For one of the largest planned cities in the world, Navi Mumbai still has its share of old-school charm. Yes, even the tiniest of its lanes are as wide as Mumbai’s highways, and the real estate prices in the recent past have skyrocketed. But that has hardly made the city a concrete jungle. Explore the nooks and crannies well and you’ll find that the city still bears remnants of our history that will make you swell with pride.
Nerul Lake, off Palm Beach Road, is one of the biggest lakes in Navi Mumbai and the place where Chhat Puja celebrations take place every year. The jogging track on the periphery of the lake is thronged by people of all ages throughout the day. Says Sujata Hirve, a resident of Kharghar, “Standing at the edge of the water body, taking in the twilight breeze, you feel like you’re at Worli Sea Face. The promenade is an ideal location to spot rare birds, or even just sit and chat with friends.”
Beyond Belapur bus depot and just before Bharati Vidyapeeth, is a quaint lane that leads up to the Kharghar Hills. Visitors to this hill station of sorts are only allowed in from 6 am to 6 pm, and security is tight with a check-post at the base. The spiralling road to the peak is almost eight km long, and makes for a refreshing drive. Once at the top, you get a spectacular view of Navi Mumbai, especially areas like Kharghar, Panvel and the Vashi Bridge. The peak is a vast expanse of land, ideal for photography, and is also a preferred spot for evening walks. “The view from the cliff is scenic. It’s just the place to relax and take pictures. There’s a good breeze throughout the year,” says Bharat Mittal, who works in Navi Mumbai. However, bear in mind that the road to the top cuts through the mountain, increasing the chances of a landslide during the monsoon.
Next in the list is the mini seashore at Vashi. One of the oldest hangout spots in Navi Mumbai, this place is well known for boating and horse carriage rides. Recently, activities such as jet skiing have also started. Over the years, characterised by the dozens of food and drink stalls and a general air of festivity among visitors, the area has come to be referred to as the Chowpatty of Navi Mumbai.
If you’re looking for a splendid view of Palm Beach Road, head to the small hillock behind the Terna College in Nerul that also cradles a Balaji temple. Take the back route from the temple, and from the southern end of the mountain, you can see the Vashi creek with all its mangroves. There’s also a small park opposite the Balaji temple where people often come to see the sunset. Says photographer Dhruv Shah, “Each time I want a good aerial shot of Navi Mumbai, I head to this hill.”
The final place of interest in the township is Parsik Hills in Belapur. The Panvel-Sion highway forks into a road towards Uran leading to a small hillock. The road up to the peak winds up a hill to a small fort from where you can see the whole of Nerul. Visitors frequently drive down here to see the majestic bungalow of the Mayor. “There’s a ‘vipassana’ centre called Dhamma Vipul on the peak — a pagoda for meditation, which is really peaceful. You can also hang out at the lounge called Illusion where you get great food, drinks and a pool table,” says Nimish Khedekar, a resident of CBD Belapur.