Offbeat Travellers / Backpackers / Road Trippers / Bikers
When I first heard that there is a mini grand canyon in India, I could not believe it. I wanted to explore. When I travelled for the first time, I was amazed with the landscape, and the beauty. Then, I travelled many times as I curated some trips. I am going to share consolidated experience in this blog for the benefit of Travellers.
When you plan, you plan for a minimum of 1 night and 2 days. If you are from Chennai or Bengaluru or Hyderabad or any place within 400 KM from Gandikota, you can do a weekend trip.
High level plan: You can plan for Gandikota – Belum or Belum – Gandikota depending upon your place of starting the travel (Chennai / Bengaluru / Hyderabad) or time of starting.
In this Blog, I will be covering our experience from Chennai.
Mode of travel: You can travel by Road / Train / Bus to Gandikota:
- If you are travelling by Train, you can get down at Muddanur Railway Station. From there, you can easily get an auto to reach Gandikota.
- If you are travelling by Bus, you can get down at Jammalamadugu town and take an auto to Gandikota
- If you want to hire a bike, you can get it from Proddatur, 50 KM from Gandikota. (M D M Auto Consultancy. They charge Rs.500 per bike per day.
Where will you stay in Gandikota?
Haritha Hotel provides 3 dormitory rooms (each having 8 beds) and villa type houses. For Villa type rooms, you can book online. For taking dormitory rooms (minimum one room), you need to call and book.
Alternatively, there are camping sites that provide tents. Some have their own bathrooms and toilets. Some have common. I normally work with one camping site which has a good toilet complex with hot water (You can book here…). Also, I prefer this site because they provide life vest to play in river pennar.
I have always preferred Road trip, specifically, Chennai – Tiruttani – Renigunta – Kadapa – Mydukur – Jammalamadugu – Gandikota route as it is shorter compared to Nellore route. One can also take Chennai – Tada – Kalahasti – Renigunta route. The Renigunta to Kadapa route has some speed breakers but can be managed.
You can leave early in the morning from Chennai. You can start as early as 4 or 5 AM. You can have Breakfast at Hotel Saravana or Hotel Kasi near Tiruttani or Hotel in Renigunta. After Renigunta, you will find only some Dhabas till Kadapa. A dhaba near Koduru gives hot tea which is still in memory for a long time.
Just before Vontimitta, there is a Harita Restaurant (managed by Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation). We stopped there to use the restroom. Best place for a decent rest room to have coffee / tea. By the way, Vontimitta is a beautiful temple with intricately carved sculptures.
We filled our fuel in a Petrol Bunk at Kadapa. It was touching as the Petrol Bunk is managed by inmates of Kadapa Central Jail. There is a small cafeteria, again managed by inmates. We had some tea and started again.
After reaching the 4 way junction, generally one gets confused. Use Map help. Left will take you inside Kadapa town and straight will take you through a state road. I always recommend the right 4 way toll road. You can travel comfortably and reach Mydukur quickly. At the Mydukur, you need to take left to go on the Proddatur by-pass to reach Jammalamadugu.
Road is good. You will find traffic less. After crossing river Pennar at Jammalamadugu hill road starts. It’s not a high altitude hill. It’s just 300 meter. But it’s enjoyable. At some point, you will see the curved road ahead. It will look great.
Stay – It’s better to finalize the stay ahead of the trip to choose a better place according to your need and travel. Once you reach Gandikota, you can check in to the stay place.
After checking in, we normally take a Fort Walk. Let’s talk about Gandikota Fort. The name comprises two Telugu Words, Gandi a gorge and Kota a fort. The famous fort Gandikota, acquired its name obviously due to the gorge, formed between the Erramalai range of hills, and the river Pennar that flows its foot, situated amidst beautiful landscape and wild forests.A local ruler Kakaraja, a subordinate of a Western Chalukya king of Kalyana, founded Gandikota in 12th Century. There are interesting stories behind this beautiful and vast fort. Register by whatsapping to +917550042234 to join KeyTerns group trips to hear stories.
When you go for the Fort walk, you will first be amazed by the long and big fort wall. Design of the fort, the door, and its lock are all worth noticing. One can climb on top of the fort wall to get a view of surroundings. Thereafter, one can see ‘Charminar’. Though it is called ‘Char’ ‘Minar’ because of 4 minars, it’s a Pigeon tower which is generally there in mughal forts. Pigeon tower is photographic especially with pigeons flying out.
After seeing Pigeon Tower, one can see Jail. One needs to be careful in going inside Jail as it is not maintained well. It smells because of Bats. However, the photo comes good if you stand at the end of a big open space facing the field outside.
Inside the Jail complex, one can find Spherical Stone (called as Ilavatta Kal in Thamizh). After Jail, one can visit Madhava Perumal Temple. While approaching, you will realize that it is similar to any Vijayanagara Architecture if you have been to temples like Hampi and Tadipatri. You are right. It was built by the Vijayanagara kingdom. There are interesting stories around it. This temple is photographic.
Madhava Perumal Temple
After Madhava Perumal temple, generally, we break for lunch. Simple south indian meal is available at Hotel Haritha. After lunch, you can relax for some time and start walking inside the fort. Next interesting place is Masjid or Mosque, which is beautiful. There is a fountain in front of the inner structure. Interestingly, water comes from the terrace of side structure. There is a manual mechanism.
After the Mosque, one can see the Granary where grains used to be stored. If you get a chance, it’s worth seeing inside. If not, one can take the steps on the side of Granary and see through the window. Using that vent, they used to drop grains inside.
After Granary, there comes the grand canyon view. Slowly, climb up. At every stage, stay for a while, admire the beauty of Canyon or Gorge view. It’s amazing. We have done Sun rise, Sun set and Full moon views. Stunning really. If you can climb up to the top, you can see the backside fort wall running on the side of River Pennar. You can see the Mylavaram Reservoir at the end of River Pennar.
Those who are interested in Adventure, can do Rappelling. Rappelling is a means of using a rope to descend in a controlled manner.
After the Sun set view of Gorge, relax at the stay place. If you are staying in camp, you will enjoy the gorge view.
If you are staying in camp, you need not go anywhere to see Sun rise. It will be an awesome experience as you will be seeing Gorge from the campsite. After seeing the sunrise, we trekked down the hill to the river Pennar. Walking through the boulders and along the gorge was a stunning experience. We enjoyed walking down by following the moderator. They have also painted the route. That was easier to follow. We went in November. As there was enough water, at a place, water was overflowing like a check dam giving a waterfalls experience. We jumped into the pond with life jackets and played in the water for an hour with a fresh stream of water. That was refreshing and is in fine memories still.
We came back, got freshened up and had our breakfast in Haritha Hotel. Post that, we checked out and started travelling to Belum Caves.
If you have time, you can visit Mylavaram Reservoir where you can see the Museum and the Reservoir view. Museum is where all the idols and artefacts of Gandikota fort are kept.
One can also go to the other side of Gandikota gorge (Agastheeswarar kona), View will be amazing and different. One has to travel 20+ KM around the Mylavaram reservoir to go to the other side of Gorge. If you can do that, you will enjoy the drive around the Mylavaram reservoir.
It takes around 1.5 hours to reach Belum caves from Gandikota. We reached Belum Caves around lunch time. There is a decent Cafeteria inside Belum Caves complex. It serves good meals and food like Fried rice. We were hungry. So, we first had our lunch. Then, we took photographs in front of the huge Buddha statue. After that, we went inside Belum Caves. WE also took a guide who explained well in English. Belum caves are open between 10 AM and 5 PM. Guide may charge around Rs.200 / Rs.300 per group. Belum Cave’s experience was fantastic. It’s a 3.5 KM underground limestone cavern (that’s the technical word though we call it caves), out of which 1.5 KM is accessible. AP Tourism has done a great job of creating way, ramp, air stations and adequate lights to make the experience great. Cave was formed by a river flowing over a million years. After the cave walk, you will salute nature for its wonderfully carved cave and the designs inside.
Belum Caves – PC: Mahesh
Interestingly, at the cafeteria, we asked for Ice Cream in cups. They said, they are asked not to keep any plastic cups or spoons. So, what they have is cone (biscuit) icecreams. Amazed to see how a small place is ensuring plastic free.
After Belum Caves, we travelled directly to Chennai after a dinner at a Restaurant in Renigunta
If you have time, you can also explore Erra Karam Dosa (Popular Rayalaseema dosa) at Proddatur or some sweets at a 100 years old sweet stall or a popular Biryani at Chennur Biriyani (Shivaram Dum Biryani, Kadapa to Kurnool Highway Road, Chennur, Andhra Pradesh 516162, 093466 33359, https://maps.app.goo.gl/1grCBMWjB1oveESY6)
We reached Chennai a little late in the night. But it was worth it and the most memorable trip.
Maniratnam’s Chekka Sivantha Vaanam tamil movie climax was taken in Gandikota.