Best hill escapes from Mumbai

Lavasa offers utopia to some

In a toss-up between its sandy beaches and verdant hills, opinion among Mumbaikars may be divided, but they’d agree that they are spoilt for choice.

Coast are an amazing mountain range and have been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, while the Western Ghats are a unique ecological zone bringing flora and fauna together in a natural mix of hills and water bodies. Not only do they offer a breather, but also hold secrets of their past history.

LAVASA

If your idea of utopia is made up of living spaces that open into greenery, cobbled promenades lined with gourmet restaurants, and country clubs where your treadmill comes equipped with a lake view, then Lavasa (190km) comes dangerously close to the picture. For a lot of local residents this life may be permanent, but the rest of us may live it for a few days at least.

Best time to visit: any time of the year

Getting there:
Car (4hr; NH8): Take the Mumbai–Pune Expressway and exit at Chandni Chowk. Lavasa is about 40km from here.

Bus (4hr): The Asiad bus service runs frequently between Dadar and Pune. It’s the most popular service offered by MSRTC. From Pune, taxis are available for Lavasa.

Train (3hr 30min + 45min drive; Pune): The first train from Mumbai to Pune is the Indrayani Express (12525). Other trains to Pune include the Deccan Express (11007) and Deccan Queen (12123). Taxis from Pune station to Lavasa charge INR1500 or more.

PANCHGANI

 

Panchgani’s quaintness hike its charm quotient for visitors

Rolling greens, period bungalows, misty hills and strawberry orchards make this cluster of valleys as inviting a break as ever. Less touristy Panchgani’s (220km) quaintness and Parsi denizens hike its charm quotient for visitors.

Best time to visit: January-May; October-December

Getting there:
Car (6hr; NH4)
: There are two routes to choose. Either drive down the Mumbai–Pune (NH4) Expressway; else choose the older route via the NH17.

Bus (7hr): Luxury AC buses to Panchgani are easily available from Mumbai. Ticket costs INR500–600 one way. Buses offer pick-ups from various points in the city. Try Neeta Travels (www.neetabus.in) for best options.

IGATPURI

Igatpuri makes falling off the map alluring

Igatpuri (135km) is the surprise package among Mumbai’s short escapes. Dotted with pretty resorts, ancient ruins of forts, a large meditation centre and several small but soothing spas, this destination with a mixed bag of attractions, makes falling off the map alluring.

Best time to visit: January and February; June-December

Getting there:
Car (2hr 30min; NH3)
: Journey down the NH3 beyond Kasara. The drive is comfortable.

Bus (2hr 30min): Maharashtra State Transport’s Asiad buses headed to Nashik stop at Igatpuri; board at Dadar’s Asiad bus stand. Fare to Igatpuri is INR160. Eight buses leave through the day beginning from 8am onwards. Alternatively, private buses plying to Nashik stop at Igatpuri’s Manas Resort. Fare is between INR200 (non-AC) and INR450 (AC).

Train (2hr 30min; Igatpuri): Choose from a long list of trains from Mumbai’s Dadar, CST as well as Bandra Terminus, and alight at Igatpuri.

BHANDARDARA

Bhandardara's hills and lakes offer a quiet retreat

A quiet retreat tucked away in the hills, Bhandardara (180km) is a well-kept travel secret. Untouched by the masses and chain resorts, this small hamlet has only a few places to stay but many options to lose oneself in the lap of nature.

Best time to visit: January and February; June-December

Getting there:
Car (3hr 30min; NH3)
: Bhandardara is located 40km ahead of Igatpuri. A bypass from Ghoti on the NH3 leads to the hill station.

Bus (2hr 30min): Maharashtra State Transport’s Asiad buses headed to Nashik stop at Igatpuri, from Dadar’s Asiad bus stand. Fare to Igatpuri is INR160. Private buses to Nashik stop at Igatpuri’s Manas Resort. Fare is between INR200 (non-AC) and INR450 (AC). From here local cabs can be taken to Bhandardara.

Train (2hr + 1hr drive; Igatpuri): Trains come up to Igatpuri from Mumbai’s Dadar, CST as well as Bandra Terminus. From here local vehicles can be hired for the drive up to Bhandardara, which takes about an hour.

MAHABALESHWAR

Nature's bounty awaits at Mahabaleshwar

Nature’s bounty awaits at Mahabaleshwar (240km). Its green mountains and red earth, sylvan lake and pleasant weather, have made this hill station a hit with holidaymakers and honeymooning couples. The place abounds with honey and strawberry farms, making it a sweet spot for a short escape from the chaos of the city.

Best time to visit: January-June; October-December

Getting there:
Car (6hr; NH4)
: The older route from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar is via the NH17. Alternatively, travelling via the expressway (NH4) adds about 30km more to your time but is a smoother, more comfortable, drive.

Bus (7hr): Luxury AC buses to Mahabaleshwar are easily available from Mumbai. These cost INR500–650 one way. Try Neeta Travels (www.neetabus.in) for best
options.

There’s plenty more to inspire the traveller in our travel guide, Short Escapes from Mumbai. Head to our online shop and grab a copy today.