A trek down into the Lonar Meteorite Crater, created 55000 years ago on Basalt rock. The lake down the crater surrounded by ruins of a dozen of ancient temples amidst forest with rich species diversity. An excellent spot for trekking, birding and culture watch.
Sights and Activities
Lonar Meteorite Crater, the main crater which has two kilometer radius and Ambar Lake a small lake near the main crater, Trek down into the Crater Lake, Visit Temples inside and around the lake. Walk along the classic Village and much more to spend a couple of days. Even though Lonar is not located on a tourist belt, it is near to Ajanta caves and Ellora Caves, world heritage sites.
How to reach Lonar
Lonar is easily accessible from Mumbai via Aurangabad (convenient railway station 5 hours away) Jalna (The nearest railway station 3 hours away).
Mumbai to Aurangabad: Aurangabad city a prosperous city from ancient times named after Aurangzeb (Sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707), is located 370 Kms east of Mumbai. There are more than 20 trains running daily from Mumbai to Aurangabad via Manmad Junction (200 Kms east of Mumbai). The route from Mumbai to Manmad crosses the Western Ghats, amidst the barren hills, deep valleys covering several long tunnels and long bridges.
A trip after the monsoons will present you stunting views of tiny yellow and red flowers dancing to the winds extruding out of green rocky hills sliced by the beautiful waterfalls originating under the moist pinnacles surrounded with mist. This rail route usually gets blocked during monsoons due to landslides and on track rivulets.
If you have a relaxed schedule, get down at Igatpuri (Between Mumbai and Manmad), a hill station with lot of options for trekking and cycling. The places beyond Manmad are usually dry with barren sandy hills rising high from the decan plateau: a very different view of hills, resembling gigantic sand dunes of desert.
Aurangabad to Lonar :
Move to Central bus stand of Aurangabad, which is about 1 Km from the station (See Map) by walk or auto rickshaw . From here you can get onto buses to Lonar via Jalna, a journey which takes about 5 hours (113 Rs) along tiny beautiful villages’ in-between the never ending fields and plantations wrapped over the valleys of the barren hills. The road surface is smooth and doesn’t give any discomfort other than the one caused by a few local commuters who travel with a heavy luggage…sometimes even with goats and hens.
Alternatively you can detrain at Jalna, which is nearer to Lonar (The buses Aurangabad halts at Jalna), but most of the buses to Lonar starts from Aurangabad and so availability of seat may be limited.
Lodging and Fooding at Lonar.
There are several lodges at Lonar town near the Bus Station with tariff ranging from Rs 100 per night to 1000 per night.
If you love to stay very close to the crater, which is a kilometer away from town: the only option is to stay at the MDTC guest house. (When I made my visit at 9 AM and the manager had to bang the cook with blankets to wake him up)
The street food and fresh juice available in the market was good. There are plenty of Dhabas and tea stalls in the town.
There is an ATM, near the bus stand and there are a few Internet Cafes in town.
My Trek into the Lonar Meteorite Crater
I reached Lonar late by 6 PM and so I could not explore much during the first day. The only thing I did was getting a room to sleep after dinner. I just made a few round trips in the town around the hotel I stayed.
Walk to the lake from Town
I started early morning the next day to trek into the Crater Lake. I headed west along the sub road opposite to the bus station from the main junction near to the station. It was a narrow road with either sides tightly packed by small houses and shops side by side; sliced by several narrow streets. Most of the constructions were old and made using wood and mud. A few of them were multistoried buildings with wooden ceilings separating the floors.
After walking a kilometer, I reached the entrance gate to a group of temples called Dhara beside a few temporary shops at a junction. Dhara, said to be a source of pure holy water is a small stream, from where water gets collected into a four meter wide shallow artificial pool constructed at the center of five meter high fort like rectangular structure with steps all sides, at the brim of the crater. Water from Dhara is said to have medicinal value and is fetched by the villagers in plastic pots and used for drinking and cooking. Many of the visitors were very happy to get a chance to bath in the holy water from the stream.
The water from the pool flows into the Crater Lake along a narrow stream with a cascade of waterfalls. I could see a bird’s eye view of the mammoth crater of more than 4 kilometers in diameter and the large expanse of water deep down the lake: green in color due to the presence of algae.
My doubt whether I could trek down the lake was solved at this point when I saw a few people walking down into the crater. The beauty of the temple and the activities around forced me to sit near the temple for a while, but as I had plans to go down to the lake on that day, I did not wait for a long duration. (I made a wholesome trip at the temples of Lonar the next day)
The view of the vast expanse of lake water was more surprising than beautiful. I could not believe that I was standing at the mouth of the only crater on Basalt rock on the earth. There were concrete steps build down a narrow track leading down to the lake. The edges of the crater were very much dry, exposing the soil spotted with fractured rock. There were only a few shrubs growing along the edges and no trees at all.
I as descended down the steps slowly; I felt that I was in a different world, with high hills all around me …as if I was walking into the earth. A 100 meter wide silt deposit down the inner brim is being used for agriculture. It took more than half an hour to reach down. There is a narrow walk track around the lakes along the inner brim connecting the temples used by the visitors walking to the temples.
Walk around inside the Crater : around the Lake.
I headed south along the track. The track is a few meters away from the lake and is just a meter above the lake water level. I could see the vast lake to my right and a rocky steep edge to my left. It smelled rotten egg all around the inner rim primarily due to the presence of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) released by the lake water and the bird droppings. The lake was green due to thepresence of Blue Green Algae.
Other than the small triangular area of agriculture, the inside rim was occupied by shrub trees and very few tall large trees. The forest department have planted exotic species like pine and eucalyptus trees to enhance the beauty and destroy the forest. At times you find lapwings and hornbills flying across the trees, but monkeys and peacocks are regular sights. This trek is interesting for bird watchers and I could spot more than 50 species of birds during my sudden trip.
Not many people moving along this track other than a few tribal gracing livestock and a few pilgrims walking to the temples inside the crater. There were around 15 temples inside the crater and many pilgrims visit most of these temples regularly and few others were submerged partially by water and have almost fallen off like Mambarkhana temple, which can be seen perfectly from the Dhar. There were several tracks leading to the lake water which was just a few meters away.
I walked slowly along the brim of the crater. The first temple I saw at the brim was Baghicha temple. An old stone built temple, there was no body inside the temple other than a few monkeys. A few large trees near the temple were nested by large honey combs. Most of the temple stones were canvas to naughty kids who made it ugly with portraits and cartoons. The courtyard and the short steps to these temples are ideal locations for those who are looking for a hideout from the busy city life.
Almost one third of the rim was Mahadeo temple from where you could see a perfect view of the crater rim. The water is in the lake currents to this direction and so the trash carried by the moving water gets deposited here and the concentration. A part of the temple walls have fallen down and have been drifted into the lake.
At times you will be stopped by the squirrel that will be running in front of you chasing nothing or a peacock who will be dancing on the track.
The only temple was visited by many was Kamlaja temple and it tooks almost another hour to reach there. Pooja is being done here and there is a poojari staying inside the temple. There was a huge bell which was rung by every visitor and a wishing well. It was perfectly opposite to the Dhar.
I sat inside the temple for some time before returning back by evening. The trek track continues but not being used frequently and so, it was much narrow and overgrown with bushes. But will do a complete round trip the next time. But I could see the Mambarkhana temple very near to me, partially submerged in water.
There are several tracks leading to the top and most of them are not bad to trek. The one mostly used are the one near the Dhar and the one directly opposite on the other side of the lake. The track opposite to the MDTC hotel is another way to try.
A little about Lonar
Lonar is town in the Buldana District of Maharastra and is famous for several stone temples and the meteorite crater. The crater is believed to have formed about 55000 years ago due to the impact from north direction velocity of 19.6 Kmph of a meteorite 60 meters in diameter weighing a million tons. This resulted in release of tremendous amount of heat, which melted the rock forming the crater. There are hot water springs inside the lake.
It is believed that the meteorite is buried some 600 meters below he ground. Several special kinds of stones with magnetic properties and soft porous rocks have been found here. Many local people could collect transparent crystals which could form only at very high temperatures.
NASA and several other research agencies are working a lot on Lonar Crater from 1823 after is discovery by a military officer C.G Alexander.
Amber 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.