Gandikota is a small village in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh that is known for its spectacular gorge formed by river Pennar that cuts through the Erramala hills. This handsome piece of Nature’s architecture has come to be known as the Hidden Grand Canyon of India by travelers who visit it and get bewitched by its beauty.
There are several other attractions in and near the village that allure visitors, the most special being the ancient, magnificent Gandikota fort that sits majestically on top of the gorge. Apart from the unmatched beauty of the gorge, the mystical charm of this fort makes a visit to this village all the more exciting for history lovers and adventure seekers.
Why visit Gandikota?
For once, it houses the Indian version of Grand Canyon that, over the coming years, might be giving serious competition to its Arizona counterpart owing to its breathtaking beauty. And the best part, this small, offbeat village has not yet been commercialised, which means you’re not likely to find noisy crowds of tourists photobombing your selfies and garbage littered about everywhere!
Why is Gandikota called the ‘Arizona of India’?
Maybe the following pictorial comparisons can explain that better:
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Best time to visit Gandikota
One should ideally visit Gandikota between September to February as the weather is comfortable and pleasant. The summer months are hot and humid with the temperature sometimes soaring up to a good 40-45 degree celsius, and thus is not a good time to witness the gorge.
How to reach Gandikota
Tirupati Airport at Renigunta and Bengaluru International Airport at Bangalore are the nearest airports to Gandikota. One can take a flight to either of them and cover the rest of the distance to Gandikota by bus or private cab. Bangaluru Airport is 345 km (6 hours) from Gandikota while Tirupati Airport is 220 km (4.5 hours) away from the same.
The nearest railway station to Gandikota are at Jammalamadugu (18 km away), Kadapa (77 km away), and Tirupati (219 km away). One can also take a direct train from Bangalore to reach this place (which shall surely turn out to be more convenient and less tiring than a bus journey from Tirupati or Bangalore).
Gandikota is well connected to major cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Vizag through the NH 7. Owing to the fact that roads in Andhra Pradesh are in excellent condition and connected to various link roads and state highways, one can have a smooth, hassle free road trip to Gandikota. In fact, Gandikota is rather frequented by backpackers and bikers than normal tourists.
Suggested Read: 21 Road Trips From Bangalore You Must Plan With Your Friends
Where to stay in Gandikota
1. APTDC Complex: The sprawling complex in Gandikota is spread over an area of 10 acres and has 12 cottages, a dining hall, a dormitory, a massive parking space and play area for kids. The complex has cosy air-conditioned rooms with various facilities promising a comfortable stay. In order to book a room, one is supposed to call up and make reservations on phone, as the complex doesn’t have any online mode of registration.
2. Camping at Pennar river: If you’re looking for quirky stay options and wish to sleep under the stars with the river gushing beside you, then camping at Gandikota is the perfect thing to do. Freakouts Adventure offers easy and comfortable camping opportunities to travelers, along with the scope of adventure activities in the gorge, like rock climbing, rappelling, and kayaking.
What to do at Gandikota
Gandikota may be famous for the hidden Grand Canyon of India, but this stunning gorge is only one of the many attractions of Gandikota. There are various things to do in Gandikota that one must indulge in during their visit:
1. Wander about the ruins of the Gandikota Fort
Spread over miles, the massive Gandikota fort was built in the 13th century. The fort, made in red sandstone, comprises of gorgeous palaces with intricate carvings, perennial springs to irrigate the nearby vegetation, and a 5 mile perimeter wall guarding the fort. Located adjacent to each other, the remains of a temple built in the same century and a mosque added years later set a great example of unity in diversity. One can take a leisurely walk along the fort’s perimeter wall, stop by to watch the serene river, or even watch the fort transform into a play of colours at dusk. A trip to Gandikota is absolutely worth it if you wish to indulge in Gandikota fort’s history narrating the tale of an entirely different civilization that existed centuries ago!
2. Gulp in breathtaking views of the gorge and the Pennar river
Watch the Pennar river peacefully flow through this brilliant stone gorge that’s an artwork in itself, and you’ll realise why it is called the Grand Canyon of India. Just like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, this massive gorge is a stunning assemblage of rocks, cut and layered in the most peculiar way as if they were arranged by hand! Climbing up those treacherous rocks can be a task in itself, but the amazing views you’ll get once you’re up there, is totally worth it. Sit on top of the rocks and merely watch groups of pelicans fly over the velvety green river every now and then while the sun sets in the backdrop, and your trip to Gandikota will be nothing short of heavenly!
Tip: There aren’t many food options near the fort and the gorge, apart from very few shops selling snacks and soft drinks. Make sure you pack some before you leave for the day’s sightseeing.
3. Stare in awe at the fascinating interiors of Belum Caves
Pictures of the Antelope Canyons in Arizona must always have fascinated you. What if I say you can get that same experience in India? You heard that right! Apart from an Indian version of Grand Canyon, we also have an Indian version of the Antelope Canyons called the Belum Caves. Belum Caves is the second largest cave system in the Indian subcontinent and has great significance in terms of its geology, archaeology, architecture (according to geologists who recently studied the area). In fact, geologists have also found surplus deposits of Quartz in the stalactite and stalagmite formations of the cave.
4. Sit on the banks of the Rayalacheruvu Lake & watch the sun go down
Adjacent to Gandikota fort, lies a magnificent lake that is believed to have been established by emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya using water from the Pennar river. One can sit on the bank of the lake on their trip to Gandikota and admire the canvas of nature before him- calm and clear water in front, layers and layers of the tranquil Erramala hills in the backdrop, pretty hues painted in the sky, and many native and migratory birds peeping out of the thickets every now and then. The lake, according to recent developments, will now be used for irrigation in order to help the farmers of the village, apart from being a booming tourist attraction in Gandikota.
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5. Find peace at the architecturally rich temples of Gandikota
One shall find remnants of two spectacular temples near the village on their tour – the Madhavaraya temple and Raghunathaswamy temple. The Raghunathaswamy temple, made of red granite, is a complex system of pillars, hallways, and corridors with an air of mystery about them, since the temple has not a single idol of Gods and Goddesses. The Madhavaraya temple on the other hand, is a fascinating play of architecture with many sculptures of Hindu Gods and everyday rituals of common people carved on the pillars and walls of the temple. It is an excellent display of art that has the life and culture of the lost kingdom preserved in its granite walls.
6. Pay your respects at the Jamia Masjid of Gandikota fort
Though the walls of the mosque has lost its lustre over time, it still manages to bewitch travelers with its simple, yet elegant Islamic architecture. Visitors of the masjid are first greeted by a grand multi-arched entrance, and then the main prayer hall where thousands once converged in heartfelt prayers. From the top of the entrance, one can spot the Gopuram of the Madhavaraya temple located close by. Both stand beside each other in utter peace and harmony.
7. Indulge in adventure activities at the gorge
Gandikota has everything for everyone, even for the adventure hungry. As Gandikota is slowly stepping out and coming under the tourism spotlight, various travel ventures are starting to take hold in the village. One can get down to the gorge and engage in a number of adventure activities like rock climbing, kayaking, rappelling, trekking on their trip to Gandikota.
For more information on adventure activities in Gandikota, click here.
What are you still waiting for? Rope in your rider buddies and set out on an awesome road trip to the Grand Canyon of India in Gandikota. And don’t forget to share this handy guide with all travel enthusiasts in your circle. Have any more useful tips for travelers? Pop them in the comments below.
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