Lonavala is a hill station in Maharashtra. It is approx 128 Kms from Mumbai VT (CSTM). Lonavala and Khandala are two hill stations that are situated on the western slopes of the Sahyadri hills. Lonavala is located at an altitude of 625 meters while Khandala is located slightly lower.
It is famous throughout India for the hard candy sweet known as chikki.
Lonavala & Khandala along with Matheran are Mumbaikars’ favourite holiday spot. Its not uncommon for many people from Mumbai to go back to these hill places again and again every weekend as if like doing a pilgrimage. Many people find their peace here after being exhausted in the ratrace in the City. It is so closely connected to the city that one can go early in the morning spend some time there and come back by evening. Perfect for day picnickers and obviously couples in love ;).
The place comes alive during the monsoon season as the countryside turns lush green with waterfalls and ponds. It gets crowded but still its fun. Weekdays the place is quite deserted.
During the 12th century, the Yadav Kings ruled Lonavala. Moghuls invaded the region and ruled for a long time. Later, Marathas, and after them, the Peshwas ruled the place. The Marathas and Peshwas built inaccessible, strategically located forts to protect their territory. The British started to rule this region from 1818.
Lonavala was discovered as a hill station in 1811 by Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone, then Resident of Pune and later Governor of Bombay. Elphinstone virtually founded the state education system in India, that too, at a time when British opinion was against educating the “natives”. The Elphinstone College of Mumbai is named after him. He refused the high post of Governor-General of India twice, to finish his authoritative two-volume work History of India.
Lonavala and Khandala are extremely popular week end getaways amongst Mumbaites particularly because of their nearness to Mumbai. Both hill stations are famous for their scenic beauty, green hills, deep valleys, several lakes, historic forts and ancient caves. During the rainy season, the entire area becomes lush green with myriads of glistening waterfalls. Clouds sweep down to kiss the dense mist which seems to envelop everything.
Lonavala and Khandala have a number of sanatoria and are famous health resorts. Many wealthy Mumbaites own flats or bungalows there.
Best Time to Visit
These hill stations can be visited throughout the year, but the best time to visit them is during the monsoons. It is only during this time that you can enjoy Bhushi Dam and other tourist destinations in their entire splendor.
During the rainy season, the rain clouds hover around and the place gets covered in dense mist. You can see many waterfalls all around. Try to avoid weekends and holiday season, unless you like crowds.
Lonavala to Mumbai 108 Kms
Lonavala to Pune 66 Kms
Lonavala to Khandala 8 Kms
Nearest international airport Mumbai
Nearest domestic airport Pune, 66 km away.
By train VT (CSTM) or Dadar from Mumbai to Pune and the South stop at Lonavala. The Suburban (local) trains run only up to Karjat. All Trains traveling from Mumbai to Pune stop at Khandala to fit extra engine for safety to climb the uphill ghats (valley). Lovanala has a proper stop.
The ticket would cost you about Rs. 55 and the journey would take about 2hrs 15mins instead of usual 3hrs or so by bus. Of course the website for train tickets is www.irctc.co.in.
Train Timings Website:
The road is one of the most beautiful ways to reach Lonavla. By Car, one can use the Mumbai Pune Expressway to reach Lonavla. You would have to take an exit at Khandala to get in. The toll is approximately Rs.85 from Mumbai, but taking the Expressway not only reduces the journey time by 1/3rd, but also ensures a smoother ride. Two and three wheelers are not allowed on the expressway. For two wheelers/ three wheelers, and for those who wish to avoid the toll, the other option is to use the old Mumbai Pune road NH4. From Pune, one can again take the NH4 or NH4 and Mumbai Express Highway combination.
Lonavla is about 90km away from the city of Mumbai and 65 km away from Pune City. Lonavla is easily accessible by road and by train from both Mumbai and Pune which are one of the nearest locations.
You can also drive out of Mumbai via New Bombay or Vashi and take the new expressway. This will take you just an hour from New Bombay. The roads are well maintained so it is a pleasure to drive. Speed limit is 80Kmph but cars & Volvo buses regularly travel at 140Kmph.
Toll is collected at Khalapur (Pali Phata) (for the Mumbai-Pune direction) and at Talegaon (for the Pune-Mumbai direction). The toll is Rs.140 for private cars.
- By Bus: One can board a Volvo Bus from Mumbai to Pune or vice-versa which ply on the Beautiful Mumbai-Pune Expressway. They charge anywhere between Rs.170 to Rs.250 depending on the season. One can get down at Lonavala Exit on the Highway.
- By Cab: There are also share cabs which one can take from Dadar or Vashi in Mumbai and Pune Station or Chinchwad in Pune. They also follow the same route and charge between Rs.100 to Rs.150 depending on the season and the car. Although a cab is the fastest way to reach Lonavala from either points, but one should avoid traveling in them at night or during the monsoons. If you are traveling during the monsoons, DO NOT SLEEP. The beauty of the route is one of a kind.
- Bushi dam
The Bushi dam is worth visiting particularly during the monsoons. During the monsoons, the dam gets filled with water and it overflows on the ‘steps’. People can sit on these steps and get wet. There are also a few other waterfalls around.
Put on your bathing clothes and chappals before heading. Enjoy an evening lolling about in cool crystal clear water with your friends sipping hot tea and eating corn.
Caution: The waterfalls get slippery during monsoons and a lot of accidents take place during this time. Carrying basic first-aid is advisable.
You can explore the hills by trekking up them. Tiger Hill is another spot one can check out.
There are regular buses running from the Lonavala bus stand to Bushi dam. It takes approximately 15 minutes to reach this place via bus.
- Rajmachi Point
Rajmachi Point is located about 6.5 km from Lonavla. This point commands a view of Shivaji’s famous fort, Rajmachi (Royal terrace) and the surrounding valley. Regular State Transport buses ply between Rajmachi Point and Lonavla from the State Transport Bus Stand. The famous Vaghjai Dari is also located here.
- Rajmachi Fort
It was a fort used by the Maratha warrior Shivaji. It is a place worth visiting but can be reached only on foot as it is surrounded by deep valleys on three sides and by a thick forest on the fourth side.
Other forts are – the Manoranjan Fort, Shrivardhan Fort, Visapur Fort, Lohagad Fort and the Tunga Fort.
- Ryewood Park & Shivaji Udyan
This is an extensive garden situated in Lonavla. The Ray Wood Park is located inside the town near the Lonavala market. This is a sprawling botanical garden which has now turned into a large picnic garden with large lawns, tall trees and cool shades. The garden covers a lot of ground and it is full of tall trees. There is an old Shiva temple in the park. The garden has plenty of place for children to play. Tungarli Lake Tungarli Lake supplies water to Lonavla town. There are no buses to the site, but taxis and auto rickshaws are available from Lonavla Station (3 km).
- Valvan Dam
Valvan Dam has a garden at its foot, and is a popular evening spot 2 km from the town.
- The dam supplies water to the Khopoli power station at the foothills of the Sahyadris for generating electricity. The Kundali River feeds into the dam’s reservoir.
- Lonavla Lake
This is the most famous lake. Also called Bushi Lake, it is located about a kilometre from Lonavala. This lake is owned by Central Railway and is on the way to INS Shivaji.
Constructed in 1876, it is a very beautiful picnic spot. The Indryani River is supposed to originate from this lake. There is also a dam here. Unfortunately, the lake practically dries up in summer. It is surrounded by natural scenery, about 1.6 km from the town.
- Duke’s Nose
Duke’s Nose stands 12 km from Lonavla, clearly visible from the highway while driving towards Mumbai. This landmark in Khandala is popular with hikers. The cliff owes its name to the Duke of Wellington , whose ample nose it resembles.
- Tiger’s Leap
Tiger’s Leap is a cliff-top with a sheer drop of over 650 m, giving an extensive view. Buses are available up to I.N.S. Shivaji and the remaining distance of about 1.6 km has to be covered on foot.
- Malavali is on the main road about 8 km from Lonavala (towards Pune).
The Karla and Bhaja caves are both about 5 km from Malavali, but on opposite sides of the road.
- Karla Caves
Karla, located near Lonavla, is a complex of cave shrines built by Buddhist monks around 3rd to 2nd century B.C. Far more interesting, much less known and rarely visited are the ancient and historical caves in the region.
Some of the oldest and most magnificent Buddhist caves in India lie scattered in this region.
Karla, 12 kms from Lonavala, has the largest chaitya griha (Buddhist chapel) in India. There are several viharas (monasteries or dwelling caves). These were built around 160 BC.
In terms of purity of design, the Karla caves represent the zenith of the Satwahan school of Hinayana style of temple architecture. They are the biggest and best preserved Buddhist cave temples in India.
The entrance to the chaitya griha is in the shape of a “Peepal” leaf. As one enters the magnificent hall, he is spell bound by the beauty of the stone pillars which are carved with life-like figures of elephants and human forms which represent different forms of Gautam Buddha. The pillars are surprisingly smooth. The high majestic roof is semicircular.
There is adequate provision for storage of drinking water in the tanks around.
There is a small temple of Ekvira Devi at the entrance.
Karla MTDC Holiday resort and Boating
There is a MTDC ( Maharashtra tourism development Corporation ) holiday resort at Karla spread over 30 acres of land. It is located on the Indravani river. Here you can hire paddle boats, motor boats and water scooters.
- Bedsa Caves
16 kilometres south of Karla close to the Kamshet Railway Station is the village called Bedsa. A 3 kilometres walk up a stiff hill takes one to the Bedsa caves.
These caves have a huge chaitya, and numerous small resting chambers or cells for monks. The vihara has 9 cells and couple of side cells. In one of the larger cells is a non-Buddhist deity Yamai.
The caves have huge pillars, lions and human figures. The arched roof of the chaitya is supported by 2,000-year-old woodwork. Under a tree in the village below is the Tandula stone of Bedsai. Every year, a palki (palanquin) is taken from this village to Yamai’s shrine and then to Vaghoba (deity of the pass) up the hill.
- Bhaja Caves
Of the 18 caves in Bhaja, Cave No. 12, the finest of the cave complex, is an open chaitya constructed earlier than the Karla caves. This cave has sculptures of Surya and Indra with a Yaksha below Surya. The pillars here have centaurs.
Cave No. 1 is the dwelling house of the master architect.
Nine caves are viharas and the remaining 7 caves contain inscriptions about the donors.
The Bhaja caves are similar to the Karla Caves but on a much smaller scale. These caves are so constructed that the rays of the setting sun enter these caves.
On the southern side, there is a place where one can see carved figures of Gods and Goddesses.
Below the mountain is Mukkai, the site of the pre historic Mother Goddess. Even today, the villagers offer sacrifices once a year.
On one side of Bhaja is Lohagad Fort. On the other side, the Visapur Fort.
- Lohagad Fort
A robust climb of about 11.2 km from Malavali Railway Station takes you to the ‘Iron Fort’, once a formidable battle-station of Shivaji. The fort commands a view of the surrounding hills and hamlets.
- I.N.S. Shivaji
A Naval Engineering Training Base.
- Lion’s Point
Scenic point midway between Bhushi Dam and Amby Valley. It is located atop a steel cliff facing the windward side. Hence you get an amazing gale when you stand at its edge. You get a clear view of the valley beneath in all the different shades of green. There are a few ‘reverse waterfalls’, as in the wind speed is so high forceful that it blows the falling water and it rains back up again on the cliff.
- Tungarli Lake and Dam
This lake is at the north of the bus stand near Tungarli village. It supplies water to Lonavala. This lake and Dam come to life during the Monsoon season, where youth climb the mountain top to the Dam. This dam was built during the British era and features a serene surrounding. An excellent place for back-pack Camping. You can see hotel Laguna from the top and also see some celebrity bungalows and also beautiful views of Rajmachi, Lohagad, Visapur forts and Lonavala City.
- Liril Point (of Liril Bathing-Soap Advertisment)
Liril Point. Take a rickshaw from Lonavala station. All the rickshaw-wallas know Liril Point. They will drop you to the top of the mountain where the stream begins and from there you have to trek down to Liril Point which is where there are several beautiful waterfalls. Apparantly, the old Liril ads were shot here. You can either take the trek route following the stream (the more beautiful route), or the path on the hill (the safer option).
The Old Liril Advertisment:
What to buy: Chikki, Chikki and more Chikki, there are 30 different variety of Chikki:
To know more about Chikki: http://strayingaround.blogspot.com/2006/06/chikki-at-lonavala_21.html
Trek the Sahyadris. (Note: Never trek alone or you could get robbed. Make sure you trek along with some group or organization like the below mentioned). The mountains on which these hills are located are excellent for trekking and rock climbing etc and there are always regulars who do the weekend trek. Some of them meet up through websites like:
- do training in Yoga in kaivalyadham lonavala.
- Paragliding at Kamshet http://www.flynirvana.com/grpadv/tandem.html
- Native Place – Kamshet http://www.nativeplace.com
Places to Stay
- Avion Holiday Resort,
- Valvan Village Resort,
- Fariyas Resort,
- The MTDC holiday resort at Karla also offers very good accommodation
at reasonable rates.
Book your rooms in advance through a website otherwise you might find all the rooms to be full if you reach on Friday/Saturday.
- By Railway: All trains from Mumbai and Pune stops at Lonavala Junction/Station. You can also board in to Public or private bus service. Also taxi service is available from Lonavala to Pune City. But train is the most convenient way to get out of Lonavala.
Lonavala is famous for Chiki sweet. There are about 30 different varieties Peanut, Coconut, Til etc. Stock up on this here. Maganlal and A1 Chiki are two famous shops. Also try Anjir which is a lot softer and Choclate Chiki/Anjir/Barfi/Fudge. The chocolate stuff was awesome!
Using GPS on Sahyadri Treks: