some kilometers. And wine lovers do visit Indian Italy - Sula Vineyard.
Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani
- 5 Hours by road (Overnight sleeper buses or by car are the best options)
- Best time to Visit – October to April
- The twin hill stations of Maharashtra are the best places to be at during peak winters and early summers. The cold winds, meandering lush green roads and fruity waif in the air make it a must visit.
- Places worth visiting – Pratapgad, Mapro Garden (you don’t wanna miss the sizzling brownie there), Balakwadi Dam and Kate's point (you can see some weird stone structures here), Sydney point in Panchgani (provides the best view of the town), Tapola dam(1 hour from Panchgani is Tapola aka Mini Kashmir a backwater on the Koyna river where you can enjoy a lot of Water sports as well as paragliding.) If you are lucky enough and are able to visit any of the Boarding Schools in Panchgani, don’t miss the chance! New Era School has some of the best scenic views of Panchgani and that is where the movie Tare Zameen Par was shot. And well just spend the rest of your time walking around these towns; you won’t regret it a bit.
So go on and plan your weekends now...:)