Pick your escape route
Keen on taking time off with your folks or buddies but unable to plot a spot on Maharashtra's map? Bindhu and Radhakrishnan Unny have made life easy with a ready reckoner so you get to keep your backpack ready all year through!
February: Koyna Valley
Why be here: Far away from the maddening crowd, Koyna is without the trappings of any hill station. Spend a quiet weekend at the MTDC resort or several others retreats to enjoy the scenic beauty of Koyna Dam, which is one of Maharashtra's largest, and the dense forests surrounding it. Also relax in the garden near the lake and go for boating here.
Distance from Mumbai: 300 km
Best way to reach: Train to Chiplun. Bus or car from Chiplun.
(Clockwise) The Koyna Valley is a reservoir of abundant flora and fauna; Bhandardhara's Arthur Lake is a favourite escape with holidayers; The Indian Bison makes an appearance on a dirt track inside Tadoba's forests. PICS/ TRAVELWITHACOUPLE.COM
Why be there: One of the best tiger reserves in India. Visiting Tadoba in March increases the likelihood of spotting a tiger while the temperature is bearable. Summers of Tadoba are too hot. Housing many varieties of birds and animals, Tadoba will not disappoint you even if you are not lucky enough to sight a tiger.
Distance from Mumbai: 700 km
Best way to reach: Train to Nagpur. Bus or car from Nagpur
Why be here: The inviting shores of the Konkan with its white sands and mango orchards. Laze around on the beach while tucking in authentic Konkan delicacies from the beachside restaurants. Or bite into the sweet, succulent Alphonso mangoes that are plentiful in summer. Also visit the Ganapatipule temple, the 4,000-year-old Swayambhu Ganapati temple for blessings from the elephant god.
Distance from Mumbai: 300 km
Best way to reach: Train to Ratnagiri. Bus or car from Ratnagiri. Or drive from Mumbai
Why be here: Refreshing, unpolluted natural beauty. Matheran is the only hill station where motor vehicles are not allowed. Be prepared for a refreshing walk along the tree-lined pathways and visit the many spectacular points around. Another plus is the toy train that takes you up from Neral. The two-hour train ride is very enjoyable and you get to enjoy the beauty of the hills from a different perspective.
Distance from Mumbai: 104 km
Best way to reach: Train to Neral and share taxi from Neral.
June: Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Why be here: These mesmeric caves house ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples. The extraordinarily beautiful carvings, sculptures and paintings are masterpieces of creativity and expression.
A must-see in your lifetime. Keep a day each for Ajanta and Ellora.
Distance from Mumbai: Ellora: 400 km; Ajanta: 485 km
Best way to reach: Train to Aurangabad. Bus or car from Aurangabad.
Why be here: It's the wettest place in Maharashtra as it receives maximum rainfall during the monsoon. Green hills and hundreds of tiny to massive waterfalls. Drive along the quiet roads, wander into the nearby forests and relish the delightful experience of nature.
Distance from Mumbai: 557 km
Best way to reach: Train to Kolhapur. Bus or car from Kolhapur.
Why be here: Rolling hills, gushing waterfalls. Visit the charming Wilson Dam, the largest earthen dam in India, or take a walk along the tranquil Arthur Lake.
Distance from Mumbai: 185 km
Best way to reach: Bus or train to Igatpuri. Bus, car or auto from Igatpuri.
September: Kaas Plateau
Why be here: Maharashtra's own Valley of Flowers. Carpets of flowers of varying hues spread on the undulating hillocks. Kaas was known only to a handful people till recently. It is slowly becoming a recognised tourist attraction, thanks to the photos and travelogues on the Internet.
Distance from Mumbai: 280 km
Best way to reach: Train or bus to Satara. Bus or car from Satara.
Why be here: Hills covered with post-monsoon greenery and wild flowers. Mumbaikar's favourite hill station, Mahabaleshwar offers long, invigorating walks and serene drives during this off-season month.
Distance from Mumbai: 310 km
Best way to reach: Bus or car.
Why be here: Konkan at its best. After your fair share of the blue sea, sandy beaches and great food, take a boat ride to the historic Sindhudurg Fort, a sea fort that has seen many wars and battled the test of time.
Distance from Mumbai: 490 km
Best way to reach: Train to Kudal. Bus or car from Kudal
Why be here: A wonderful combination of a hill station and a wildlife sanctuary. Lose yourself in the beauty of the hills and valleys or search for multitudes of wildlife in the Melghat Tiger Reserve. Chikaldhara is the only coffee-growing area of Maharashtra.
Distance from Mumbai: 763 km
Best way to reach: Train to Badnera. Bus or car from Badnera (100 km)
Bindhu & Unny are quintessential travel lovers and tread the offbeat track during their trips.
Log On To www.travelwithacouple.com for their stories.