Matheran is a hill station and a municipal council in Karjat Tahsil in the Raigad district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Matheran is part of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Matheran is one of the smallest hill stations in India. It is located on the Western Ghats range at an elevation of around 800 m (2,625 feet) above sea level. It is about 90 km from Mumbai, and 120 km from Pune. Matheran’s proximity to many metropolitan cities makes it a weekend getaway for urban residents. Matheran, which means “forest on the forehead” (of the mountains) is an eco-sensitive region, declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. It is Asia’s only automobile-free hill station.
There are around 38 designated look-out “points” (viewpoints) in Matheran, including the Panorama Point that provides a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and also the Neral town. Louisa Point has views of Prabal Fort. Other viewpoints include One Tree Hill Point, Heart Point, Monkey Point, Porcupine Point, and Rambagh Point. There are many hotels and Parsi bungalows in the area. Old British-style architecture is preserved in Matheran. The roads are not metalled and are made of red laterite earth.
Matheran was identified by Hugh Poyntz Malet, the then district collector of Raigad district in May 1850. Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay laid the foundations of the development as a future hill station. The British developed Matheran as a resort to beat the summer heat in the region. Matheran is the birthplace of freedom fighter Veer Bhai Kotwal. He was born on 1 December 1912 in a Barber family. The state government has built a monument in his memory. The Matheran Hill Railway was built in 1907 by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy and covers a distance of 20 km (12 mi), over large swathes of forest territory. The Matheran hill railway, also known as Matheran Light Railway (MLR), was inspected by UNESCO world heritage site officials but failed to make it to the list as a World Heritage Site. India’s other Hill Railways like the Darjeeling Railway, the Kangra Valley Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway are already on the list.
Soil and rocks
Geographically the rock types are solely composed of Deccan trap with inter trappeans of Cretaceous, Eoceuerage and laterites of still younger age. The rock is basalt, which has given rise to secondary alteration known as laterite. The laterite predominates in the hills and almost cover the hilltops, therefore in the hill region the hard exposed surfaces of the laterite shows red gravelly earth. The soil has a vermicular or pisolitic structure and contains much water. Over almost the whole hill-top there is little soil cover. The topmost layer of rock is a soft porous iron-clay, through which, by the beginning of the hot season, the whole rainfall has drained.
Forest and vegetation
The forest type of Matheran is semi evergreen forests. The trees are evergreen, making the plateau forests very dense and even congested in places. The laterite, porous soil along with very heavy rainfall mixed with dense fog for 4-5 has resulted in unique flora rich in diversity on the plateau. The forests show vegetation in top, middle and ground storey. The trees form a cover over large variety of shade loving herbs, climbers, ferns and mosses. The forests of Matheran have attracted many botanists who have studied the flora of Matheran: Smyth J.Y.(1871), Birdwood H.M. (1886) and (1896), Cooke T. (1887–1901), Woodrow G.M. (1897-1901), Irani N.A.(1962), Satyanarayann & Mudliar (1959), Vartak, V.D.(1966), Kothari & Moorthy (1993). A good collection of the dried plants is deposited in Blatter Herbarium, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, Mumbai. Matheran has a huge number of medicinal plants and herbs. Matheran was declared an Eco-Sensitive zone (ESZ) by the Union Environment Ministry on 4 February 2003 and can be called a health sanatorium in itself.The declaration as ESZ has led to the stoppage of developmental activities and construction of hazardous industries.
The vegetation of the area depends on the type and depth of the soil. Due to poor soil depth, the vegetation on the edges of the plateaus is poor. Due to heavy rainfall, dissected hilly terrain and excessive leaching of the soil, the exposed areas become less fertile and become less moisture retentive, resulting in shallow rooted vegetation. It is required to plant trees to protect the soil cover from losing its valuable humidity and fertility. The winds are very strong and blow from west or southwest during monsoon and also dry winds blow during the three months from January to March. These winds tend to shear and bend the plant parts and absorb the moisture from the plants.
The town also has a large monkey population, including bonnet macaques and Hanuman langurs. Domesticated horses for riding are also in large numbers and are one of the symbols of Matheran. Inside the forest animals like barking deer, Malabar giant squirrel, fox, wild boar, mongoose may be found. But these animals are rare in numbers compared to monkeys and usually do not venture where humans are present. So most likely one does not come across them. There have been reports of leopard sightings in Matheran few times in last decade. Leopards are not known to dwell in Matheran. But due to dense forests in valleys surrounding Matheran leopards who are on the roam may climb Matheran. Nowadays leopard sightings by locals are extremely rare due to dwindling leopard population in general all over the country. There has been no known incidence of leopard attacks in Matheran.
As of 2001 India census, Matheran had a population of 5139. Males constitute 58% of the population and females 42%. Matheran has an average literacy rate of 71%: male literacy is 75%, and female literacy is 66%. In Matheran, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. Languages spoken include Marathi, Hindi, and English.
Matheran is located at C.. It has an average elevation of 800 metres (2,625 feet). Matheran lies in an elevated region, has a cooler and less humid climate which makes it popular during the summer months. Temperatures range from 32 °
Matheran is well connected to Mumbai (100 km) & Pune (120 km) by rail and road, while Neral is the nearest rail station.The nearest airport is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai that is located around 100 km away from Matheran.
1) Railway– Matheran has a narrow gauge railway station in the town center. The old Matheran Hill Railway offers several daily trains to Neral. The toy train connected to the mainline rail route at Neral Junction. Neral Junction is well connected by local trains from CST along the CST-Karjat route. The train covers a distance of 12 miles in an hour.Presently train runs between Aman lodge to matheran at intervals of every hour having approx 85 seats.
Any Pune bound train from CST (Mumbai) reaches Neral in approximately two hours (get down at Karjat and take a local train to Neral). To get there you have to take train from Mumbai to Neral junction; from Neral to Matheran you can take a sharing cab or bus. Presently (February 2022), the toy train is stopped between Neral to Matheran as railways are upgrading the infrastructure. This work is expected to be completed by December 2022. The train is operational between Aman Lodge to Matheran.
The Matheran Light Railway (MLR) offers limited seats for each trip. You can even hire a local van to travel till the Dhindi Point. From Dhindi Point you have to walk for about 30 minutes along the railway track to reach Matheran.People who cannot walk are suggested to contact the Neral railway officials to check whether the toy train is operating or not. The Toy train was shut down for most part 2016–2017. But it is now operational since January 26, 2018 and was e-inaugurated by the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis but again stopped after the landslide in the year 2019. Thereafter it operates shuttle rides between Aman Lodge and Matheran Station on hourly basis and at 3:30 PM it returns to Neral from Matheran. It takes 2 hours to Travel for return journey
2) Buses– There is regular bus service from Neral railway station and Karjat railway station up to Aman Lodge. The buses and cars are allowed only up to Aman Lodge.The only form of automobile allowed in Matheran is an ambulance operated by the Municipality. No private automobiles are allowed in Matheran.
3) Horses– Within Matheran transport facilities available are horses and hand-pulled rickshaws. In Matheran horses are the cheap and best mode of transport. Because of landslides during the rain fall, the toy train services may be terminated temporarily.
4)Other– Taxi’s are available from Neral to Matheran.The centre has also given moot for e-rickshaws in Matheran.
Places to Explore
There are altogether 40 points, two lakes, two parks, four major worship places and a race course to visit in Matheran.
It takes about 2–3 days by foot for a complete tour of all the points. Alternatively, if one manages to start early, one can rent a horse and complete all the points in a single day. Important points are Alexander Pt., Rambag Pt, Little Chowk Pt, Big Chowk Pt, One Tree Hill Pt, Belvedere Pt, Olympia Race Course (established in 1892-93 by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji), Lords Pt, Charlotte Lake, Pisharnath Mahadev Mandir, Celia Pt (a waterfall mouth), Echo Pt, Porcupine Pt (Sun Set Pt), Panorama Point (Sun Rise Pt), Khandala Pt, Madhavji Garden & Point, Matheran Railway Station, Louisa Point, Mayra Point, Pisarnath Temple, Matheran Shiv Mandir.
Vikatgad– One day trekking to vikatgad is an adventurous experience along the cliffs and deep ravines. Vikatgad is small mountain connected to Matheran. The easiest route to Vikatgad starts on Matheran Toy Train tracks few hundred metres Road distance below the Matheran Entrance.[tone]
Charlotte Lake– The water to the Matheran was supplied from Charlotte lake. The dam overflows in rainy season and becomes a tourist attraction.
Sunset Point– This is the farthest point in Matheran. It was also called Porcupine point.
Paymaster Park– This park is maintained by Municipality. There are play games for children and a pagoda.
Peak time to visit
Though Matheran has a pleasant climate throughout the year, the best time to visit is between October and May. Here’s a seasonal breakup of the year so you can plan your trip accordingly.
October to November: This is when the monsoon has just retreated and the temperature is cool and perfect for sightseeing.
December to February: The winter months are cool with the temperature usually staying above 11°C. It’s a great time to visit and is particularly popular with couples on their honeymoon. While the days are mostly sunny, evenings and early mornings tend to get a bit chilly so you should carry light woolens.
March to May: While the highest temperature can go over 35°C during the day, it’s quite pleasant in general and the weather is suitable for sightseeing, trekking trails and other adventure activities.
June to September: The monsoon season sees heavy rainfall in the region making outdoor activities a bit of a challenge. But with very few tourists around at this time, you can enjoy the peaceful rain showers and freshly washed green surroundings at peace. This is also the time when Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in Maharashtra, so you can make the most of the holidays and participate in the festivities in Matheran.
Matheran has various trekking routes. All routes are easy from climbing difficulty point of view:
1) Sunset Point is the route from Dodhani village to Sunset Point. This is the most popular route for trekkers. Dodhani village is about 45 minutes by State Transport bus from Panvel.
2) Garbett Point Route is the route that starts from Sagachiwadi a small tribal village near to Dhom dam. This village can be approached from Bhivpuri Road Railway Station. This is the second most popular route. Garbett point is the least visited point in Matheran because it is very far away from market compared to other points. Mostly there is always no one at Garbett point even during peak season. The vast green stretch of Garbett plateau is major attraction during Monsoon season.
3) Rambaug Point Route is the Rambaug point is a small and popular point near One tree hill point. This route goes from Rambaug point to a small village called Pokharwadi near Chowk village. The route passes through a waterfall during rainy season
4) One Tree Hill – The route base village is Ambewadi village. Ambewadi is near pokharwadi village, where route to Rambaug point begins. There is a view of Morbe Dam’s backwater while going through Rambaug and One Tree Hill route.
5) Vikatgad route is the most difficult one. This route require high endurance. It starts from the base village Mamdapur and takes about 3 hours to reach Matheran via Vikatgad fort.
The route of Sunset Point is the most popular and route to Garbett point is the next most popular route. All the routes require 2-3 hrs climb to reach Matheran. The routes of Rambaug point and One Tree Hill are usually not taken by any trekkers nowadays.