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Dreamy, scenic, and mesmerising are the precise words to describe the beautiful hill stations of Maharashtra. People prefer to drive to these hill stations to avoid the disturbance of cities as the way leading here is absolutely delighting and peaceful. And one of the closest hill stations from Mumbai is ‘Matheran’. Matheran literally translates to “Forest on the forehead (of the mountains)” in local Marathi language.

Source: TOI

To visit Matheran, one has to reach Neral Station near Mumbai which is the base of the hills from where transportation like private cars, taxis, bus services are available till Dasturi Naka, about nine kilometres from Matheran. Beyond this point, no vehicles are permitted, and this makes Matheran a unique place because it is Asia’s only non-motorable hill station. It has been declared as an eco-sensitive region by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, owing to the region’s biodiversity and natural heritage.

The place has a slight population of 4,393 of which 2,248 are males while 2,145 are females as per report released by Census India 2011. This bio-diversified place has laterite soil (the red soil) predominates in the hills and almost cover the hilltops, therefore, in the hill region, the hard-exposed surfaces of the laterite show red rough turf. The soil has a vermicular or pisolitic structure and contains much water.

Another unique and most inviting fact about Matheran is its ‘Toy Train’. It was built in 1907 AD by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, at a cost of Rupees 16,00,000. Adamjee Peerbhoy visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it easier to get there. Hussain's plans for the Matheran Hill Railway were formulated in 1900, and construction began in 1904. The line was open to traffic by 1907. It covers a distance of 20 km over large highlands of forest territory from Neral to Matheran. It is also known as Matheran Light Railway, this is the only toy train in Maharashtra and among the five historic mountain railways currently operating in India.

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It sneaks across the lush green hills, this narrow toy train has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but is yet to be listed. It was temporarily suspended in May 2016 due to technical problems in flood damage but started running again on a limited basis from January 2018. Travelling on this toy train can be the most memorable experience in Matheran. Matheran and the journey from toy train get incredibly beautiful in monsoon when the waterfalls nearby are at their screeching best and the deep forests are green and dense.

With so much to offer, there are many other fun and exciting things to do in Matheran, especially if you are a nature and adventure lover. This tiny hill station has 38 viewpoints, Be it the Western Ghats, Charlotte Lake, Panorama Point or the Panthers’ Caves. If you are an explorer then the beautiful Chanderi Caves, Kalavantin Pinnacle, Irshalgad Fort are made for you. And you can also visit Porcupine point, Louisa and Rambagh point to take some glimpse of beautiful sunset sites. Not only this but the forest of Matheran can give you a thrilling experience of life because the biodiversity in the hills is incredibly rich. Inside the forests, animals like the leopard, panther, fox, wild boar, mongoose, barking deer, Malabar giant squirrel, and porcupine are commonly found.

At the hill-top, monkeys are a common sight as Matheran has a significant population of Hanuman langurs and bonnet macaques. Birds are similarly found including the blue breasted barbet, crested lark, Indian small skylark, common green pigeon and many more. This territory is well diversified, as the rainfall makes this place captivating for nature. During monsoon, this smallest hill station also presents panoramic sceneries and exceptional photography options. Besides this, Matheran has a tropical climate. Most months of the year are marked by significant rainfall. The average annual temperature in Matheran is 23.2 °C. The annual rainfall at this place is 4073 mm. average in May, at around 26.8 °C | 80.2 °F. The lowest average temperatures in the year occur in January when it is around 20.0 °C and this makes the winters of Matheran more graceful, which automatically entertains more tourists during the seasons.

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There are also some market areas (bazaar) in this place to sell a large collection of quality goods at reasonable rates which include Chikkis, Leather products, Dried Wildflowers, Cane Items, Kolhapuri Chappals, Local Honey and many more but Matheran as a region holds much more potential than this. As it has Tourism Potentials like Adventure, Sports, Jungle Safari, Bio-diversity & Wellness tourism but all of them are not developed to its best. Though the numbers of tourists are increasing day by day, some of them are not satisfied with many things. They prefer to stay only for a night and two days due to lack of tourism development. The flow of tourists is only for five to six months in a year. This flow may get reduced after a certain period of time.

There is a need to have a proper strategy for the survival of tourism activities in Matheran. The government should insist on strict control on deforestation because If the forest is protected then automatically habitats of the wildlife, birds will also be protected, Construction of Substitute Roads and many more developments are needed in this region. The initiative must be taken by any well-known Institution to establish Hoteliers or local businesses and Officials of the province should help the locals to grow and develop their business for a better status of life. These initiatives can save one of the unique hill stations which the tiniest and prettiest on this land.