Lonar - The world’s largest and the only hyper velocity impact crater in basalt rock is to be found nowhere else but in Incredible India.
Lonar lake is a rare tourist attraction in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. This lake which is both saline and alkaline in nature is named after the demon, Lonasura. Locals claim that the crater was the demon’s den and the lake’s murky water (whose density is actually 7times more than the sea water) results from its spilled blood. Studies suggest that the crater was formed 52,000 + 6,000 years ago, when a meteor crashed into the earth at an estimated speed of 90,000kmph, weighing 2million tonnes creating a hole that was 2km wide and 150m deep. The periphery of the lake is about 7km which is surrounded by a lush jungle. The forest itself is a treat for birdwatchers with a lot of migratory and local birds such as shelduck, black- winged stils, wood peckers, parakeets, robins, peacocks & peahens coming in the month of December. One doesn’t have to go to Khajuraho temples to witness the erotic sculptures on temple walls. The forest has plenty of such temples which were built back in the days of Chalukya’s Dynasty between the 6th and the 12th centuries. You can also sight hyenas, chinkaras, barking deers, langoors, mongoose, monitor lizards, snakes, weird but brilliantly colored insects if you’re a wildlife lover. There are a lot of precious stones on offer around the lake and the temples. At certain parts at the bank of the lake you can smell the H2S gas and at others your magnetic compass just wouldn’t work. With so much on offer it was on The Herbal Monks bucket list and we weren’t disappointed a bit. Lonar has a lot on offer to explore and yet remains the road less travelled.
How do you get to Lonar? The Herbal Monks started their journey from Mumbai to Lonar at midnight on a Friday night and we chose to drive down. It is safe to say that it is easily a 10hour drive from Mumbai including a meal and a few tea halts. From Andheri take the Western express high way. Then via JVLR catch the NH3 up to Nashik. Just before Nasik turn right from pillar number 18 under the bridge and catch the Nagpur – Aurangabad Highway. You can also go via Devlali. We would suggest to use Google maps after Aurangabad as the road is confusing and Google maps are very accurate. However, if you’re going by road the last 60 – 80km the surface of the road is not very good. We reached Lonar by 11am and were driving a Wagon R, the point being you don’t really need a SUV. By flight the closet airport is Aurangabad which is about 160km away from the lake. You can hire a cab from there to reach the lake. By rail the closet station is Jalna which is about 90km from the lake. You can hire a cab from the station or bus service to reach the lake.
Where to stay in Lonar? There is only one hotel in Lonar which is the MTDC. We personally were supposed to camp at the lake but when we saw the pug marks of hyenas at the lake we decided to put our camp someplace else. MTDC was quite generous in allowing us to camp on their ground for free. A lot of campers actually do the same. The accommodation looks pretty decent for a family holiday. But the food isn’t really great throughout Lonar unless you’re planning to eat at a local’s place. Although there is a restaurant named Gulmarg near the MTDC where you get edible stuff.
How many days are enough to explore Lonar? Lonar is a perfect place to be explored over the weekend. We would suggest you leave on a Friday evening or night and touch Lonar by 10-11ish in the morning. You can leave your car and belongings at the MTDC, have an early lunch and start exploring the crater by 12 which is barely a km away. Please take a guide for going around the area. It will take you 5-6 hours to explore the forest thoroughly. Just before dusk we suggest you leave the forest and had back to the MTDC. If you’re a wild life enthusiast post dinner you can venture out around the lake but do so in your car and not on foot. Next day early morning you can visit another very small crater nearby which was created by the piece of the same meteor and the few temples in the village. Post that you can have your breakfast and be on your way home after spending a truly informative weekend.
What is the Sorrowful part about Lonar? Even after being the home to the world largest and only hyper velocity impact crater in basalt rock it’s occasionally visited only by a few trekkers and explorers and a few religious people who visit the temples from nearby towns and villages. Although majority of them are educated but they don’t possess the basic civic sense to not to litter around or write the names of their loved ones on temple walls and thereby maintain the beauty of this nationally important destination.
Important Note: You can book your guide from the MTDC. Please ask for a guide named RAMESH RATHODE. He has very good knowledge of the region. He will charge roughly Rs.500/- for 3persons which is quite less considering his knowledge. You can take our word that if you decide to explore the place on your own you will neither understand nor enjoy the place. The best time to visit Lonar would be between December to February.
Hope you have safe, green and clean travels in the future. (Please do not litter)
The herbal monks