What is it?
Lonar crater is a large basaltic rock crater formed naturally from a meteorite impact. It contains the world’s 3rd largest saltwater lake and can be visited from the nearby city of Aurangabad.
In this guide I will cover the following:
- How to get to Lonar
- Tips on visiting the crater and its lake
- Where to stay in Lonar
- Where to eat in Lonar
- What else to do in Lonar town
How to get to Lonar
The main connecting city within easy reach of Lonar is Aurangabad. It has an airport as well as frequent bus and train services to other states and major cities.
Buses to Lonar depart from Aurangabad’s CIDCO bus station every half hour, starting from 5am. Ask at the information desk which bus to catch as all the displays are in Hindi. A one-way ticket cost ₹160 (£1.7/US$2.2).
My journey looked something like this:
Left Aurangabad at 7:30am ➢ bus stopped at 10:15am for a food/toilet break (20mins) ➢ arrived in Lonar town at 11:55am
(Total journey time of 4.5hrs, total driving time of 4 hours)
Are you returning to Aurangabad? Buses leave the Lonar bus station every hour, but don’t expect them to be on time…or to get a seat for that matter. As soon as the bus pulls into sight everyone will be up and ready, anticipating precisely where it will stop and jostling for their positions; boarding one of these buses is like catching a rush hour train on the London Underground!
Visiting the crater & lake
The circular crater and its 1.8km wide lake are undoubtedly the main attractions of Lonar. There are a number of viewpoints situated along the crater rim as well as some paths leading down to the shore of the lake. At 4km in distance, a circumnavigation of the lake makes for an easy and picturesque walk.
The best viewpoints
➲ Lonar Tower – the tower itself is a little rickety (very thin ladder rungs) but the location is perfect for sweeping views of the entire crater and its lake. You can access it by either walking along the top of the rim (its southeastern side) or hiking up from the lake shore (see next section – ‘Walking Routes’).
➲ East rim – towards the centre of the east rim are plenty of rocky outcrops and breaks in the trees. Search for ‘Lonar Trek Start Point’ on a map and then explore the surrounding area. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset!
Walking routes to/from the lake
For a visualisation of these routes (or to use them), search for the names in Google Maps or Maps.me. They’re ordered by difficulty.
➲ Gomukh Temple – EASY – the path between Gomukh Temple and the lake shore consists of steps for the majority of the vertical distance. The remainder of the route is just a gentle stroll through the forest. If starting at the crater rim, you need to walk through the temple complex to access the beginning of the path.
➲ Ramgaya Temple – MEDIUM – There are number of different paths connecting the crater rim to Ramgaya Temple. One of them (probably the easiest to find) starts/ends at ‘Lonar Trek Start Point’ – it has rocky steps and the path is well defined. Navigating between Ramgaya Temple and the physical lake shore is little more tricky though – there are different paths running through the forest so you’ll need to use your sense of direction or GPS device (such as a smartphone).
➲ Lonar Tower – HARD – as mentioned, views from the Lonar Tower are well worth the walk. Navigation wise, this route is pretty easy – just follow the path that runs between the tower and Shree Kamalja Devi Temple. However, I would advise not to go down this way as parts of the route are steep and slippery.
Watch where you walk!
Be careful near the edge of the lake – what looks like crusty, hard ground may turn out to be softer than you anticipated. Step too close to the water and you’ll sink into the salty mud!
Whilst exploring the crater and it’s lake, there are plenty of birds to watch and listen to – some of them rather unusual and potentially rare.
If you don’t fancy going it alone, you can hire a guide for ₹600 per person (£6.5/US$8.4). They’ll take you for a 3-4 hour walk around the lake in early morning and give you plenty of information about this incredible place. If you’re interested in hiring a guide, enquire at the MTDC Resort (see ‘Where To Stay’ section below) for up-to-date prices and bookings.
Or, if you do want to explore at your own pace, an information booklet may be of use to you. You can purchase them from MTDC Resort (see below) for ₹70 (£0.8/US$1).
Where to stay in Lonar
With less than a handful of hotels in Lonar, you don’t really have much choice for accommodation.
My personal choice was MTDC Resort. It has a range of rooms to suit all budgets and a top floor restaurant (see food section below) overlooking the crater.
However, I have to admit that the room I stayed in really wasn’t great. At ₹1000 (£11/US$14) per night though, it was one of the cheapest available and I was travelling on a tight budget. Plus, the location of the hotel more than made up for it.
Where to eat in Lonar
Atharva Veg Restaurant
This place is in the perfect location – across the road from the crater and right next to the MTDC resort. They serve fresh papads (poppadoms/papadums) and plenty of cheap vegetarian dishes. The quality is also good – I tried a masala papad, dal makhani & palak aloo; all were very tasty.
Located on the top floor of the MTDC Resort, this restaurant serves decent sized portions of all the classic Indian dishes as well as some local specialities such as shev bhaji. The quality is good and the prices also low – I had a kaju (cashew nut) curry and vegetable pulav (veg rice) for ₹240 (£2.6/US$3.3)!
Shri Dagdamba Sweets
Located next to the Lonar bus station, this sweetie shop is the perfect place to stock up on snacks before your onward journey. They also cook delicous fresh kachoris and samosas.
Gulmohar Veg Restaurant
It seems like Gulmohar sees so few customers that there isn’t even a menu! Instead, the manager will tell you what ingredients are available and you can decide what kind of dish you’d like – made fresh to order. The food wasn’t quite on par with MTDC or Atharva but if you were here for a few days then it would give you somewhere new to try.
Note: the location isn’t quite right on Google Maps – it’s actually about 200m further north on the same road.
What else to do in Lonar town
The Limbi Barav is a well preserved example of a stepwell (water storage tanks which are most commonly found in India). The Daityasudan Temple – located in the centre of town – has interesting ceiling carvings in its penultimate chamber.
If you found this guide useful, please do let me know and share it with your friends. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to visit Lonar one day (if you’re not already there and using my guide to have the best time)! Happy travels!