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.
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 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.
|Exhausted but excited!|
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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.
Entry fee to Gandikota – ZERO!
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.
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-
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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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.
Thank you for this wonderful virtual tour with beautiful images and interesting narration.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😀
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.