Mumbai, rightly called the city of dreams! This city nurtures the dreams of those who strive, knowing that Mumbai will deliver, and hence prove that one should dare to dream big! The city of film-stars and billionaires, of fishing villages and a Manhattan-type skyline. Of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, and of Malabar Hills, with its global real estate prices! A thriving, throbbing, energizing city24*7..
But step out of a few kilometres from this grand megapolis, and you’re spoilt for choice – hills and trekking routes, water sports, serene beaches, forts and pilgrimage towns. Here are some ideas for places to head out to for a long weekend break.
1. Mahableshwar – Panchgani
Distance from Mumbai: approx. 275 km
Think of Mahableshwar and Panchgani, you get images of red, luscious strawberries. Two of the most popular hill stations situated in the western ghats, these twin towns are also known as the ‘Land of Strawberries’! There is a special, rugged beauty in these hills, red and raw in the winter months, lush green in the monsoons, with cascading waterfalls at almost every turn of the road. Take a long, leisurely walk around these quaint towns, or step out for a brisk trek through the hills and valleys. Drive to famed viewing points like Elephant’s Head point or Arthur’s seat.
2. Nasik – Panchvati – Trimbakeshwar
Distance from Mumbai: approx. 173 km
If Mahableshwar and Panchgani are the strawberry hub, Nasik is the queen of the finest quality wine in the country . It is home to the famous Sula vineyards. A stay amidst these vineyards can be a truly soothing experience. Take leisurely drives through the majestic Saptashrungi hills, spot the odd fort, and visit the truly spectacular Dudhsagar falls nearby.
You can also drive to Nasik and make it your base for trips to nearby religious towns like Panchvati and Trimbakeshwar. Panchvati or ‘garden of five banyan trees’, is mentioned in the Ramayan as the place where Lord Ram, along with Lakshman and Sita, stayed during his 14-year exile. The nearby Sita Gufa is from where, according to legends, Ravana kidnapped Sita. Trimbakeshwar, on the other hand, is one of the holiest temples of India, housing one of the 12 Jyotirlingas scattered across the country.
3. Malshej Ghat
Distance from Mumbai: 126 km
Situated at a height of 750 metres, Malshej is an exquisitely beautiful, unpolluted, verdant hideaway, tucked away in the Western Ghats. Imagine standing in the midst of rolling green hills, the only sounds coming from gushing waterfalls and the sweet chirruping of birds, and being enveloped in this tranquil silence. No wonder Malshej is such a huge attraction for trekkers, photographers and bird-watchers alike.
Take short drive to the Pimpalgaon Joga Dam and the Shivneri Fort, or trek through the magical scenery to the Ajoba Hill Fort, the Harishchandragad Fort, or the Jivdhan Chawand Fort.
Other beautiful getaways near Malshej are Lonavla, Matheran, Khandala and Kamshet. You can spend a perfect long weekend driving lazily around these towns, refreshing your eyes and lifting your tired spirits. Sometimes, as they say, the journey itself is the destination!
4. Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Distance from Mumbai: 316 km
Long weekends can also be a great time to physically and mentally distance yourself from the stresses of the modern world, and to indulge into India’s gloriously rich history and heritage. The Ajanta and Ellora caves, classified as ‘world heritage sites’, date back to the period between 2nd century BC and 6th century AD.
There are 30 rock-cut Ajanta caves, that give us a rare glimpse into the Buddhist culture of early times, told through numerous sculptures and paintings. Ellora is a set of 12 monastery temple caves. The most famous of these caves is the Chaitya Hall, within which stands a massive 15 ft tall statue of Buddha. Imagine the dimensions and height of a cave carved out of rock, that is able to hold within it a 15ft statue!
An interesting tip is that the Ajanta caves face the east, and the rising sun, and get light only in the mornings, while the Ellora caves face west, and are lit by the setting sun, so view them only in the evening!
5. Murud Janjira
Distance from Mumbai: 110 km
Here’s a gorgeous destination that packs in beaches and forts at the same place! Located in the Raigad district, this zone can boast of world-class shimmering golden sand beaches. Murud beach can soothe you with its scenic beauty, it can also exhilarate you with fabulous water sports. It can treat you to mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets and playful dolphins!
The Murud Janjira fort, on the other hand, is a towering 40 ft high edifice that has stood the test of time, and still has all its bastions intact. It towers over the sands, still standing sentinel in a changed world.
So, people out there! Go ahead and plan your weekend and make the best out of it.
Try out these destinations and let us know if we left out anything, in the comment section below.