Alibag: For the Beach-Lover
Less than two hours and a scenic ferry ride away from the Gateway of India is the sunny beach town of Alibag. You can visit the old fish market, indulge in freshly caught and delicately spiced shrimp at the famous Fulora restaurant, or just soak in some sun at sparkling white-sanded Varsoli Beach.
Alibag is also home to several historic monuments including the 300-year-old Kolaba Fort, a historic military fortress built by the Maratha kings. The Revdanda Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, and located just 20 minutes south of the city, is another must-see for the beach-loving history enthusiast.
Harishchandragad: Hikes for Everyone
Wishing those stairs that you are sweating profusely to climb were the rocky edges of a hill instead? Wishing for less concrete, more nature? Harishchandragad, one of India’s most popular hiking destinations, is located less than three hours outside of Mumbai’s suburb of Kalyan. You can either take a cab from Kalyan, or a bus headed to Malshej Ghat and get off at the base village of Khubi Phata.
The trek will begin from the village of Khubi Phata, from where you can also find the hiking guide of your dreams, and drink copious amounts of finely spiced chai. Harishchandragad offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced level treks ranging from hours to two days. Make sure to ask your guide to point you to the temple of Lord Shiva, lodged within several caves, and partly immersed in water almost year-round.
Kanheri Caves: History and Some Fresh Air
Art history enthusiasts in Mumbai are never short of picks for a fix of Buddhist caves. Ajanta and Ellora caves, over two thousand years old, are just an overnight bus or train ride away from the city. However, few Mumbaikars are aware of the Kanheri caves, dating to the 1st century B.C., in the city’s very own northern suburbs in Borivali. These caves, believed to have once been Buddhist shrines and places of meditation and study, are adorned with paintings of the Buddha and ancient Indian carvings that will intrigue history, art, and architecture buffs alike.
The caves are located within the lush green Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali. You can take a train bound to Borivali from Churchgate, after which you can walk or take an auto-rickshaw to the park. While shuttle buses run from the park’s main gate to the caves every 20 minutes or so, the short trek to the caves offers a therapeutic calm amidst this maddeningly busy city.
Sula Vineyards: For the Wine Enthusiast
Drown your work blues in a glass of wine as you spend your day wine-tasting at the Sula Vineyards in Nashik, just three hours outside Mumbai. The vineyard offers tours, tasting packages and even features an annual three-day music festival in February. Restaurants around the vineyard offer a choice of cuisines, but Little Italy offers Italian dishes paired with Sula wines that are worth experiencing.
There are plenty of open spaces nearby should you like to picnic near the vineyard. The Gangapur Dam and Nashik’s backwaters, accessible by cab from the Vineyard, provide a calming, scenic spot to meditate after your wine splurge.
Matheran: Ride a Mini-Train Through a No-Pollution Forest
Matheran, Maharashtra’s no-pollution hill station, offers you fresh air and greenery like none other. You will find no motorized vehicles in this tiny town. But you will find the famous ‘toy train’, a mini train that covers much of the scenic Matheran forest.
Start your day by taking a train from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus bound to Neral junction from where you can transfer to a Matheran-bound toy train. You may also want to trek around the forest, birdwatch or observe its rich wildlife.