To reach the base station Neral (close to Karjat) you can take a train from either Mumbai or Pune or if you prefer to drive/ride, you can take the old Mumbai Pune highway and turn off at Chowk to reach via Karjat.
The drive upto Matheran from Neral is full of steep hairpin bends and if you are not confident of driving all the way up, you can park your car/bike in the many private parking lots there and take the mini train all the way up. However if you decide to drive up or take a taxi you can only drive upto ‘Dasturi Naka’ which is about 3kms from the main market area of Matheran. No motorised vehicles are allowed beyond Dasturi Naka where a huge parking lot is maintained by the Matheran Municipal Council for you to leave your rides behind.
From hereon you have options of riding into town ala Clint Eastwood and John Wayne or maybe ride the handpulled rickshaws or just walk the distance along the railway tracks to reach your preferred destination!
The walk should not take you more than an hour from Dasturi Naka. The train ride from Neral all the way to Matheran takes about two hours as it crawls along on its way up.
We drove up all the way to Dasturi Naka and found a nice parking spot where the car would rest for a couple of days. The drive up was thrilling and we crossed the railway tracks quite a few times. The entrance charges for the car is Rs.25/- and Rs.10/- per day for parking. The Matheran Municipal Council also charges a flat Rs.25/- per head for entering Matheran.
We were besieged by horsemen and rickshaw pullers as we got out of the car and when we said we preferred to walk up, there were porters who wanted to carry our backpacks. Bidding all of them goodbye we started our trek along the tracks to reach our hotel where we had made our booking. Took us about 45mins to reach the hotel which was a mere 10mins walk from Matheran Railway station.
The main market is around the Matheran railway station and this is the place to do all your shopping for leather goods and Chikki/fudge for which Matheran is famous.
Once in Matheran you again have a couple of options – go for long walks in any direction and you are bound to visit some ‘point’ or the other or refer to the map that is printed on the reverse of your entrance ticket to visit all the 38 points marked therein.
My research revealed that a max of 4points are worth the visit and while visiting them you will visit maybe 20 others by default! So, to begin our point visitation, decided to visit the Sunset point aka Porcupine Point. If you wish, you can take a minor detour and visit 5 other points (refer the map).
At this point we had a great entertainer who kept us entertained till the sun started its spectacular show.
The sunset spectacle lasted for a bare 10minutes after which it was back to the hotel. Fortunately the path is well lit and of course one just has to follow the crowds to get back.
Next morning, we visited the Alexander point (as it was close by) and then the Rambaug point (also considered to be a fine sunrise point) followed by Chowk Pt. (southernmost), One tree Hill point and then back for a hearty meal at the hotel.
The evening was left free for shopping around for the mandatory chikki/fudge and I picked up a leather belt which I think is a bargain (hopefully) – only time will tell.
For those interested in visiting some more points, you can do the Panorama point (northernmost) on your way back, if you have come up by road, as it is close to Dasturi Naka. On the way you can even do the Garbut point.
If you have more time at your disposal you may also wish to visit Charlotte lake. We did not, hence we missed out on it and got back on the tracks to Dasturi Naka, where again you will find guys clamouring for a chance to clean your car – of course for a small fee. The car would be inevitably covered with a layer of red mud and bird droppings so you may wish to hire the services of these fine young lads to drive back home in a clean car!