The winter chill has already begun to sweep in gradually across Maharashtra, although it is too early now because it’s still the last week of December and there is so much of winter to come around. To some extent, I believe people are already focusing on where they will spend their Christmas holidays and how they will spend their money celebrating in their own small and big ways. No matter what time of the year it is, I have seen people packing their bags and heading to either Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar that manage to attract more visitors from Mumbai and Pune and other parts of the state.
It is interesting to see why most people visit these two hotspots throughout the year when there are so many other holiday destinations in Maharashtra that deserve equal attention. I have researched, read and wrote blogs on Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar, but so far I have not seen anybody putting up these two hotspots against each other, so I decided to do it myself.
Time to Reach
I really don’t know how important this factor is to you, but it certainly does affect my decisions. The time to reach your hotel and resort is important to me because I want to make the most of the time the moment I step out of my house. To some extent, I believe that majority of the people residing in Mumbai prefer Lonavala while Pune residents prefer Mahabaleshwar because of the distance factor. It takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes to travel from Mumbai to Lonavala while it takes around 5 hours to reach Mahabaleshwar so the amount of time actually doubles while heading to Mahabaleshwar.
On the other hand, Pune residents have the advantage of visiting both the hotspots in less time as they can reach Lonavala in just one hour or less than that depending on traffic conditions and Mahabaleshwar in 2 hours 30 minutes. I would say Lonavala has the edge over Mahabaleshwar attracting more visitors that don’t have their private vehicle and make use of public transport. Visitors can pick any train heading towards Pune and they also have multiple bus options and taxi options. On the other hand, Mahabaleshwar has no train options the only major railway station closest to this hill station is Pune so you got to get down here and then take a state transport bus or private luxury bus that takes another 3 hours of journey time.
Both Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar have been attracting visitors from around the state and India and also from around the world and therefore both the hotspots are well equipped with better hotels, resorts, lodges and other means of accommodation. There are plenty of accommodations options here so it very unlikely that you might run out of options. However, I still believe that the price factor is slightly lower in Mahabaleshwar than in Lonavala.
Generally, the accommodation price starts at around Rs. 2000 per day and above depending on your budget and the kind of hotel you pick. If you are looking for something below Rs. 1500 per day you will find more options in Mahabaleshwar than in Lonavala so I believe Mahabaleshwar is a better option for budget travellers but they end up spending more on travel while Lonavala hotels are slightly expensive than Mahabaleshwar ones but travel expenses to Lonavala can help you save money.
Places of Interest
When it comes to places of interest I think both Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar offer lot of options to the travellers and visitors because there are many places around that you can check out. I mean if you in Lonavala you can visit some locations Rajmachi Point which is actually in Khandala but you can still visit it and return to Lonavala. There’s Tiger Point, Pawna Lake, Karla Caves and Bhaja Caves which are located in Malavli and also Lohagadh Fort and Korigadh Fort.
Some of the popular destinations of Lonavala like the waterfalls and Bushi Dam are not really crowd-puller during the winter season because of poor water flow. On the other hand, Mahabaleshwar is loaded with attractions like Venna Lake, Lodwick Point, Needle Point a.k.a. Elephant’s Head Point, Arthur’s Seat, Babington Point and even Mapro Garden but the waterfalls here too might not be that appealing as it does in the monsoon season. So, in terms of place of interest both Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar score high offering variety to the visitors.
Many people that visit Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar often enjoy shopping in the small hilly lanes that go up and down in serpentine fashion across the hills and offer an exhilarating experience that most luxury malls fail to offer. For decades, Lonavala has remained the most popular destination for chikkis which is ready to eat sweet made from groundnuts and jaggery.
I am sure every kid in Maharashtra and probably around India knows that Lonavala offers the best chikki that you can find in the country. Maganlal Chikki, National Chikki and A1 Chikki these three brands manage to sell more chikkis and confectionaries than other 30 to 40 local brands here mainly because of their heritage and years of reputation. Lonavala is not just about chikkis, but also about fudges, barfis, pickles, syrups and squashes and much more. It sounds quite strange but some of the items that are sold in Lonavala come from Mahabaleshwar especially syrups and squashes and jelly confectionaries.
However, Mahabaleshwar is the Strawberry Capital of India and if you love strawberries there is no other place to go. You can head to Mapro Garden and find yourself indulging in all the confectionaries and sweet products that you can buy. You can also shop lot of other items while you are strolling through Mahabaleshwar market and I would also recommend that you head to Bhose which is around 18 kilometers out of the city towards Panchgani where you will find many factory outlet stores if you are interested in buying syrups, squashes and jams at throwaway price from Manama, Mapro and PureBerry brand.