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Bangalore to Gandikota and Belum Caves – A mad day trip!

One fine Friday evening, the geeky bespectacled corporate couple decided – “Kuch toofani karte hai” and set off on an ambitious day trip. This was the day we drove over 650 km in total, from Bangalore to Gandikota and Belum caves, and back – all in one day! After reading many blogs, we decided to start at 4 am on Saturday morning to avoid the infamous Bangalore traffic. 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.

 
Day trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves from Bangalore
That’s Chayan and me, before we entered Belum caves, after this, we didn’t remain “selfie-genic”!

The Drive from Bangalore to Belum Caves

We took the Bangalore–Hyderabad national highway which is a phenomenal road to drive in India. As usual, we stopped at a Kamat restaurant to have our weekend-wanderlust-special South Indian breakfast.
The scenic beauty around was different from what we see on our usual trips to the Western Ghats (of course because it is NOT on the western ghats for a change). The mountains looked different, the forests were less green, and this was the kind of dry rugged beauty that you can see in the plateaus of India.
The mountains we see on this route are mostly granite mountains, which is also one of the main sources of income of the villages near the area. As we approached towards our first destination we saw blocks of granite stacked on top of each other in the shape of small huts on both sides of the road. Not all of these go into production, in fact, a lot of rejected blocks are also scattered on the roadside, but somehow they don’t look like clutter. They seemed to blend beautifully with the natural landscape.
The only problematic piece was the last bit which was a two-way highway. It’s not a problem during the day but we wondered what it would be at night when we returned, as there were no street-lamps to be seen.

Our first stop – Belum Caves

Google once again proved to be our loyal navigator and we reached our first destination by noon. A splendid attraction by itself, the pristine white statue of Gautam Buddha outside is hard to miss and is a landmark to our first destination – Belum Caves.
Daytrip to Gandikota and Belum from Bangalore

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).

It’s a great place to tickle your curiosity bone – imagine that this place has witnessed the human evolution! It is surprising at how well-maintained the caves are with the interiors well-lit and well-ventilated for the safety of tourists. You have to enter the caves yourself to experience the thrill of cave exploration but I tried to capture our first cave exploration in the photo –story below. Each of these spots has some Sanskrit name which I don’t remember, so I named them on my own.
The great bath-tub
Daytrip to Gandikota and Belum from Bangalore
The Squeeze-past challenge
Inside the Belum Caves | Daytrip to Gandikota and Belum Caves
 
The Blue Lagoon
Inside the Belum Caves | Daytrip to Gandikota and Belum Caves
The Watch-ya-head🙆
Day Trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves
 
Last bummer – The Upside-Down 👇👀 
trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves
 
Okay, before I raise your expectations sky-high, remember this is India. Even the lesser known places have too many people (including us) who know about it and throng into it on weekends. 😜 So while the strategically taken photographs may give you the impression of this absolutely thrilling, almost terrifying experience, the reality is that the place was crowded. I am not sulking but just keeping it honest. If you want the real Indiana Jones type experience, plan your visit on the weekdays when there are fewer people (I guess).
Entry fee to Belum Caves – Rs.65 per head

Next Stop – Gandikota

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 nowhere around. So basically all the cars had to drive over the pebbles consequently doing half the job of road construction. Ah, things our little Ford Figo goes 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. We knew what we were looking at – the Gandikota Fort, one of the best forts in India!

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 basically a fortified village that you see when you enter the gates – the ruins of a wealthy empire. 

Things to do at Gandikota

  • Explore the Gandikota fort and immerse yourself in the centuries-old history. Try not to notice the inscriptions made by people all over the walls. I know its horrible right?
trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves
Exhausted but excited!
  • The pigeon house also called the Charminar – no, not the famous one you have heard about, that’s in Hyderabad
trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves - Charminar at Gandikota
  • The prison which is not infested by bats and offers a beautiful panoramic view from the window
trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves - Prison at Gandikota
 
  • Two temples dedicated to Madhava and Ranganatha –  examples of the beautiful Hoysala architecture that has stood the test of time.
trip to Gandikota and Belum Caves ; Temple at Gandikota
 
  • The  Jama Masjid  – mosque at Gandikota
JamaMasjid in Gandikota |Day trip to Gandikota from Bangalore

Read 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 had to leave before sunset, 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 marshland at the gorge 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 for disclaimer or reality check, this place is truly a natural wonder that you ought to feast your eyes upon.

Bangalore to Gandikota and Belum Caves |The Pennar River
  • 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 you can also take part in the various adventure sports organized at the riverside – kayaking in the river, rock climbing, zip lining, etc.

Entry fee to Gandikota – ZERO!

Our drive back from Gandikota to Bangalore – Route round-up

We spent about 2 hours at Gandikota exploring the ruins and the canyon. We were smitten by its beauty and wanted to spend more time, but we knew that the night ahead was “dark and full of terrors”. So 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 do 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.

Our little horror story

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.

Check out the route below for Bangalore to Belum Caves and Gandikota, and back, below-

Map from Bangalore to Belum Caves to Gandikota and back
As you can see the red-route (return route) meets the blue route at Lepakshi, from where it’s a well-illuminated and partitioned national highway all the way to Bangalore. This is indeed the most popular route taken even if you want to do the trip on reverse – Bangalore –to-Gandikota-Belum and back. So here we are, we reached home exhausted but satisfied, and most importantly safe.

Our Verdict

I don’t want to scare you with my stories here, but just want to assure you that it is safe. You will find several accounts of this day-trip on the internet which will confirm this. With our full-time jobs, time becomes a constraint and we want to have at least one good night’s sleep at home on weekends when we can wake up late, do laundry and have some domestic time. However, the place turned out way more spectacular than we had imagined, and I totally recommend spending 1 night at Gandikota.
 
Looking for similar or shorter Day Trips from Bangalore? I have it covered for you on my favorite day trip list here.

Two-day itinerary for Gandikota and Belum Caves

Here is the plan I recommend for a 2-day weekend trip from Bangalore:
 
Saturday – Reach Belum caves first. Open timings 10 am – 5 pm.
Then reach Gandikota, do all the adventure activities and watch the sunset.
Sunday- Wake up early to greet the breaking dawn and then head to Lepakshi after breakfast. Explore the architectural wonder of the thousand-year-old Lepakshi temple, have a nice lunch there and head home.
You will easily reach home by 5 pm so that you can relax before the Monday-Morning kicks off! You can take this trip from Hyderabad or Chennai too on a weekend. If you are from Hyderabad you can include Kurnool fort also on your itinerary.

Places to stay and eat in Gandikota and Belum Caves

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 are 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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A day trip to Gandikota, the grand canyon of India and Belum Caves, a natural wonder from Bangalore.Yes, it is doable but I recommend a two day trip to experience this marvel! #IncredibleIndia #SouthIndia #AndhraPradesh
 

Distance from Major cities in South India

Hyderabad  to Gandikota distance: 388km
Chennai to Gandikota distance: 381km
Bangalore to Gandikota distance: 280km
How did you like this trip? Mail me if you have any questions.
 
Check out some of our favorite weekend trips from Bangalore –
Bekal, Kasargod (2-day trip)
Munnar (3-day trip)
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48 Comments

  1. Rachel Gabrielle September 20, 2018

    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!

    Reply
  2. Paul Healy September 21, 2018

    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.

    Reply
  3. Meenakshi September 21, 2018

    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 😀

    Reply
  4. Annick September 22, 2018

    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.

    Reply
  5. Kavey September 22, 2018

    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!

    Reply
  6. Daniel Kiteski September 23, 2018

    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.

    Reply
  7. Indian mom vlogs Latha September 24, 2018

    absolutely beautiful, not my kind of fun but I loved that blue lagoon n bathtub – found those pretty interesting.

    Reply
  8. Shri Krishna Sharma September 24, 2018

    Lovely places to visit and very nice photographs, naming and commentary. I feel that I should find a chance to visit these lovely locations.

    Reply
  9. Abhijit Ray September 24, 2018

    Nice post. Great description. Nice photography.

    Reply
  10. richa mina September 24, 2018

    Very detailed and elaborate post on Gandikota although let me be truthful, i’ve never even heard about it before your post. Amazing pics

    Reply
  11. sudha krishnan September 24, 2018

    Never heard of this before. Though your picturesque description was just fantastic.

    Reply
  12. Unknown September 24, 2018

    The caves look adventurous, seems you had a great trip. I stayed in Bangalore for three years but sadly never heard about these places.

    Reply
  13. Valerice September 24, 2018

    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.

    Reply
  14. Jayanthi September 24, 2018

    Well written and nice post! Loved your detailed description – will try and make it sometime…

    Reply
  15. Mahak Baby&Beyond September 25, 2018

    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

    Reply
  16. LaVale September 25, 2018

    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!

    Reply
  17. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    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

    Reply
  18. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks. Hope you visit India soon

    Reply
  19. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks. That's why I became a blogger, to help people explore the unknown underrated places. hope you get to visit this soon

    Reply
  20. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks Daniel! Do check this out next time 🙂

    Reply
  21. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks a lot! hope you do

    Reply
  22. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    you should definitely visit these wonders of your state.

    Reply
  23. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Yes, people are generally good. That's what extensive travel teaches us

    Reply
  24. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks so much for reading and sharing your views :).

    Reply
  25. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks Paul. People here are generally good.. that's what extensive travel in south India has taught us.

    Reply
  26. magiceye December 26, 2018

    Thank you for this wonderful virtual tour with beautiful images and interesting narration.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh December 26, 2018

      Thaks a lot!

  27. ANITA December 27, 2018

    THe caves and the fort sound really amazing. I would love to visit. I went to Bangalore, but I didnt’t know about the caves back than. The canion is a stunning natural beauty, would be my favorite for sure. It looks like the one in Colorado, US.

    Reply
  28. Daniel December 28, 2018

    Wow, this sounds like an exciting experience. I have heard about the cave being referred to as the “Grand Canyon of India” but never got the chance to visit and I was so close to it. I would definitely want to visit during my next India trip

    Reply
  29. Debjani lahiri December 29, 2018

    I dont know when I will be able to go and witness the Grand canyon but i guess will definitely have to make my way to visit this much talked about place “Grand Canyon OF India” , definitely looks no less gorgeous.. And yeah I love the way how you started the article ,”Kuch toofani karte hai ” .. Hahaha I felt the same vibe running down my spine ..lol

    Reply
  30. Suma December 31, 2018

    I have beem reading quite a lot about the Belum Caves recently. From your pics it sure looks interesting. Crowd or not this definitely is a must visit amd a great choice for a day trip from Bangalore. The Gandikota Fort is also spectacular, both combined together it is a perfect adventure.

    Reply
  31. aareeba January 2, 2019

    Gandikota is a place which i have always wanted to visit during my stay in India. But i couldn’t make it due to the incredibly high temperatures in summer.Now reading your post made me realized what i actually missed.I am definitely gonna go back here in my next trip to India for sure.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh January 3, 2019

      You are right about the weather. We visited in the monsoon when it was “temperate” but afternoon was still hot.

  32. Yukti January 6, 2019

    You have done a beautiful day trip to Gandikota from Bangalore though somewhere roads were rough and you lost your way also. But you have listed all valid points about Gandikota and it really seems to be worth visiting. I loved how you have given names to Belum caves by your own way of interpretation, especially The squeeze past challenge. I would love to go to this place whenever I visit Hyderabad next time as I use to go there often.

    Reply
  33. Parnashree Devi January 6, 2019

    I have seen an end number of breathtaking landscapes of Gandikota , but I haven’t reached the place physically till now. Your post has convinced me to take a trip in the monsoon this year to capture the beauty. The road trip sounds quite exciting , except the 20 KM lone drive which is a bit scary. But what I loved about the post is your honest account and also detailed description. Loved reading about it.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh January 7, 2019

      thank you so much. I wanted to include some realistic details which people may not get on other platforms.

  34. Emilio Marcos Sierra January 6, 2019

    Gandikota looks an amazing place, I have never heard of it before! But have taken note for when I return to India! Belum Caves looks absolutely amazing and a place I really want to visit now. Thanks for sharing 😀

    Reply
  35. Archana Singh January 7, 2019

    The pristine white statue of Gautam Buddha outside the Belum Caves is so soothing to eyes. It does stand out in the rustic background. I have never heard about the Gandikota Fort but it does look spectacular. Both places a perfect adventure day-trip combo.

    Reply
  36. Jen Morrow January 22, 2019

    Oh, caves and canyons sound like a great destination for a road trip! Such beautiful scenery and activities. The temple forts are so charming, I can’t wait to see them for myself!

    Reply
  37. ANda January 23, 2019

    Beautiful day trip from Bangalore. I particularly liked the Blue Lagoon cave. It looks so surreal. It’s surprising to see that Belum Caves was first explored only in the 20th century. India is such an extraordinary country. I’m hoping to visit it someday. By the way, what does “Kuch toofani karte hai” mean?

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh January 23, 2019

      Thanks Anda. “Kuch Toofani karte hai” is a tagline from a famous aerated drinks brand of India, it means” Let’s do something adventurous”.

  38. Jen Morrow January 23, 2019

    Those caves look amazing! I don’t mind the squeeze past challenge, but the low ceiling can be a bit uncomfortable. The blue lagoon cave would definitely make it all worth while. What a great road trip.

    Reply
  39. Jane Dempster-Smith January 23, 2019

    You certainly travelled a long distance in one day. The colours of the Blue lagoon inside the Belem Cave is stunning. I am astonished that people think that it is ok to deface historical buildings. India’s Grand Canyon looks amazing and one that I should make some time to visit.

    Reply
  40. emman damian January 24, 2019

    I really want to see Belum Caves! It seems like a fun historic place to visit! Wow! Million years now! I need a selfie on it.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh January 25, 2019

      Thanks Emman! Do check this out when you visit South India.

  41. Anjali W January 25, 2019

    I really wanted to visit the Belum caves on my visit to Bangalore last year but couldn’t due to shortage of time. I had not known much about this place except that the caves itself really fascinated me. The caves do look really incredible. Camping on Gandikota is what I would love to plan someday. Your road trip visiting these two amazing places seems quite adventurous. Thanks for sharing your experience on it!

    Reply
  42. Amar singh January 25, 2019

    This a great place to visit and one I did not know existed so thanks for sharing. Gandikota Is got great architecture and I’m sure the journey was as exciting and adventurous from my experience on indian roads. There is so much history all around and this is just one element of the destination that makes me want to go there. Thanks for sharing a great destination

    Reply
  43. Arnav Mathur January 26, 2019

    One hell of a road trip for sure. 650 KM of driving that too in one day and in India, is definitely a feat. Would definitely love to visit the caves and canyons when I end up traveling the South of India.

    Reply

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