Monday, January 28, 2008

HOTELS TO STAY & PLACES TO EAT

Where to stay? For students and budget traveller there is a cheap, neat and clean " Hope Hall Hotel " (Tel: 952148-230253). This is located near the market and most of the sightseing points are situated at walking distance from here. Veg and Non vg food is served in their dining hall. Double room for Rs. 250 per day (off season), Rs. 300 (season). For groups of more than 5 people, they charge Rs. 75 per day (off season). {Season = weekends & school holidays}.

MATHERAN
Pop: 5500 Tel Area Code: 02148
Matheran (`jungle topped') is the nearest hill station to Mumbai and a refreshing break from the heat and noise of the capital. It's an undulating hilltop cloaked in shady trees and ringed by walking tracks, which lead to lookouts that drop sheer to the plains. On a clear day the views are fantastic and it's possible to see (and supposedly even hear) Mumbai from Hart Point.
Hugh Malet, climbing the path known as Shivaji's Ladder, I credited with the `discovery' of Matheran in 1850. It soon became a popular hill station during the days of the Raj, as the abundant shade and altitude (800m) made it slightly cooler than the plains below.
Matheran owes its tranquility to a complete ban on motor vehicles (and bicycles), but on weekends, day-trippers overrun the town from Mumbai and the pleasant trails are wall to wall with people.
High season in Matheran runs from November to January and from mid-April to mid-June. In April and May and during Diwali in November you will need to book accommodation will in advance. During the monsoon (mid-June to early-October Matheran virtually closes up. Few hotels and restaurants remain open, and the dirt walking trails and roads become very muddy. On the other hand, there are few people around, and the hotels that remain open reduce their tariffs significantly.
Getting to Matheran is half the fun; from Neral Junction you take a narrow-gauge toy train up the 21km route to the heart of the hill station. It's a two-hour ascent (or 90 minute descent) as the train winds its way around the steep slopes and, at one point, passes through `one kiss tunnel'. Alternatively you can take a taxi or minibus from Neral to the Dasturi car park (the furthest point cars are permitted), or hire a horse or hand-pulled rickshaw to Matheran.

Information
Entry to Matheran costs Rs 7 (Rs 2 for children). Arriving by train, you pay this leaving the Neral station. By road, you pay at the Dasturi car Park.
The tourist information kiosk, opposite the station, is open daily during the high season and has a map of Matheran but not much else. Few of the paths around town are lit at night-a torch may come in handy.

Walks & Views
Louisa Point, Panorama Point and Little Chouk Point have the finest views. Louisa Point is a great place to watch the sunset, especially during the week when you might have the bluff entirely to yourself. You can reach the valley below One Tree Hill down the path known as Shivaji Ladder, so called because the Matheran leader is said to have used it.
Pleasant diversions include little charlotte Lake (on swimming- it's the town water supply) and the Parsi and Hindu cemeteries near Rambaug Point.

Places to Stay
Matheran is very spread out and much of the accommodation is a 10 to 20 minute walk from the railway station. Many of the `resort' hotels offer only fully-board rates. As with most hill stations, the checkout time can be as early as 7am. Off-season discounts typically range from 30% to 50%.

Places to Stay -bottom end
Budget accommodation in Matheran is limited. Most of it is along MG Marg and Kasturba Rd, which run parallel to it.

Hotel Rangoli (ph. 30273), right opposite the station on MG Marg, has basic doubles for RS 250 during the high season.

Khan's Cosmopolitan Hotel (ph. 30240), also on Mg Marg, is a rather primitive but will run place with a range of rooms. Double (on singles) with common bath are Rs 250/425 in the low/high season, including simple meals.

Hotel Meghdoot (ph. 30266) on Kasturba Rd offers grungy double for Rs 200/300 in the low/high season. No meals are available.

Hope Hall Hotel (ph.30253) is a welcoming Christian-run lodge with simple but clean doubles for RS 175/250 in the low/high season.

The MTDC Tourist Camp (ph. 30277) is next to the Dasturi car park, 2.5km north -east of the centre of town. Dorm beds are Rs 60, double range from Rs 200 to Rs 600 and there are larger cottages.

Places to Stay-middle
Divadkar's Lodge, in a pleasant location opposite the station, has musty but habitable doubles with attached bath for Rs 440. There's also a restaurant, but meals aren't included in the tariff.

Hotel Preeti (ph.30202) is a friendly and quiet family oriented place wit `specious deluxe' doubles for Rs 440 and four person rooks for Rs 1200, all with full board.

Sayeban Lodge (ph.30519), at the back of Khan's has doubles from Rs 550. It's clean and tidy and all the rooms have attached bath and fan, but little English is spoken and food is not available.

Royal Hotel Matheran (ph. 30247) is a garishly coloured two star `resort' which is popular with Indian families. In the high season, double with full board cost Rs 900 or Rs 1300 with air-con. In the low season it costs Rs 275 to Rs 300 per person. There's a bar, a children's park and a vegetarian restaurant.

Gujarat Bhavan Hotel (ph. 30278) is relaxed and friendly with regular/deluxe rooms at Rs 475/550 per person and cottages for Rs 700 a person, all with full board. Off-season prices are 35% cheaper. Pure veg food is available.

Places to Stay-top end
Room rates in the top-end hotels include full board, unless stated otherwise.

Rugby Hotel (ph. 30291); Mumbai 2821721) is one of Matheran's older and more charming establishments set in tranquil rock gardens above the township. Bungalow-style doubles range from Rs 1200 to Rs 1700 or Rs 2000 with air-con. Gujarati and vegetarian western food is available.

Regal Hotel (ph.30243; Mumbai 2031004) has cottages for Rs 1200 or Rs1900 with air-con. In the off-season, prices are discounted 30%. All rooms have cable TV and phone and there's a swimming pool in the well-tended grounds.

Brightlands Resorts (ph. 30244; Mumbai 642 3856) is a lively place with a token swimming pool and disco nights. Rooms start at Rs 998 per person or Rs 1498 with air-con. In the off-season, rooms are discounted 30% on a lodging -only basis (ie, no meals).

Lord's Central Hotel (ph. 30228; Mumbai 201 8008), presided over by the genial Mr Lord, has fading touches of the Raj and is the only hotel with views over the precipice. It's clean and quiet and there's a bar and a dining room renowned for its generously served, delicious home cooked meals. Doubles are Rs 650 to Rs 750 per person in the regular rooms, or Rs 900 to Rs 1100 in the `valley view' room and there are more expensive suites. The off-season discount is 20%.

Usha Ascot (ph.30360; Mumbai 2000671), south of town on MG Marg, is one Matheran's newest places, boasting a pool health club, restaurant and coffee shop, all set in well-tended gardens. Double range from Rs 2400 to Rs 3000 and air-con doubles are Rs 3400. Duplex villas, sleeping four adults, are also available. Prices reduce BT 30% in the off-season.


Places to Eat
Most of the `resort' hotels cater for their own guests, which means there's little incentive for the few independent restaurants to turn out decent food. In short: don't expect too much. It's best to arrange meals with one of the hotels (especially Lord's) if you're not on full board.
There's a string of snack bars along MG Marg as well as a couple of basic restaurants such as the Shangrila and Satyavijay.
Matheran is famed for its honey and for chikki, a toffee-like confection made of gursugar and nuts which is sold at many shops.

Getting There & Away
Train: Most of the year, the toy train departs from Neral at 8.40 and 11am and 5pm; in the opposite direction it leaves Matheran at 5.45am and 1.10 and 2.35pm. In April and May there's one extra service from both points (departing Neral at 10.20am and Matheran at 4.20pm). During the monsoon there is only one train per day-it departs Neral at 8.40am and Matheran at 1.10pm. The fares are Rs 21/127 in 2nd/1st class. In Neral, the toy train terminus is at the east end of platform No 1.
From Mumbai, only a few of the Pune expresses stop at Neral Junction, including the Deccan Express (6.40am from Mumbai VT, connecting with the 8.40am toy train) and the Miraj Express (8.45am from Mumbai VT, connecting with the 11am toy train).
Most (but not all) expresses from Mumbai stop at Karjakt further down the line from Neral, from where you can backtrack to Neral on one of the frequent local Karjat-bound train from Mumbai VT and get off at Neral. The fare from Mumbai to Neral is Rs 25/126 in 2nd/ 1st class.
From Pune it's a similar story -either take one of the few Mumbai-bound expresses that stop at Nearl (such as the Sahyadri Express) or one of the expresses that stop at Karjat and then take a local train to Neral. The fare from Pune to Neral is Rs 27/139 in 2nd /1st class.
If you're heading to Pune or Mumbai from Matheran, it's best to take any local train from Neral to Karjat to pick up one of the frequent trains from there.
There are no local trains between Karjat and Lonavla (for the Karla Caves), only the Mumbai to Pune expresses stop there. It's a good idea to prebook the toy train back from Matheran to Neral in high season, as demand is heavy.

Taxi: Taxis from Neral to Matheran cost around Rs 200 and take 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to share you may have to wait an hour or two for the taxi to fill up, depending on the season.

Getting Around
Horses and hand-pulled rickshaws are the only transport options in Matheran. Taxis and minibuses stop at the Dasturi car park, 2.5km(40 minutes walk) from the centre. From here, you can either walk (quickest along the railway line), hire a horse (Rs 50) or a rickshaw (Rs 120) into the centre. It's a little quicker to walk into the centre than it is to hire a rickshaw, but if it's hot and your pack is heavy, consider the wheeled or hoofed option. Horses can be hired for around Rs 100 per hour.

6 comments:

Martin said...

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shikha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vilas said...

Dear Pranil,
Friend you have done a great job by providing this information like Hotels their prices,I know it must have took lots of effort to collect this information,and a BIG HEART to share with other peoples,Hats off to you.

tours India said...

The city of Matheran has an unpolluted ambience, lustling greeneries as well as serene environments that make it a perfect tourist destination.

matheranonline said...

cheap cottages in matheran
is very nice place to relax, refresh and rejuvinate.The location of cottages is also very close to the main Matheran market.Cottage offers comfortable living options in a well appointed rooms within a bungalow with cable television. 

raj patil said...

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