One fine Friday evening, the geeky bespectacled corporate couple decided – “Kuch toofani karting hai” and set off on an ambitious day trip. This was the day we explored Belum Caves – one of the longest caves in the subcontinent that is open to the public and trekked at Gandikota -the grand canyon of India.
We decided to start at 4am in the morning to avoid the infamous Bangalore traffic and drive to Belum Caves, then to Gandikota and return on the same day. This meant driving 650 km in a day, plus cave exploration and trekking. Is it doable? Chayan, the one who doesn’t let anyone drive said it is if we leave at 4am. But this is where it gets crazy! We woke up and found it was 7 am. Meanwhile, our maid arrived too so there was no way that we could start before 8 in the morning, yet, as you may have guessed, we decided to go, and return on the same day.
Did you know? Belum Caves is a natural cave and estimated to be millions of years old! It was known to local villagers for ages, as suggested by numerous man-made structures inside but was first explored by H.D GeBeauyer, a German caver and his team in 1982- 1984. (Source: Belum Caves authority).
Our next stop was Gandikota, just 60km away. We were sweating profusely when we came out of the caves. Andhra Pradesh’s heat was unbearable because our weather-immunity-system has been crashed by the all-year-spring of Bangalore. There was just one snacks shop from where we got what seemed an elixir at the moment, cold drinks! On our way to Gandikota, there came a part where the road was being reconstructed. The pebbles had been strewn all over, but the road-roller was no where around. So basically all the cars had to drive over the pebbles consequently doing half the job of road construction. Ah, things our car has to go through for our wanderlust!
From a faraway distance, it seemed as if the entire road was blocked by a giant gate, something we see only in period drama, and we knew what we were looking at – the Gandikota Fort.
Gandikota is a village named after the Gandikota fort, a 14th century fort that was established during the powerful Pemmasani Dyanasty. The fort in turn, got it’s name from the peculiar landscape formed by the Pennar river cutting through the Erramala Hills forming a giant gorge.
The word Gandikota literally translates into the “Gorge Fort” (“Gandi” in Telugu means gorge and “Kota” means fort). So, it’s not just a fort but a fortified village that you see when you enter the gates – the ruins of a wealthy empire. Once you have reached this far, make sure you don’t miss out on any of the things below-
|Exhausted but excited!|
– The pigeon house also called the Charminar – no, not the famous one you have heard about, that’s in Hyderabad
– The prison which is not infested by bats and offers a beautiful panoramic view from the window
Do Forts and history intrigue your? If yes, then do not forget to check out our list of Best Forts in the world chosen by 19 travel experts.
Once you are done with history and architecture, head to the natural wonder you came all the way to see – India’s own Grand canyon. Depending on what time you reach, this is an excellent spot to see the sunset or sunrise. We couldn’t see either because of the timing, but what we could see was the river in its full glory thanks to the monsoon season. Most of the pictures you may see on the internet would have green marsh land at the gorge, that’s because the river dries up most of the year. In the monsoon however, the river is at its brimful best and the view is stunning. The place is so large and so profound that you wouldn’t even mind the crowd here. There is no need of disclaimer or reality check, this place is truly a natural wonder that you ought to feast your eyes upon.
If you are not too keen on returning home the same day itself, camping is a great option. Imagine camping at this location, looking at the clear star-studded sky at night and waking up to the golden sunrise. The is an organized camping facility, where they would provide you with tents at Gandikota, but you can bring your own tent and plant it there for a night. If you have the time in hand you can also take part in the various adventure sports organized at the river side – kayaking in the river, rock climbing, ziplining, etc.
We spent about 2 hours at Gandikota exploring the ruins and the canyon. The place looked so spectacular and we really wanted to spend more time and do some of those adventure activities, but we knew that the night ahead was “dark and full of terrors” as we would have to drive through the highway without streetlights. We started at 5 pm from Gandikota and followed the route shown in red as shown below. There was a long stretch of two-way highway without any streetlights. The cars on high-beam coming from the opposite side can be blinding and you need to follow the light signaling rules to the T, but you can only hope that others follow the same. We remember stalking one particular car ahead of us which was negotiating the route pretty well, until the point where our big brother (as we named the stranger) went straight on his way while Google sir told us to turn left into the dark woods. For 10 km there was not a single car to be seen en-route and we didn’t have the guts to stop the car and recheck our navigation, all we could see was that this narrow desolate road would continue till 20 km more. This is when we found another car coming from the opposite direction and the driver waved at us apparently asking us to stop. We were a little terrified at first but banked upon our faith in humanity and took a reverse. Turns out the poor fellow was asking us if we knew where this road led to, and we said the little we knew on the ongoing trip. He assured us that we are on the right track and this road connects to Bangalore. All’s well – situations like this re-affirm our perception of safety in the southern part of India time and again.
Now comes the logistics part, and this is one department that this place is not very strong at. The only place to stay is the Haritha Resorts , a residence owned and operated by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department, located at a 3-minute walking distance from the Gandikota Fort. The resort is designed to look like a fort and has AC rooms and dormitory to accommodate all type of travelers. Due to high demand on weekends and holidays, the booking needs to be done at least 3 weeks in advance at any time of the year. If you are on a vacation, choose weekdays for a stay in this resort. They serve simple but good quality vegetarian food and has very neatly kept rooms with all modern amenities. The tariff of AC rooms is less than Rs. 2000 so keep your expectations realistic. The highlight of the stay would be spending the evening on the rooftop. Food is another department where Gandikota and Belum caves is likely to disappoint you. There is hardly any place to have a wholesome lunch except in the Haritha Resort itself. There is a Haritha hotel at Belum Caves which served refreshments, but not an option for a proper meal. So if you decide to camp here you have to bring some food along or just live on snacks throughout the day. That’s not such a bad idea for one day.
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First of all, these caves are absolutely incredible. I have this fascination with caves. They're just so beautiful and the structure of them continue to blow my mind. Second, your trusty Google maps comment had me laughing. I always wonder if I could have traveled this much fifteen years ago because I rely so much upon it. Thanks for sharing all of this knowledge!
Sounds like a really great trip with lots of interesting sights to see along the way. The caves look very cool and I love the Indian Grand Canyon – looks like it has a bit more water in it than the "other" one. I think you were both very brave on the return journey, there's no way I would have stopped.
Though I hail from Andhra Pradesh, I am yet to visit Gandikota. Your captures and narration make me want to pack my bags and visit the place 😀
I really like the names you made up for the spots in the Belum Caves – very accurate! The Upside Down looks other worldly! I can’t imagine how terrifying it was to drive through such dark roads. I’m happy to hear that this area was safe – I also think people are generally good.
Had not heard of Belum caves but looks like an amazing natural phenomenon to visit. And the Gandikota Fort also appealing, looks not too crowded at all. Most impressive is the "Grand Canyon of India", with the old fort walling along that edge!
I haven't head heard of Belum caves but it sure seems like an amazing adventure. The Gandikota Fort is nothing short of spectacular too. I have heard about it being referred to as the "Grand Canyon of India" but never got there. I definitely will on my next India trip.
absolutely beautiful, not my kind of fun but I loved that blue lagoon n bathtub – found those pretty interesting.
Lovely places to visit and very nice photographs, naming and commentary. I feel that I should find a chance to visit these lovely locations.
Nice post. Great description. Nice photography.
Very detailed and elaborate post on Gandikota although let me be truthful, i’ve never even heard about it before your post. Amazing pics
Never heard of this before. Though your picturesque description was just fantastic.
The caves look adventurous, seems you had a great trip. I stayed in Bangalore for three years but sadly never heard about these places.
I am not really fond of caves since I am scared to trapped in it in case there's a sudden earthquake but this one is really nice. The blue lagoon is breathtaking that it is definitely worth the risk.
Anyway, I love your detailed post. It is very helpful.
Well written and nice post! Loved your detailed description – will try and make it sometime…
Came across this post at the right time because we will be spending a few days in Bangalore in November so we can plan this trip. Though with a toddler, the 2 say trip looks more workable for us
Saint Google we should call it, where would we go without it! Ahah. This is a great trip and surely something I’ll remember on my next trip to India (hopefully in the near future) as I would like to visit that area. The canyon looks incredible, love all this natural beauty!
Surely. Glad to be of help. You can do just the grand canyon and come back if you want. leave early morning as i suggested and pack enough food for your little one as food is a problem there
Thanks. Hope you visit India soon
Thanks. That's why I became a blogger, to help people explore the unknown underrated places. hope you get to visit this soon
Thanks Daniel! Do check this out next time 🙂
Thanks a lot! hope you do
you should definitely visit these wonders of your state.
Yes, people are generally good. That's what extensive travel teaches us
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your views :).
Thanks Paul. People here are generally good.. that's what extensive travel in south India has taught us.