Matheran is a Hill Station and a municipal council in the Raigad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is a hill station in Karjat Tahsil and is also the smallest hill station in India. It is located on the Western Ghats range at an elevation of around 800 m (2,625 feet) above sea level. It is located around 90 km from Mumbai, and 120 km from Pune. Matheran's proximity to many metropolitan cities makes it a popular weekend getaway for urban residents. The name Matheran means "forest on the forehead" (of the mountains). Matheran is an eco-sensitive region, declared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. It is one of the few places in the World where vehicles are not allowed, which makes the place different from others.
Matheran takes you over a hundred years back in time when there were no vehicles. Because of vehicles being banned in Matheran, the place is quite peaceful despite the thousands of visitors coming to visit throughout the year. There are lots of lookout points that provide spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Matheran has a reasonably dense forest cover. There are around 38 designated look-out points in Matheran, including the Panorama Point that provides a 360 degree view of the surrounding area and also the Neral town. From this point, the view of sunset and sunrise is breathtaking. The Louisa Point offers crystal clear view of the Prabal Fort. The other points are the One Tree Hill Point, Hart Point, Monkey Point, Porcupine Point, Rambagh Point, and more.
Matheran was discovered by Hugh Poyntz Malet, the then district collector of Thane district in May 1850. Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay laid the foundations of the development as a future hill station. The British developed Matheran as a popular resort to beat the summer heat in the region. Matheran is connected to the town of Neral which lies at the base of the hills. A tar road connects Neral to Dasturi Naka which is 9 km (5.6 mt) from Matheran. In order to maintain Matheran's uniqueness, no vehicles are allowed beyond this point. The other mode of transport is a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge narrow gauge railway, which links the town to Neral. Neral also has a broad gauge station which is on the busy Mumbai-Pune route. Neral is well connected by railway line with Karjat being the nearest Junction.
The Matheran Hill Railway was built in 1907 by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy and covers a distance of 20 km (12 mt), over large swathes of forest territory. The Matheran hill railway, also known as Matheran Light Railway (MLR), was inspected by UNESCO world heritage site officials in the last week of October 2009. But, when the results were officially announced by UNESCO in August 2010, the Matheran Light Railway failed to make it to the list as a World Heritage Site. While, India's other Hill Railways like the Darjeeling Railway, the Kangra Valley Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway are already on the list. Matheran has been declared an ecosensitive region by the Union Environment Ministry and can be called a Health Sanatorium in itself. The only form of automobile allowed in Matheran is an ambulance operated by the Municipality.
Within Matheran transport facilities available are horses and hand-pulled rickshaws. Matheran has been listed by the Union Environment Ministry as an eco-sensitive region and is connected to the closest town of Neral by a narrow gauge railway, operating since 1907. As no vehicles are allowed in Matheran, one has to drive up to Dasturi Point, 11 km ahead of Matheran, from where you could reach the main bazaar either by foot or on pony. Matheran lies in an elevated region, enjoys a cooler and less humid climate which makes it popular during the summer months. Temperatures range from 32°C (90°F) to 16°C (61°F). Matheran has a huge number of medicinal plants and herbs. The town also has a large monkey population, including Bonnet Macaques and Hanuman Langurs. The nearby Lake Charlotte is the main source of Matheran's drinking water.
Languages spoken include Marathi, Hindi, and English. There are a lot of Parsi bungalows. Beautiful old British-style architecture is preserved in Matheran. The roads are not metalled and are made of red laterite earth. There are many "points" (viewpoints) in Matheran which give a panoramic view of the plains below. On clear nights, the lights of Mumbai are claimed to be visible.
Places Of Interest:
- Mount Berry: Mount Berry is a popular tourist destination that is located 5+ km from Matheran. It offers a bird’s eye view of Neral. The major attraction is the slow train that chugs up the hill in the midst of pristine natural beauty. matheran peak is visible from here.
- Charlotte Lake: Also called the Sharlott Lake, Charlotte Lake is one of the most picturesque spots in Matheran. On the right side of the lake, there is the ancient Pisarnath Temple. The two picnic spots Louisa point and Echo Point are located on the left side of the lake. Best season to visit this place is monsoon. Tourist can experience the scenic view of waterfalls.
- Lookout Points: There are around 38 different lookout points in Matheran, from where tourists can view the amazing beautiful valley. The spectacular view of the valley remains in the memory of the tourists for a long time.
- Valley Crossing: A very great activity like Valley crossing by a rope can be experienced at Honey(Moon) Point. It seems to be risky and dangerous but it is not as we are tightly hold by TWO safety belts and the adventure group conducting this activity does take care of us. You should experience this.
There are altogether 28 points, 2 lakes, 2 parks, 4 major worship places and a racecourse to visit inside Matheran. If you want to see all of them then you may need 2–3 days on your feet. One can move around on foot or horseback, but it is recommended moving on feet to take the best glimpse of nature. If you are on Horse back you may not be able to spend your desired time on the points. All the points’ gives a unique view and you can’t miss them. There are many walking paths for a leisurly walk. Points to see;
- Alexander Pt.
- Rambag Pt
- Little Chowk Pt
- Big Chowk Pt
- One Tree Hill Pt
- Belvedere Pt
- Olympia Race Course
- Lords Pt
- Charlotte Lake
- Pisharnath Mahadev Mandir
- Celia Pt (Actually a water fall mouth)
- Echo Pt.
- Porcupine Pt (Sun Set Pt)
- Panorama Point (Sun Rise Pt)
- Khandala Pt
- Madhavji Garden & Point
- Matheran Railway Station
- Louisa Point
- Mayra Point