The name that siimply translates to “Forest overhead”, hints at the idyllic charm of this preserved paradise 800 m above sea level. It was once a treasured getaway for British and Parsi families of colonial India. The most picturesque way to get to Matheran is aboard the century old steam locomotive “Phulrani”, an antique narrow- gauge train that dearts from the town of Neral at the base of the hill. The 21-km journey takes three hours uphill and 1.5 hours downhill. In the monsoon, when the train service is suspended, hiking up to the hill station past blooming wildflowers and milky white waterfalls is highly recommended.
A ban on cars ensures that these woods and the unspoilt old-world township within can only be explored on foot, horseback, or in a traditional hand-pulled rickshaw.
Hikers are well rewarded with sightings of exotic butterflies and birds and will of course encounter the now well-known and cheeky population of bonnet macaques. Besides chikki, the one souvenir every visitor leaves with is the lasting memory of soul- invigorating vistas from points like Sunset and Panorama.