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Around Mumbai  

Lonavla and Khandala
Lonavla and Khandala are two hill resorts near Mumbai. These twin places are just 106 kms from the rat race of Mumbai. In recent years the heavy flow of weekenders and conference groups from Mumbai has changed the demography of the area dramatically. Khandala gives a good view of the rain-water-fed waterfalls while Lonavla acts as the base for the Karla & Bhaja Caves. These caves date back to the 2nd century B.C and are one of the finest examples of rock temples by the Hinayana sect in India. The Karla caves were carved by the monks and the artisans who tried to imitate the carvings on wood. The light filters inwards through the Sun window.

The Dagoba or representation of Buddha is protected by a wooden umbrella. The pillars are topped by kneeling elephants who have seated figures. These 37 pillars are the circumambulatory aisles. The ceiling is ribbed by teak beams. Out side the cave a stambha with four back to back lions stands. This pillar is associated with Ashoka and is believed to have been kept there later. The Bhaja caves are older and peaceful than the Karla caves. Bhaja has out of 18 cave ten are vihars and one is an open chaitya. There are 14 stupas just outside these caves. Lohagad fort and Visapur fort are also nearby.

Matheran
Matheran is the nearest Hill station to Mumbai. The name means "Jungle Topped" or "Wooded Head" which is just what it is- an undulating hilltop cloaked in shady trees. It became popular during the days of the Raj as the abundant shade and altitude (800metres) made it slightly cooler than Mumbai.

This place was discovered in 1850 and due to its greenery & shade it was immediately taken as the nearest hill station from Mumbai. Matheran is sightly above the plains so it is cool and provides escape from the heat of Mumbai.

Matheran has maintained the tranquility and peace by banning any kind of motor vehicle within the town limits. The best season to visit this place is between November to June but the place is worth visiting any time of the year. During the monsoon the trails become very dirty and the place virtually shuts down.

Best Season :
In April and May and around the Diwali Festival in October/November. During the tourist season, you won't find accommodation unless you've made a reservation well in advance. During the monsoon season Matheran virtually closes up. Very few hotels and restaurants remain open, and the dirt walking trails and roads become very muddy. On the plus side, there are very few people around, and the hotels that remain open reduce their rates significantly.

How to Get there :
Getting to Matheran is great fun; from Neral Junction you take a tiny narrow-gauge toy train up the 21-km route to the hill station. It's two-hour journey through the steep slopes and lovely trees is worth feeling. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or minibus from Neral. However, as cars are prohibited in Matheran, you will then face a 40-minute walk into Matheran or you'll have to hire a horse or cycle-rickshaw. Only the toy train goes right into the centre of the town.

From Mumbai, only a few of the Pune expresses stop at Neral Junction, so make sure you take one which does. The shortest route to Bombay (100 km) is via Panvel by road & Pune is 140 km away. Share taxis from Neral to Matheran also operate.

Worth Seeing Places:
Porcupine Point is a good place for catching the sunset, but Panorama Point, at the extreme north, is said to have the finest views. The western side, from Porcupine to Louisa Point, is known as Cathedral Rocks, and Neral can be seen far below. At the south, near One Tree Hill, is a trail down to the valley below known as Shivaji's Ladder, so called because the Maratha leader is said to have used it. It is very good walking trails through trees and one will enjoy it.

Places to Stay :
Lots of options including MTDC Tourist Camp, Royal Hotel Matheran, Gujarat Bhavan Hotel, Rugby Hotel, Regal Hotel, Brightlands Resort, Lord's Central Hotel.

Mahabaleshwar
This popular hill station was the summer capital of the Bombay presidency during the days of the Raj. It has pleasant walks and good lookouts, and the area has interesting historical connections with Shivaji. The station was founded in 1828 by Sir John Malcom.

As with most hill stations, Mahabaleshwar closes up tight for the monsoon season (mid-June to mid-September). Local buildings are clad with kulum grass to stop them being damaged by the torrential rain -an unbelievable six meters (around 235 inches) of rain falls during this time.


The small Venna Lake, about four km from Mahabaleshwar, has boating and fishing facilities. The Krishnabai, or Panchganga (five streams), Temple is said to contain the springs of the Krishna, Veena and Koyana rivers.

The local specialities - strawberry and raspberry jam - are good. Elphistone, Babington, Bombay and Kate's Point all offer fine views from this wooded plateau to the plains below. Arthur's Seat, 12 km from Mahabaleshwar, looks out over a sheer drop of 600 meters to the Konkan coastal strip. There are pleasant waterfalls such as Chinaman's Falls (2.5 km), Dhobi (three km) and Lingmala (six km). Most of the walking trails are well signposted.

Places to Stay :
Many choices including Poonam Hotel, Ripon Hotel, Dreamland Hotel, Regal Hotel and Fredrick Hotel.

Getting There :
Mahabaleshwar is 117 km south-west of Pune via Panchgani. The closest railway station is Satara Road, about 15 km north-east of the town of Satara. There are daily buses to Kolhapur, Satara, Pune and Panchgani. There's an MTDC luxury bus daily to/from Bombay. Arriving by car or bus, you must pay a 'municipal tax' to the official on the roadside as you enter town. Private vehicles must also pay a per day parking fee.

Panchgani
Panchgani (Five Hills) is 19 kms. east of Mahabaleshwar and, at 1334 meters, is just 38 meters lower.It's also a popular hill station, splendidly located. It has the 'Raj' stamp all over it, which is evident in the architecture of the old British buildings, the Parsi bungalow and the boarding schools that have been around for over a century.

It is a delight to canter through thickly wooded walkways to explore the area, catching glimpse of the River Krishna winding its way through the ravines, hundreds of meters below. Kamalgad Fort is easily reached by foot or on horseback.


Places to Stay :
Aman Hotel, Hotel Five Hills, Malas Guest House.


Ajanta Ellora

Situated outside the city of Aurangabad (whose airport offers flights to and from Mumbai), 400km northeast of Bombay, are the caves of Ellora. They constitute one of the most beautiful expressions of the art of the Indian Middle Ages, and are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are noteworthy as three major Indian religions have laid joint claim to the caves peacefully since they were created. These breathtaking caves are definitely worth visiting for their remarkable reliefs, sculptures and architecture.

 The buddhist caves of Ajanta are situated 100km northeast of Ellora. These magnificent caves containing carvings that depict the life of Buddha have also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They date from around 200 B.C. and their carvings and sculptures are considered to be the beginning of classical Indian art.

 

Tourist spots in Mumbai

Colaba Area

Situated in South-Bombay, this is a tourist preferred location. It has plenty of budget and mid-range hotels. The majestic Taj Mahal Hotel has great views of the Gateway of India from its top floor Apollo Bar. The streets behind the Taj Mahal Hotel are the travellers' centre of Mumbai. The main drag of Colaba is plenty of street vendors, shops, stalls and cafes.

Fort

The extravagant blend of Victorian gothic buildings in the Fort district of Mumbai, supports the European roots of the city. This lively area occupies the site of the old British built fort and is the established commercial centre of Mumbai. It's jampacked with commuters, street stalls and the 19th century British institutions and trading houses. The Bombay Stock Exchange on the famous Dalal Street is one of the many establishments.

Marine Drive
Built in 1920, Marine Drive runs along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill. It passes Chowpatty Beach along the way. It's one of Mumbai's most popular romantic spot and sunset view is amazing. Tourist brochures are fond of stating it as the Queen's Necklace, because of the dramatic curve of its streetlights at night.

If you're feeling energetic, a stroll down Marine Drive is possibly the best way to discover Mumbai. This is a windswept promenade, flanked by the sea and a row of art deco buildings.

Looped between the concrete jungle of Nariman Point, Mumbai's Manhattan, and the leafy green slopes of Malabar hill, Marine Drive is sometimes called the Queen's Necklace, strung with glittering street lights like an enormous strand of imperious jewels. It is also one of Mumbai's busiest roads, an important artery for the heavy suburban traffic heading downtown. Cars whiz continually past the two mile stretch, past huddled lovers, children and babies in perambulators. This is where most of south Mumbai comes to breathe in some fresh air.

Chowpatty Beach
Mumbai's famous beach is no place for a sunbathe or taking a dip. In fact, there's not much going on at Chowpatty at all during the day, but in the evening it develops a magical atmosphere as locals come to stroll among the balloon sellers, fortune tellers, magicians, nut vendors, ferris wheels and shooting galleries. You might even catch a film shoot or a street play. At one end is a row of bhelpuri shops hawking Mumbai's most popular snack: crisp puffed rice and semolina doused in pungent chutneys, all scooped up with a flat, fried puri. Eating at the collection of stalls is an essential part of the Mumbai experience. Chowpatty is a great place to witness the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in August/September when large images of the Lord Ganesha are immersed in the sea. If you go to Mumbai and have not gone to Chowpatty and enjoyed the beach-side snacks then you have lost lots of fun.


Malabar Hill

The colonial bungalows that peppered the hillside in the 18th century have now been replaced by the apartment blocks of Mumbai. The formal Hanging Gardens (or Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens) on top of the hill, offer the visitor a panoramic view of Bombay - the bay, the colorful Chowpatty Beach immediately below,and the imposing buildings of Nariman Point (Manhattan of India) reaching for the sky. And at night, "the Queen's Necklace" is something to watch from the height.

Beside the Hanging Gardens, are the Parsi Towers of Silence. Parsis hold fire, earth and water as sacred so do not cremate or bury their dead. At the Parsi Towers of Silence, (not open to visitors) the dead are exposed to elements.


Hanging Gardens

Perched at the top of Malabar Hill, on its western side, just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park, these terraced gardens, also known as Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens, provide lovely sunset views over the Arabian Sea. The park was laid out in the early 1880s over Bombay's main reservoir, some say to cover the water from the potentially contaminating activity of the nearby Towers of Silence.

Crawford Market

The colourful indoor Crawford Market, north of CST (previously VT), is the last outpost of British Bombay before the fever of the central bazaars begins. It's a blend of Flemish and Norman architecture with a bas relief depicting Indian peasants in wheat fields just above the main entrance. The freize, incidentally, was designed by Lockyard Kipling, father of the famous Rudyard Kipling, and the Kiplings' cottage still stands next to the JJ School of Art across the road. Now named after a local patriot called Jyotiba Phule, Crawford Market looks like something out of Victorian London, with its sweet smell of hay and 50 ft high skylit awning that bathes the entire place in natural sunlight. It used to be the city's wholesale produce market before this was strategically moved to New Bombay. Today it's where central Mumbai goes shopping for its fruit, vegetables and meat.


Kalbadevi

No visit to Mumbai is complete without a round into the bazaars of Kalbadevi, north of Crawford Market. The narrow lanes of this area are flooded in by laundry-draped chawls, and a huge mass of people bring Mumbai's traffic to a standstill. It's in complete contrast to the relative space, orderliness and modernity of South Mumbai. The main areas are Zaveri Bazaar (jewellery), Mangaldas Market (cloth), Dhabu St (leather goods) Mumbai's.

Gateway Of India

The Gateway of India - a 26 mt. Triumphal Archway designed Century to commemorate the visit of King Geoge and Queen Mary to India in 1911 - is Mumbai's most famous landmark. Ironically, when the Raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway.
Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, you can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour.

Prince Charles Museum
Built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture to honour king George V's visit to India. It has 3 main sections: Art , Archealogy , & Natural History. It has a fine collection of Chinese Jade pieces, oil paintings & miniature paintings.

Rajabai Clock Tower ( Mumbai University )
Situated at the gardens of Mumbai university building, the Rajabai Clock tower rises above the portion of the library section. Consisting of 5 elaborately decorated storeys, the tower is 280 ft. In height and commands a fine view of the city. From the ground are about eight other statues depicting various Indian castes.

Haji Ali's Mosque
Situated in between the Arabian Sea, is a whitewashed fairytale mosque containing the tomb of the Muslim saint Haji Ali.

Essel World
This is Mumbai's only international-style amusement centre situated close to Gorai Beach. Special ferries get you across to the park and the entrance fee normally takes care of a fixed number of rides. These include the standard roller coaster and adventure themes, plus a water world section where kids can literally run amok. Summer is usually crowded, but the place also offers low budget monsoon packages and special deals on weekends. Check these out before you go.


Film City

Mockingly called Bollywood by locals, Film City clings to the outskirts of the National Park, and is practically overrun by assorted stars and starlets -- the demi gods and goddesses of modern India. Bollywood churns out over 900 films every year, all packed with those mandatory elements of song, dance, melodrama, violence and erotica that audiences love. Which is probably why Film City sets are heavily booked around the year. They are closed to visitors, but special permissions can always be obtained to check out the action.

Juhu beach
Like Chowpatty, its downtown counterpart, uptown Juhu Beach is also a bourgeois paradise, filled to the gills with screaming children, courting couples and rowdy adolescents. If you want a more fancy excursion, however, retreat behind Juhu's many five star hotels, for a steaming cup of coffee and a splendid view of the coast. The most popular of these beachfront hotels are the Sun and Sand and Holiday Inn. The government run Juhu Centaur also has a 24 hour coffee shop with a view of the sea.

   
 

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