Across the Mumbai Harbour, lie the
seventh-century rock-cut temples of Elephanta. Once
known as Gharapuri, or the Fortress City, the Caves
are now designated as a World Heritage Site and visited
by hundreds of tourists both for their art historical
and scenic value. The Portuguese renamed this island
Elephanta after a large stone elephant was found near
the shore ( the elephant sculpture collapsed in 1814,
when the British relocated it to the Victoria Gardens
now Mumbai's zoo, where it still stands).
Approach to the Island is by boat.
Luxury and ordinary launches as well as catamarans
leave for Elephanta from Apollo Bunder at the Gateway
of India. Boats usually leave every half-hour from
9 am to 2 pm from Apollo Bunder and between 1 pm and
5 pm from Elephanta Island. Tickets are sold at booths
near the Gateway of India and the MTDC offers daily
tours to the Island. During the monsoons the ordinary
boat services are usually suspended.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Kanheri
104 sq. kmS of green hills and forests,
this protected area lies near the northern suburb
of Borivali. In fact the park was formerly known as
the Borivali National Park. There is a Lion Safari
Park 500 m inside the entrance and safari rides run
daily except Monday from 9 am to 5 pm. The park is
also well known for the 109 Kanheri Caves ( in particular
Cave 3), built between the 2nd and 9th centuries as
viharas (monasteries) and chaityas (prayer halls).
Visitors can take the train on the
Western line (from Churchgate) to Borivali station
and then an auto-rickshaw to the Caves. On Sundays
and public holidays, a bus service runs from Borivali
station to the Caves. The MTDC suburban tour also
includes Kanheri in its itinerary.
Marve, Manori and Gorai
North of Mumbai and away from its
bustling crowds and pollution, are these 3 beaches
that have become popular havens for Mumbai's beleaguered
fun lovers. Marve, the closest and the quietest is
a lovely little fishing village. There are some beautiful
bungalows and up-scale homes belonging to the city's
wealthy used mainly as weekend getaways. Low hills
along the beach offer you extraordinary views of sunrise
and sunset. Gorai and Manori, a little further away,
are more crowded with revellers and are famous for
all night beach parties.
Marve is about 40 kms by car from
Mumbai. You can alight at Malad railway station (a
suburban station on the Western Railway line) and
proceed by road. A 15 minute ferry ride from Marve
or Borivali will take you to Manori or Gorai.
Mandwa and Kihim
You will find these two beach fronts
12 miles north of Alibag on the north coast and easily
accessible from Mumbai. Mandwa is a beautiful, untrodden
beach. On a clear day one can enjoy a long, breathtaking
view across the bay, up to the Gateway of India. Mandwa
village too, has a charm of its own -- with its beautiful
groves of coconut palms. Plan an unusual tent holiday
nearby at Kihim.
It is accessible by boats and road.
There is regular ferry service between the Gateway
of India and Mandwa Jetty. For Kihim, one can take
an auto-rickshaw or bus further onwards. By road,
Kihim is 136 kms from Mumbai.
Bassein Fort, now in ruins, was
under the Portuguese a thriving fortified city from
1534 to 1739 when it was sacked by the Marathas. The
ruins of the Portuguese Fort still stand almost hidden
by brushwood and palm groves. Some of the walls and
churches can still be seen. About 10 kms to the north-west
lies Nalasopara village, the capital of the Konkan
region from 1500 BC to AD 1300. Many Buddhist relics
were discovered here. Nalasopara is believed to have
been the birthplace of the Buddha in a previous life.
To the north, is the Agar of Agashi and to the south
is the Agar of Bassein. An hour by bus from Bassein
station are the Vajreshwari Temple and Akoli Hot Springs.
Also easily accessible is Ganeshpuri with the Sadguru
Nityanand Maharaj Samadhi Mandir, the Bhimeshwar Temple
and other ashrams.
Bassein Fort can be reached by train
up to Bassein or Vasai Road station on the Western
Railway and then by auto-rickshaw or taxi. By road,
it is 77 kms along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway.
Khandala, Lonavala and Karla
Khandala and Lonavala are two charming
hill stations on the western slopes of the Sahyadris,
5 kms apart straddling the Mumbai-Pune highway at
an altitude of 625 m. Very popular with Mumbaites,
they also alternate as getaways and health resorts.
Khandala is the smaller and calmer of the two, though
browsing through Lonavala's bazaar could yield some
Temperatures vary from 12 C in winter
to around 36 C in the peak of summer. The annual rainfall,
when the climate is very pleasant, is 450 cms. October
to May is the best time to visit.
Pune 66 kms away, is the nearest
airport. All trains from Mumbai to Pune and the South
stop at Lonavala. Mumbai is 104 kms away by road,
the last 20 kms of which wind up the ghats through
grueling switchbacks. Taxis and auto-rickshaws easily
available in Lonavala and Khandala, are the best way
of getting to and from Karla.
Matheran is an undulating hilltop
cloaked in shady trees, that sprawls languidly at
an altitude of 800 m. The journey involves an adventurous
two-hour ascent in a toy train, with food and drink
vendors and monkeys jumping on and off as the valley
glides by sedately. Alternately, a tough 11 km hike
through thick and shady forests or a winding car drive
can get you there as well.
Temperatures vary from 16 C in winter
to 32 C in summer, with an annual rainfall of 524
cms. October to May is the best time to visit.
Mumbai, 100 kms away is the nearest
airport. Neral station, 21 kms away is where you can
catch the toy train. Mumbai by road is about 108 kms
from Matheran via Karjat and Neral. Pune is 120 kms
away. All cars and buses stop at Dasturi just outside,
from which you can walk, take a horse or a hand-pulled
rickshaw into the town. State Transport buses ply
regularly from Mumbai and Pune.