Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill

Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 1

I interrupt my current Singapore series to bring attention to a place I never knew even existed in India!

Me and my friends haven’t gone on a road trip in quite some time. So when we spoke about driving somewhere we all had never gone before, it was hard. We were sick of Mysore Road and have seen pretty much every attraction that stretch of Karnataka has to offer. This was going to be a proper weekend drive – leave early Saturday morning and be back by Sunday night, so given the time frame, the choice of destinations were quite limited to begin with.

As luck would have it, a friend of mine uploaded a few photos he had taken from his visit to a place called Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh. I had never heard of the place before but when I saw his photos, I just couldn’t believe I had never even known about its existence! Upon asking him for more information about Gandikota and doing some research on my own, I suggested a drive to Gandikota to my friends.

Some of them were apprehensive, saying it looked like “just a canal,” some couldn’t make it, but I was still hell-bent on going there. Charting a route map using Google Maps, the drive from Devanahalli to Gandikota was going to take approximately 5 hours (250kms). I also found that we can drive to another attraction, Belum Caves, from Gandikota itself and that would take over an hour to cover the 60km distance. From Belum Caves, we could then drive to the town of Anantapur and connect back to NH7 to drive back all the way to Bangalore city (280 kms).

After much convincing and last minute tussles, we (myself and friends Anand and Ramesh) were ready to venture into a territory hardly many from Bangalore have gone before.

Date: December 17th, 2011

The plan was for Anand to first pick me up and then Ramesh by 6am, but as is usually the case on our drives, we were slightly delayed and only picked up Ramesh as it neared 7am.

Foggy Sarjapur road morning drive Bangalore
We started from Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road… which was rather foggy at 7am
Airport road towards Devanahalli Bangalore
We drove on Airport Road and past Devanahalli

We stopped at a Kamat restaurant adjoining a Bharat Petroleum bunk to our left for breakfast. After puris and tea, we set off again towards Chikballapur.

Route map to Kadiri
We got off the main highway at a major intersection from where you need to take a right (Image: Google Maps)
Untarred road to billur
We did get a bit of rough road…
Road to Billur Karnataka
… but got back on to smooth tarmac soon after
Goats blocking Indian road
But we had to slow down when we saw this
Goats on road Karnataka India
Bangalore’s mutton supply discovered!
Goats crossing road India
There was a LOT of them!
Goat herder crossing road India
We waited until the herd passed by
Goats ram Karanata road India
Papa goat?
YSR golden statue junction Andhra Pradesh
We came straight down that road and passed this statue of the late YSR. When we stopped to confirm if we were going the right way, a passer by told us we need to take a right instead to head towards Kadiri
Road to Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We were now in the state of Andhra Pradesh

Lake Andhra Pradesh India

Road to Kadapa Andhra Pradesh
The road got narrow for a bit
Temple lake Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
By 11am, we were in the town of Kadiri
Raja Reddy wedding photo
Raja looks pleased

Kadiri temple Andhra PradeshMixture namkeen shop kadiri AP India

Kadiri town AP India
Kadapa is the nearest major town to Gandikota, but we decided to drive through an alternate route that would take us straight to Gandikota
Jalamadugu turn at Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We came down that road and took a right towards Jammalamadugu
Ramesh Anand Phadake Ford Fiesta AP India
We stopped for a tea break at a dhaba along the way
Gopi Punjabi Dhaba Andhra Pradesh India
Gopi was the name of one of our ex-bosses… but that’s not why we stopped here, I swear πŸ˜‰
Kadiri rocks Andhra Pradesh India
The landscape in these parts is completely different. Lots of rocks…
Inner Andhra Pradesh rocks geography
… and the rocks just stay (Taken by Ramesh)
Ramesh Iyer tea Andhra Pradesh India
We had our Rs. 5 chai

Mithun Divakaran taking photo outside Kadiri

Anand Phadake tea stop dhaba
It was 11:45am, and we still had a long way to go
Inner Andhra Pradesh old man
We hit the road again
Road to Jamalagundu bridge
This was pretty cool
Hindu temple under huge rock India
This temple under that huge rock

Temple beneath rock Andhra Pradesh IndiaDriving to Gandikota bridge

Andhra Pradesh interior electricity lines India
For most our journey, we traversed through sparsely populated villages and barren landscapes — and hardly any vehicles with a ‘KA’ registration
Road to Jammalamadugu trees
(Photograph by Ramesh)
Sunflower fields Andhra Pradesh India
There were SO many sunflower fields on either side
Sunflower fields Jammalamadugu Andhra India
(Mind you, just about all the shots above were taken from behind the car window)
Ramesh phone GPS Ford Fiesta drive
Even though Ramesh had copies of the map routes on his Nook tablet, we relied heavily on the Google Latitude mobile app to check if we were on the right path
Goat crossing Andhra Pradesh
More ‘mutton’ crossings

We eventually reached a small village where we had to stop at a railway crossing. Something that took an ungodly long time!

Anand Mithun Ramesh in car
We had plenty of time to take photos of ourselves in the car

Nearly half-an-hour later, the train finally shows up — and how…

We had lost quite a bit of time and it was already lunch time. Fortunately as we arrived in the town of Jammalamadugu (yeah, try saying that fast) we saw a sign of hope.

AP toursim Gandikota hotel road sign
Finally, we were getting nearer!
Road to Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
The roads for the most part were good… and there were *hardly* anybody else driving through these roads
Windmill blades Suzlon Andhra Pradesh India
There’s quite a lot of windmill activity by Suzlon in these neck of the woods
Road to Gandikota fort Andhra Pradesh India
The road got narrower — which meant we were getting close
AP tourism Gandikota hotel entrance
And by 2:15pm, we had finally reached our destination! Haritha Hotel Gandikota, by APTDC

When we called up this hotel (Ph: (0)90105 54899) to book a room, the guy who answered simply told Ramesh “just come”. Now we know why. There were hardly any other guests besides us!

The waiter/receptionist/attendant showed us the cottages, we didn’t want an A/C room, so we just took a fan room that had a large bed which could easily accommodate the three of us. The room cost Rs. 630 ($11/€9), and we didn’t have to pay anything extra for the third person. Unfortunately, the water heaters weren’t working. (Why is it just about every hotel in India that costs about the same has such a problem with providing hot water?!)

Gandikota hotel restaurant granite pillars
We were hungry, and sat down at the restaurant for lunch

There wasn’t a menu, so we just asked what was available for lunch. The receptionist/attendant/waiter told us: “chapathi, phulkas, dal curry“. That’s it. We didn’t have any choice but to order all three.

Since they hardly see any guests, they don’t stock any meat either. But receptionist/attendant/waiter assured us we would have more options available for dinner, like egg. Sigh…

Mithun sunglasses reflectionWhen our food came, the chapathis and phulkas were essentially the same – both were made using maida, the phulkas only being a little smaller. And I doubt the phulkas were made the way they are traditionally done so. They cost the same too, Rs. 24 per plate (a plate has two), so you might as well just order chapathis. The dal (Rs. 40) was passable. We were hungry, so had to eat what was given.

By the way, they have the full stable of Coca Cola’s offerings like Kinley water and soda, besides the other carbonated drinks like Sprite, so you really don’t need to carry the same when coming here. Unless you’re a Pepsi fan.

Gandikota hotel garden playground Andhra Pradesh India
We decided to take a few photos of the hotel
Gandikota fort from APTDC hotel
You can see the Gandikota fort wall from here
Aptdc gandikota hotel granite buildings
Everything is made of granite stone
Gandikota hotel rooms Andhra Pradesh India
Our room was in the back
Gandikota aptdc hotel resort panorama
The cottages are on the extreme left (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
Mithu Divakaran AP tourism hotel Gandikota India
(Photograph by Anand)

We decided not to leave our bags in our room just yet. Instead, we wasted no time in heading straight to the fort.

Once you reach the fort walls, you can take your vehicle inside and down a narrow ‘S’ path, through a small village to park right near Gandikota masjid (mosque).

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh India
We parked by the side
Gandikota masjid entrance Andhra Pradesh India
There was no entrance fee to enter the masjid, but the guides there said we’d have to pay Rs. 25 since we have professional cameras

Gandikota fort masjid architecture Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh tomb
The Jamia Masjid

Gandikota masjid minarets Andhra PradeshGandikota fort masjid halls IndiaGandikota fort passage hall sun rayGandikota corridor wall writings Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort dome IndiaGandikota fort tree lawn IndiaGandikota fort masjid behind Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort masjid architecture IndiaGandikota fort cowGandikota fort minaret Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid minaret dome parrots
Anand’s Canon SX30IS super-zoom is truly impressive
Gandikota fort rocky building Andhra Pradesh
After the masjid, we went in here to pay the ‘camera fee’
Ramesh Mithun paying fee Gandikota fort
There was no sign anywhere saying Rs. 25 was the ‘camera fee,’ but the guide sounded kind enough and eager to tell us about this place without asking for any money, so we didn’t mind paying up

Gandikota fort hall windows panorama

Gandikota fort hall pillars panorama
Panorama comprised of 4 shots
Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota fort
Photograph by Ramesh
Rangaswamy temple Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I walked to this temple while Ramesh and Anand walked towards the gorge
Red granite temple rocks Gandikota
The stones are mostly red granite

Rangaswamy temple entrance Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaRangaswami temple hall Gandikota IndiaΒ Ranganatha Swami temple elephant stone carving Gandikota

Gandikota Ranganathaswami temple pillars ancient art India
The temple is called Ranganatha Swamy temple

Ranganathaswami temple art stone carving GandikotaΒ Ranganatha Swamy temple back red rocks GandikotaRanganathaswami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRangaswami temple pillars GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone art Gandikota

Ranganatha swami temple door Gandikota
I was too chicken to enter this dark room

Ranganatha Swamy temple stone carving art Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swamy temple pillar stone carving GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillars art carvings Gandikota

Ranganathaswami temple gates Gandikota India
I left the temple and walked towards the gorge
Gandikota panorama from Ranganathaswamy temple Andhra Pradesh India
A panoramic view from Ranganatha Swamy temple
Granite rocks Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Tread carefully, its all rocky grounds here
Rocky hills Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I was walking towards the main reason I wanted to come to Gandikota
Gandikota Erramala hills towards Pennar river
Wait for it….
Gandikota gorge Erramala Pennar river panorama Andhra Pradesh India
… voila! Ever thought India had geography that looked similar to America’s Grand Canyon?

Oh, if you thought the above photo would make for an awesome wallpaper, here’s a 1920×1200 version! πŸ™‚

Mithun Divakaran Gandikota hills
It’s quite windy at the edge
Red granite stones formation Gandikota
Wonder how these rock formations even came to being
Gandikota gorge rocks river
The rocks just seem planted there

Erramala hills Gandikota fort rocks India

Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota gorge
(Photograph by Ramesh)

Erramala hills Gandikota grass

Gandikota Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
A very calm Pennar river
Mithun Divakaran taking photo Gandikota gorge
(Photograph by Anand)

We looked for other ways to reach centre of the hills, from where I hoped to take panorama of the entire plateau in front of us.

Mithun way under rocks Gandikota
Just then, we spotted this opening, and I went in to see if it led anywhere

Going under rocks Gandikota hill

Gap under rocks Gandikota gorge
It led us out here
Gandikota gorge from cave panorama India
The view from down here… about the same as from up there
Mithun Divakaran Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh river
Photograph by Ramesh

Ramesh taking photograph under rocks GandikotaMithun Anand through gap Gandikota

Going back out rocks Gandikota
We made our way back out one-by-one
Anand Ramesh walking up rocks Gandikota
We moved on further
Rocks boulders Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We had to move slowly and chart our own path
Stones boulders Gandikota hill Andhra Pradesh India
I can’t stress enough on safety. It’s just rocks and boulders you will be stepping on, so take your own time. Some of these rocks are loose too.
Gandikota fort walls river hills
But it was worth it, the view was fantastic…
Gandikota gorge pennar river panorama
… and I got my panorama!

Anand Phadake Gandikota hills eveningKite bird flying Gandikota sky India

Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill
Took some last few shots with the 70-200mm lens

Gandikota fort wall stone steps

Gandikota fort walls river side panorama
Imagine what life must have been in those days
Gandikota fort walls Pennar river Andhra India
We would have liked to have gone all the way down to the river… but we didn’t see a way or anybody else down there (Photo from Anand’s super-zoom camera)

Gandikota red hill Errmala gorge

Cave Gandikota hill Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
How cool is that? There’s a cave down there… and I would had *so* loved to have gone in there
Red granite stone hill Gandikota India
Red granite

Gandikota hill red stone Andhra Pradesh India

Ramesh Anand Mithun photo Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We attempted a group shot with Ramesh’s camera atop my bag. After a few attempts, we got this.

Gandikota rocks Pennar river India

Gandikota reservoir Pennar river
The river flows into the Mylavaram reservoir
Standing stone Gandikota rocks India
The rocks here are quite something
Gandikota tourists evening Andhra Pradesh
It was past 5pm, and most visitors were on their way back
Sunset Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh India
It was getting darker, but I still had some more to see
Gandikota fort wall ruins India
I wanted to go that Mayan-like structure right of the centre
Gandikota hill Erramala Andhra Pradesh India
Walking away from Erramala hills
Gandikota fort ruins boundary wall India
It smelt of shit here — both goat and cow (and hopefully not human)
Gandikota fort ruins steps to platform
Unfortunately as I got near the structure, the entry path to the steps was blocked by plants and weed
Lamb shelter Gandikota village
Hello you shitters!
Gandikota village old houses
Walked through the village
Gandikota village stones houses India
Everything is made of stone here

Telugu girl child village Gandikota Andhra PradeshΒ Gandikota village cow calf Andhra Pradesh IndiaGranite stone village homes Gandikota Andhra Pradesh

Gandikota village well Andhra Pradesh India
One of the village’s source of water
Gandikota fort masjid reflection well
I walked back to the car and re-grouped with Ramesh and Anand

We still had one more temple to see inside the fort, but we just couldn’t figure out the way to get to it. So we drove out of the fort and wondered if there was another way.

Once out, the guides told us the way to Madhavaraya temple was from inside the fort itself, but they suggested we go tomorrow morning as the fort was going to be closed (more like, the guides were done for the day).

Turkeys Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Well hello turkeys! We don’t see much of you here in India.
Gandikota turkey birds India
They may taste good, but boy are they ugly headed!

Gandikota turkey black featherWe decided to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and we just wanted to rest.

Anand Ramesh rooftop AP tourism hotel Gandikota
We went up to the roof of our cottage

Standing on the roof I thought of how I could have brought my grill and some marinated meat in the cooler. I’m sure the staff wouldn’t have minded. It’s a perfect setting for a barbecue.

Mind you, Gandikota isn’t for everyone. It’s not what I’d call a ‘family destination,’ unless your family is the adventurous kind. The rocks you will have to walk over just to take the kind of photos of the gorge you see above aren’t easy for everyone to do. Also, there is hardly anything around for fun or excitement. Not even a hospital in case of emergencies.

If you want a weekend of peace and quiet, some privacy or even a new spot to usher in the New Year with close friends, then consider Gandikota as a perfect Bangalore getaway.

Gandikota evening pink sky Andhra Pradesh India
The evening sky at 6:15pm was a picture perfect end to an amazing day of discovery
View from AP tourism hotel Gandikota
There is quite literally, nothing surrounding this resort
Gandikota hotel dog on steps
Only stray dogs for company

I took bath without hot water because I desperately felt the need to be clean after walking amid goat droppings and all the climbing. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold outside.

The same receptionist/attendant/waiter came to our room to ask us what we wanted for dinner. It would help the kitchen if we ordered in advance. The options weren’t many, but we asked for some rice, chapathis, dal, tomato curry, egg masala and egg burji. Everything cost Rs. 40-Rs. 45, so our expectations weren’t very high.

There is the option to have cable (Dish TV) in our room but we told the guy we definitely weren’t going to be watching television. We had ‘Mr. Jack‘ for company and the three of us spent the night reviewing our photos and chatting away.

Tomorrow morning, we had to go to the temple, drive 60kms to Belur caves and then drive back to Bangalore before nightfall. Day 1 was fantastic, we couldn’t wait to see what day 2 had in store for us!

Bonus: Here’s video of the Gandikota gorge I put together using clips from Ramesh’s and Anand’s camera

Next post in the series:
Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 2

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  • Kusum


    Very good collection of pictures. Good know about this place. Thanks for sharing!


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    You are welcome!


  • krishnakumar


    good work, mithun. eagerly waiting to see the next


  • Harish


    Cool One waiting for Part – II….


  • Saurav


    Hey Nice pics..which camera you used for the photos..


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Saurav, my main camera is the Canon 7D and my primary lens is the Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens. I carry two other lenses too.


  • Chandra


    Nice work guys..we are planning a trip from Blore just because of your pics and details. Thx πŸ™‚


  • imran khan


    iam very surprize very happy to see this pics


  • Rohit


    These are beautiful pictures and the video is great!!! You guys really took ‘some’ risk in getting everyone to get to see the natural beauty of India!! Admire your passion!!!


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thank you Rohit! πŸ™‚


  • Sonal



    Came across this blog while searching for Belum caves. Very nice and beautiful photos. Thanks to you guys for taking all the pains and showing us all this beautiful place through wonderful pictures. Also, the description is very interesting with small details, sure to help folks planning to visit this less know marvel.



    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thank you for your kind words Sonal πŸ™‚


  • vinayak


    infact i heard about Gandikota…but did’nt knew whats there ! i am going to yaganti+Belum on 12th Jan. ur blog helped me to add one more place to my tour…thanks a lot for ur beautiful pictures !!


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Vinayak, have fun! πŸ™‚


  • Raghavendra


    Hey Mithun,
    Thanks so much for the lovely pics and details about the place….it answered all my ??…. before traveling to the place…


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Have fun and keep the place clean! πŸ™‚


  • Rahul


    You missed Madhavaraya temple… biggest temple at fort


  • Gowthami


    Hi Mithun,
    Good blog. May I know which is the hotel in your pictures? May I know the link or how you guys booked it?


  • Megha


    Hi Mithun,
    Can u please let us know which hotel is it and contact Number.shortly we are visiting Gandikota


  • A S Krishna Prasad


    Excellent Blog. thanks for sharing.


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚


  • harish shenoy


    Great pictures. The blog was very informative. looking forward for a trip to Gandikota & Belum caves during october midterm holidays. But hardly anyone know about this place. None of my friends mentioned about this place. Recently I saw about the Belum caves in my friends facebook page.


  • Bharat Ram


    Very comprehensively covered. Thank you.


  • Naveena


    Hi, Thanks for this writeup! Informative as well as useful apart from the fact that there are such beautiful snaps!
    Planning a drive from Bangalore in the first week of Sept, 2015. The accommodation you were in is of the AP tourism?

    I am also looking at covering any other interesting nearby place during this drive. We could easily spare 2/3 nights for the drive.


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Yes, the hotel we stayed at in Gandikota is run by APTDC. I’m not aware of any other interesting nearby places. It’s quite remote and barren.


  • Sreekumar


    Hello Brothers..

    The description is very interesting with small details, sure to help folks planning to visit this less know marvel.

    Thank you


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    You’re welcome! πŸ™‚


  • sheik bhasha


    thanks for sharing and i had a visit in 1995, when i was in cuddapah, as student.

    Great pics, now planning to visit with family to show the place, where i studied….


  • Dipanjan


    Fantastic. Thank you for such a detailed description. Your work is highly appreciated.


    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Dipanjan!


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