Maximum City never ceases to amaze. Of all its clustered cubbyholes of culture at every corner, it also offers great escapes at reasonable rates. From great historical heritage walks to a visit to virgin beaches and even waterfall treks, the Western Ghats offer much respite for the traveller's soul. Here we list some of the offbeat and un explored places you can travel to on a shoestring budget and, in some cases, even come back the same day.
Where: Karnala is a fort city in the Rajgad district of Maharashtra, 36 km from Mumbai.
Why: It is a hub for eco-tourism and offers the best spots for bird viewing and photography.
Must-see: Dominated by the Karnala Fort and the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, bird watching is the highlight of Karnala tour. The area is surrounded by green dense forests and is really a hamlet of wild animals. "The thing we enjoyed the most about Karnala is the wildlife. You can spot seagulls, ducks and even geese while trekking around the sanctuary," explains avid traveller Menaka Singhania, who recommends a nature walk along the unexplored trails of Karnala. Singhania also mentions the Karnala Fort, which stands 475 metres high that offers the perfect rock-climbing terrain. "It is in ruins, but the steep rock in the centre of the fort is perfect for rappelling," she says.
Travel: Take a train from CST for Rs 100 on the Konkan Kanya Express that passes Karnala daily. There are no entry charges for visiting the sanctuary and the fort.
Where: Durshet lies in the lap of the Sahyadris, situated 58 km from Mumbai.
Why: A perfect monsoon haunt, Durshet is a great alternative to the jam-packed Lonavala.
Must-see: The Amba River, which flows through the woody forest, is full of huge natural waterfalls during rainy season. And trekking amidst the lush greenery is a unique experience. "Durshet offers several adventure activities like rock-climbing, rappelling and river crossing for those not satisfied with the mild challenges of trudging and trekking," explains Bharat M, who organises amateur trekking camps from Mumbai to Durshet annually. Apart from this, the number of butterflies getting inebriated on nectar or laying eggs on plants is also a sight worth watching.
Travel: Bus fare from Mumbai to Durshet is around Rs 250. Catch the inter-state bus from the bus depot at Dadar terminus.
Where: A much closer and cheaper option to Goa, Kashid is a beach town located along the coast of the Arabian Sea. It is about 123 km from Mumbai.
Why: Renowned for its appealing beaches casuarinas, Kashid offers a quiet and relaxing time. The place is bestowed with the most alluring beaches off the western coast. Kashid is strewn with Casuarina groves. A serene shore that stretches to a vast extent offers a spellbound view.
Must See: A fast emerging, wacky destination, Kashid's spotless waters and awfully clean beach make it the most beautiful spot in the nearby areas. "The good thing about Kashid beach is that it is mostly virgin and you can sit by the sea for hours without any disturbance. There aren't many shacks, which makes it immensely private," says Sahil Kapoor, who makes a trip to Kashid once a year and recommends the sole Chinese food shack, Toyo on the beach for some grub.
Travel : Take the ferry service from Gateway of India to Mandava beach. From the beach, take an MSRTC bus to Alibaug. From Alibaug station private shared tempo (mini bus, 20-seater) to a road junction near Kashid. It will take approximately one hour to reach here. From here, change tempos to reach Kashid in 25 minutes. A one-way trip will cost you around Rs 250 for the ferry, Rs 150 for the bus and an additional Rs 100 for the tempo.
Where: A one-hour drive from Kashid, Murud is situated in Rajgarh district of Maharashtra, about 140 km from Mumbai.
Why: Not just a beautiful extension of Kashid, Murud has a small fishing village, beaches and two ancient forts.
Must-see: Various temples and churches that have survived the ravages of time, a vast coast line fenced with palm groves, hot springs and remnants of old forts, Murud Janjira provides a long list of amazing spectacles to everyone. One among the prime locations of this wonderful locality is the splendid island fort of Bassian, which overlooks the Bassein beach. Singhania highly recommends a visit to Janjira fort, which lies near the mouth of the sea and is a 10-minute boat ride to the beach. "You can go crazy taking pictures there," she says.
Travel: MSRTC buses ply between Kashid and Murud daily at all hours and cost Rs 100 per person.
Where: Nestling in the Sahayadris, Bhandardara is an ideal stopover for tourists going to or coming from Shirdi, situated 163 km from Mumbai
Why: Bhandardara is a holiday hangout on the hills and an excellent place for trekkers. It is a calm, quiet and serene place with lovely picnic spots.
Must-see: Set at an elevation of 750 meters above sea level, it is located on the banks of the Pravara River. The place is endowed a striking view of the ghats. The area extends a unique chance for nature-based tourism. The Bhandardara Lake and Mt Kalsubai are some of the places you must visit.
Travel: The Kolkata Mail starting from CST Mumbai will get you to Bhandardara in Rs 375.