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A rainy escape

Friday, July 06, 2012

It’s time to step out into the lush greenery and soak in as much fresh air as you can! Gargi Bansod & Dev Goswami list a few serene destinations not too far from Mumbai, where you can enjoy a peaceful monsoon weekend

The monsoon is here. That means rain soaked clothes, soggy socks, traffic jams and jumping over puddles. Doesn’t a weekend getaway sound like the perfect plan to make you forget this routine? You don’t have to spend much nor do you have to hunt for exotic locations as places close to Mumbai turn into rich landscapes of greenery and beauty during the monsoons. So, pack an overnight bag and head to one of the locations that we’ve listed out for you to give yourself a well deserved break.


About 140km from Mumbai, Igatpuri is a divine place to head to during the monsoon. Located 2,000 ft above sea level, this quaint town is surrounded by the highest peaks of the Sahyadri ranges. If you love adventure with just about the right hint of rejuvenation and relaxation, Igatpuri is your abode! It has got some of the most stunning valleys and waterfalls, Camel valley being its pride and glory. It is a favourite trekking spot as the 1,000 ft waterfalls and creeks look mesmerising during the monsoon. A temple of the Goddess of Ghats called the Ghantadevi Mandir is located a few kilometers from the Camel valley.

Tringalwadi Fort is another trekker’s delight as you get a spectacular view of the mountains around. You can also see the Tringalwadi Lake and the Talegaon Lake and Dam. The serene greenery around is sure to calm your mind and soul, add to that the beauty of the pouring rains. The best time to visit Igatpuri is from June to September and accommodation options are good and reasonable.

Getting there: Being a junction, Igatpuri is well connected to all the major railway stations. There are also regular buses from Mumbai to Igatpuri. And if you want to drive, it will take you three hours via NH 3.

Traveler’s speak: Anuya Bansod (54) from Santacruz says, “My husband and I went to Igatpuri in last July. The place is gorgeous and worth enjoying the rainy season at. We stayed at Manas Resort and the facilities and rates were very reasonable. Add to that the view of a table top mountain. You should visit the Dhammagiri Vipassana Centre, Bhatsa river valley, Damkadi waterfall and Ghatandevi which is the topmost spot of the ghats to enjoy the view of the valley.”

A relatively underestimated destination, Ganpatipule is spectacular during and just after the monsoon, between June to October. It is one of the two white sand beaches in Maharashtra. It’s the perfect getaway for rejuvenation, for beach lovers as well as pilgrims. What is even more exciting and wonderful is the scenic drive through the Western Ghats and green hills along the Konkan coast to reach here. You can visit the temple here where a 400 years old Ganpati image is said to have sprung up from the soil. And, if you’re missing the king of fruits, Ganpatipule is famous for its Devgad Hampus mangoes. So, don’t forget to buy the last of the baskets of this delicious fruit.

Getting there: Your best bet is to drive down to Ganpatipule as it is 375km from Mumbai and will take you around seven hours. There are buses and trains that go there as well, the nearest station being Ratnagiri.

Traveler’s speak:
Tanvi Parikh (22) from Santacruz recommends, “We went on a short and quick family trip to Ganpatipule. Choosing to stay at the MTDC Resort is a good option. It is decent, has clean and airy rooms, good service and food and is very reasonable as well. The best part is that it’s right on the beach and gives a spectacular view of the sea.”

June to March is the best time to visit Kolad as the rivers and waterfalls are great post monsoons. Situated at the backdrop of the majestic Sahyadris, its magnificent valleys and marshlands give it a picturesque appearance. Kolad is famous for its numerous waterfalls, rugged topography and Rocky Mountains. It’s an adventurous trekking spot. The greatest attraction of Kolad is the Kundalika River. Its river bed is an ideal location to experience white water rafting. Apart from that, this river offers other excellent ventures such as kayaking, paragliding and river crossing. During the rains, rafting in the river reaches its zenith since the water levels are high. You can also visit other spots such as Ghosala Fort, Kuda Caves, Tala Fort, Sutarwadi Lake, Tamhini Falls and Janini Hill.

Getting there:
Kolad is well connected to Mumbai by a number of bus services. It is just 113km from Mumbai so driving is a good option as well.
Traveler’s speak: Namita Shirgaonkar (30) celebrated New Year’s at Kolad, but she suggests visiting it during the monsoons. She tells us, “Kolad is the perfect place for rejuvenation. It was beautiful in December. We did do a few adventure activities but we couldn’t go for rafting due to the weather limitations.”

Forget the overdone and over hyped locations of Lonavla and Khandala and drive a little further to explore the magnificent Bhandardara. A little-known hill station, Bhandardara is comfortably close to Mumbai — just a short train journey or a four hour drive away. It is peaceful and relaxing. There are no petrol stations near Bhandardara, so if you are driving make sure you fill up your tank at Igatpuri. The lovely hill station has enough number of things to do on its list. The two main tourist attractions in this place are Bhandardara Lake and Randha Waterfalls. You can also trek up to Mount Kalsubai. The 400-year-old Ratangad Fort is a good sightseeing spot as well.

Getting there:
A four hour drive from Mumbai and has a very pleasant route. Igatpuri, 45 km away lies on Central Railway line and is the nearest railhead.
Traveler’s speak: Shreedhar Gurjar (58), an avid trekker says, “I go to Bhandardara every year during the monsoon for a trek. It’s a beauty worth witnessing. I’ve been to Mount Kalsubai twice and the view from the top is a must see in everyone’s life.”

Famous for its bird sanctuary, Karnala is not the top spot to visit during the monsoon if bird sighting is what you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for lush greenery do not miss out on this destination. You won’t find many guided tracks in the area making your experience much more adventurous. From the highest point you’ll be able to see acres of green land and the water filled monsoon clouds add a cold and eerie look to the destination. Two rivers — Panavel and Apta flow through the area and you can take it for granted that during monsoon they will be flowing with their full might. Wildlife encounters will depend on your luck but the Karnala fort, is a must visit and you should not miss out on it. It is located right within the bird sanctuary making it hard to miss. Lodging and accommodation, though available, tends to be on the expensive side. A better option would be to go there for the day and spend the night in Panvel (12km from the bird sanctuary). Also, do not wait till the closing time of 6pm to get out.

Getting there: You can drive down there by taking the Mumbai-Goa highway. Alternatively, state transport busses leave from Mumbai Central for Karnala. You can also catch a train from the central line to Panvel from where you can get busses and rickshaws (the frequency decreases a lot after 6pm in the evening).
Traveler’s speak: Tanvi Malhotra (26) says, “I went to Karnala with my family and friends. We had planned to stay there for a night since most of us were enthusiastic to go trekking the next morning. It was my first trek and one of the most memorable till date. The sights of small water reservoirs flowing between the rocks, amidst greenish surroundings is truly amazing. It was a lot of fun!"

A picturesque hill station located 2,200 feet above the sea; Kamshet is one of the lesser known hill stations around Mumbai. Around 110km from Mumbai, it is a little far but the good accommodation and lodging facilities available there mean that you can easily plan a two-day weekend. The top feature here is paragliding and Kamshet is easily one of India’s top destinations for adventure sports with other sports such as tandem flights and cross country flights.

Getting there might be a little complicated and an adventure in itself, but it will be completely worth your troubles. Apart from the adventure sports, you can also explore the caves or just enjoy the unadulterated beauty of the lakes and hills at the destination.

Getting there: Getting there is a little tricky. It has its own railway station but the frequency of trains isn’t high. Buses start from Pune and Lonavala or you can also catch a taxi from either of those two towns. Once at Kamshet town you will have to hire a car or taxi to go deeper into the town where the activities take place.

Traveler’s speak: Bandra resident, Dwane Fernandes (27) swears by the adventure sports at Nirvana Adventures in Kamshet. He says, “Nirvana Adventures is a pilgrimage every free spirit must undertake once in their lifetime. You will be treated to a killer BBQ, lots of flying, peace and pure bliss.”

Panchgani is one of the better known hill stations around Mumbai but thankfully the influx of tourists hasn’t ruined it yet. The name literally means five hills and setting it apart from any other hill station or monsoon destination is the backdrop of the hilly terrain on one side and the vast view of coastal plains on the other. If you are looking for a silent, secluded destination this might not fit your bill as it is quite a bustling town. However, an escape from the city atmosphere is surely guaranteed as the climate and air quality at Panchgani is supposed to be so good that people actually select this place to recover from various illnesses. Accommodation will not be a problem and you will find attractive British style cottages and Parsi houses. Apart from the Rajpuri caves there is not much in Panchgani that you can visit. All you can do is sit back, breathe in the pure air and rejuvenate yourself.

Getting there: A number of buses go to Panchgani from Dadar. If you opt to travel by train, you can catch a bus or taxi from Pune which is around 100km away.
Traveler’s speak: About Panchgani, Apramey Ramnath (20), tells us, “I went to Panchgani with a group of friends. We didn’t explore the town much and spent most of the time in our rooms because of the splendid view from our windows and nothing could tear us away from there. The travel is very convenient. We caught a bus from Dadar that dropped us directly at the market.”

Malshej Ghat
Waterfalls define this place and we think it is one of the top destinations to visit during the monsoon. The rains give rise to lush greenery, beautiful lakes and yes, cascading waterfalls. An all year round tourist destination, the amazing beauty of Malshej Ghat during the monsoon months can’t be described in words.

Going around seeing all the waterfalls is definitely a to-do thing, but apart from that it is also known for its large flock of migratory birds from Siberia, especially the pink legged flamingo. There are a lot of accommodation options available and Maharashtra Tourism’s resort is a good option and great value for money.

Getting there: You can either drive down or opt for public transport. The nearest railway station is Kalyan from where you can catch State Transport buses which are available at regular intervals.

Traveler’s speak: Ryan Vaz (22) is a regular to Malshej Ghat and tells us, “Malshej Ghat is a great escape from the city life. The sights are amazing and the climate and atmosphere make you feel at peace. Each time I’ve been there, I’ve come back rejuvenated and refreshed.” 


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