The universe has its own way of adding to the charm of this little planet that we live in. I looked at the picture in front of me and wondered how a mighty meteor just crashed into our planet, and instead of destroying it- it created something magical. I am talking about The Lonar Crater, which as many won’t believe actually exists in the heart of Maharashtra.
Lonar Crater is one of the most magnificent and unusual places that I visited till date. The charm of the place itself is so eerie and mystical. There are so many exciting things about visiting this crater that it is hard to list down. Except for the fact that you can literally trek down a crater created by an extraterrestrial object and have a picnic is mind-blowing. On top of that, the crater is surrounded by a dense and fascinating forest. The area also has a lot of temples which now lay in ruins, but add so much to the ambience.
History of Lonar
As I was interacting with the locals of Lonar, I came to learn that they actually have a story that they have weaved to explain the crater. The locals believe that Lord Vishnu was fighting a demon where the crater now is. During the fight, he stamped his foot so hard on the ground, that the ground collapsed and a big crater was formed. The locals have a strong belief in this story.
Incredible and Awe-Inspiring Natural Wonders
Standing at the top of the crater looking down at this biodiversity bowl is an incredibly cool experience. The forest, the temple ruins, the lake and the funky little town of Lonar all make for an interesting couple of days, one not to be missed.
The crater is located beautifully in the heart of the town. It is a wonderful and magical thing. The lake inside the crater is both alkaline and saline, adding to its mystic. The freshwater comes from an underground stream. The crater is about 200 metres deep, and it usually takes only 30 minutes to reach the bottom.
The only negative of the crater is the unpleasant smell of sulphur that keeps emanating from there. As I reached there I looked down at the ‘biodiversity bowl’ that is claimed to be. It was everything that I had hoped for and much more than that. There are all kinds of birds that flew over my head and all the animals that run along the forests make this place so special.
The circumference of the lake is lovely to walk along and is about 5 km. The beauty of this crater lies mainly in its surroundings. It is flanked by many temples which make the place so filled with mysteries and histories.
This place is full of mysteries. As I was exploring and finding out stories. I came across so many interesting tales.
There is a Hanuman Temple near the lake, whose idol is allegedly made from the meteor rocks. These rocks supposedly have magnetic properties.
Each area of the lake has something different to offer. The walk along the circumference is so miraculous and beautiful. The experience is something that is extremely subjective and personal. One has to actually be there and look down at the crater and glance at the surrounding to fully grasp how lovely it is.
NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and several other research organizations are working on Lonar Crater from 1823 after is discovery by a military officer C.G Alexander.
Amber lake which is adjacent to the main lake: also called little Lonar is a small crater lake near to the main lake and must have been created by the impact of a sub particle from the meteorite.
The Journey to Lonar
My adrenaline was rushing and I couldn’t wait to reach there and let go of all my senses and just gape at this marvel. To get to this crater, we had to go through the Buldana district. The ride is absolutely lovely, with lush green trees lining up on the streets. This greenery was only interrupted by vast stretches of yellow-green fields with their short bushes of flowers. As I poked my head out of the car, I took a deep breath and engulfed as much of the freshness as possible.
The road from there leads to the quaint town of Lonar. A little further from there behind the tall trees, you can get your first glimpse of this mystical crater. I instantly asked my driver to halt so that I could see it properly. I hoped till the protective fence and gawked at this natural bowl right in the middle of the field- surrounded by the pretty trees. The lake at the bottom of the pool radiated a shine which made it look even more ‘out of the world’.
Lonar is a pretty small town and can easily be explored in half a day. The old part of the town is straight out of the history books. A narrow road with either sides tightly packed by small houses and shops; sliced by several narrow streets. There are wooden huts and ruins of temples lying everywhere. The homes are in a depilated condition and their only saving grace is the wooden balconies that adorn the homes. A few of them were multistoried with wooden ceilings separating the floors. These old homes, though inhabited.
About a kilometre for first glimpse sight you have a entrance gate to a temple called Dhara. Dhara located at the brim of the crater is said to be a source of pure and holy water: a small stream, from where water gets collected into a four-meter-wide shallow artificial pool constructed at the center of a five meter high fort like rectangular structure with steps all sides. Believed to have medicinal values this water is almost like the lifeline of Lonar. Many of the pilgrimage: visitors were happy to get a chance to bath in the water from the stream.
A temple on the lake shore inside the crater
The water from the pool flows into the Crater Lake along a narrow stream with a cascade of waterfalls. A bird’s eye view of the mammoth crater: which is more than four kilometers in diameter and the lake deep down with green colored water, due to the presence of algae can be seen. This is the mouth of the only crater on Basalt rock on planet earth.
Concrete steps build down a narrow track leads down to the lake. Edge of the crater was dry, exposing the soil and fractured rock: almost no trees at all. It takes a little more than half an hour to walk into earth. A hundred meter wide silt deposit down the inner brim: though banned used for agriculture at some places. A narrow track along the circumference of the inner brim connects more than twelve temples inside the lake: though a few of the temples are abandoned. It is used by the pilgrims to visit the temples: pooja is performed everyday at a few of the temples.
Walk around the crater lake.
The track inside the lake is a few meters away from the lake water and just a meter above the water level: the track was submerged at some places. A strong smell of rotten egg: good sign of presence of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S): released by the lake water and the bird droppings. The lake looks green in color due to the presence of Blue Green Algae. There are hot water springs inside the lake.
Except for the small agriculture land, the inside rim is mostly shrubs and short. The forest department have planted exotic species like pine and eucalyptus trees to make a better forest and give an exotic experience to the visitors. At times lapwings and horn bills fly across, but monkeys and peacocks are regular sights. This trek is interesting for bird watchers and one can easily spot more than 50 species of them.
Not many people move along this track: except a few aboriginals: gracing livestock and countable number of pilgrims visiting the temples. Of the many temples around the lake, a few of them is partially submerged in water and is home to monkeys and bats. Some of them have almost fallen off like the Mambarkhana Temple, which can be seen from the Dhar. There are several tracks leading to the lake from the rim used by visitors but the one from Dhara and the one opposite to MDTC hotel are the ones used frequently by visitors.
Most of the abandoned temples were empty: home to monkeys and bats. These stone-built temple walls are decorated with sculptures and carvings. At some places the temple walls have fallen off into the lake. The silence of the forest is often fouled by peacocks and squirrel.
How To Reach Lonar
Lonar is about a 3-4 hour drive from Aurangabad if you have your own car. Crossing tiny traditional villages, in-between the never ending fields across valleys and barren hills. The road is smooth and comfortable.
The cheapest and convenient way to reach Aurangabad is via railways. Aurangabad have rail connectivity with major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Nagpur, and Pune. If you are coming from Northern part of India, you can opt for Jalgaon railway station. Aurangabad is also very well connected by road from Mumbai. The frequency of buses is quite high, and you can get a bus as early as 5:00 am. Aurangabad is also connected by Air.
From Mumbai, I took 12071 Jan Shatabdi Express leaving from Dadar at 02:00PM which will reach Aurangabad around 08:10PM.
From Aurangabad to Lonar: Move to Central bus stand of Aurangabad, which is about one Km from the station. Getting to Lonar isn’t too hard: a bus ride to Sultanpur (135 kilometers from Aurangabad) and then, a fifteen minute auto ride to the Lonar Crater.
From here there are buses to Lonar via Jalna: a journey will takes roughly 5 hours. Except for those lucky travellers who are gonna meet goats and hens as co-passengers.
Alternatively detrain at Jalna, which is nearer to Lonar (Buses to Lonar from Aurangabad halts at Jalna), but most of the buses to Lonar starts from Aurangabad and so availability of seat may be limited.
Where to Stay
The MTDC Resort is closest to the lake and is a decent option for stay and food. The resort can be booked through the Maharashtra Tourism Site. You can also stay in Aurangabad and visit as a day trip, though we recommend staying for one night at least.
Since, I was planning to see more place around Aurangabad and to avoid wasting travel time, I prefer to stay in the central location and Zostel Aurangabad is the best option. Zostel Aurangabad which is located around 3.5 kms from Aurangabad Railway station. The charges for the stay at Zostel are INR 499 per night for a bed in a dormitory. But I prefer to have my own space, so took a private suite which cost me INR 2015 per night.
From Zostel it took me 3 hrs 30 minutes to reach Base Village in a private car. The drive is fairly lovely during monsoon.
Apart from the crater and the temples at the base, don’t miss the Daitya Sudan temple in the heart of Lonar town. Make sure to take a walk around the town and check out the funky old homes and talk to the friendly people. Make your way to the Gomukh temple for some good views of the crater and the surrounding fields.
Best Time To Visit
June to March is the best time to visit Lonar Carter due to pleasant weather.
From June to September (monsoon) the region receives average to plenty of rain showers, which make the exploration experience a delight. But as stated before, the activity involves long walking and outdoor activities, which might not be easier when you are drenched. It is better to avoid monsoon season unless you are on a photography trip.
While during months of October to February the temperature drops moderately. The weather is pleasing, seldom rains and lesser humid during winter. These reasons make the place easier to be scaled during winter. November to February is the peak tourism time in this region. The only downside is that, you can find a large crowd in the heritage sites, especially during weekends and holidays.
Summer months (March to May) can get hot especially in the daytime. So, try to avoid this season if you’re planning a visit. Dehydration chances are high. Since you have to do a lot of walking and exploration, it is harder to scale the place in summer.
Make a small bag with must have things, because one needs to walk a lot to explore the place to its fullest and prefer to wear a slip-on shoe. You must remove shoes before entering temples.
Don’t forget to hire a tour guide as a one to one attention is exactly what you will need for a wonderful, unforgettable experience. Authorized Tour Guide at Lonar Carter will cost you INR 300. You have to ask for them at the garden entry gate.
From Mumbai it can be comfortably done over weekends.
Near By Attraction
Tomb of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb
Bibi Ka Maqbara also know as Taj of Deccan
Perfect Blueprint for Weekend Trip To Lonar Lake
On Friday from Mumbai - 17057 Devagiri Express leaving from CSTM at 09:00PM which will reach Aurangabad around 04:10PM next day.
If you are travelling in a group, book a cab from Aurangabad to Lonar Roundway which will cost you around INR 4500. Alternatively from station take an auto to Aurangabad Central Bus Station.
Since direct bus frequency from Aurangabad Depot to Lonar is less (Only MSRTC Bus goes directly apart from some private bus operator), check for bus leaving for Sultanpur (don't get confused there are two Sultanpur and you need to ask for Sultanpur near to Lonar Crater)
Get down at Sultanpur Market, take a break for a breakfast. It's recommended to carry some healthy food or energy bar for breakfast, since i was not able to find any good place around.
Post breakfast take a auto to Lonar Crater, per person they take INR 50.00.
It takes around 3-4 hours to explore the lake to their fullest. Peace, serenity or natural bliss, whatever you may need, vacation is gifted by these marvels, the Lonar Crater.
Back to base, just opposite to the Dhara Garden Gate you will find many place to eat something local and homemade kind of food.
Now follow the reverse route. Take a auto to reach back to Sultanpur Market.
Board any bus going toward Aurangabad. No rocket science, every bus a name board in the front.
On Saturday from Aurangabad - 17058 Devagiri Express leaving from Aurangabad at 11:20PM which will reach Mumbai around 07:00AM next day.