Gandikota & Caves of Belum — Just when you thought you had explored it all

When it comes to exploration, us Indians need not look any further than our own country as source of inspiration. With poor infrastructure and lack of awareness, many of us are yet to explore some of India’s natural (albeit hidden) beauty. As someone based out of Bangalore the past 10 years, I thought I had seen it all. I was tired of going to Mysore and the places just off Mysore Road. I thought I had seen everything that could have been seen from a short drive away from Bangalore.

Then a fellow traveller and photographer uploaded a few photos of a place called Gandikota to his Facebook page. One photo he took looked like the landscape you would find somewhere in America — like that of the Grand Canyon or in the Arizona desert. But no, this was right here in India! I never knew such a place existed! The best part? Gandikota was only 300kms or so from Bangalore city, over in Andhra Pradesh.

The minute I knew this, I just had to convince my friends to do a road trip. They were a bit apprehensive, because very few had heard about Gandikota and only one hotel existed near the cliff. Worrisome for some, but this excited me even more and the whole thought of exploring new territory sounded like a true adventure!

Of course, this didn’t mean we couldn’t prepare ourselves. Any exploration expedition requires a few essential tools, and considering we would be driving to a part of India we had never been to, that meant carrying a GPS device. We managed to get one and just in case the signal got weak, we backed it with Google Maps installed on our smartphones.

After setting in the co-ordinates, we left on a clear Saturday morning in December 2011 and followed the course charted on the GPS device. We would initially take the Bangalore – Hyderabad highway. For the most part, we were on the right track. Technology did fail us at times, which led to a few wrong turns, but where the GPS misled us, the locals by the roadside never failed to direct us back on the right path.

Goats on road Karnataka India
We realized a lot of Bangalore’s mutton supply comes from Andhra Pradesh! 🙂

We would only stop along the way for a chai break, to take some photos and to give the driver a break. The terrain and the villages we passed seemed so remote, sparsely populated, and dry. A different change of scene for us.

Gopi Punjabi Dhaba Andhra Pradesh India
No matter where you are outside Punjab, you will still find a dhaba on India’s highways that claims to be Punjabi 🙂

The ‘adventure’ part soon came in the form of unpaved and pot-holed roads at certain stretches. As much as I could joke about it, these are times I really wished for a true offroad SUV, like a Tata Safari.

None the less, we would have a few laughs along the way, and equally frustrating moments — or both! Like waiting a god-awful long time at a railway crossing waiting for a never-ending goods carrier to pass!

By lunch time, we knew we were on the right track when we saw the sign board for the only proper hotel in this region.

AP toursim Gandikota hotel road sign
We breathed a sigh of relief
Road to Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
But the roads soon went from this…
Road to Gandikota fort Andhra Pradesh India
… to this. Again, times we wish we had a Tata Safari.
AP tourism Gandikota hotel entrance
But by 2:15pm, we had finally reached our destination!
Gandikota aptdc hotel resort panorama
The APTDC Gandikota Hotel — pretty much the only hotel in these parts
Mithu Divakaran AP tourism hotel Gandikota India
That’s me
Gandikota hotel restaurant granite pillars
This entire region is home to several granite mines and large deposits of such stones
Gandikota hotel cottage Andhra Pradesh India
So pretty much every house/room is built using the black  stone

After lunch, we went to the nearby fortress ruins where a masjid remains.

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh India
Not a whole lot of people here — but that only made the whole experience of coming here all the more worthwhile
Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh tomb
The Jamia Masjid
Gandikota fort masjid minaret dome parrots
Apart from tourists and local villagers, both of whom are few, you only have parrots for company

Gandikota fort passage hall sun rayBut the masjid or the nearby temple isn’t the primary reason we came this far.

Gandikota Erramala hills towards Pennar river
Wait for it….
Gandikota gorge Erramala Pennar river panorama Andhra Pradesh India
THIS is what we came to see!

Oh, if you are not impressed by the above photo, then here’s a 1920×1200 version! 🙂

Mithun Divakaran Gandikota hills
It’s quite windy at the edge, but it wasn’t going to stop me. I was in awe.
Gandikota gorge pennar river panorama
What an epic destination to film. Wait, actually, no film should be allowed to shoot a song sequence here. That would be end to this pristine territory.
Cave Gandikota hill Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
How cool is that? There’s a cave down there… I would have *so* loved to have gone in
Gandikota fort walls Pennar river Andhra India
There was a fortress wall extending all the way down to the river banks. Amazing isn’t it? Just how old must this part of India be?
Anand Ramesh walking up rocks Gandikota
Like brave explorers (ahem, without safety gear on), we traversed through the rocks
Mithun way under rocks Gandikota
We spotted this opening, and I went in to see if it led anywhere
Gap under rocks Gandikota gorge
It led us out here
Mithun Anand through gap Gandikota
What a view!
Sunset Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh India
As the sun set, we made our way back
Gandikota village old houses
I walked through this ancient village, and yes, people still do live here
Telugu girl child village Gandikota Andhra Pradesh
One of the happy locals
Gandikota fort masjid reflection well
This is where the villagers get their water
Gandikota turkey birds India
Gandikota’s other residents 🙂
Anand Ramesh rooftop AP tourism hotel Gandikota
We went to the roof of our cottage under a purple evening sky. This was how we ended day one.
Road to Belum caves Andhra Pradesh village
The next morning, we drove through more villages and baron land to find Belum village in Kurnool district of AP
Sunflowers Belum Andhra Pradesh India
We were distracted by the many sunflower fields on the way
Belum caves entrance Andhra Pradesh India
This was the entrance to the Belum Caves park, our next stop on this journey of exploration
Belum caves white buddha statue Andhra Pradesh India
There’s even a massive statue of Lord Buddha here
Steps down Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
After paying an entrance fee of Rs. 40, down we all went
Gebauer hall Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Belum Caves are India’s second largest caves
Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh India
It’s also India’s longest!
Belum Caves shadows photographers India
And to think, these caves were first explored by a German — and not one of us. We advertise ‘Incredible India’ to the world and yet, many of us aren’t bothered to discover just how incredible India truly is ourselves!
Belum Caves narrow path Andhra Pradesh India
The AP tourism board did a great job with illuminating these caves. How can you not feel like Indiana Jones in here! 🙂
Zoomed out Belum caves Andhra Pradesh India
Although a bit suffocating as you go deeper, we couldn’t think of a better way to end this new weekend getaway from Bangalore!
Granite mines Andhra Pradesh India
On the way back, we saw countless granite mines. Never seen earth being cut like that! Look at all that granite!
Bangalore Hyderabad highway NH7 Andhra Pradesh India
Thanks to NH7, it was a smooth ride… until we entered pot-holed Bangalore -_-
Monkeys NH7 Bangalore Hyderabad India
Just let the monkeys cross the road. Our development unfortunately affected theirs.

As awesome as both attractions were, both Gandikota & Belum Caves aren’t for everyone. The drive there maybe relatively easy, but the facilities at the APTDC Gandikota Hotel isn’t going to get any better until tourist numbers go up. Also, climbing the rocks to take the kind of photos we took at Gandikota isn’t that easy for everyone, especially older citizens. Belum Caves is also quite challenging as some sections are suffocating due to the lack of oxygen inside.

If we were to do another adventure road trip to Gandikota, we would carry a tent, our barbecue grill and the cool box. The tent, so we can set ourselves up near the cliff and watch the stars come out at night. A barbecue, to grill the meat we brought in the cool box (along with the few beer bottles). Because sadly for meat lovers, the APTDC hotel does not serve any non-veg. Not out of faith, but because the number of visitors don’t make it worthwhile to store any meat.

Is that still worth the exploration? Yes.

This entry was for Indiblogger’s I Am Explorer contest. Click here and here if you wish to read the more detailed posts from Gandikota and Belum Caves respectively.

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4 Comments

  • Vibha@PixelVoyages

    02/12/2013

    Hi there. I can only imagine the thrill the place must have given you. Truly, India has so much to offer. Wonderful pics – I love the one with the caption ‘this is what we came to see’ and that of the little girl.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Vibha 🙂 Yup, India has so much to offer!

    [Reply]

  • Arunmathi Ramathilagam

    12/05/2016

    Super different tour information, sir. The Pictures also very clarity. We’ll plan to go this year. Very good job. Thank you.

    Arunmathi Ramathilagam.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Glad you found it useful! 🙂

    [Reply]

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