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Your weekend getaway to Lonavala just got a makeover

The tiny hill station has spruced its game to offer tourists and weekend getawayers more things to do.
things to do in Lonavala by Lonavala Local

You know Lonavala for its chikki and fudge. When you drive into the market street, you’ll be welcomed with a string of cars waiting for the traffic to move, and many parked aside as people stock up for alcohol bottles and snacks before heading to the villa they have booked. For decades, the hill station that sits barely any kilometres away from Mumbai and Pune, has had very few things to do. You will always catch people asking for all the things to do in Lonavala, and ultimately resort to enjoying the stereotypical hill station points, opt for easy to medium treks, and gorge on misal pav.

But post COVID-19, Lonavala’s offerings have seen a change. With Lonavala Local, a WhatsApp group turned community of locals, leading the transformation of the hills, there are now several things to do in Lonavala. So many, that you could actually get a custom itinerary for a short stay in Lonavala designed by Lonavala Local. Manasvi Bhatia and Viraj Kapadia, co-founders of Lonavala Local have been taking tourists around to explore the hill station like never before. And, it’s their brains and persistence that the locals have come together to offer a range of experiences.

Here are all the things to do in Lonavala to truly experience the hills.

Eat at Kunverbai’s Kitchen in the Shahs’ home

Kunverbai's Kitchen at the Shahs' mansion in Lonavala

Kunverbai’s Kitchen with their Gujarati thali

You can visit a historic mansion, which has been in the possession of Ashok Shah and his family for over 150 years. The family is not only known for its extensive collection of vintage cars and antique artifacts. You can also marvel at a Picasso painting, decades of old radios, and vinyl records, all carefully collected and curated by the family over the years. Shah along with his daughter Chandni have also set-up a home-based kitchen, catering to those who crave authentic Gujarati meals. You can visit the space, sit-down and dine, and get a tour of the mansion and the car collection by the Shahs.

Shop at National Association for the Blind

seniors at NAB Lonavala weaving bags

Seniors at NAB Lonavala weave bags that you can shop for

The National Association for the Blind (NAB) comes in Khandala and you can head here to shop for items made by senior citizens that are visually challenged. The seniors are housed at  this institute for better care and receive food, shelter along with medical facilities. To be empowered, they have used their skills of weaving, knitting, stitching etc to create a range of products that you can shop for. They make hand woven bags out of nylon wires, home linens such as bedsheets, dusters and more that are sold at extremely affordable prices.

Visit Sattva cafe at Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute & Research Center

Kaivalyadam in Lonavala, things to do

Sattva cafe and Utpatti at the yoga institute

Kaivalyadhama is a wellness institute that’s over 100-years-old and focuses on yoga and other aspects of living a good healthy life. At their boutique wellness store you can shop for different made-in-India brands across categories for one to purchase. Inside the institute, Sattva Cafe is a cosy juice bar serving cold pressed juices in the hills along with healthy sandwiches and homemade thepla that you could only otherwise find in a Gujarati home.

The institute also has a wellness store, Utpatti that offers ayurvedic, organic and natural products. You can shop for a range of high-quality yoga merchandise, accessories, and wellness related equipment for meditation, practice, and learning. They also have a varied collection of 150 well-researched books and publications on different wellness topics.

Go on a culinary trail with Lonavala Local

Lonavala Local, along with designing custom itineraries of Lonavala, will also take you on a culinary trail should you sign up for it. Through this, you can discover the known and unknown places of the hills in the heart of the hill-station. You will be introduced to a 50 year-old-spice and pickle brand run by three generations, a famous 100-year-old chikki shop that has recently revamped themselves, street side stalls offering sumptuous food from dosa, idli, dabeli to sandwiches, Chinese, and more. You can also experience a lovely street side stall serving delicious poha that remains soft throughout the day, alongside other Maharashtrian delicacies such as vada pav, misal pav, and more. The owners are a local resident couple who take orders for veg and non-veg regional cooked meals.

Among a host of new cafes and restaurants that have mushroomed in Lonavala, there are two new restaurants that you must explore. Add them to your list of things to do in Lonvala, as Vann Harvest is a unique farm-to-table experience that includes plucking ingredients from the farm only to eat them at an expansive boutique farmhouse. Another cafe, which has been gaining popularity, Anglo-Indian Cafe offers a cuisine that suits its name. The menu has dishes that a re primarily European but are fused with Indian flavours. You’ll find dependable bites like fried chicken, plant-based burgers, pasta, and more.

The new kid on the block is Glass House Cafe, which serves European Mediterranean cuisine in a glasshouse ambience. The cafe has ample greenery around and is a beautiful space to sit and dine, especially during the monsoons.

Eat comfort food from a home chef

Homechef Anita with her Punjabi meal in Lonavala

Home chef Anita with her plate of Punjabi food

While Malvani and Maharashtrian cuisine is common to find as it’s more regional to the hills, a number of home chefs has mushroomed in Lonavala to offer their regional food. From Bohri meals to Mughlai dishes, Sindhi food, and even Bengali cuisine, there are several home chefs that can cater food to your villa. There are also many bakers catering wedding cakes, delicious cookies and brownies, while others are known for celebratory cakes, tea cakes and more.

Get adventurous

adventure activities, things to do in Lonavala

While a popular thing to do in Lonavala is to go on a trek, there are ample other adventure sports you can indulge in. You can opt to learn horse riding or head out for jet surfing and jet skiing, or kayaking and boating. If you prefer being air borne, go for parasailing, paragliding. For more mountaineering activities, rock climbing, slacklining. And, if you love to go off-roading, then you can do that in Lonavala too.

Peak into history and art

Creations by artists in Lonavala

Artist and jewelry designer, Nandita Desai is a talented entrepreneur upcycling industrial waste turning it into artistic pieces.

Why did chikki start getting made in Lonavala? Or what do the heritage bungalows look like? Get to know the history of this tiny hill station through a heritage tour with Lonavala Local. You can visit a Anand Naik’s abode in the heart of the hills who is not only an architect documenting the history and evolving landscape of Lonavala. His residence Anand Niwas also boasts of a huge collection of antique cameras, currencies, stamps, coins, vessels, gramophones etc.

Apart from that Bhatia can also take you around the town, and tell you about Lonavala’s stories. The hill station is also home to several artists who give you a tour of their homes where you can see their creations, sit down to discuss art with them, and learn some techniques too.

For those interested in art, ask Bhatia for an art tour. You can visit an artist’s studio to learn more about their work or buy their pieces. There are several artists in Lonavala, like artist and jewellery designer Nandita Desai who upcycles industrial waste to create art pieces. Visual communication designer, Sneha Rane is yet another artists worth knowing. Rane is an alcohol ink artist and has aa unique style of making flowy abstract compositions that capture the beauty of the inks in a magnificent way.

Local souvenir store

As Lonavala Local is primarily a community, they are also setting up a souvenir store supporting homegrown brands and entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their wares. From candle makers to home decor brand to artists to weavers, postcards made in collaboration with local photographers and more. The Initiative will be called Vocal For Local Lonavala, through which you will be able to shop for their items online and offline.