Living in Mumbai, you might expect to draw a blank when someone asks you about the last time you had nestled yourself in the lap of nature and far from the maddening crowd. After all, isn’t that what this city is famed for? Towering concrete giants competing for space with the humble chawls, the roads teeming with people fuelled by cutting chai and daily moments of bliss when you manage to emerge out of a CST-Kalyan slow in one piece at Thane station. However captivating the spirit of the Maximum City may seem, even you must agree that regular breaks away from the hustle-bustle are essential.

Oh wait, I can already hear you grumbling. Grumbling about how you don’t have the time to take a train to Ooty. Or about the paucity of money which makes a trip to visit the grand forts of Rajasthan unaffordable. Or about the friend who keeps postponing (read cancelling) all your plans of a Goa trip. This post will probably solve two-third of your problems as it lists some excellent places around Mumbai that will not end up burning a hole in your pocket.

Malshej Ghat

One of the quaint hill stations in Maharashtra, Malshej Ghat is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats. The 130 km long road from Mumbai keeps getting more beautiful as you go along and would itself make the trip worth it. The exquisite flora and fauna of the place is bound to charm the nature-lover in you, especially if you visit during the monsoon. If you are looking for some adventure, make sure to explore the various trekking trails around. You can also visit the two forts situated nearby, Harishchandragad and Shivneri Fort.

Ganpatipule

Unspoilt beaches with clear waters have become a rarity, especially near Mumbai, and hence prized holiday destinations. If you were searching for one, then Ganpatipule is the place you must visit. Besides the pristine beaches, this place is known for the famous shrine of Lord Ganpati adjacent to the coast. If you are up for it, you can also go paragliding and enjoy an aerial view of the beach. Ganpatipule also has quite a few tourist attractions like the Jaigad Fort, Thibaw Palace and Malgund Village. Of course, no visit to Ganpatipule can be complete without sampling the local Konkani cuisine. My favourites—solkadhi and ukadiche modak.

Satara

A five-hour drive from Mumbai will take you to Satara, one of the important cities in the erstwhile Maratha reign. Not surprisingly, the city is dotted with various forts such as Ajinkyatara, each with a history of its own. Once in Satara, you cannot help but notice the aroma of freshly condensed milk wafting out of sweet shops that all seem to be selling the same brown sweet. The city’s special delicacy—kandhi pedha is one that cannot be missed at any cost. Satara also serves very well as a base for various other destinations such as Mahabaleshwar. Kaas plateau, 25 km away from the city, is a delight to behold in the months of August and September with several hundreds of different plants and insects, of which many are rare. If you intend to visit this World Natural Heritage Site, make sure that you plan well as only 3000 visitors are allowed per day. You can also visit the Vajrai and Toseghar Falls that are around 20 kilometres from the city.

Panshet

An idyllic weekend getaway close to Pune, a visit to Panshet is sure to refresh your mind. Panshet is primarily known for the Khadakwasla, Tanajisagar and Varasgaon Dams and lakes. While you are there, you must try your hand at boating and various other water sports such as kayaking. The picturesque waterfronts will definitely floor the nature-lover as well as the shutterbug in you. While there are not many local attractions, you simply should not miss out on the Sinhagad Fort located nearby that is famed for its rich history and breathtaking views.

Igatpuri

A small hill town in the Nashik district, Igatpuri is the perfect choice for escaping the chaos of the city life and soak oneself in nature’s bliss. Surrounded by some of the highest peaks of the Sahyadris, Igatpuri has a year-long pleasant climate, making it suitable to be visited any time. Even if you haven’t climbed before, a trek up the nearby Tringalwadi Fort would not be very taxing and will give you a bird’s-eye view of the town. Having given your body a good workout, head to the grand Vipassana Meditation Centre, that is sure to rejuvenate your spirits. Before you realize that you have to (unfortunately) return to Mumbai and it gets too late, get a photograph taken capture a selfie with the majestic Camel Valley in the backdrop.

Other than Igatpuri and Satara, all of them have MTDC resorts which are a safe and pocket-friendly option. Even at the other two places, there is no dearth of hotels. Although having your own vehicle would give you increased mobility and flexibility on the trip, there are dependable bus services that operate between Mumbai or Pune and the destinations.

You would have already noticed that I haven’t included any of the more famous destinations. Their absence, in fact, is no more inadvertent than Suraj Randiv’s no ball to Sehwag. While planning a holiday, we often try to ‘play it safe’ and end up going to Matheran, Lonavla or Alibag over and over again. This means that we risk missing out on these gems and then whine about how Maharashtra has no good holiday destinations. Of course, it goes without saying that there are several other places in the state, such as Wai that need to be visited. I would have loved to include them all but for the dearth of space.

So what are you waiting for? Get your friends together, pack your bags and give your humdrum city routine the slip to head off for an exquisite escapade.