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Best Places To Visit Near Mumbai - Weekend Getaways
Mumbai, also known as Mayanagri or the city of dreams, is less of a tourist one-stop destination and more of a base for holidaying in the larger Maharashtrian landscape. Why? Because the city is a great place to check out ancient British buildings, relax in plush five stars (some even older than Indian Independence), visit the sets of Bollywood films and basically live a fast-paced life. But if one is looking for peace, tranquility, quiet, nature etc etc, then Mumbai is not it. However, it serves as a great base to travel around its outskirts. From Lonavala to Mahabaleshwar, Amby Valley to Matheran, there are numerous places to visit around Mumbai, especially for a nice weekend getaway.
Lonavala & Khandala
Most Mumbaikars, when tired of the city heat or in reception of a long weekend choose to travel to Lonavala. It is only 2 hours away from the city, is perched on a plateau, has inviting greenery, plush resorts and dams to entertain you and can be restful for the weary soul. Usually it also doubles as a day picnic but we recommend doing at least 2-3 days so that you get to explore places like the Lohagarh Fort, chill by the Kune Falls take photos by the Pawna Lake and enjoy cheese corn bhajiya and maggi at Tiger Point.
Khandala is a smaller town just on the slope of Lonavala, and is basically considered the same. It has its own little resorts and the Kalra Caves, Bhushi Lake, and Rajmachi Fort along with wax museums.
Another hill station destination, only 80 km away from Mumbai, Matheran is a very interesting place. The main reason being, the town does not allow vehicles inside. Which means, you will have to leave your cars in the parking at the foothills and either hike up on two humble feet, hire ponies to ride on or take the toy trains that work only in certain seasons. The base line? Matheran is completely pollution free, a haven of lush hills, cutesy markets, thick waterfalls and awesome viewpoints.
The place where dreamers go to see stars, Bhandardara is a paradise near Mumbai. It is only 164 km away from the city and is usually best reached by a 3 hour train ride. Known for its lush beautiful landscapes, greenery hiding frothy waterfalls and camps by the Bhandardara Lake, this place has one of the clearest skies around Mumbai. Hence during meteor showers, eclipses and other cosmic pageants, people prefer to take a weekend trip to Bhandardara, camp out in the open and stargaze to their heart’s content. There are also a couple of temples and the Ratangarh Fort to see here.
One of the most coveted hill stations near Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar is known for its steep ghats that are thrilling to drive around, the every-loving strawberry and cream, and exotic seasonal fruits that make your mouth water. When you are planning a getaway slightly longer than 2 days from Mumbai, you plan for Mahabaleshwar. With its famous Mahabaleshwar temple, vintage bungalows, colonial architecture and luxurious resorts, this hill town is also home to the Mapro Gardens where you get the best pizzas, soups and sandwiches along with fresh strawberries with a huge dollop of cream.
Panchgani is like a cousin to Mahabaleshwar. If you climb around higher, then five hills of ‘Panchgani’ welcome you into their folds. The area is known for its boarding schools, Parsi and Anglo-Indian homes, private bungalows and forts and caves. Usually people club a visit to Panchgani with Mahabaleshwar, and choose to explore both together. But Panchgani is the more peaceful of the two, as there aren’t many commercial resorts or hotels here.
The town of Neral near Mumbai is really dotted on the outskirts of the city. Only an hour’s car ride away, it makes for a great day or short weekend getaway. You have the Peb Fort and Saguna Baug to explore, the waterfalls and camps outdoors to enjoy and the rural village nearby where you can mingle with the locals and even go fishing with them. Neral is one of the cleanest, greenest places you will see in Maharashtra and there is something inherently refreshing about it, even its mere name. It is of course, best visited through the monsoon months. And because it is only 74 km away, you can go by morning and return by night.
A little coastal town off the shore of Mumbai, Alibaug is immensely popular among Mumbaikars as well as those who come from outside for a nice weekend beach getaway. With its paddies and seaside farms, small hamlets and cottages framing the shore, Alibaug garners many tourists through all seasons, especially summers and monsoons. You can visit the Kanakeshwar Devasthan Temple, hike up the Kolaba Fort, see the Lighthouse and chill with your friends and family on the Alibaug Beach. While you can drive to Alibaug, most people prefer to take the sea route and enjoy a ferry ride to the place. There are a great many luxury and mid-range resorts as well as cottages on hire for your vacation.
Perched in a highland area some 160 plus km away from Mumbai, Nashik is a big enough city that it has all the facilities one may need, and houses natural retreats and recreational area on its outskirts for fun. Like the Sula Vineyards, one of the most famous places to go for a weekend vacation. There are meadows of rows and rows of grape vines, a state of the art winery, a resort and loads of recreational stuff like grape-picking, mashing and musical concerts during the harvest months. Other places to visit in Nashik are Trimbakeshwar, Muktidham, Pandavleni Caves and Mhasoba Temple.
An adventure hub in the thickets of Maharashtra, Kamshet is the best place for those who are into thrill and adrenaline rushes for a weekend holiday. It is not too far from Mumbai, only about 104 km, and is the best place in the vicinity for paragliding, swimming, soaring and trekking. Other than these you can also go for a sightseeing trip, explore the temples, caves, fortresses and colonial towns upon hills. But out of all the sports, paragliding is considered to be its highlight, and a must-must-try.
Technically Daman is a Union Territory near Gujarat, but it is also quite close to Mumbai; a three hour drive tops. With its deep set beaches, coastal resorts, humid cool air and party hubs that go on all night, Daman is the perfect two-day getaway. What makes it even more enticing is the number of historical forts and museums in the vicinity; from the Panikota Fort and Diu Fort to the St. Jerome Fort, Lighthouse and the Diu Museum.
Ganapatipule is all clean pristine beaches, lush greenery fringed drives and temples that are centuries old. As the name suggests, the place was named after Lord Ganesh, and a temple dedicated to him continues to draw devotees and pilgrims to Ganapatipule all through the year. Because the town is not touched by tourism and commercial expansions it is still the kind of place where you can escape the city madness and basically rejuvenate. The two must-visits here are the famous Swayambhu Ganpati Temple and the Ganapatipule Beach.
A beautiful planned city near Pune, designed specifically to serve as a holiday getaway and an investment opportunity outside the city, Lavasa is home to stunning private villas, bungalows and hotels, with many activities nearby. It is inspired by the city of Portofino in Italy and is lovely to stay at. Since the city is close to Pune as well as Lonavala, you can easily get other comforts and entertainment prospects even outside the township. Some enjoyable activities inside Lavasa include the musical fountain show, kayaking, rappelling, jet skiing and rock climbing.
Chiplun, a tiny town in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, is only 250 km away from Mumbai. With its collection of ancient temples, forts atop hills and waterfalls, this is another patent Maharashtrian town for a weekend away from all the city dust. You can easily drive down here, spend a day relaxing in your guest house or hotel, and go trekking, sightseeing or picnicking. The major attractions here are Sawatsada Waterfall, Vashishti River and the Govalkot Fort.
One of the loveliest locations for a camp, Pawna Lake is around 117 km away from Mumbai. The shore of the lakes is best camped in on winter nights, when the skies are clear and you can stargaze. Other than these camps and picnics, you can also go paragliding, trekking, kiting and ridge dancing here. Many tour agencies, adventure companies and private travellers set up camps, games, Barbecues and activities here almost every weekend.
Karnala, a small town on the outskirts of Mumbai, is only 10 km away from Panvel and 55 km from Mumbai. Most tourists flock down here for the famous Karnala Bird Sanctuary and to hike up the Karnala Fort. The Konkan coast by this town is a thing of beauty, and you can see the Konkan Pass from the fort, one that was a major trade route back in the day. You can see the Pandu’s Tower, enjoy your time at Sanjay Gandhi National Park and get photos of more than 150 species of birds like three toed kingfisher and Malabar Trogon.
Wai is a small town that pops on your way to Mahabaleshwar. Located some 232 km from Mumbai, this town is known for its famous vada pav and the Menavali ghat. It is also the village that doubled up as a set for the Shah Rukh Khan movie Swades. You can also go check out the temple of Dholiya Ganpati, sit by River Krishna and trek up the Bandhavgarh Fort. Raft boating, star-gazing, overnight camping and ATV rides are some of the other coveted activities here.
The Ajanta-Ellora, usually taken as a set for a weekend getaway makes for a stunning row of ancient caves. They have been declared as a World Heritage Site. These are Buddhist rock-cut caves near Aurangabad, and are over 350 km from Mumbai. The best way to reach Ajanta-Ellora is by taking a ferry or hiring a yacht from Gateway of India. People usually go for a day picnic or stay overnight, exploring the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves that have some of the most intricate carvings of the gods, Buddha and Boddhisattvas. The carvings date from anywhere between 2nd Century BCE to 10th Century CE. Monsoon and Winter make for great seasons for a visit.
A hill town in the state of Gujarat, Saputara is a weekend destination for those who enjoy gardens, temples and sunsets. With its lush waterfalls, thick jungles and trekking routes, Saputara welcomes tourists in all seasons. The tribal village nearby is open to all and you can learn their art, crafts and culture, or visit the Vansda National Park for a tryst with nature. The sunset and sunrise points are two other beautiful places to relax and take photos. All in all, Saputara is a great family vacation spot.
A theme park built right outside Mumbai, Imagica is the best place to go for a fun and adventure trip. It can be a day trip or you can even stay in one of the nearby hotels overnight or choose the Novotel Imagica inside the park. There is a waterpark adjacent and Imagica itself is home to some of the country’s most thrilling rides, shows and games. From toboggans to rafts to snow mountains, Imagica will stun you and show you the best time of your life. It is about 65 km from the city of Mumbai, and is best visited in winter months.