Book a villa in Lonavala as a base for operations. Feriadoss will simplify what you can do after that, in this detailed travel guide.
Lonavala is a cool, leafy, and unassuming resort town in the Sahyadri Range.
You already know this.
Dressed in lush-green bracken, azure skies, brawny basalt rocks, and shimmering brooks, it lies bang on the midway point of the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway.
But there is little to do in the town other than to lounge about your room, haggle for Madanlal’s chikki in the wide-countered shops, or wrestle with that juddering bumper car wheel at the gaming centre.
What you really want to know are the fun spots within an hour’s radius of your Lonavala vacation rental. And we don’t mean Tiger Point and Lion’s Point.
We mean an explorer’s handbook of things to do.
This is one. We’ll start with the forts and watchtowers that line the Deccan Traps and their alien-looking geological formations, which could remind the more imaginative tourist of an ancient empire built by rock giants. These locations are less than an hour’s drive away and are meant for the ones who love deep views and have a great camera!
The Photographer’s High Ground: Military Stoneworks
This is instagrammable. This is historical. And this is worth it.
As recappers of history, folklore, myth, and everything in between, tourist guides would tell you of the forts in the vicinity that withstood the winds of change through India’s medieval period.
Empires rose, occupied these forts, then fell, leaving them to the next dominant empire. The forts underwent a few repairs and retcons. New ones were added along the way. And they all were built on high ground, with deep views of the Deccan down below.
The Lohagad fort is the most elaborate, well-defined fort within 15km of Lonavala. The masonwork and architecture verge on ornate, with true-arched gatehouses and arrow slits being notable features. The overgrown shrubs and moss patterns create a picturesque atmosphere ready to be chronicled by your smartphone cameras.
As you pull out of your Lonavala vacation rental in a car, the location is a half hour’s drive from Lonavala’s town centre. You can also visit the nearby Lohagad forest for a breather. Cups of chai and plates of vada pav on the roadside stalls are another post-visit option!
This location is not technically a fort, but a watchtower, crenelated upon the steep drop of the mountainside.
The military captains of Antiquity’s empires chose well, and now tourists use Rajmachi Point to get deep views of the surrounding valleys that rise out of the base of the Deccan. This point will, in all probability, be only a 10-minute drive from your Lonavala villa.
There are several more forts, such as Visapur and Tikona, but we recommend the next one because of its setting: surrounded by the twinkling Pawna Reservoir on three sides, it gives the best views for an afternoon picnic.
Another watchtower with around the same capacity for reconnaissance troops as Rajmachi, this fort makes you earn its views.
A steep climb, it is located at the top of a flood basalt lava flow formation formed millions of years ago. It is believed to have been built during the 17th century, as an outpost by the Bijapur Sultanate, and was later operated by the Marathas.
You can also descend to the shores of the immense Pawana Reservoir, and enjoy a picnic.
And that may be a good tangent to go off on: If steep climbs, lonely peaks, and historical architecture aren’t your thing, there are other attractions in store for you. Lakes are the perfect place to laze, picnic, and enjoy an evening with a loved one, especially if you’ve been lucky renting one of those Lonavala villas with a pool!
The Idler’s Guide to Lonavala’s Lazy Waters
Apart from the Pawana Reservoir, there are several other water bodies in the area, where you can park your car, take out your picnic blankets and food containers, and spend a day with family and friends. There are hundreds of streams and brooks, yes. But you’ll want to prioritize the lakes. Warning: Don’t go to Lonavala Lake because sitting on the shoreside is prohibited there. These are the better options.
Located less than half an hour away from Lonavala, this location is perfect for group activity.
The land around the dam reservoir has more than 40 acres of space to roam around and empty your mind off the white noise of city life.
Find a private, tree-shaded spot and laze a day away with the family. There are camping sites in the vicinity as well, and you can pay for a night to a week’s stay in tents that can house 2-3 people each, stocked with soft mattresses, pillows, and blankets. For fun, there are facilities for board games, archery, cricket, football, badminton, volleyball, and more. Food and beverages are included in the package for these camp sites.
This is a fun place to be during the monsoons.
Like most of the reservoirs in the Lonavala-Kamshet-Lohagad triangle, swimming isn’t allowed on account of several past drownings.
But you can lounge on the shore. And you can visit the masonry dam nearby, which overflows in the monsoons, as tourists stand on the steps and giggle as water rushes past their ankles.
If you book villas in Lonavala’s town centre, Bhushi reservoir is only 15 minutes away by car. The dam itself is open to the public between 9 AM and 5 PM. So make sure you plan accordingly!
History Buffs Can’t Avoid the Caves
Lonavala, and the area surrounding it, was originally famous for its rock-cut caves, or “lenis.”
In fact, the name “Lonavala” was derived from the Prakrit word for “a series of caves.”
“Leni” means “cave” and “avali,” which means “series.”
These majorly refer to the Karla and Bhaja Caves, a series of Buddhist chaityas and viharas, carved in the Antiquity Period. These caves, though not on the level of complexity of Ajanta and Ellora, are nevertheless worth the small roundtrip.
The Karla Caves
The Karla Caves are north of the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, and are approximately 15 minutes away from main Lonavala by an Uber cab. The premises are open from 9AM to 5PM and you will have ample time to look through the cavernous spaces and meditate on Indian history.
In total, there are 16 rock-cut caves, with one, massive dominating chaityagraha hall. This chaityagraha is actually the largest of its kind in India, even bigger than the ones in Ajanta and Ellora. So, the trip is certainly worth your time if you’re a history buff. And even if you’re not, this place is highly Instagrammable.
The Bhaja Caves
These caves are located to the south of the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, and are approximately 30 minutes away from main Lonavala by an Uber cab.
This cave complex comprises 22 caves dating back to the 2nd Century BCE. Cave 8, a vihara, is especially notable for its pillared verandah that holds unique reliefs.
For the Outdoorists: Nature’s Trails
We know many of you out there want direct communion with Nature. We know that means gentle strolls through the countryside and its green rolling hills. Or probably a steeper trek, where you’re challenged a bit more physically. Come. Read our picks.
Visapur Fort Trek: A Hike Through the Green
You start out at the Bhaje village which is near the Bhaja Caves discussed above—25 minutes away from Lonavala’s town centre. About 20 minutes into the trek, you’ll hit a fork in the trail. The right turn leads to the Lohagad Fort, while the left one will take you to Visapur, which is on a gentler, flatter gradient that allows you to enjoy the sights and sounds instead of burning out your lower body’s muscles.
Once you reach the top of the plateau, you will find the ruins: the bastion, the walls, the water tanks, the cannon, the flag, and more. You will also find sprawling views of the expressway and other forts. Picnic there. It’s beautiful!
The Rajmachi Fireflies Trek: Nightlands Beaconed in Bioluminescence
Night treks open your mind.
And on this one, fireflies lend it an even more mystical sense. The Rajmachi Fort trek begins at Jambulpada, which is only 10 minutes away from Lonavala station. Starting late in the evening, you will begin the ascent, enjoy the show, and set up tents at the top. Sunrise the next morning is a beautiful affair, and the trek will conclude in the afternoon..
Whatever Lonavala holiday homes you may be lodging in, they won’t be far away from these trekking spots. But, perhaps, you need assistance in finding a place more out of the way?
Can You Find Rental Villas Near The Fun?
Lonavala’s town centre is chock-full of villas, bungalows, and other varieties of holiday homes. Many of them are given out as rentals to vacationing Mumbaikars. And you can find one with little to no hassle.
But the problem with these establishments is that they are in a relatively congested area, with views encroaching upon other villas, shops, and buildings. You miss out on the “untouched nature” vibe that you probably are expecting.
What’s the point of a trip out of your city to a place—known for waterfalls, lakes, brooks, caves, forts, and hills—if your central view is a mountainside pitted with other villas?
That’s why we recommend an out-of-the-way spot like Villa Serena, which is in a wide expanse of the Deccan’s flatlands between Kamshet and Lonavala, opening views to faraway peaks, gorgeous geological features, and open skies. This modernist building has large fenestrations to let in natural light and give you panoramic views of the countryside. Three terraces also allow you to sit outside, sip a drink, and watch time move slowly. It has a swimming pool, six furnished bedrooms, a living-room-cum-dining-room, kitchen space, and an indoor game area.
It’s a little utopia—the perfect Lonavala villa for families!
How Can You Reach Lonavala?
This pretty hill station is accessible by all modes of transport.
People coming in from out of Maharashtra would be better served flying to Mumbai and then making a 3-hour drive to Lonavala. Otherwise, people living in Pune and Mumbai can take a direct road trip.
If you’re from any of the main metropolitan cities in India, domestic flights to and from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport is the way. The taxi ride from the airport is a 3-hour journey to Lonavala.
There are several trains running to and from Lonavala, and they connect to Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Panjim, Hyderabad, Mysore, Bengaluru, and Chennai. The train station is within the town’s centre, so an OLA or Uber ride is easy. Otherwise, use the public rickshaw and bus services within the town. They’ll take you directly to your rented luxury villa in Lonavala.
Mumbai is 2-3 hours away from Lonavala by car. Your main traffic obstacles will be within the municipal borders of the city.
The drive outside the city, on the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, is breezier, faster, and picturesque.
You can also use the numerous bus services that connect Mumbai and Pune to Lonavala.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Lonavala?
At 624 m above sea level, and on the windward side of the Western Ghats, Lonavala experiences an orographic. monsoon-affected subtropical climate.
And it has a hot, dry summer.
The months between April and June see the hottest temperatures—up to 35°C. It’s best if you rent out a Lonavala villa with pool facilities! Even The native rhesus monkeys will steal your water bottles!
The monsoon (July – September) sees the maximum rainfalls and this is the time when thousands of tourists flood the area to partake in the teeming water bodies and cool, green locations.
The winter months are mild and temperatures drop to a moderate 10-15°C. We’d say the winter months are the best time to visit, because 1) It’s cool, like the monsoon season, and 2) It doesn’t have the wetness
This is an explorer’s plan for a holiday in Lonavala. More than just a generic list of the best villas in Lonavala, we gave you an out-of-the-way location to stay at, and several outdoor activities to take a chance on.
Lonavala offers a set of opportunities that cater to the adventurous and the lazy, and we hope our list satisfied both sides of the spectrum!
We also will advise that you do your own research upon what we have done, because many of these locations can update and change their routines in the time that passes since we publish this blog post
Thank you for reading!