“Mumbai may not be my city. But it’s my kind of city.” -Vikas Swarup
Once you are done exploring the urban landscape of Mumbai, you may be ready to head out on an adventure out of town. As you can imagine, there are lots of options for day trips in and around the city. The state of Maharashtra has amazing culture, history, and wildlife within a one day drive. Below are a few ideas to get you started on some out-of-town excursions.
Sula & other vineyards
Did you know that not too far from Mumbai you can actually rosé all day? Believe it or not, nearby Nashik – the wine capital of India – is now home to a budding vineyard industry. Plus, you can get the full Napa experience of scenic views, delicious reds and whites, and a day or weekend full of activities. Located about three hours outside of Mumbai in Nashik is Sula Vineyards, which is home to three restaurants, a spa, a wine store, and much more. If you only have a day, check out the engaging winemaking tour, during which you can learn about the whole wine production process from vine to bottle. Or maybe try the wine tasting, where you’ll get a sample of six of Sula’s best wines. The vineyard is also an ideal spot for a picnic with family or friends, in the fresh air of the countryside. If you have a whole weekend, Sula is also a great getaway option from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. The vineyard offers guests luxury resort accomodations at Beyond by Sula and The Source by Sula, where you can spend a cozy weekend full of pampering, relaxation, and of course, wine. Even if you don’t particularly love the drink, you’ll be glad you went, if only for the idyllic views of rolling green acres as far as the eye can see. And in February, the vineyard hosts a well-known music festival with international and local acts. If you’re planning on making a trip to Sula, we recommend going on a weekday as Sula can get quite crowded on weekends. Other nearby vineyards outside of Mumbai worth a visit include Grover Zampa (3h drive from Mumbai), York Winery (3h45m from Mumbai), Soma (3h45m from Mumbai), Vallonne Vineyards (3h from Mumbai), Four Seasons Winery (5h from Mumbai), and Fratelli Vineyards (6h from Mumbai).
Lonavala and Khandala
About an hour and forty-five minutes drive from Mumbai are the stunning hills of Lonavala and Khandala (just 4km apart) in Pune, famous for their natural beauty, lush scenery, magnificent waterfalls, scenic lakes, and ancient caves. Out in the fresh air of the two hill stations, you’ll slowly get reacquainted with nature as you drive through the rolling hills and valleys, or hike the many paths available to trekkers. If you’re renting a car and driving, some points of attraction to check off your list include Bhushi Dam (full of waterfalls), Lohgad and Korigad forts (timeworn hill forts), the Bhaja and Karla caves (ancient Buddhist caves), Nagphani (also known as the Duke’s Nose; a scenic hike for a jaw-dropping bird’s eye view), and Lion’s Point (for other excellent views of the valleys). In Lonavala, you can stop for the town’s famous chikki candy (similar to peanut brittle). We recommend you leave early in the morning from Mumbai to maximize your experience and see as much as possible. Though the two hill stations are at their greenest during monsoon season (June and September; and arguably their most photogenic time of the year) it may be a bit wet and slippery, so best to go when conditions are more favorable (April-June).
3. Elephanta Caves
The surrounding areas of Mumbai are famous for their beautiful and ancient Hindu and Buddhist caves. One of the most famous cave complexes is right outside of the city, and you don’t even need a car to visit. The famous Elephanta Caves, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a great option for those who don’t want to venture out too far from Mumbai. Accessible by ferry from the Gateway of India, the trip takes about an hour to reach the rock-cut caves. Though much about the seven caves still remains unknown, the caves’ art and archeological remains point to the cult of Shiva. Researchers estimate the caves were built between the 5th-6th centuries AD, though much of the rest of its history remains lost to us today. The largest cave (Cave 1) hosts a seven-meter-tall sculpture representing the three aspects of Shiva: creator, preserver, and destroyer. You’ll be captivated by the intricate carvings, sculptures, and engravings across the five accessible caves in the complex. When you arrive at the site, you can pay a small fee for a train to take you to the top, or if you’re feeling a little more athletic, feel free to walk the fifteen minutes up 120 steep steps to the cave entrance, but be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes. We suggest you explore the caves on your own, as you don’t necessarily need a guide to enjoy their magnificence. The first ferry leaves the Gateway of India jetty at 9:00am and costs Rs 150, with subsequent ferries leaving every 30 minutes until 2:00pm. The Elephanta Caves are open from 9:30am-5:30 pm and cost Rs 40 for locals, Rs 600 for foreigners. The ferry does not operate/the caves are closed on Mondays.
Want a break from history? Maybe you’re craving some fun in the sun instead. A little over two hours from Mumbai lies Alibaug, a beachfront town where you can unwind, relax, and soak up some rays. Though the eponymous Alibaug beach is the city’s most popular destination, there are many other beautiful beaches nearby if you just want to take it easy on the sand. And if you’re really craving some outdoor time, you can now even camp on the beach overnight. Perhaps you would prefer to rev up your adrenaline with water sports? If so, the town has plenty of options including parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, and wakeboarding. Either way, the city offers a variety of activities for all kinds of visitors. The city is also well-known for its fresh seafood, so make sure to indulge for lunch or dinner by trying some freshly caught fare at a local restaurant (enhanced by the local flavors of spices). In case you are indeed missing your daily dose of history on this particular day trip, the nearby Kolaba Fort is a great option to dive back into the past. Built 300 years ago, it was a historic military fortress built by the Maratha kings. Another 20 minutes away lies the Revdanda Fort, which the Portuguse built in the 16th century. Farther out at sea you can find the Murud Janjira Fort – but you’ll need to catch one of the local boats to get there!
Another green oasis outside of Mumbai is the scenic Matheran – a hill station 90km away, devoid of vehicles. Visitors are able to breathe some of the freshest air outside of Mumbai and catch some of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets. Since cars are not allowed, visitors must head to Neral Station, from which they can take the toy train which runs to Matheran four times daily. Because tickets sell out fast, we recommend arriving as early as you can to claim your spot. Another option is driving and parking at the Dasturi car point, and taking a mini bus shuttle from Karjat or Neral railway stations upto Dasturi (from where you will need to take a horseback or rickshaw ride to Matheran). Throughout Matheran, visitors can hike on the various trails – enjoying some spectacular panoramic views from the nearly three dozen viewpoints (including Echo Point and Panorama Point). Sportier visitors even try out rock climbing and rappelling. The peaceful Lake Charlotte is another popular tourist spot with a beautiful waterfall, and surrounded by forest. One of the best times to visit is right after monsoon season as the blossoming flowers will attract masses of butterflies. There are plenty of food options in Matheran as well, in case you get hungry after all your walks in the wild, as well as a range of accommodation options if you prefer to stay overnight.
Only 100km outside of Mumbai, you can find the Raigad Fort – a perfect spot for a day trip, and opportunity to go back in time. The hill fort was once the capital city of the Maratha Kingdom in the 17th century. Today, its remaining ruins have somewhat been overtaken by nature, but the fort remains an incredible historical site worth visiting. During monsoon season in particular, the whole fort turns green with the lush vegetation of the surrounding area coming back to life, making for some excellent photo opps and panoramic views. To get to the top, you’ll need to hike up over 1500 steps, so make sure you bring some comfortable shoes for the two hour climb up! But once you ascend to the top, you’ll soon realize that the breathtaking views from the top were definitely worth all the effort. For those a little less willing to break a sweat, a cable car is also available – but be sure to arrive early; the wait on weekends can be quite long (sometimes up to three or four hours). Once up at the fort, some excellent guides are available to help you make your way around the fort and dive deeper into the history.
Starting to notice a theme about getting out of Mumbai? You got it – luscious and green landscapes abound when you leave the city. Another such option to explore on a day trip out of Mumbai is Harishchandragad, an ancient hill fort reaching over 1400 meters, located about three hours from the city. Though historical details are scarce, the fort is estimated to have been built in the sixth century, with its caves being carved out nearly five centuries later. If you’re taking public transportation from Mumbai, take the bus headed to Malshej Ghat and get off at Khubi Phata village, where the trek to the hill station starts. If you arrive sans guide or map, don’t fret – you’ll easily be able to find a local guide in the village. Not the strongest hiker? Don’t worry either. Harishchandragad has hikes for all ability and endurance levels – from a few hours to a few days (and everything in between). While hiking, you’ll want to be sure you get to see the Temple of Lord Shiva (in the Kedareshwar Cave) on your hike, which is partly emerged in water during most of the year (though visitors should note that the cave is not accessible during monsoon season). Moreover, the cave appears to be held up by one solitary and remaining pillar (the other three have since crumbled). Legend says that the end of time will come when the last pillar falls. Let’s see… For some picturesque panoramas and heaps of history, be sure to add Harishchandragad to your day trip list.
Located in Sanjay Gandhi National Park right on the edge of Mumbai, the Kanheri Caves are another stunning set of Buddhist caves that attract visitors from all over India. Possibly dating back to the first century BC, the well-maintained Kanheri Cave complex comprises over 100 caves and once served as a Buddhist monastery. The caves (which require a bit of walking so bring good shoes) will stun visitors with the detail of their paintings, carvings, and sculptures – including massive stupas, Buddha statues, majestic pillars, and great halls. Given the sheer number of caves, we recommend hiring a tour guide to accompany you through the accessible caves to make the most of your experience. If you do decide to explore on your own, we recommend visiting caves 1-6, 11, 34, 41, and 67, as well as doing a little research on your own first to get the most out of your visit. As a bonus, don’t forget to climb to the uppermost part of the caves to catch a beautiful panoramic view of the forest and the outskirts of Mumbai. We recommend coming on a weekday if possible and arriving early to beat the crowds. And be careful with your snacks! The local monkeys are known to take them right out of your hands. The entrance to the caves is located approximately seven kilometers from the park entrance. You can drive, bus, cycle, or walk up to the caves (which are closed on Mondays).
Pawna Lake/Rajmachi Fort
The beautiful and secluded Pawna Lake (also known as Pavana Lake) is located just over 100km (3 hours) from Mumbai, and is surrounded by the majestic Sahyadri Ranges. The former dam has become extremely popular in recent years with Mumbai and Pune residents for both picnicking and camping. The massive reservoir offers a scenic and serene retreat to those looking to escape the noise of Mumbai for a day, or even a night or two. Over the past several years, numerous camping companies have also sprung up, offering visitors plenty of package options for all budget levels. Visitors to the lake can also easily partake in parasailing, boating, kayaking, and various other water sports, while taking in the incredible scenery all around them (and especially all the greenery post-monsoon season). The site is perfect for a day or weekend trip with friends or family, and is an excellent place to catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset, away from the smog and the noise of the city.
Kamshet – India’s capital of paragliding – attracts thrill seekers far and wide to soar over the region’s rolling hills. Only two hours away from Mumbai, visitors come mostly for the paragliding, taking off from the scenic Shinde Wadi hills. The village has plenty of reputable tour operators to choose from, so you can be sure to have a great experience while you’re flying through the skies. However, the village actually has way more to offer than just paragliding. Other outdoor activities including rock climbing and water sports are also available.The village is located just under 20km from Pawna Lake, so both trips can easily be combined into one. Treks to the nearby Visapur and Tikona Forts are also great options for those wanting to keep their heart rates up after a morning of paragliding. The Visapur Fort in particular offers an incredible trek up stairs submerged in a waterfall. You almost won’t believe your eyes. The nearby Bedse Caves – dating back to the first century – are another excellent option for history buffs, and can be visited along with the Bhaja and Karla caves. Though requiring quite a few steps uphill, the Bedse Caves’ intricate carvings are well worth the trip. Or if you’re feeling a little more spiritual, make a stop over at the Shri Durga Parameshwari or Kondeshwar Temples, for some peace, quiet, and meditation.
Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.