Kanheri Caves

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Mumbai (Bombay)

It’s hard to believe that within 1½ hours of the teeming metropolis you can be surrounded by this 104-sq-km protected tropical forest. Here, bright flora, birds, butterflies and elusive wild leopards replace pollution and concrete, all surrounded by forested hills on the city’s northern edge. Urban development has muscled in on the fringes of the park, but its heart is very peaceful.

There is no trekking ban per se but accessing areas within the core protected area requires prior permission, so the easiest way to take a walk in the woods is by going with Bombay Natural History Society. You might see Shilonda waterfall, Vihar lake (Tulsi requires pre-authorisation, which is usually limited to researchers etc) or even the park's highest point, Jambol Mal. The park's most intriguing option, the Kanheri Caves, is a set of 109 dwellings and monastic structures for Buddhist monks 6km inside the park. The caves, not all of which are accessible, were developed over 1000 years, beginning in the 1st century BC, as part of a sprawling monastic university complex. Avoid the zoo-like lion and tiger ‘safari’ as the animals are in cages and enclosures.

Inside the park’s main northern entrance is an information centre with a small exhibition on the park’s wildlife. The best time to see birds is October to April and butterflies from August to November. Activities can now also be booked online.

An information centre with a small exhibition on the park’s wildlife is inside the park’s main northern entrance. The nearest station is Borivali, served by trains on the Western Railway line from Churchgate station (₹15 to ₹165, 30 minutes, frequent).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Mumbai (Bombay) attractions

1. Kanheri Caves

1.06 MILES

The 109 Kanheri Caves lining the side of a rocky ravine 6km from the northern entrance of Sanjay Gandhi National Park are a big draw. The caves comprise…

2. Global Vipassana Pagoda

6.22 MILES

Rising up like a mirage from polluted Gorai Creek is this breathtaking, golden 96m-high stupa modelled on Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Its dome, which…

3. Water Kingdom

6.29 MILES

Little tykes with energy to burn will love this Gorai Island amusement park and its rides and slides – Asia's largest theme water park. It’s a ₹50 ferry…

4. Esselworld

6.29 MILES

This Gorai Island amusement park is well maintained and has lots of rides, slides and shade. Ferries leave every 15 minutes (₹50) from Borivali jetty at…

5. Gilbert Hill

7.94 MILES

Smack dab among the residential apartment blocks of Andheri (W) sits this 61m-tall black basalt mountain that resembles a chocolate molten cake …

6. Kidzania

8.36 MILES

Kidzania is predictably one of Mumbai's kid-tastic attractions, an educational activity centre where kids can learn all about piloting a plane, fighting…

7. Iskcon Temple

8.85 MILES

Iskcon Juhu plays a key part in the Hare Krishna story, as founder AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada spent extended periods here (you can visit his modest…

8. Juhu Beach

9.92 MILES

This sprawling suburban beach draws legions of Indian families and courting couples frolicking in the Arabian Sea for 6km all the way to Versova. As far…