The town of Lonavla and that of the adjacent town of Khandala are beautiful hill stations in the state of Maharashtra and wonderful weekend destinations for Mumbai and Pune. These charming twin hill stations at the elevation of 622 m. above sea level and 5 km from each other are nestled in the Sahyadri ranges.
Lonavla is known as the jewel of the Sahyadri, located in the western part of Maharashtra. They are known for their scenic beauty, green hills, deep valleys, historic forts, lakes, waterfalls, tea plantations and the fog which envelopes the city with the changes in the humidity in the air.
The great caves:
The main attraction for coming to Lonavla is the sequence of great caves like Bhoja, dating back to the 2nd century BC and continuing into the Bedsa caves from the 1st century BC, and the last, but not the least, the Karla range of caves. Karla is the site of the largest Chaitya caves or the prayer halls from 80 BC. The temples represent the purity in design and excellent temple architecture. The interiors of the caves have lion pillars, huge elephant carvings, forms of Buddha and dancing couples. The entrance to the Karla caves is in the shape of the Peepul leaf, and the hall following the entrance is semicircular in shape.
Similar to Karla caves are the Bhaja caves, which houses many monasteries. As the sun illuminates the interior of these caves, one can see the deities and other dancing figures carved on the rock. They have huge pillar with various animals and human figures. There is a roof, which is supported by a 2000-year-old woodwork, which lights up the entire cave.
The Rajmachi fort was used by the great Shivaji, and is a must add to your itinerary. Deep valleys on three sides and a thick forest on the fourth side surround it. Today, the only remnant is the Rajmachi point, a green hillock with remnants of the fort. Other forts of interest are the Manoranjan fort, Visapur fort, Shrivardhan fort, Tunga fort and the Lohagarh fort. Lohagarh fort (the iron fort), is a robust climb of 11.2 km from Malavalli Railway station. The fort was a formidable battle station for the great Maratha Shivaji, and it commands a majestic view of the surrounding hills and hamlets.
Ryewood park and Shivaji Udyan are massive gardens that cover Lonavla. They cover a significant part of land and are full of tall trees. There is an old Shiva temple in the park with place for children to play.
Dams and hydroelectricity
Valvan dam is a picturesque spot with a garden at the base and the Khopoli power station at the foothills of the Sahyadris for generating electricity, which is fed by the Kundali River. The lovely Tungarli lake supplies water to the Lonavla dam. Both of these are major hydroelectricity stations of Maharashtra and sites of great interest.
Tiger’s leap, also known as Tiger point is a clifftop with a sheer drop of over 650m and gives an extensive view of the hill and the valleys. Also of interest is the Duke’s nose, about 12 km from Lonavla and clearly visible from the highway. This is the finest landmark and is very popular if you enjoy hiking. It looks like the hood of a snake, and is sometimes called Nagfani (hood of snake). The cliff gets its name after the Duke of Wellington.
The most important import of Lonavla is the sweet jaggery-peanut candy called Chikki. Various kinds of chikkis are available with various nuts and dry fruits and variety of flavors. This sweetmeat is a must sample for everyone who visits Lonavla. Maganlals and Coopers have some of the best chikki in town. The mall road is another popular shopping destination.
Go off Road
The cities are a must visit during the monsoon season. The skies are bursting open and it is exhilarating to get drenched and play in the waterfall near Tiger’s leap. Be careful to carry enough dry things, as it is very easy to fall sick in the mountainous, wet weather. Bush dam is a great place to visit round the year, for just dipping your feet in the cool water and enjoying the force of nature that is water. In summer, the lake dries up and can be hiked or trekked, or simply walked along the edge. A little up from the Bhushi dam is the beautiful waterfall, which can be reached by wading through the gushing waters of the dam, and makes for a one of a kind experience.
Road: Lonavla is situated on the Mumbai-Pune expressway and is well connected to several towns of Maharashtra, such as Karjat, Dabhade and Khopoli. It is 64 kms from Pune and 96 kms from Mumbai.
Rail: Lonavla is well connected by train. Local trains from Pune and trains plying between Mumbai and Pune stop there. Karjat is the nearest railway station.
Air: Lohegaon Airport at Pune is the nearest to Lonavla, well connected by most domestic and some international airlines. A sea plane service is also available between Juhu and Pawana dam, 14 kms from Lonavla.