Maharashtra Travel Guide

Maharashtra is the second most populous state in India with the highlight being its capital, Mumbai, which is the financial capital of India. However, you could find varied information and sometimes contrasting and disputing ones in the internet. Our Maharashtra travel guide is quite detailed and informative even for the native Maharashtrians.

There is a huge variety of things to see and do in this western state. It has some of the beautiful beaches, SCUBA diving locations, scenic hill stations, UNESCO heritage sites and many more.

Due to high connectivity and better fares, most of the tourists have high probability of landing in Mumbai from their home country. It would be wise to spend a few days in this beautiful state, which has a mix of beauty and luxury. Read below to understand what to do and what to expect in Maharashtra

Contents

  1. How to reach
  2. Things to see and do
  3. Culture
  4. Travel Tips
  5. Travel Budget
  6. Best time to Travel
  7. Places to Stay
  8. How to book your stay
  9. What to carry
  10. Related blogs

1. How to reach?

Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Kohlapur, Shirdi, Jalgoan and Nanded are the nine major cities, well connected by Flights, trains and by buses. Mumbai has a few cruise packages as well.

1. Flights

From International locations, Mumbai has the best connectivity and you can get the best fares to reach India. Apart from Mumbai, Pune has connectivity with Middle East (Dubai, Sharjah and Doha), Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Also, Aurangabad (to Jeddah) and Nagpur (Sharjah and Doha) has international connectivity.

While travelling within India, the above mentioned 9 cities are well connected to most of the cities in the domestic circuit. Though there are plenty of options, I would suggest to travel from Mumbai, Pune or Nagpur for better fares.

Booking resources: For International – Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights, Within India – Goibibo, Makemytrip

2. Trains

I would say that travelling in train within India is the best way to explore the country and its culture. It is the cheapest way to travel provided you have done the booking beforehand. You name a place, and train connects it. As you know, India is the country with the world’s largest railway network.

How to Book? – Below are a few sites, which would help you in getting a train ticket by yourself without breaking a sweat!
1. IRCTC – The India government website
2. Multipurpose booking sites – Goibibo, Makemytrip, Cleartrip
3. Paytm (a money wallet app which only works with an India phone no.)

3. Buses

Buses are an alternate to trains if you need to plan a travel in short notice. This is a perfect mode of transport, when we end up with expensive flights and trains fully booked or in waiting list.

How to Book? – Booking a Bus is quite straight forward. Below are the portals to book,
1. MSRTC (Maharashtra State Road Transport) – only government buses will be available – best price and connectivity!
2. Dedicated Bus booking Apps – Redbus, Abhibus
3. Multipurpose Booking sites – Goibibo, Makemytrip, Cleartrip
4. Paytm (a money wallet app which only works with an India phone no.)

2. Things to do and see

The popular beaches, scenic hill stations to heritage and cultural sites, Maharashtra has a plenty in store to explore! Listed are some the must visit places and must do things in Maharashtra.

1. Mumbai

The busiest city of India, Mumbai is also home for three UNESCO world Heritage sites. The Elephanta caves, the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus and the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles (about 94 buildings) are the heritage sites. The street food in Mumbai is an essential part of the culture and you must try it. Take a food trip to the famous Mohammed Ali Road to explore the best taste of Mumbai (especially during Ramadan). The Gateway of India, The beaches of Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Powai Lake are some of the other attractions. In addition, Mumbai has the best nightlife in India and Pub-crawl is more popular as well as the midnight walk in Marine lines.

Recommended to read – Things you could do differently Mumbai! For people who are tired of reading standard things on the internet.

2. Mahabaleshwar

The Crown Jewel of the Western Ghats! It is 6-hour drive from Mumbai and it is a mini heaven to escape from the busy lives. There are numerous things to do, see and experience in Mahabaleshwar. Firstly, trek to the Pratapgad fort (steps available) to enjoy the panoramic view of the hill station. There are numerous viewpoints to enjoy nature and the Wilson point of sunrise, the Arthur seat point, Kate’s point, Elephant point and the Venna lake viewpoint are a few popular ones. Boating in the Venna Lake and take a horse ride tour around the lake are some of the things to do.

In the summer season, you get to find the strawberry market at its peak. The Mapro (Mahabaleshwar Products) conducts Strawberry festival every year in the month of March. In addition, Strawberry farm tours are a unique experience during the summers. Some tours allow you to pick the strawberries, mulberries in the field as well (a good experience for kids too).

3. Trekking in Western Ghats

The Western Ghats is a blessing for adventure lovers and there are a numerous locations to explore! Let us start from the easily accessible ones. The Rajmachi Fort near Lonavala is a perfect for any beginner with two options of a longer trek (3-4 hours from Khondane caves) or a shorter one (30-40 mins from Udhewadi). Some of the other easy Treks are Lohagarh, Tikona and Korigad Fort. For a moderate level, best experience would be in Matheran as most of the viewpoints has to be experienced by foot. Raigad fort trek, Rajgad Fort and Peb Vikatgad Trek are few other moderate level ones. The challenging ones are Kalavantin Durg, Salher and Torna, which needs some level of experience.

4. Alibag

Situated at around 130 Km from Mumbai towards the South, Alibag is a beautiful beach town. Besides road transport, you can reach Alibag through a ferry ride from Gateway of India! It is famous for the calm and peaceful beaches and beach/island forts. Alibag beach, Akshi beach and Nagaon beach (black sand beach) are top beaches to visit. Especially, the Akshi beach, which is flat to such an extent that even non-swimmers, can stroll towards the sea safely. Alibag fort, Murud-Janjira fort and the Khanderi and Underi Islands are some forts revealing history of the region. My suggestion would be to visit the devkund waterfalls, which is 2-hour drive from Alibag. The waterfall is in the middle of a jungle and makes you feel awestruck! Overall, Alibag is a perfect weekend getaway from Mumbai and Pune!

5. Nashik

Nasik is a famous pilgrimage destination in India on the banks of river Godavari that hosts the historic event, Kumbh Mela. The event happens once in every 12 years and next one happens only by 2027. Besides being a pilgrimage, Nashik is equally famous as the ‘Wine capital of India’, which is home to more than half the vineyards in India. Wine tasting at Sula Vineyards, Vineyard Stays, River rafting and trekking in Brahmagiri and Anjneri Hills are the major attractions. In addition, you can plan to visit Shirdi, which is another famous pilgrimage located at just 80 Km from Nashik.

6. Malvan

Malvan is one of the best seaside town in the Konkan coast. Situated at around 450 Km to the South of Mumbai, Malvan is famous for its pristine beaches and the historic Sindhudurg fort. Firstly, visit the Nivti beach to enjoy the ‘cast away’ moment and for the panoramic view from the Nivti fort. Tarkali beach is one of best in India for SCUBA diving, snorkeling and many other water sports. I rate it among the top 10 places in India for diving. Besides Goa being 3-hour drive from Malvan, I preferred Malvan for a peaceful and relaxing stay. In addition, dont miss to take home the famous Alphonso mangoes (sweetest of mangoes and has a rich flavour!)

7. Ajanta & Ellora Caves

Located in the Aurangabad district, The Ajanta caves and the Ellora caves are 100 Km apart and are the oldest of the UNESCO world heritage sites in the region. Besides being oldest of the two, Ajanta caves (2nd Century BC) are predominantly Buddhist comprising of 26 caves. On the other hand, Ellora is fine mix of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves. Though there are 100 caves, of which only 34 are open to public.

Most importantly, the Ajanta caves are open on all days except Mondays and Ellora caves on Tuesdays. Do note the same while planning your trip. In addition, I would suggest to visit Bibi ka Maqbara built by Aurangazeb (Son of Mumtaz, on whom Taj Mahal was built). Due to resemblance with the Taj Mahal, people call it the Dhakkani Taj (The Taj of the Deccan).

8. Lavasa

Lavasa is a planned city, which is being styled based on the Italian town, Portofino. Though the construction of certain phases of the town is still not complete, it provides some of the best holiday experiences. It is famous for its resorts and home to some of the picturesque dams and surrounded by beatiful forts. Firstly, visit the Panshet dam, which hosts a plenty of water sports like Surfing, kayaking, water scooters and motorboat rides. Temghar dam, Lakeside Promenade, Water sports in the lakeshore and Bamboosa (Bamboo crafts factory) are some of the major attractions.

I would also suggest visiting Mulshi Dam, Tamhini Ghat, Torna Fort and Ghangad Fort, which are a perfect day trip from Lavasa.

9. Lonavala & Khandala

These are the most famous hill stations in the region, popularly known as the ‘Hill twins’. It is also the most visited holiday destination as it close to the major cities Mumbai and Pune. Therefore, you could expect a huge crowd all through the year. Karla and Baja caves, Lohagad fort, Rajmachi point, Tiger’s point, Lion’s point, Kune falls and Pawna Lake are some of the major attractions. Apart from sighseeing, there are good location for the adventure lovers. Trekking to Rajmachi Fort and camping in Pawna Lake are some of the best experiences in Lonavala.

10. Matheran

Matheran is one of the special Hill stations of Maharashtra and it deserves to be in the list of must visit places in the region. The beauty of the place is that it is untouched or unexplored and according to UNESCO, vehicles cannot enter Matheran. You can get a horse ride or a cart ride to visit the major attractions namely, Lousia point, Charlotte Lake, senset view from Porcupine point and Rambagh Point. Rappelling in Dodhani falls, trekking to Chanderi caves, Irshalgad fort and rock climbing are some unique experiences in Matheran. Also, do not miss the panoramic view from the toy train from Matheran to Neral, which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Culture

The Marathi Culture centers around the value of self-rule of people (called as Hindavi Swarajya). The great ruler of the Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, majorly influenced this culture. Like in most parts of India, Maharashtra is a mix of various cultures with Hindu being the majority (80%). Islam comes the next major culture followed by Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians.

There are numerous temples, mosques, churches and even Buddhist caves across the state demonstrating the diversity.

1. Lifestyle

The people of Maharashtra practice a simplistic lifestyle as in most parts of India, with the exception being the large cities. When it comes to clothing, like many other states, they have a traditional clothing, which people wear rarely (especially on occasions and festivals). In case of men, it is Dhotar and Pheta and for Women it is Lugda or Choli. The metropolis and cities of the likes of Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur are mainly westernized. However, the rural areas are still practicing tradition.

2. Cuisine

The Cuisines are special in the state, especially the Chaat items (a savoury snack). When it comes to food, Indian breads (chapatis, naan, Kulcha) and rice are the preferred meals.

Travel tips

Though the places are relatively cheap when compared internationally, there are numerous travel hacks, which could bring down your travel budget to a considerable level.

1. Buy a local Phone

The first thing to do is to get a local Phone no (SIM card), so that you can use a variety of services using your local contact. Go for either Airtel or Vodafone which are equally good in network and coverage. Pick a INR 399 pack (USD 6) which would last for 2 months – free local calling and free 1 GB data everyday

2. Book Tours Packages

This is comes in handy when you are confused on the modes of transport and not having idea on the hotels in certain places. In addition, you get an experience as a whole, like a cruise package from Mumbai or a wildlife tour package where it is difficult to get accommodation in a forest (tours in reserve forests are government operated).

3. Use Zoom Car

It is the best car rental available in India and the services can be realized major cities (Mumbai, Nagpur and Pune). You could easily get a car under INR 2500 (USD 35) for 2 days. You also have the option of having different locations for pick-up and drop of the car. It would give you a lot of savings and flexibility when you travel in a group or as family!

4. Ola & Uber for Taxis

These are the best for short distance city rides for sightseeing and for are airport drop/pick-up. You have the option for pre-booking you ride and pay by cash or card. Always switch between Ola and Uber for comparing prices.

5. Eat Local food

The best way to explore the place is to taste local food. Even though the hotel food might be good, do check with the hotel staff to understand the nearby food joints and explore. You can have some delicious breakfast in this region – Poha, upma that makes you a local person.

6. Use Online Food delivery Apps

I would say this as the lazy way of getting food and cost effective too. You do not need take a ride to reach a food joint; instead, you can order online and spend time and money wisely on sightseeing. Swiggy, Zomato and Uber Eats are the pioneers in food delivery. Most of the restaurants are covered in those three apps.

7. Buy Alcohol in Malls (especially Mumbai)

Though there are a plenty of options for pubs and bars in Maharashtra, buying it in malls are cost effective. In addition, It is a safe bet when you have kids around when compared to drinking in a pub. I personally prefer taking some time in choosing wines and beers. The malls such as Hypercity and some dedicated shops like Modern wines or Pyna wines provide you the supermarket kind of experience to buy alcohol.

Note: Beware of the liquor door delivery scammers who loot money online. Even if it is door delivery, pay by cash after you receive.

8. Buy Groceries online!

Though it is relatively cheap and time saving to eat outside on a holiday, I would suggest cooking yourself at least twice a week to stay healthy. You can buy vegetables, dairy products including cheese and even meat through Big basket (which is available in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur). Alternatively, try Amazon Fresh, which is quite good too.

Travel budget

1. Living Expenses

Accommodation in Maharashtra could be of three types. Hostels are not much famous in India as a solo traveler can stay comfortably in private rooms (book in OYO & Airbnb) within INR 700 – 1000 (USD 10 – 15). In addition, a Backpacker in Mumbai can stay in hostels starting from INR 700 (USD 10). For budget travelers, a private room with all amenities could cost around INR 1500-3000 (USD 20-30), exception being Mumbai. To experience luxurious hill resorts or beach resorts, it would cost around INR 4000-7000 (USD 50-100). In Mumbai, the luxury stays can sky rocket to even INR 30000 (USD 400). Moreover, some of the luxury beach resorts and resorts in hill stations, it can be as high as INR 1 Lakh and above (USD 1500).

2. Food expense

Food is the least thing you need to worry about in your travel budget. You could easily have a full course meal from INR 400 (USD 5-6) and breakfast options starting from INR 50 (less than USD 1). You can even have expansive buffets starting from INR 1000 (USD 15). My suggestion would be explore local food as much as possible and also book hotels with complimentary breakfast!

3. Other Expenses

Local transport for sightseeing could cost around INR 1000 (USD 15) for group/family of 4. For a solo traveller, there are options to use a bus or train which would cost around INR 300/day (USD 4-5). Apart from local transport, you would spend on shopping and the region is famous for its wines – Sula and Grover (starting from USD 10)

Best time to travel

1. Winter (December to March) – Best time to travel

Located in the western part of India, the winters are pleasant and are the best time to visit. You can enjoy the beaches along the Western Ghats, hill stations or the cultural monuments at ease during winters. You should be carrying some warm clothes to the hill stations, as the temperatures can be as low as 10C.

2. Autumn (October to November)

Autumn or the post-monsoon period is as good as the winters especially when visiting Hill stations. Also, be wary of the unpredictable monsoons, which could extend until October and possibly ruining your holiday.

3. Monsoon (June to September)

Monsoons provide the best travel experience in the Hill stations. You get pleasant weather (luckily, if you get a no rain day) as well as resorts and hotels at discounted rates. Who would not like it!

4. Summer (March to May)

To me, summer is the time you should visit any of the southern states of India and Maharashtra is no exception. Temperatures could soar as high as 40C! If planning your trip in summer, visiting the beaches after 6 PM would be pleasant (also, Sun sets late in the western states).

Places to stay

Budget stay options – Below are some of the Hotels and resorts under INR 3000 (USD 40)

Backpacker stay options – Hostels, Dorms and Private rooms under INR 1000 (USD 15)

Luxury Stay options – Below are some of the unique experience Hotels and resorts if you have plenty of budget!

How to book your stay?

Do it yourself!

Make a travel itenary of your own based on your interest and comfort zones and book the hotels online matching your itenary. You could always rejig the order of the places you are willing to visit based on the hotel costs and availability. This is the best way to make your own tour package! I always make my trips customized with two priorities – first is not to compromise on quality of stay and second is not to overspend on one hotel booking!

For instance, my initial plan was Mumbai –> Lavasa –> Mahabaleshwar –> Alibag –> Mumbai. But I later changed my plan to Mumbai –> Lonavala –> Mahabaleshwar –> Lavasa –> Mumbai. This saved 30% of my hotel costs when compared to previous plan, but staying in same hotel. Hotel rates can vary drastically in a span of just 2-3 days. Do verify your and compare rates in OYO, Goibibo, Makemytrip and Booking.com before booking.

If Planning from outside of India

If you are planning from outside of India, you could still use the same sites to compare and book. You can use your credit card or even use PayPal (only with Goibibo and Makemytrip) for payment online. Most of these booking sites have pay at Hotel option as well, which would be beneficial if you want to book but do not have a concrete plan. Booking.com could be a bit expensive and has less hotels to show for some locations. Nevertheless, it is advisable to check it as well for the fares before booking your hotel.

Tour Packages

This is a best option if you do not want to do all the hard work. It has an advantage as well as a disadvantage! The best part is that you could relax on your holiday and the tour operator plans for you with a slightly premium cost. The tricky part is when you do not like a hotel or an activity in the plan. Either you are forced to continue your tour or let off the money you paid and book a stay in a different place of your wish.

What to carry when travelling?

The Beaches in Maharashtra can be quite tough on the skin even if you are in winter. On the contrary, the hill stations can be a bit chilly and you need to carry warm clothes with you. Below are my suggestions to carry while travelling to different destinations in Maharashtra,

Packing list for Beaches,

1. Sunscreen (at least SPF 30)
2. Sunglasses
3. Beach flip-flops / floaters
4. Shorts (men & women)
5. Sarongs (women)
6. Hats / Caps (to prevent sunburn)
7. Swimsuit if you like to venture in to sea (especially for Kids)
8. Carry your water bottle (I always suggest not to buy plastics and litter the area)
9. A first aid kit (to be on safer side)
10. Backup Toiletries (Do not pack towels, soaps, shampoos as you can get this in hotel. Back the ones very essential)
11. Raincoats / jackets (if you are in monsoons)
12. An umbrella (for sun as well as rain)

Packing list for Hill stations,

1. Sunscreen (do not be surprised! Though UVB rays are weaker, UVA rays are harmful in winters)
2. Moisturizer (to prevent dry skin)
3. Skull cap / muffler (especially for kids)
4. Woolen Socks and warm shoes
5. Hoodies (men and women)
6. Thermal inner wear for kids (for reluctant kids to wear jackets)
7. Napkins (in case of a running nose)
8. Thermal bottles (for hot water or tea/coffee)
9. A first aid kit (to be on safer side)
10. Backup Toiletries (Do not pack towels, soaps, shampoos as you can get this in hotel. Back the ones very essential)
11. Raincoats / jackets (if you are in monsoons)
12. An umbrella (for sun as well as rain)