The nearest airport is Pune’s Lohegaon Airport at 64 kms., while Mumbai airport is at 100 kms.Book with us
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In Marathi, the word ghat means valley. The Western Ghats run along the Indian peninsula from Gujarat all the way to the southern tip of India. Rising up near the coast, these rolling hills create one of the world’s longest bio-diversity hotspots over its 1600 km span. The twin hills of Lonavla Khandala lie somewhere near its origins in Maharshtra, neatly bisecting the port city of Mumbai and the hill city of Pune. If Mumbai and Pune are twins, Lonavla Khandala are their commonly-owned playgrounds. A little partial to Pune perhaps, given that they’re 64 kms. from Pune to Mumbai’s 96, but big brothers tend to be pushy. Over the last century, Mumbai’s rich and not-so-rich have flocked to these misty hills with unflinching regularity every Friday.
And why wouldn’t they? Stretching across 38 sq.kms, these hills are dotted with farmhouses, agri-tourism spots, camping sites, trekking and cycling trails, dams, and lakes created from dam reservoirs. At 622 metres, Lonavla is cooler than Mumbai, and Khandala more so, given that it lies 3 kms inward and slighly higher. Owing to its proximity to both the cities and the Mumbai Pune Expressway connecting them seamlessly, weekends can see throngs of revellers, causing bumper to bumper traffic along entry/exit points. Plan your trip carefully. Weekdays are always better. Indeed, its surprising just how much of a different experience it can be here without the crowds. Lonavla Khandala can be a day trip, but it is best enjoyed when one settles into a cosy nook for an overnighter, and then sets out to explore the great outdoors. There are lots of choices these days, with AirBnB opening up access to the many privately-owned villas and bungalows in addition to existing resorts. The main Lonavala town has options that will suit all budgets and tastes, although intrepid travellers who seek solitude and are willing to go the distance will find several eco-resorts and hidden gems amongst the nearby hills. Try to look for places a bit away from the main Lonavala town, to insulate yourself from the throngs. You will need to book ahead, but weekdays usually aren’t difficult.
Although it’s nice enough for much of the year, barring the extreme summer months of April and May, the Western Ghats take on a magical green within days of the monsoon’s arrival. It is hard to describe this green… a straight out of fantasy-fiction Hobbiton kind of green. The rains also create hundreds of waterfalls along the crevasses, and the rocky escarpments so common here become natural water pools.
Some of the more popular spots here are the dam sides, offering lake views and wide vistas. Some of these such as Bushi Dam may be avoided, as the richer experiences are the ones on foot, along trails. Tiger’s Leap is one such point, with a fascinating echo point. Another wonderful trek is the Rajmachi Fort, a pretty region with its two peaks Manoranjan and Srivardhan. The fort is a must-visit for its history, and beautiful panoramas. Duke’s Nose is another trail destination, offering widest and grandest views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and forests. Equally worth visiting are trails along the Scorpion’s Sting near the Lohagarh Fort. Shaped like a scorpion’s sting, this hill is an expansive area of 38 square km, offering various trekking expeditions and adventure sports. For some luxury R&R, a day trip to Amby Valley about 23 kms away will whisk you away to a beautifully designed European style lake-side town.
For water and riverine activities, Valvan Dam near Lonavala is a lovely evening outing spot,. The Kundali River feeds the dam. There’s a pretty garden situated at its base, making it ideal for picnics. Another excellent spot is Pavana Lake, a reservoir formed by its namesake dam. Rowing and motor boating is possible here, as well as a wide range of watersports. Camping sites have always been popular here, but recently some excellent lodging options have come up along the lake contours, and may well be worth considering.
Then, there are cave trails. Bhaja Caves are believed to be the oldest Buddhist religious site in the country, dating back to the 2 nd century BC. 22 rock-cut caves depict various stupas or sculptures; the inscriptions within these caves have the status of National Document. About 7 kms. away are the Karla Caves, slightly younger given they were developed over the 2nd and 5th centuries AD. The main cave features a large chaitya, or prayer hall. These caves are definitely worth visiting, whether you’re a history or an adventure buff.
Finally worth mentioning would be the Lonavala Bhimashakar Trail, possibly the prettiest in the entire Western Ghats. With deep, dense rainforests, flowering meadows, jungles and ethnic villages along its 75 km stretch, you’ll experience waterfalls, hidden caves, meandering trails and authentic homestays, and can be complete this journey over 3 days. This trail will test your endurance, but also give you a true glimpse into the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats, including the Malabar Giant Squirrel (Ratufa Indica) that flies from tree to tree.
To conclude, Lonavla/Khandala are just the focal point of a wide range of hill stations that lie along the Western Ghats. It could take years before one has fully explored the region. For some, a lifetime isn’t enough. Whatever you visit these hills for, be sure to do it after the rains, and before the weekend. Your satisfaction, shall be guaranteed.
The nearest airport is Pune’s Lohegaon Airport at 64 kms., while Mumbai airport is at 100 kms.Book with us
Well serviced by private car, taxi or luxury coaches from Mumbai or Pune, along Mumbai-Pune Expressway. One of the best driving stretches in India.Book with us
Lonavala is midway between Mumbai and Pune, All trains plying between the two cities stop here. It takes approx. 3 hrs from Mumbai, and about 1 hr from Pune.Book with us
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This dam was built in late 1860s for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway as a source of water for their steam engines. Water from the dam was carried to the towns of Lonavla and Khandala, and supplied the reversing station of the railways using cast-iron pipes. These days, Bushi dam represents evrything that is wrong with commercial tourism in Lonavla. Come every monsoon, the waters from the dam overflow to create a series of steps which mimic an easy-access cascade. Throngs of tourists disembark from their vehicles, and wade through the waters to frolic here, while opportunistic stalls of every shape and kind have cropped up, selling fried foods, sweets, gola, ice-cream etc to create a food-fest. Every year, Bhushi Dam frequently sees cases of drowning as the flow of water is unpredictable during monsoon months. The public remains largely undeterred. Avoid this place if possible.
Duke’s Nose derives its name from Duke of Wellington's nose, which it apparently resembles closely. This peak above Khandala is also known as Nagphani or the Snake's Head. One of the simpler treks in the region with unique views, this is a must go for beginners and nature lovers. The mesmerizing sights of the Western Ghats and the aerial view of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway should take your breath away. The trek starts from Khandala and rises steeply upwards to hit the plateau. Right at the top, there is a small Shiva temple. There are night trek options as well, tenting overnight with barbeques etc. There are many adventure companies offering group trips, and may be a good way to go.
These are among the oldest caves in India and date back all the way to 160 B.C. Karla is situated about 11 kms. from Lonavla along the Pune highway. From the base it is a stiff 600 foot climb to the top. The principal cave is the largest Chaitya (prayer hall) among Buddhist caves in the country, 15m wide and 16m high. At the entrance of the principal cave is the temple of Goddess Ekvira, while at the left side is a lofty column with a sinha stambha , a tall column capped with four lions. The most remarkable feature of the cave is its arched roof supported by wooden beams which have astonishingly survived the onslaught of elements for more than 2,000 years. There is absolutely no sign of any corrosion. The Bhaja caves are about 3 kms away on the other side of the highway, above Bhaja village. From the village, it is a 250foot climb to the caves. There are 18 caves, the twelfth one being a Chaitya with the finest carvings in the complex. The first cave appears to be the dwelling of the master architect while 10 others are viharas (dwellings) for priests. The remaining seven caves have inscriptions about donors. While these caves are not as elaborate as Karla, they are most atmospheric.
Although its hard to distinguish between Lonavla and Khandala, Khandala is considered to start across the railway line, towards one end of the Bhor Ghats. Because of its strategic location, various dynasties have historically vied to control Khandala and its surrounding regions. Several dynasties from the Yadavas to the Mughals and the Marathas have ruled Khandala and its surrounding regions before it eventually fell in the hands of the British. Lord Elphinstone, who was the Governor of the Bombay Presidency, developed Khandala along with Lonavala in 1871. Duke's Nose, Rajmachi Fort, Visapur Fort, Korigad Fort, Tung Fort, and Tikona Fort are few of the trekking options originating from Khandala.
Lohagad or ‘Iron fort’ was one of the many hill forts of Maratha King Chatrapati Shivaji. It divides the basins of the Indrayani and Pavna, and is situated on a side range of the Sahyadris. At an elevation of 1050 metres, Lohagad may be reached by trekking via the Bhaja village route, or driving almost to its base though the picturesque Pawna dam route. If trekking from the Bhaja side, after a 3 km walk, you will arrive at a plateau with splendid views of the twin forts of Lohagadh to your right, and Visapur to your left. The steps to the fort begin at a village called Lohagaon. The four large gates of Lohagarh are still in good condition, and reasonably intact. Once on top, you will enjoy unrestricted valley views. The best part of this trek is the Vinchukata protrusion towards the West end of the fort, where you’ll find a narrow wall-like fortified spur resembling a scorpion’s sting. From here, look out to survey the entire region in one seeping panorama- Rajmachi, Karla Caves, The Expressway, The Railway Line, Bhaja Caves and Visapur fort.
Mahseer is a popular game fish across the world. The Golden Mahseer can grow up to 2.75 m, around nine feet in length and weigh up to 90 kg, making it an extremely popular angling fish worldwide. Mahseer breeds by migrating upstream towards clean shallow waters in rocky areas. The eggs stick to the rocky surfaces. However, the fish do not tend to the eggs once they've been laid and immediately return to deeper waters. What’s even more worrisome are structures such as dams, which block this process, as the fish are not able to swim upstream. There are also instances where the fish are killed in large numbers by detonating dynamite underwater for commercial fishing. Owing to all these factors, Mahseer numbers began to drop dramatically, alarming environmentalists. In 1970, the Fisheries Department of Maharashtra collaborated with Tata Power to start a Mahsheer conservation project at the Valvan Dam in Lonavla. The first batch of 14,000 eggs was brought to the hatchery to be artificially fertilised. Over the last 40 years, more than 1.3 crore fertilised eggs have been obtained from the facility and over 7 million Mahseer fingerlings have been produced. Today, the same hatchery breeds nearly 2.5 to 3 lakh fish every year.
Rajmachi is small village about 16 km trekking distance from Lonavala. Historically, Rajmachi fort was a strategic installation built by Shivaji in the 17th century, to control Borghat (the ghat between Khopoli and Khandala on Mumbai-Pune route), a historical trade route in the old days. The peak of Rajmachi has two fortified structures Shrivardhan and Manaranjan, which can be reached either by a tough trek route from Kondivade village near Karjat involving a climb of about 2,000 feet, or from Lonavala, which is almost a plain walk. The forts are worth exploring, especially the Shrivardhan Fort which has many secret tunnels leading to battlements. At the base of Manranjan are some simple rock-cut caves. Wildlife enthusiasts and birders will be interested in the Rajmachi Wildlife Sanctuary, with its abundance of animals and birds. A safari jeep tour help the visitors to have a close view of the wild animals moving freely in their natural habitat. One major attraction here is the mammoth Indian squirrel. It is a rare place where one can spot the wild animals freely moving in their natural habitat. The landscape is enriched with rare species of herbs and plants, and very good for nature walks, trekking and bird watching.
Spread out over 25 acres, Ryewood Park is a wonderful wood in the midst of Lonavla, popular as a picnic spot. Full of tall trees, it was historically a botanical garden, before it was re-constructed introducing ornamental flowering plants. There is an old temple dedicated to Shiva in the park. The park is named after an English officer named Rye, who stayed here for quite some time. There is also another theory that the name may have been derived from the Marathi word rai meaning “thick forest”.
Just a short distance away 16kms. from Lonavala and Khandala, the village of Kamshet boasts of superb scenic beauty. Quaint villages with mud thatched houses add to its rustic charm, it is one of the best offbeat places near Lonavla, and a hotspot for paragliding.
Lonavla gets its name from the forest Lonali and Avali meaning “series”, a perfect name to describe the rolling hills of Lonavala.
Originally, the famous local sweet ‘chikki’ was called Gud Dani, and sold by its original maker Maganlal Agarwal from his sweat meat shop in Lonavala to train travellers between Lonavala and Mumbai. Made of groundnuts, jaggery and ghee, Gud Dani became very popular, encouraging Maganlal to rename it Maganlal Chikki. Somehow, that name didn’t take off, but it became famous as Lonavala Chikki.