Our family visits Matheran between 4 to 6 times a year as it is the closest nature haven to Bombay. Driving time from Bombay is under 2 hours, depending on the time of day, via Chowk and Karjat, up the ghat road from Neral to Dasturi Naka car park. Beyond this point, you can walk, rent a pony or a hand pulled rikshaw. The toy train plies from Neral station to Matheran station and a mini bus service introduced late last year, runs from Karjat and Neral stations.
Most of the hotels are located in and around the market and station areas, and are available at all budget ranges, many with meals included.
At an altitude of between 600m and 700m with a dense evergreen forest cover, Matheran is pleasant most times of the year. During the monsoons [June to mid September], it is enveloped in clouds and mist and often, incessant rain - romantic - but not very practical with forever damp walls and clothes that never dry!
Just after the rains is the best time to visit when the myriad waterfalls are still active, wildflowers are in full bloom with butterflies flitting all over the place. The huge Blue Mormon butterfly, the second largest in India, is very common here.
Walks along the several jungle trails to the many view "Points" are most rewarding. Even at the height of peak season, there are always trails where you will not find anyone else. The Matheran Giant Squirrel can be spotted frolicking on tree branches, as can the Golden Langur, and the omnipresent, ubiquitous bonnet macaque monkeys who will boldly snatch any packet from your hands! It is a good idea to carry a walking stick or bamboo pole - useful on the rubbly pathways and against aggressive simians. Nature lovers and botanists in particular, will love Matherans jungle trails. 2008 saw a spectacular mass blooming of the once in 4 year purple flowering Karvy [Strobilanthes callosa]. We went to Matheran on 4 consecutive weekends just to experience this magnificent sight.
Last but not least, the shopping! Locally made Chikkies are famous and of very good quality. Wild honey is also a good buy - usually of jamoon [syzigium] flowers. Straw and grass handicrafts, and footwear are also famous. We usually stock up on crushed peanut chikki and honey.
Cant wait till our next visit to Matheran.