Monsoon is the perfect time to visit the Western Ghats also known as Sahyadri mountains. The hill stations in and around Pune on the Western Ghats offer a wonderful escape during monsoons. One such hill station is Lonavala which is 65 km from Pune and 80 km from Mumbai. The lush green misty hills give a mesmerizing view that nature lovers cannot simply refuse.
The nearest domestic airport to Lonavala is Lohegaon Airport, Pune. Passengers can board flights till Pune from any Indian city and then hire a local vehicle to reach Lonavala.
The best way to reach Lonavala is by road. State buses, private buses, taxis as well as tour operators have regular and frequent services to Lonavala. Cars or bikes can also be taken to travel to Lonavala by road. Mumbai Pune Expressway or old Mumbai Pune road NH4 are used to reach Lonavala.
Lonavala has its own railway station. Plenty of trains like Intercity Express as well as mail and passenger trains connect Lonavala with Mumbai and Pune.
First stop: Bhushi Dam
Built on the Indrayani River, Bhushi Dam is amongst the most popular places to visit in Lonavala in rainy season. As it was raining continuously, there was water in the path leading to the dam. You will find shops selling/renting slippers to the visitors and providing locker rooms to store belongings when you have to cross knee deep waters to reach the dam.
Second stop: Lions’ Point
Lion’s Point is a fascinating and one of the most often visited viewpoints in Lonavala. Perched on a cliff, the place offers amazing sunset views. At the top of the viewpoint, the moist winds sweep over us as I tried to get a good view down. And sadly, I haven’t taken any good pictures here.
Third stop: Lohagad Fort
Lohagad fort has a long history with several dynasties occupying it at different periods of time. There are many places to see on the fort. The first entrance door is known as Ganesh darwaja (Lord Ganesh entrance gate). Other entrance gates in the sequence are Narayan darwaja, Hanuman Darwaja and last entrance gate is known as Maha-Darwaja. The highlight of the fort is Vinchukata (Scorpion’s tail), which was used for keeping a watch on the nearby area. Viewing from the fort this section looks like scorpion’s sting and hence it is called ‘Vinchu Kata’.
We parked our car at the bottom of the fort and started the trek at 11:00 am. With continuous rain and sweeping cold winds, it was getting a little difficult for the novice trekkers like me. I made it up to a little further of the Ganesh darwaja but had to come down because I was completely drenched and shivering. But my friends, made it to the top of the fort and was greeted by breath taking views and bragging rights for the entire trip.
Shortly after halting for lunch at the small restaurants at the base of the fort, we drove to Bhaja Caves.
Next stop: Bhaja Waterfall
In monsoon, you will find small streams almost at every corner of these hill stations. I saw people taking photos of themselves bathing in the falls. Bhaja waterfall is an average size waterfall which attracts lot of locals as wells as visitors. From my picture above, you would see that there was hardly any space for us to stand and pose.
You will find lot of snack shops lining this road where often people stop to have hot cups of tea/coffee and onion fritters (Kanda Bhajji).
Final stop: Bhaja Caves
At a distance of 5 km from Lohagad Fort, Bhaja Caves or Bhaje Caves is a group of 22 rock-cut caves dating back to the 2nd century BC. A notable part of the monument is a group of 14 stupas, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation. The stupas are relics of resident monks, who died at Bhaja, and display an inscription with the names of three monks, Ampinika, Dhammagiri and Sanghdina. I forgot to mention, there are approximately 200 stairs to reach this caves.
We let our inner teenager loose and posed at every corner we could find for photos.
We couldn’t visit Karla Caves, which are 7.2 km away from Bhaja Caves as the caves close by 6 pm. Carved into a rocky hillside, Karla caves are among the oldest Buddhist cave shrines in India.
With smell of wet soil filling our hearts, we traveled back to Pune. Read all about my Pune darshan here.
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