Just 96 kilometres away from the glamorous city of Mumbai, lays the quiet hill station of Lonavala. This lovely town is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. The best time to visit Lonavala is during the monsoons when the hills are covered in green, the clouds hang dangerously low and stunning waterfalls sprout from everywhere. It truly looks like the divine Garden of Eden. This scenic region has an abundance of remarkable resorts that are always open to tourists. Lonavala is also quite famous for producing exotic hard candy called ‘chikki.’ Tourists often flock to stores to buy chikki and fudges from Lonavala.
How to reach Lonavala
Lonavala is located on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and is hence quite accessible to these cities by road. It is also connected to other small towns like Karjat, Khopoli, Talegaon etc. Regular buss services run from Mumbai and Pune and can be used to reach Lonavala. It takes about three hours to reach from Mumbai to Lonavala, so make sure that you and your family or friends have some road-trip games planned beforehand.
It takes two and a half hours by train from Mumbai and one and a half hours from Pune. Trains from both these places run at regular intervals from the stations.
Things to do and see
The Wax Museum
Based on the London’s Madam Tussaud’s museum, this famous wax museum of Lonavala is a new and upcoming tourist attraction. The wax statues of Amitabh Bachhan, Shah Rukh Khan and Mother Teresa are some of the most frequented ones. Posing with these lifelike statues make for some really good photographs. This Celebrity Wax Museum was founded by a 37 years old South Indian wax artist Sunil Kandaloor.
Tiger’s Leap/ Tiger’s Point
The Tiger’s Point is a cliff top with a sheer drop of 650 metres. The view of the rugged mountains and the valley below is said to be one of the most breath taking views of the Sahyadris. A smaller waterfall lies close to the Tiger’s point and is ideal for having a relaxing dip in the water. Adventurers often trek down and follow the waterfall as it turns into a stream at the base of the Tiger’s Leap. This Point has received its name because of the illusion of a leaping tiger that is created when one looks out across the valley.
This scenic point offers a visually arresting view of the famous fort of Ch. Shivaji called the ‘Rajmachi fort.’ Regular bus services operate from the town of Lonavala to this Point and back and can be availed of quite easily. The Rajmachi point is also one of the most visited points by tourists. The prominent Vaghjai Dari can also be found here.
This point greets tourists with the beautiful view of the mountains including the one housing the Shivlinga. This truly gorgeous sight is quit serene and isolated, and thus offers a unique experience similar to that of being in another time. The timeless beauty of the Shivlinga combined with the serenity of the place makes one feel blessed and enchanted.
Bhushi or Bushy dam is a popular spot amongst tourists. Many buses travelling from the I.N.S. Shivaji stop here. The waterfall at the dam is where all the fun happens. People jump in under the spray of the waterfall together and enjoy some quality time with their friends and families. If you visit Lonavala, a short stop at the Bhushi dam should most definitely be on your to-do list. People enjoy these waterfalls without a care in the world.
Tungarli Lake and Dam
When the monsoons arrive, it breathes new life into the Tungarli lake and Dam. This dam was built in the British era and today is like a treasure sought by young adventurers who climb the mountain to get to the dam. It makes for an interesting hike and the perfect place to spend some time just relaxing and enjoying the lovely view.
Ryewood Park and Shivaji Udyaan
The Ryewood Park and Shivaji Udyaan are a popular picnic spot amongst tourists. A favourite amongst the children, the Park offers a variety of tall shady trees, open spaces and scenic views. Amongst its attractions, a swing set for the children and an ancient Shiva temple are quite prominent. It is the perfect spot for family picnics. The vastness of the garden appeals to the little children who can run about and play in the fields.
Lohagad Fort or the ‘Iron fort’ was once Shivaji’s most powerful battle-stations. This spectacular fort commands a brilliant view of the surrounding areas. The climb to the fort is quite vigorous but is definitely worth it. The fort is located quite close to the Malavi Railway station and is visited by many travellers every year. It is also quite famous for its wide waterfalls and the beautiful caves atop the hill.
Karle and Bhaje Caves
Built somewhere between the 3rd and 2nd century BC, these exceptional Buddhist rock cut caves are a beautiful tourist attraction. The caves contain an impressive representation of Buddha, a 37 pillar aisle, with carved elephant heads. The Bhaje cave complex contains fourteen stupas and eighteen caves. Outside the Karle Caves, lies the Ekvira temple. It is visited by its numerous devotees.
Lonavala has quite a close proximity to India’s largest Adventure parks called the Della Adventures. If you’re feeling the urge to do something crazy you should most definitely visit this place. They offer a wide range of activities like zip-lining, dirt biking, zorbing, rappelling, archery, rock climbing, etc.