The best Irani cafes in Mumbai

Irani cafes are unique to the cities of Mumbai and Pune and have developed over the years from being quaint provision stores and bakeries to their present day image of the most-loved cafes. The most popular and thrifty option on the menu at these cafes is the bun-maska (pav with butter) and Irani chai. These cafes were set up by Persian migrants that crossed the border and entered India over 150 years ago.

While there were over a dozen Irani cafes in the city in the past, today only a handful remain that carry their legacy into the present day. Ensure to visit at least one of these cafes on your next Mumbai darshan to enjoy some Irani hospitality.

 

Kyani Bakery and Co.

One of the oldest Irani cafes in Marine Lines this place features tall wooden ceilings and the signature chairs that have protected the charm of the place. Kyani cafe is famous for its wine cake but it also offers other delicious options like the chicken roll and a variety of kheema dishes.

Stadium Cafe

Located outside The Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai’s first international cricket stadium, this cafe is only a short distance from the Churchgate station. People often come here to enjoy an Irani tea with a combination of muffins before they head out to watch the sunset at the Marine Drive.

Cafe Excelsior

Cafe Excelsior is scenically situated amidst historic buildings in the Fort Area. This 97-year-old cafe is the perfect place to witness the bygone charm of the city along with a delicious bite of the famous mutton burgers. The cafe also serves delectable Lebanese cuisine and desserts.

Merwan and Co.

Image source: The City Story

Located on the eastern side of the Grant Road Station, this cafe is popular among many office and retired mill workers who come here for an affordable snack. The ambiance of this cafe is a nod to the 70’s when Irani cafes were famous in Bollywood movies. This cafe is famous for its buttery bun maska, mawa cake, bhurji pav, and the Irani tea.

Jimmy Boy

This is a Parsi-Irani cafe that merges the best of two cultures and cuisines. Located in the Fort Area of Mumbai, this cafe is famous for its unconventional menu which includes dishes like Sali per edu, margi na farcha and mutton gravy cutlet.

Image source: Wikipedia

Cafe Military

Presumably, the only Irani cafe that serves beer in Mumbai, this place is made jovial by its ambiance as well as its amicable owners. The divine scrambled egg called akoori served here is a must have along with order class dishes like the kheema ghotala, mutton dhansak, and the caramel custard.

Cafe Gulshan

Popular with students and the locals of the neighbourhood, this cafe has managed to maintain its legacy in Central Mumbai, in Matunga. Although surrounded by newer cafes, this place has continued to stay on the map due to the authentic Irani cafe experience that it provides to the customers.

Irani cafes are a reflection of the culture of the migrants and further provide a picture of the diversified demography of the country. Hop on Pune to Mumbai cabs to enjoy the legacy of these Irani cafes and enjoy a piping hot Irani tea and some buttery pav to go along with it. 

Short Road Trips from Mumbai

Despite February being the shortest month in the year, you can make every weekend count when it comes to your travel goals. This month, we’re recommending gorgeous getaways a few hours’ drive from your city. This means you can have a mini vacation and head back to the city within a day! Think time constraints are throwing in the spanner for your travel plans? Think again! If you’re in Mumbai, rent a car and explore the beaches of Alibag, head to the gorgeous Murud Janjira, go on a trek in Tungareshwar or go camping at the base of Karnala Fort.


Alibag

Located less than 100 kms south of Mumbai, Alibag makes a perfect weekend destination for explorers. The biggest attraction here is the long beach of the town. The coastal Kolaba fort dates back to the time of Maratha kings and its medieval ramparts are a fascinating place to explore. The islands of Khanderi and Underi are also interesting locales, with a history going back to Shivaji’s time. One of the activities you can engage in Alibag is a trek to the picturesque temple of Shiva situated in the hills near the town. The black sands of Nagaon are another unique attraction in this neck of the woods. Kashid and Korlai are two of the other popular beaches in the area. Alibag offers quintessential coastal scenery and stunning sunset views, and visitors can dig into some of the local seafood delicacies. Choose a reliable provider of Mumbai to Alibag cabs and have a rejuvenating trip.

 

Murud Janjira

Murud Janjira fortress belongs to the 17th century and is located off Rajapuri near Murud. This fort is also known as Janjira fort and belonged to the then rulers from the Siddi clan with roots in Abyssinia. The height of the bastioned ramparts of the fort is 15 meters in the midst of the sea. History says that the fort had as many as 572 cannons always kept ready to fire at any approaching enemy. Some of these cannons can be seen even today. Though most of the structures inside are in ruins, visitors can still identify the meeting hall, school, and the mosque.

 

Tungareshwar

The Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Vasai is home to waterfalls, forests and a magnificent Shiva Temple. The sanctuary is lush green during the monsoons and is ideal for a refreshing trek to the Tungareshwar Hill. If you’re a novice at trekking, we recommend you cover some easier treks before attempting the 18km trek through this rough terrain. If you’re planning to visit the temple, you’ll have to pay an entry fee of about Rs 20 to the authorities. The Shiva temple in Tungareshwar is about 5kms from the highway. You could either walk or take a cab to the entrance of the temple. The temple is fairly crowded around the time Maha Shivratri is celebrated.

 

Karnala Fort

If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the bustle of Mumbai, head to Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Karnala Fort for a break in nature. With a couple of campsites in the sanctuary, you can spend time watching birds. If you’re not an outdoors person or if camping is not your thing, the sanctuary also has a few resorts and a forest guest house you can stay at with stunning views. With the elevation that the fort is at, you’ll also be able to see Prabalgad, Manikgad, Matheran, Chanderi Fort and Rajmachi.

A weekend getaway to Bhandardara

If you are living in the city of Mumbai or any of the surrounding towns, then a quick getaway over a long weekend becomes a must, to escape the chaos and madness of the urban jungle. Maharashtra is known for quaint little places spread across the state, where one can rent a car in Mumbai and go for a quick day trip or unwind for a couple of days. One such destination for a weekend getaway is the resort village of Bhandardara.

Nestled in the scenic district of Igatpuri, Bhandardara developed as one of the best and less commercial hill stations of Maharashtra. The village is home to the state’s highest peak, Mount Kalsubai. Embraced by natural lakes, waterfalls, flora and fauna, Bhandardara is the best retreat for the mind, body and soul.

Image source: Wikipedia

How to reach

The village of Bhandardara sits amidst the rustic ambience of Igatpuri, about 158Km from the city of Mumbai. You can drive down NH3 to reach the town or hire a cab for the weekend. There are also train services along Mumbai-Nashik rail road, which halts at Igatpuri Junction, which is about 45Km from bhandardara. You would need to hail a state bus or book a cab from there.

Best time to visit

There’s one ground rule about visiting the hill towns of Maharashtra: visit when the weather is cooler. And the best seasons of the state are undoubtedly monsoon and winters. That is when Bhandardara opens up to tourists in its full glory. So, if you are planning a trip, make sure you visit post monsoon, between the months of August to November, when the nature engulfs itself in all possible shades of green. Or, to experience the chills and colder temperatures, you can visit in winter months – between December and February.

Image source: Wikipedia

Top 5 sightseeing options

The complete charm of Bhandardara lies in its water bodies, verdant natural surroundings and the historic forts. If you’re heading to Bhandardara from Pune, we highly recommend booking a car rental in Pune so you can explore all these spots at your leisure. Here’s top 5 places to visit in Bhandardara:

Image source: Wikipedia

Wilson Dam: Built in 1910, this is the oldest dam ever built in India. The sluice gates controls the flow of the Pravara River, on which it is built, and thus renders a great view from the top. The dam area is also adorned by a garden at the base, around the river, where you can sit and enjoy the surroundings or take a leisurely stroll.

Arthur Dam: Shrouded by dense foliage of the Sahyadri Mountains, this calm and clear lake makes for perfect camping site, hiking trails or a ferry ride.

Ratangad Fort: All forts have their share of history and so does the 400 years old Ratangad Fort in bhandardara. It is said that the great Maratha ruler, Shivaji, had captured this fort from its intruders of his time. The naturally formed rock fort, tapers upwards in a narrow spire and is known as the ‘Eye of the Needle’. Step up the rocky elevation of the fort to experience the breathtaking views of the Sahyadri Range.

Kalsubai Peak: The highest peak of Maharashtra and the highest point on the Sahyadri Mountains, Mount Kalsubai stands tall at 5,400 feet from the sea level. Most travelers opt for a trek along the surrounding hills and reach the closest point. Do ensure that you have the right trekking gear and are well prepared for a toiling journey, since the terrain and elevation is challenging and physically demanding.

Randha Falls: The water-bodies of Maharashtra are in abundance and at their best during the rains. If you visit bhandardara in monsoon, then the Randha Falls is a sight you cannot miss. As the roaring Pravara River gushes down in torrents, down a 170 feet gorge, it creates a sight and sound that encapsulates the entire surroundings – a moment to cherish in solitude and capture forever.

Though most frequented by tourists, Bhandardara has still not lost its appeal and still remains a cherished retreat for the urban crowd. Just make sure you land there at the right time of the year and it can be the most magical place you would have seen.

Mumbai for the nature lover

If there’s one thing that we all associate with the city of Mumbai is the population, pollution and pandemonium. Being the busiest metropolis of the country, you would hardly expect a healthy amount of greenery amidst this concrete jungle. But we have good news for the ardent lovers of nature and all things natural. Believe it or not, the City of Dreams has safely kept a number of green zones with scenic natural beauty, in its deepest corners. If you’re looking to explore Maximum City’s green pockets, we recommend booking a taxi in Mumbai for the ultimate experience.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Image source: Wikipedia

Spread across 40 sq. miles of forested areas, this park is the largest cover of lush greenery in Mumbai and the quietest zone of the bustling city. Home to innumerable flora and fauna, this park has evolved to become Mumbai’s very own natural retreat. Experience the magic of nature with a hiking, trekking or walking expedition across the natural trails, lakes and caves. For the photography fans, this is the perfect place to capture the wild side of nature, where you might randomly spot a leopard, deer, monkeys and other animals taking shelter within its dense foliage.

Ranibagh

Spanning an area of 53 acres, Ranibagh or ‘Jijamata Udyan’ is Mumbai’s only heritage botanical garden. Established under the British Raj, about 150 years ago, this extent of greenery was developed in honor of Queen Victoria, as a conservatory to save the city’s unique foliage of its time. This completely natural reserve houses more than 850 species of plants, which includes at least 286 varieties of trees like Baobab, Indian coral tree, fig tree and more. If you are in time, you might be able to spot the Indian Flying Fox- the largest Indian bat species. Apparently, this botanical garden houses their entire colony. Open from 9.30am to 5.30pm, Ranibagh is a must-visit for a dose of greenery.

Sewri Mangrove Park

Image source: Wikipedia

Far down south of Mumbai, in the area of Byculla, you will find the Sewri Mangrove Park- a natural habitat of migrating flamingoes. Every year from November to March, thousands of flamingoes and other migratory birds find home in this jetty landing area of South Mumbai. If you are a bird-lover, then Flamingo watching is a must-do activity for your winter months. For a better viewing, drop by early morning or just before sunset to witness the convention of these pink feathery beauties. Joining the pink team, are other avian members like the Black-headed Ibis, Western Reef Egret, Sandpiper, Herons, Cranes, Swallows and, if you are lucky, you can spot some more exotic species.  

Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

Image source: Wikipedia

Situated on the northern border of Borivali National Park, this sanctuary acts as a corridor between the park and the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. With a healthy mix of dense and light forested trails, this natural reserve is the perfect place for hiking, trail walking and bird-watching. Explore Tungareshwar in monsoon for the best experience of lush greenery and spot exclusive birds like the Rufous Treepie, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Crested Serpent Eagle, Brown-headed Barbet and more.

Yeoor Hills

Image source: Wikipedia

For a weekend day trip or a refreshing change from the hustle bustle of the city, drive down to Yeoor Hills in Thane- on another edge of the Borivali National Park. If you thought there can’t be extraordinary trees in this concrete jungle, then, the Yeoor Hills will prove you wrong with its clusters of bamboo, boar, apple, mango, red pine, amla, black currant, tamarind, turmeric, lotus, jackfruit almond and more such species of plants.

Next time, when you need a green therapy, hit one of these places to soothe your eyes and bask in the freshness of nature.

Explore Maharashtra’s Breathtaking Sea Forts

The western border of Maharashtra is blessed with a long coastal strip dotted with several bustling beaches and ports. The then rulers erected defence fortifications on the shoreline in order to defend the port towns. A unique feature of many of these forts is that they are set in very picturesque locations with unparalleled architecture. Let’s take a look at some of the most amazing sea forts in Maharashtra.

Sindhudurg

Image source: Wikipedia

The fortified area of Sindhudurg comprises 48 acres close to the town of Malvan and is an island about half a kilometre from the shore. Visitors can take a short boat ride to access the fort. The erstwhile ruler of the region, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had built Sindhudurg to protect the region. The ramparts of the fort are 10 meters high and 4 mm thick extending to about 3 km in length. The fort has a single entry gate on the northeast corner located strategically making it difficult for enemies to identify the entrance. Sindhudurg is also the only place with a temple that is dedicated to Shivaji along with a few other temples. While people reside within the fort, the population has been dwindling over time.

Murud Janjira

Image source: Wikipedia

Murud Janjira fortress belongs to the 17th century and is located off Rajapuri near Murud. This fort is also known as Janjira fort and belonged to the then rulers from the Siddi clan with roots in Abyssinia. The height of the bastioned ramparts of the fort is 15 meters in the midst of the sea. History says that the fort had as many as 572 cannons always kept ready to fire at any approaching enemy. Some of these cannons can be seen even today. Though most of the structures inside are in ruins, visitors can still identify the meeting hall, school, and the mosque.

Vijaydurg

Image source: Wikipedia

Vijaydurg sits on top of a rocky promontory that juts out of the shore. This fort is about 75 km away from Malvan and is surrounded on three sides by the sea. On the southern side, there is a narrow neck that connects the mainland. Defence of this fort was bolstered by Shivaji after he took charge, adding 300 guns, 27 bastions, and three lines of defending walls. The bastions were provided with openings for the cannons and slit holes. The fortified area is 17 acres dotted with the remnants of old structures.

Kolaba fort

Image source: Wikipedia

Kolaba Fort sits on a low rocky island close to the Alibag Harbour. The fort is quadrangular in shape and formed the naval headquarters for Kanhoji Angre who was a Maratha General. The basalt walls of the fort were re-enforced with 17 bastions, and 3 of them remain intact to this date. There is a long causeway that leads to the main entrance. Though most of the fort now lies in ruins, the shrines have been renovated and restored.

Underi

Underi which is also referred to as Jaidurg represents a fortified island close to the mouth of the Mumbai harbour. It was set up as a companion for the Khanderi fort presently in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. The islands of Underi and Khanderi served as landmarks for vessels entering the Mumbai harbour. The Khanderi fort is larger than Underi and was built in 1680 CE by Kahim of the Siddis clan.

Visiting these sea forts in Maharashtra one of a kind experience as it takes you back to the glorious days of Maratha Empire. If you are coming from outside Maharashtra, you can land in Mumbai or Pune and book a Savaari cab to cover all of the above mentioned magnificent places.

Happy Vacationing!

#60DaysOfSummer – Strawberry Picking in Mahabaleshwar

Strawberry picking in mabi

When the perks of going to a hill station include being able to taste strawberries fresh off the bush, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason not to go. Though strawberry harvest season in Mahabaleshwar is in February, you get strawberry goodies and some great weather all year round.

Every Strawberry harvest season in February, you get to walk through strawberry farms and pick your own strawberries. But fresh strawberries are just an added reason to head to Mahabaleshwar – the view of nature from the hill station, the eateries here and the gorgeous Venna Lake all add to the vacation experience here. Because it’s easy to get to Mahabaleshwar from both Mumbai and Pune, the hill station is a perfect getaway for the weekend.

We recommend going over to Mapro Garden for a snack or spending the evening at Sunset Point for a great view of the sunset and a carnival-like experience.

HOW TO GET THERE

Book a cab from Pune to Mahabaleshwar or a taxi from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar.

#60DaysOfSummer – Kids’ Day Out at Essel World

Essel World

If you grew up in India in the ’90s, Essel World was probably your first ever introduction to an amusement park. With their catchy television jingles and detailed maps of mazes and the park, Essel World was a must-visit if you were in Mumbai during your holidays. The kids in us still have the whole jingle memorised!

If you’re looking for an amusement park within the city, Essel World is the place to go. From mirror mazes, to crazy cups, to the classics Rainbow and Dodgem (dashing cars), Essel World has all the rides and attractions that’ll remind you of your childhood. There are smaller rides like toy trains, boat rides and a mini version of Dodgem for kids.

And if your day out gets too hot, you can even head to Water Kingdom next door for some fun water rides.

HOW TO GET THERE

Book a local cab in Mumbai so you don’t have to drive in Mumbai traffic – you can enjoy your day out with your family.

 

#60DaysOfSummer – Paintball at Della Adventure

Planning a vacation with your squad can be stressful – especially if nobody can decide on one place to go. What better way to settle the score than to take everyone to an intense game of paintball? And at the end, this might just turn out to be the vacation everyone needed!

Head over to Della Adventure in Lonavala for some extreme sport, fun activities and a relaxed vacation. You’ll get to choose from going on ATV rides, Zorbing in water, giving archery a shot, going bungee jumping or just relaxing by a pool.

Whichever you  choose to do – dive right in or sit back and relax – Della Adventure is a great place to go on a quick vacation away from the pressures of work or college.

HOW TO GET THERE

Book a cab from Mumbai to Della Adventure or from Pune to Della Adventure.

 

#60Days of Summer – Day Trip to Wet’n’Joy Water Park

When school’s out and your family is in a holiday mood, there’s no better way to beat the heat than to head to a water park. Wet’n’Joy Water Park near Lonavala is possibly the one place near Mumbai you won’t mind spending the whole day at.

As far as water parks are concerned, Wet’n’Joy has all the water rides and attractions you could want on a hot day – Crazy River, Disko H2O, Free Fall and Thunderr Waves to name a few. And because the water park is on the old Mumbai-Pune highway, it makes a great pitstop for those of you who’d like to go on a longer vacation to some of the most scenic hill stations near Mumbai and Pune.

HOW TO GET THERE

Book a cab from Mumbai to Wet’n’Joy Water Park or from Pune to Wet’n’Joy Water Park. From there, you can plan a road trip to Matheran, Mahabaleshwar or Panchgani.