The next time it pours, think beyond Lonavala and head to these lovely monsoon getaways
Disappear into wilderness
Just 100 km from Mumbai, on the banks of the Amba river, is the forest village of Durshet. In the monsoon, the river spouts several waterfalls, and trekking through the mountains is an absolute delight. Durshet also offers other adventure opportunities like rock climbing, rappelling and rifle-shooting. You can even go rafting on the Kundalika river nearby. History buffs can visit the battlefield of Umbarkhind where Shivaji trounced the mighty Mughals.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary
This tiny, 4.8-sq km sanctuary is home to nearly 190 bird species, 40 of which are migrants from far-away places. The powerful trills of the Malabar Whistling Thrush fill the air. Paradise Flycatchers glide through the canopy. Falcons shriek through the skies as they ride the thermals. Bright pink begonias light up a winding rocky path that leads to the historic Karnala Fort. The climb is not difficult, but keep an eye out for loose rock.
For an unbeatable trekking experience, head to this magnificent 6th-century fort, perched 1,424 metres above sea. Check out the Kedareshwar Cave with its massive Shivlinga, surrounded by waist-deep, ice-cold water. The most interesting feature on this fort is the Konkan Kada (cliff), which has an overhang like a cobra's hood, and offers a spectacular view of the countryside. Taramati Peak, the highest point of the fort, is another beautiful vantage point.
If traffic is what you wish to get away from, head to a place where cars are not allowed. The sheer cliffs of Matheran offer 38 lookout points, with varied, stunning views. Check out the architecture of colonial-era cottages on your way to Charlotte Lake. Stay at Matheran’s only heritage hotel, The Verandah in the Forest, run by the Neemrana Group. The toy train service from Neral is suspended during the monsoon, but the two-hour walk up is beautiful.
Perched at a height of 1,372 metres, this hill station is home to misty, tree-lined streets, meandering streams, and stunning, rugged cliffs all around. Long walks in the cool, rejuvenating air, on paths that lead nowhere or end at a cliff-top, that’s the way to spend time here. The Venna Lake is a lovely picnic spot. Try and visit the Pratapgarh Fort built by Shivaji, just 24 km away.
Situated on the banks of the sacred Godavari river, Nashik is a perfect blend of the old and the new, the sacred and the intoxicating. Home to ancient temples and the Kumbh Mela, it is also the heart of India’s wine culture. Visit the uncrowned king of them all, the Sula Vineyard, or drive 80 km to Bhandardara, one of Maharashtra’s favourite monsoon getaways. Book yourself a cottage by the lake and you will wake up to clouds in your room.
Probably the best beach in Maharashtra, Kashid has white sands, blue seas, and fields that are deep green after the first few showers. Check into one of the several budget-resorts around the beach, visit the nearby Murud-Janjira Fort for a little history and culture, but mostly kick back on the silvery sands. The crowd thins out during the monsoon, and you may just have the misty beach all to yourself.
Of late, the gorgeous but little-known Wai has become the destination of choice for Bollywood, the riverfront and the lake being prime shooting locations. Film crews usually leave Wai at peace during the monsoon, making it a great time for some rest and relaxation. The several temples and the river ghats give you a feeling of being in Haridwar, while the Dhom Dam Lake hemmed by green hills is a sight for sore eyes.
Most of Mumbai is yet to discover Jawhar, which is why you should head there as soon as you can. You can spend an entire afternoon by the breezy lakeside watching schoolboys catch fish. Or, take a short walk through the forest to the magnificent Jai Vilas Palace, which seems to have been transplanted from Rajasthan. A short distance from Jawhar are a few farm-stays, a good option if you want to slow down and experience local life.