Short escapes from Mumbai

The floating fort of Janjira is reached via boats
Image courtesy: ©Nitin Gairola

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 when it comes to taking a short break. From the lush hill towns to the breathtakingly huge coastline, we list a few picks.

Alibag (95 km)

Alibag is the common stand-in for a cluster of villages neatly laid amidst thick coconut plantations along the coast. Each of these is a tiny ecosystem in itself, with its own beach, private houses and hotels. Sleepy in some parts, vibrant in others, Alibag is a lovely mix of a pastoral landscape generously sprinkled with the lifestyles of the rich and the famous.

Highlights-

  • Buffet of beaches: Action-packed, touristy, peaceful or picturesque.
  • Kolaba Fort: A testimony to Maratha maritime power.
  • Seafood at Sanman: The pinnacle of coastal cuisine.
  • Long drives: Miles of lush greenery, hugging the coast.

Kashid-Murud (126 km)

Kashid and Murud are two different experiences and moods rolled into one fantastic weekend. Though both are celebrated as beach destinations, only one can lay honest claim to this tag. The 3km long, pristine Kashid Beach is possibly the best in the region, while Murud’s rightful place is under heritage holidays, overrun as it is by majestic forts and haunting tombs.

Highlights

  • Kashid Beach: Water sports followed by hot tea and bhajiyas.
  • Janjira Fort: Visit the historic 15th century fort.
  • Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary: Walking trails, birds and butterflies.
  • Garambi Waterfalls: Great location to enjoy a picnic.

Igatpuri (135km)

Igatpuri 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.

Highlights

  • Bhatsa River Valley: Offers picnics, hikes and waterfalls spotting.
  • Viewpoint at Ghatandevi Temple: Sweeping vistas of the mountains and an ancient fort.
  • Dhamma Giri: Visit the Vipassana meditation academy set in scenic surroundings.
  • Camel Valley: Trek down this emerald valley.

Also Read: The Grand Canyon of India – Gandikota

Also Read: Eat well while travelling

Malshej Ghat (150 km)

Malshej Ghat is one of those special places that do ample justice to the travellers’ adage of the journey being more important than the destination. Clearly among the best weekend drives out of Mumbai, these mountains should fire the imagination of anyone who’s willing to experience the unadulterated charm of nature, without falling into the vicious trap of checkbox travel.

Highlights

• Viewpoints: Take in grand panoramas of the Sahyadri ranges.

• Waterfalls: Silver sprays at their prettiest during the monsoon.

• Scenic drives: Zip on with plenty of arm-flexing at every hairpin bend.

Bhandardara (180km)

A quiet retreat tucked away in the hills, Bhandardara 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.

Highlights

• Wilson Dam: Enjoy the scenic lake and its surrounds.

• Mount Kalsubai: Scale Maharashtra’s highest peak – it’s doable.

• Amruteshwar Temple: An ancient temple carved out of stone.

• Farmers’ markets: Support the community and shop for local food items.

Daman (190 km)

It’s not just the combination of sun, sand and sea which makes the union territory of Daman attractive. This ocean-swept enclave is a seamless mingling of cultures: Portuguese, Roman Catholic and Gujarati. It also offers inviting coastal food and cheap liquor, a stone’s throw away from the dry state of Gujarat.

Highlights

• Sunset at Jampore Beach: Relax on a deck chair at dusk.

• Seafood: Raise a toast to liquor and seafood in plenty.

• Market gains: Shop at cheap and chic markets.

Panchgani (220 km)

Beautiful rain forest in Panchgani
Beautiful rain forest in Panchgani
Image courtesy: ©Saumil Shah/Lonely Planet

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

Highlights

• Cool escape: Rest, relax and rejuvenate amidst cool mists and fresh air.

• Tableland: Feel on top of the world at this popular viewpoint.

• Fruity haven: Taste fresh strawberries and visit fruit farms.

Mahabaleshwar (240 km)

Nature’s bounty awaits at Mahabaleshwar. 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.

Highlights

• Strawberry fields: Treat yourself to fresh strawberries off the farms.

• A walk in the woods: Go on leisurely strolls down misty woods.

• Shopping: Buy easy at the market for local food and crafts.