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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Absolute Must-See Vacation Spots Adventures in Lonavala

One of the twin hill stations in-between the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, and the city of Pune, Lonavala is an extremely popular vacation spot, especially during the monsoon season.

For good reasons, too – between extreme elevations, ridiculously lush landscapes and a collection of forts, caves and temples to make any tourist spot envious, Lonavala is an excellent example of pure Indian nature at work. There’s a lot to do and much more to see in Lonavala, so here are some of the best options:

Exploring the Ancient Karla Caves

Chiseled and cut out of a basalt mountainside, the Karla Caves are an incredibly complex and large cave system of shrines and carvings found around sixty kilometers from Pune. The caves’ oldest chambers date back to about the second century BC, while the newest were built as long as 1,500 years ago. Established near a major trade route at the time, it’s one of the largest Buddhist cave shrines in the country.

The main cave is a prayer hall, with sculptures of people and holy animals in various positions, among many other fascinating Buddhist motifs. The caves are considered a monument for protection by the Archaeological Survey of India, and thus an entry fee is charged by the government.

Stand by the Majestic Lohgad Fort
Steps leading to Lohgad fort
The Lohagad Fort, meaning the Iron Fort in the Marathi language, rises about 1,000 meters above sea level and is just north of Pavana Lake. The fort was another strategic location throughout Indian history, and the wounds it bore over the centuries have faded, but are still visible in the ancient moss-covered black rock. During monsoon season, mists and clouds cover the top of the fort, further mystifying its long and ancient past.

As noted on the official list of protected monuments, and just like the Karla Caves, Lohagad Fort has been declared a protected site by the Indian Government.

Wherever you decide to visit, however, know that you can’t go wrong with Lonavala’s rolling green hills, the blue waters of Pavana Lake, the ancient heritage present in the Bhaja and Karla Caves, and the beautiful resorts available for weary travelers and tourists. So, hop onto a train from Mumbai or Pune, and make your way straight to the easily-accessible hill station of Lonavala for an amazing time!

Trek up Scorpion’s Sting

After a trip through India’s ancient heritage, it’s time to explore something even older than Buddhist stone-cut cave systems – nature itself. Also known as Vinchu Kata, Scorpion’s Sting is a famous Indian vacation spot due to its peculiar (and vastly impressive) geological formation. An elongated hill formed like its eponymous namesake, Scorpion’s Sting is a dream to trek up along – and an amazing achievement for any band of friends – or, for the more romantically-inclined, it can be a beautiful location from which to spy an amazing sunrise.

The result of an ancient volcanic eruption, Scorpion’s Sting commands a vast view over the rest of Lonavala’s hilly landscape – and it’s nearby a number of resorts in Lonavala – the best being offered by Sterling Holidays.

Visit Tikona Fort

With an overview of the majestic Pavana Lake, the pyramid fort of Tikona (also called Vitandgad) is also about sixty kilometers from the city of Pune, and at an elevation of about 3,500 feet – that’s roughly 1,070 meters. Despite being ruinous, it’s still a beautiful travel destination with its high elevation giving it a good overview of the surrounding areas – including other famous forts.

Due to its height, it shared a history as a point of strategy in conquest campaigns over the centuries. Battle and time have worn the stone and mortar down into moss- and plant-covered indistinguishable rocks – a fact that has given the area even more charm than some might think. If you’re looking for a great vantage point, then Tikona Fort is your best bet.

Have a Picnic by Pavana Lake

From Tikona Fort, it’s a straightforward trek to Pavana Lake – which is connected to the Pavana River. Home to a dam and known as being a great picnic spot for lovers or family, Pavana is a vast body of water originating from a long-running river that leads into the Mula River and gets its water from the Western Ghats mountain range.

After a day spent going through Lonavala’s best land-based spots, Pavana Lake is a beautiful destination to enjoy a lovely sunset. However, it’s advised not to take a dip into the waters – the river, for one, is sadly polluted by the accumulation of silt and industrial waste from nearby manufacture and product processing sites. The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation that conducted the environmental survey is already taking measures to reduce pollution and take responsibility for the river, as the Indian Express notes.

Beautiful Bhaja Caves and steep drive:

Just a few kms from Lohgad fort and after negotiating some steep, sharp curvy roads you will arrive at Bhaja caves. This second century cave complex is a treat to the photographers because of nice large interior structure. Reaching to the entrance needs some stamina as there’re hundreds of steps to climb. Read more here

Paragliding in Lonavana

For the adventure souls, Lonavala is also a hub for paragliding and balloon ride- subject to weather gods permitting. There are a few operators near Khamshet village conducting paragliding courses as well as joy rides (A 10 min joy ride tandem costs about Rs 3500, a 4 day course costs about Rs 18000). Read my experience here.

Balloon Ride in Lonavala

Between November and May, Balloon rides can be enjoyed in Lonavala, for about Rs 8500 for a ride. Balloon rides are extremely sensitive to wind and weather. Read my detailed experience here.

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