Enough is said and written about the famous tourist places like Marine Drive, Chaupati, Band Stand, Juhu Beach and Gateway of India that stand like iconic symbols of the city. But there is much more to explore in Mumbai than these haunts. Especially, when you are exploring Mumbai to experience its culture then you must opt for the unusual places. And here is the list of offbeat things to do in Mumbai to help all traveling souls.
Experience The Unusual Slum Tourism in Mumbai
Asia’s largest slum ‘Dharavi’ is located right here in the city of Mumbai. Dharavi slum area has become famous for its walking tours that give you a glimpse into the hidden world inside this slum. If you are thinking of touring around the houses of some poor and miserable people then that’s not it’s all about. Dharavi is an example of how India’s most profit-making industries are thriving within the little huts of Dharavi. Leather goods making to the branding goods of India’s top-most brands is done right in the kids, despite all adversities, have achieved great milestone in the field of dance, music and even in IT. The women of the houses here might unexpectedly turn out to be entrepreneurs. Dharavi Slum Tour would show you a Mumbai quite different from the one portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie Slum Dog Millionaire.
You have an option to choose from the best Walking Tour Operators in Dharavi:
- Be the Locals: It is started by a group of Locals in Dharavi who in turn employ other young locals as tour guides. By choosing this organization, you would be directly supporting the education or home of these young guides of Dharavi. cost: 1500-2000 INR
- Mohammed’s Dharavi Slum Tour: He is a local who worked in call centers and became fluent in English. The tours through his organization earlier supported his higher education and now he employs others too. The advantage of going with him is that you can get your tour plan based on your interest. Cost: Around 600 INR
Explore the Offbeat Mumbai at Khotachi Wadi
Hidden in the bustling areas of Mumbai are these two well-preserved Portuguese Colonies. They are also the heritage buildings as declared by the Government and one of the most unusual and offbeat things to do in Mumbai. The best time to visit these colonies is during Christmas.
Ranwar Village in Bandra and Khotachiwadi near Charni Road are two little pieces of Portuguese Era preserved with the great efforts of the locals. Heritage walks are also organized here. Khotachiwadi in my personal opinion has many interesting houses.
Go Graffiti and Mural Spotting Near Ranwar Village
Ranwar Village, which celebrates the history of more than 400 years, comes to life during its special festival that is organized right before Christmas week. You can relish some Portuguese variety of spicy fish. Admire the heritage houses with traditional architecture. Chat around with the locals and go graffiti spotting near Ranwar village. An exploratory walk around the Ranwar village, near the Chapel Road, will take you in the lanes painted with graffiti and Bollywood wall art.
Explore Afghan Church
The oldest Church in India is not much frequented by tourists. But this church was an important landmark as the tall tower was the first thing visible to the sailors from their ships, indicating their successful journey and arrival in the land of spices and cotton. The church was named so, in the memory of the casualties during the First Anglo-Afghan War, the worst retreat in British History from Kabul. The names of all those officers and soldiers, including Indian soldiers, have been marked on the wall of the church.
The church also includes an untrimmed garden beside it which naturally turns alive during monsoons. The interior is also quite interesting with wooden ceiling and the magical light beams passing through the stained glasses of the tower.
- Location: Navy Nagar, Colaba, South Mumbai.
- Time: Evening Mass is held at the church every Sunday (7 am & 6 pm)
Hunt for The Chinese Temple in Mumbai
Chinese traders occupied quite a part of Mumbai. After the end of British rule, most Chinese returned to their own country. A few of them formed a deep connection with Mumbai and chose to accept Indian citizenship. They are even Mumbaikars by heart. On a Chinese new year, the few Chinese families still surviving in India celebrate at the Chinese temple. It is a small home converted into a temple but would give you an insight into the Chinese culture. Read more about the Chinese Temple of Mumbai here.
- Location: Mazgaon, Near Dockyard Station
- Timing: Open on Sunday Mornings
Drench into Spirituality at Vipasana Pagoda
Located right beside the famous fun park Essel World, this place hasn’t become so common among the people yet. The Pagoda (worshipping place of Buddhists), is an excellent piece of architecture. The huge pagoda at the center stands without any support and pillars. There are four other pagodas in its four directions used for a different purpose. The exterior has been plated with a golden color that gives it a heavenly look. The messages of Lord Buddha have been carved all around the main pagoda. An introductory workshop of Aana-Paan meditation is also held for the visitors. Extensive information is provided on Buddhism and the life of Buddha.
The entrance has huge symbols of the religion ‘The Gong’ and ‘The Bell’. The visitors are allowed to bang the gong and the bell with a huge wooden trunk attached to it. When banged, it emits the auspicious sound of ‘Aum’. The pagoda also shows a short documentary depicting the building and the architecture of the Pagoda which is worth watching. Further, you can also visit the art gallery exhibiting the pictures of incidences in Lord Buddha’s life.
- Location: Gorai Khadi, Borivali East, North Mumbai.
- Sharing autos are available opposite Gora Gandhi Restaurant outside Borivali Station.
- Ferries start plying from 9 am onwards (from Gorai Khaadi).
- Time: 9 am to 7 pm daily.
Get Surprised at Taraporewala Aquarium
If you have ever done scuba diving then the visit to this place would be a nostalgic journey and if you have not yet enjoyed the underwater journey then there can’t be a better inspiration than this. After all, there is not much fun in seeing the caged creatures when you can see them enjoying in their free world. However, the aquarium has been the center of attraction for many after its revival. The authority has tried to develop a standard aquarium with lots of new sea creatures along with the detailed information about each of them. The aquarium includes Australian tortoise, sea turtle, tropical fishes, Freshwater fishes like butterflyfish, parrotfish, eight blend fish and many more. One of the most unusual aquatic creatures is the seahorse which is rarely spotted even in the most extensive diving sessions. Next time when you are around Marine Drive, don’t miss out this favorite haunt of Mumbaikars.
- Location: Charni Road Railway Station (West), South Mumbai
- Time: 10 am to 8 pm
- Closed on: Mondays
- Entry Fee: Adult- INR 60, Child – INR 30, Mobile Camera – INR 500, Still camera – INR 1000.
Take a Stroll at Sanjay Gandhi National Park for Kanheri Caves
It is a place to be visited especially during monsoons to witness its real beauty and the greenery of the National park. The Buddhist caves belong to 6th to 11th century. One of the caves is a Chaitya (place of worship) and the others are Viharas (Resthouse). Apart from the main caves, few more caves have been found out in the latest exploration (2016). It is a picturesque scene with a huge forest in front of the caves, the stream, and the waterfalls enhances its beauty.
The buses and private sharing cabs continuously ply to and from the entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Or you can rent a cycle for INR 60 per hour.
- Entry Fees: INR 45 + INR 5 for the caves (Personal vehicle entry charges are separate)
- Time: 8 am to 5 pm
Sit by the Historic Ban Ganga (Chhoti Ganga)
As per the mythological story, when Lord Ram passed through this place in search of Sita, he asked Lakshman to get water to quench his thirst. Following his elder brother’s instruction, Lakshman targeted an arrow on the ground creating a tributary of Ganga, and hence it is named as Baan(arrow) Ganga. The tank was constructed in 12th century and was then reconstructed a few times by the kings as well as the government. It is a part of the Walkeshwar temple and the Math located around it. The tank looks beautiful during the day time with its green water and the ducks floating in it. The water of the tank is fresh despite its proximity to the sea.
On the way to Baan Ganga, you can have the magnificent view of the Queen’s Necklace. (Marine Drive)
Baan Ganga – PC. Mid-day.com
- Location: Malabar Hill, South Mumbai
- Time: preferably at night or early morning when it is not much crowded
Learn about the only Historic Tower of Silence
On the bank of the sea, outside the hanging garden, from where you can see the vast sea, you can also have the glimpse of an unusual cremation ritual place of Parsis, The Tower of Silence. As per the Parsi belief, the dead body should not come in contact with water, earth or fire. And thus they hang the body inside the tower, where it becomes the food for vultures. As per the currently prevailing procedure, the solar panels are used to dehydrate the body within the tower. This system was probably introduced owing to the absence of vultures in the city areas. Nobody is allowed to enter the place for the obvious reason, but you can certainly have the glimpse of it among the bushes.
Location: Beside Hanging Garden, Walkeshwar
Enjoy the City View from the Mahakali Caves
You would never imagine, amidst the hustle and bustle of the busiest area of Andheri, lies this group of Buddhist caves which gives you a majestic view of Aarey and Powai forest area and the speeding vehicle on JVLR (Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road).
The caves are not much frequented and are not carved so intricately except the main cave which has a stupa in its centre and the carvings of a few kings and Lord Buddha in meditating position. The location of the caves, just like Kanheri caves, is at the edge of the hill. The caves are named so because of the Mahakali temple located in the vicinity of the caves.
Location: Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri West. (Nearest Metro Station – Western Express Highway – WEH)
Attend a Sunday Mass at St. Andrew’s Church
It isn’t a famous tourist place. Mostly, Mt. Mary church is included in the sightseeing of Mumbai City. But St. Andrew’s church is an equally beautiful old church in Mumbai. Many film scenes have been shot here. The stained window glasses of the church and the old wooden benches give it an antique look. Visit this church to listen to the voice of your mind and heart and to connect with the Almighty.
Location: Hill Road, Bandra West
Unearth the Portuguese Past of Mumbai at Bassein Fort
The ruins singing the glory of Portuguese rule in Mumbai seem to have been set up in the shape of a basin. And thus, the name Bassein is justified. The fort is now popularly known as Vasai Fort It is a huge fort with an intense history and architectural beauty. The cathedral located behind the main fort ruins is the major point of attraction with its tall ruined tower and the interiors naturally beautified with tree branches peeping through its stones. It is a perfect place to hang out with your friends or for a dramatic photoshoot. The stairs at the backside of the church lead you to the watch area from where you can admire the creek girded with colorful boats on its shore. Once upon a time, it had been a major port. The Vasai Beach nearby the fort is another secluded haunt which can be visited along with the fort. If you are looking for some really unusual things to do in Mumbai, Vasai Fort must be in your list.
- Location: Vasai Village, Vasai West
- Take a local train till Vasai and then sharing rickshaw till Vasai Village (INR 30 per person)
- As the autos here do not follow meter rates, do not forget to fix the rate before getting in. (INR 120 for Private Auto)
- Buses to and from Railway Station ply at regular intervals.
- Easily reachable by private vehicles too.
Feed Your Curious Mind at Nehru Science Centre
If you think the center might cater to the needs of only the kids then you are absolutely wrong. The scientific marvels exhibited in a different section will leave you awestruck. The center also shows a 4D movie on Amazonian Civilization. A Planetarium is also located within the center. It is an excellent place to pass a day gaining knowledge. Moreover, every Sunday at 7 pm, the center organizes stargazing sessions for kids.
- Location: Opposite Mahalaxmi Railway Station (East), South Mumbai.
- Time: 10 am to 6 pm
- Entry Fee: INR 100, organized group of 25 or more INR 80, Students INR 60.
- Closed on: Mondays and Public Holidays
- Timings: 12:00 pm (Hindi), 1:30 pm (Marathi), 3 pm(English), 4:30 pm (Hindi)
- Entry fees: Adult – INR 60, Child – INR 40
You can get more details about events, science festivals and seminars here.
Enjoy the city of dreams…..And its varied culture….
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