We had a long weekend in September 1st week and decided to explore some place that is driving distance from Hyderabad. We zeroed in on Gandikota, Belum Caves and Orvakallu Rock Garden. Our itinerary was:
Day 1: Drive to Gandikota. Stay overnight.
Day 2: Drive to Belum Caves. Explore the caves and drive to Orvakallu Rock Garden. Stay overnight.
Day 3: Explore rock garden, stay overnight.
Day 4: Drive back to Hyderabad.
We actually wanted to do Orvakallu Rock Garden – Belum Caves – Gandikota but Gandikota hotel was sold out for the day we wanted so we had to do it the other way round.
Distance to the fort from Hyderabad is approximately 360 km. We started at 5:30am from Hyderabad and took the Hyderabad – Kurnool – Betamcherla – Banaganapalli – Jammalamadugu route. We reached Gandikota at around 2 pm after breaks for breakfast and lunch. Highway roads are okay to drive in but the village roads are narrow and crowded. We had lunch at a small joint in Jammalamadugu. There are not many places to dine in there and we had to make-do with whatever was available near bus stop.
About the Gandikota fort
The fort was built in 12th century on the bank of River Pennar. Gandi in Telugu means “Break” and and kota means “Castle”. The fort got this name because of the gorge created by the river. It is also called Grand Canyon of India. It is surrounded by impassable hills with huge granite , valley and a deep gorge. There are 2 temples and a masjid inside the fort.
Accommodation at Gandikota
Gandikota is a small place and the only hotel available is APTDC Haritha Hotel.The property is huge and is 500 mts from the Gandikota fort. It has some 12 cottages, all AC. The rooms are all very basic. A room costs Rs.1100+tax per night (as on Jan 2017). Every cottage has a separate terrace from which the fort is visible. There is enough space in front of the cottages to park your car right outside it. Booking can only be done online on http://aptdc.in/aptdc/login/OnlineLogin.jsp
Tips for booking:
- The hotel allows 24 hrs check-in and checkout. Check the check-in for different times of the day to see if accommodation is available. We first tried check-in at 11 am and check-out at 11 am. Rooms were not available for these times since there was a check-in at 9 am next day. We then booked from 9 am to 9 am since we planned to leave by that time anyways.
- The hotel is usually booked by corporates from Bangalore and Hyderabad for team outings over the weekend. If you can make a weekday trip, it would be easier to find rooms.
Food & Service
Hotel has a kitchen that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is no room service. Breakfast is included in the booking and is usually Idly, Dosa and Vada. Lunch and dinner are a-la-carte and though the choices are less, quality is ok. There are no better choices anyways. The staff is very accommodating and polite. Though they work with lot of constraints in terms of resources, they do their best to make your stay comfortable.
Travel in Gandikota
It is recommended you have your own vehicle in Gandikota. The fort is 15 km away from the nearest village at Jammalamadugu where you can find autos. Gandikota village is very small and there are no modes of transport that you can hire. Village bus goes from Gandikota to Jammalamadugu. We were told that the frequency is every 30 min but it is definitely more than that. We met a young photographer who took an auto from Jammalamadugu to Gandikota and was hoping to go back by bus but could not find one for a long time. We offered him a lift back.
The view at the end of the gorge is breathtaking. The rocks are huge and even our 5 year old could climb them easily with some help. Unfortunately there is no water in the gorge now because of the Mylavaram dam closeby. The view is still amazing. We went there in the evening and then again the next morning. The hike down to the walls of the fort is also possible. It is not as easy as the climb up because of the bushes, but manageable if you are in good health. The place however gets very hot so if you plan to go down, do this before 8 – 8:30 am before sun comes up. We went down a little but with a small kid, it was little difficult in the heat.
There are windmills near the fort. You can also drive past the fort and go close to the windmills. Its hardly a 10 min drive.
Gandikota is definitely a hidden gem in Andhra Pradesh. It is perfect location for a day trip from Bangalore (~300 km) or Hyderabad (~360 km).