Popular landmarks of a city receive much of our focus, but there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered too. From stunning natural features to fascinating history lessons, these spots provide welcome respites from city life.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary provides an oasis of serenity, perfect for birdwatching in Mumbai. Here, birdsong fills the air as trees rustle gently overhead – this makes Karnala an excellent spot for this activity. With Cathay Pacific Flights, you have access to all routes you need to quickly get into the city, including Melbourne to Mumbai.
Located just ten minutes from the chaos of Andheri West is a part of India’s geological heritage known as Gilbert Hill. The black basalt rock hill dates back to the Mesozoic era, which spans from about 252 million years ago until 65 million years later, when it was first formed. It is the third oldest such structure to have withstood the depredations of time. The imposing structure is a natural wonder that can easily be missed by most people. It is flanked by dingy slums and high-rise buildings, and its only visitors are scholars and religious devotees of the temples that dot the top of this ancient hill.
Despite its age, it still looks like a put-together block of flat basalt pillars. It is reminiscent of the Devils Tower and Devils Postpile National Monument in Wyoming and California, both of which are well-protected sites where tourists visit from far and wide. The pillars on Gilbert Hill are square and rectangular, and the shape is due to a forceful volcanic eruption. It is not known who gave the hill its name, but it is believed to be named after either American geologist Grove Karl Gilbert who coined the term “laccolith” or a British officer who was in charge of the Andheri West area.
It is a bit of a mystery why the 200-foot monolith is not better protected. It was declared a National Park in 1952 and a heritage site in 2007. However, its current state reflects that neither its legal status nor its inclusion in the heritage list have helped it. It is encroached upon by new building construction, and erosion is threatening its stability.
It would be nice to see this ancient wonder become a popular tourist destination, but that seems unlikely. While efforts are being made to raise awareness of the hill, it will take a full-forced initiative from the government to make this site a must-see for everyone. Until then, the hill will remain a hidden gem that is eroding rapidly. Visiting it will feel more like a pilgrimage than a tourist attraction.
Global Vipassana Pagoda stands as one of the city’s lesser-known sights. Situated amid Gorai Island’s natural and tranquil setting, its meditation dome was constructed to uphold Gautam Buddha’s principles and teach his teachings. Inspired by Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda – its massive stone dome supports itself without support pillars – the Global Vipassana Pagoda has the capacity to accommodate up to 8000 people at once and stands as an engineering feat.
As soon as you enter through the vibrant red and gold sculpted pillars, you will be met by a statue of a lion-dog that draws countless tourists and locals who point their cameras and take selfies – be prepared for many people pointing their cameras toward it as well. Beware – photobombers may make it impossible for you to capture an uninterrupted shot!
Once you’ve seen enough of the lion-dog and beautiful Buddhist shrine, take time to explore other structures. The lion-dog statue symbolizes strength and protection while in front of it is a Durga Mandir and Neem Tree with supernatural properties believed to protect from any evil forces while keeping spirits at bay.
Visit us and explore paintings depicting Buddha’s life, from both traditional and contemporary representations of this Enlightened One.
Visit the pagoda on any day, but it is best to go during cooler hours so as to experience its peace and serenity. The meditation hall at this landmark site can accommodate up to 8,000 people at once for peaceful contemplation or spiritualistic practices.
S N Goenka, an esteemed Buddhist teacher, constructed the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai to spread awareness about non-sectarian Vipassana meditation techniques first introduced by Buddha himself 2,500 years ago and currently practiced by over 200 centres worldwide. Vipassana can free us from our burdens while leading us towards happier, more fulfilling lives – anyone is welcome to visit freely at its Global Vipassana Pagoda location!
The Botanical Garden is an oasis of calm in the middle of city that offers visitors an escape from everyday stressors. Filled with exotic plants and trees native to its region as well as greenhouses housing all manner of floral varieties, visitors can relax while admiring scenic city views from this green oasis.
NYBG draws its design from grand public gardens of England, France and Italy; buildings throughout its grounds draw heavily upon Renaissance architecture. Alongside its stunning botanical garden is also a world-renowned research facility and stunning art collection.
Situated at the center of South Mumbai, this stunning botanical garden is an idyllic picnic destination for locals and visitors alike. Monsoon season brings out even more lushness than usual in this green haven – perfect for kids running free and appreciating nature’s splendour! You could easily spend all day here exploring exhibits or simply dining alfresco amid lush surroundings!
One of the many highlights of this garden for students is that entry is free! Reaching it by train, bus, or auto couldn’t be simpler; its name honors Veermata Jijabai Bonsle who gave birth to Maratha warrior Shivaji and makes for one of Mumbai’s most gorgeous parks that all plant lovers should see!
The botanical garden features many types of plants and flowers, from ferns, orchids, bamboo, to endangered species such as ferns. Not only will visitors enjoy seeing all this incredible flora; there are also sculptures in the park depicting various methods of seed dispersal.
At a botanical garden, there’s plenty to keep you busy, including hiking, biking and walking. Additionally, exhibitions hosted at the garden should not be missed! Bring along your camera as there’s plenty to capture here!
Sion (also referred to by locals as Sheev), an idyllic village located in Mumbai’s metropolitan center and home to some of the finest North Indian cuisine in town, stands out as an intriguing village within this bustling metropolis.
Gerard Aungier, British Governor of Bombay from 1669-1677, built this fort atop a conical hillock between 1669-1677. The remnants are spread out across an area featuring beautiful pathways and rooms that have fallen into disrepair; there is even an old cannon at its summit that faces out over Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru Park; although plans to restore and turn this fort into a park have yet to materialize.
Fort Dungannon provides stunning panoramic views of the city and is an excellent place to watch migrating flamingos – which flock here every winter – come into their winter habitats. Spend an enjoyable few hours just wandering and admiring its beauty; there’s no entrance fee but I suggest not visiting after dark as it may become dangerous.
One of the great aspects of Sion fort is its proximity to both Sion railway station and Sion bus depot, if traveling by bus; take an auto-rickshaw or taxi ride from there directly to reach it.
One of the great things about this neighborhood is that it’s a Sikh settlement and therefore there are lots of delicious North-Indian cuisine options available here. I highly recommend trying the delicious chole and Amritsari Kulcha at Manjeet Chole Puri as well as Sardar Paaya House’s delectable Punjabi thali and then be sure to visit Tewari Bros for their famous Malai Peda, Motichoor Laddu, and Raj Kachoris; you won’t be let down! So next time you are in Mumbai be sure to visit these hidden gems!