THE CLOSEST hill station to Mumbai, Matheran (which means “Mother Forest”) lies at a height of 803 m (2,635 ft) above sea level. This picturesque town is situated in the forested Sahyadri Hills. In 1855, Lord Elphinstone, the governor of Bombay, visited Matheran, and the town soon became fashionable. The stately Elphinstone Lodge that he built became his weekend retreat. A railway line was laid in 1907, and a quaint toy train still winds its way slowly through hills and forests from the junction at Neral. All motor vehicles are completely banned within the limits of the town, making it uniquely peaceful, despite the burgeoning crowds of visitors, particularly on weekends.
Matheran has as many as 33 lookout points. Porcupine Point or Sunset Point, a favourite with sightseers, is known for its spectacular sunsets. Louisa Point has views of the ruined Prabal Fort and a mountain trail called Shivaji’s Ladder. By far the most impressive viewpoint is Hart Point, from where it is possible, on a clear day, to see Mumhai in the distance. St Paul’s Anglican Church, the pretty Lord’s Hotel and the Roman Catholic Church are among the many Raj-era buildings in Matheran.