Matheran was discovered by Hugh Poyntz Malet, the then district collector of Thane district in May 1850. Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay laid the foundations of the development as a future hill station. The British developed Matheran as a popular resort to beat the summer heat in the region.
Matheran is connected to the town of Neral which lies at the base of the hills. A tar road connects Neral to Dasturi Naka which is 9 km (5.8 miles) from Matheran. In order to maintain Matheran's uniqueness,no vehicles are allowed beyond this point. The other mode of transport is a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge narrow gauge railway, which links the town to Neral. Neral also has a broad gauge station which is on the busy Mumbai-Pune route. Neral is well connected by railway line with Karjat being the nearest Junction. The Matheran Hill Railway was built in 1907 by Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy and covers a distance of 20 km (12.4 miles), over large swathes of forest territory. The Matheran hill railway had been inspected by UNESCO world heritage site officials in the last week of October 2009. The official declaration of its status as UNESCO world heritage site like other hill railways of India like Kalka-Shimla, Darjeeling hill railway & Nilgiri mountain railway will be declared by July 2010. The railway officials are very hopeful of getting the UNESCO world heritage status from the views expressed by the inspecting officials. The heritage status will boost the tourist activities in the area.
In the floods of July 2005, around 70% of the railway lines were damaged and did not reopen until April 2007 after repairs at a cost of Rs 2-2.5 crore.
Matheran has been declared an ecosensitive region by the Union Environment Ministry and can be called a Health Sanatorium in itself. The only form of automobile allowed in Matheran is an ambulance operated by the Municipality. No private automobiles are allowed. Within Matheran transport facilities available are horses and hand-pulled rickshaws.
Matheran is one of the popular getaway for people from Mumbai and Pune, it is a quiet hill station located on the Sahyadri range. Matheran, Meaning 'forest on top', was discovered in 1850, by a district collector of Thane, Hugh Poyntz Malet, and the foundations for its development was laid down by Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Mumbai. Matheran has been listed by the Union Environment Ministry as an eco-sensitive region and is connected to the closest town of Neral by a narrow gauge railway, operating since 1907. As no vehicles are allowed in Matheran, one has to drive up to Dasturi Point, 11 km ahead of Matheran, from where you could reach the main bazaar either by foot or on pony.
Matheran lies in an elevated region, enjoys a cooler and less humid climate which makes it popular during the summer months. Temperatures range from 32 °C (90 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F). Matheran has a huge number of medicinal plants and herbs. The town also has a large monkey population, including Bonnet Macaques and Hanuman Langurs. The nearby Lake Charlotte is the main source of Matheran's drinking water.
Languages spoken include Marathi, Hindi, and English. There are a lot of Parsi bungalows. Beautiful old British-style architecture is preserved in Matheran. The roads are not metalled and are made of red laterite earth. There are many "points" (viewpoints) in Matheran which give a panoramic view of the plains below. On clear nights, the lights of Mumbai are claimed to be visible.