Backpacking,  Offbeat,  Travel,  Weekend Getaways

A Complete Guide to Gandikota : The Hidden Grand Canyon of India

India is a beautiful country, a travelers delight if you ask us! So much diverse that it will take a lifetime and may be more to see all the places. From mighty Himalayas, to pristine backwaters of Kerala, from hippie Goa to spirtiual Varanasi, from vibrant Gujrat to quaint Northeast, we have got it all. And just when you think what else? it surprises with its hidden gems. One such place is Gandikota a distant place in Andhra Pradesh, India’s  own Grand Canyon.

Gorge View, Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh
The ‘Gorge’ous view

We visited Gandikota fort in third week of October and were awed by the Nature’s architectural marvel.This blog gives you an overview of what to expect out of this place, how to reach, where to stay and what other places you should definitely include in your itinerary. All in All a complete guide. Why to wait then? Let’s get started!

Gandikota

Situated on the bank of river Pennar, Gandikota is a small village in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh.  The word Gandikota is actually derived from two words “Gandi” in fact means gorge and “Kota” means fort.The place is known for its spectacular gorge formations right beside the Penna river, between theErramala range of hills.

 Gandikota fort, Andhra pradesh
Speactacular view of Gorge, Gandikota

There is a fort beside this beauty named Gandikota fort which is strategically built in such a way that gorge provides natural defense. This massive sandstone fort was built back in 13th Century and has a 5 mile perimeter wall guarding the fort. There are temples, mosque, mausoleum, granary, water tank and even a village inside the fort premises.

Gandikota fort, Andhra pradesh
The small village inside fort premises, Gandkota fort

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Gandikota  is during winters i.e. October-February when the weather is pleasant. Summers are hot and humid and temperature can soar up to 40-45 degrees and hence not advisable. Rains make the stones slippery to climb on and therefore Monsoon season can be avoided.

How to reach?

By Air

Bengaluru International Airport at Bangalore is the nearest well-connected airport to Gandikota. One can take a flight till Bangalore and can cover the rest of the distance to Gandikota by bus or private cab which is 345 km (6 hours) away.

By Train

The railway stations near  to Gandikota are at Jammalamudugu(18 km away), Kadapa (77 km away), and Tadipatri(85 km).

By Car

Gandikota is well connected to major cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Vizag through the national highway NH 7. Andhra Pradesh are in good condition and connected to various link roads and state highways.  Gandikota is  frequented by backpackers and bikers than normal tourists. We met a group driving all the way from Nagpur, they gave us lift from Gandikota till Belum Caves.

Our journey to Gandikota

As we were traveling from Mumbai, we got a direct train to Tadipatri. From Tadipatri one can hire a cab directly till Gandikota , bet it will cost more than thousand bucks. As we are always on shoestring budget, we planned to travel via bus. We took a shared auto till bus stand which charged us INR 15 per head. The bus arrived as soon as we reached the stop, our next stop was Jammalamuddugu.

Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh
The state Government bus, Tadipatri -Jammalamudugu

It costed us mere INR50 each and 2.5 hours to reach Jammalamudugu, a small town in Kadapa which was around 15 km away from Gandikota. We enquired about bus to Gandikota but it was late in evening so we took a reserved auto till APDTC resort and it charged us INR 250.

Where to Stay?

APTDC Complex: The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department runs a number of resorts across Andhra Pradesh, under the banner of Haritha Resorts and one such resort is right next to Gandikota fort.  This resort 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 charges are around INR 1500/- per night for an AC room on weekdays (excluding taxes) and 2000 for the same room on weekends, which we felt a bit pricey but considering its proximity to fort we booked it. The rooms are clean and they have a canteen, the only option to eat a proper meal in Gandikota.

Haritha A.C. Cottage, Gandikota fort, Andhra pradesh
Our stay, Haritha A.C. Cottage

2. Camping at Pennar river: If you’re looking for some adventure, you can bring your tent and camp at gorge which surely is an amazing experience. You can also rent tents, there are several banners of  local camping services you will find on your way to fort. We asked one local shop for tent  just for the idea and they were providing a tent for two in INR1500/-

Major Attractions

The Gandikota fort premises is spread over a huge area  and houses temples, mosque, jail, granary, water tanks, and even a small village.The peculiar thing we noticed is one can drive all the way inside the fort premises with vehicle till the old mosque, which was odd! Because mostly in other heritage sites, the vehicles are parked outside.

Gandikota fort, Gandikota, Andhra pradesh
Major attractions at Gandikota fort

It was about half an hour walk from our resort and we visited the fort twice, once in evening and then in early morning. Each time, We spent around 2-3 hours in fort premises, few monuments disappointed us while there were few we visited twice to get an eyeful.

The Gorge View

This is highlight of the trip, the Gorge view for which mostly people come for and it does not disappoint. It was dark when we reached in evening, we cursed ourselves and came back early morning to get an eyeful. The view of gorge with Pennah river flowing on its foot is mind-blowing.

Gorge View, Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh
Sunrise view at Gandikota Gorge

The rocks are naturally arranged over each other in such peculiar manner that it looks like a piece of  art. To get a better view of the vertical cliffs one has to climb few boulders to reach the edge and hence proper shoes are recommended. As we reached early morning, the place was less crowded with mostly campers who just woke up to this beauty.

Madhavarayaswamy temple

You can spot this temple in left, after you enter the fort premises, its grand Gopuram(temple gate) is visible from far. Built in 15th century by king Krishnadeva Raya,  this temple was the reason why we missed gorge view in evening.

Madhavarayaswami temple, Gandikota, Andhrapradesh
Standing beside this beautiful Gopuram of Madhavarayaswami temple

The temple had beautiful intricate carvings on its pillars, ceilings, and walls. We visited the temple again in morning to get a last look. With a grand four-storeyed Gopuram and equally beautiful temple, this spot is a must visit.

Gandikota fort, Gandikota, Andhra pradesh
The mandapam, Madhavaraya swami temple

Ranganatha swamy temple

This is the other temple in  fort premises, Situated right next to the gorge view. Not as grand as Madhavarayaswamy temple and in a ruined state, it was built by king Krishnadeva Raya in 15th century. The main gate was under construction when we visited the place. despite of all of it, its a one time visit for its complex system of pillars, hallways, and corridors. The  other interesting thing is you will not find any idol l of Gods and Goddesses here.

Ranganthaswamy temple, Gandikota, Andhrapradesh
Rangnatha swamy temple and us

Jama Masjid

This mosque lying next to Ranganatha Swamy temple, was built by Muslim rulers of the region in 16th century. Its a big structure with  a grand multi-arched entrance, followed by the main prayer hall. It is heartwarming to see mosque and temple standing beside each other.

 Jama Masjid, Gandikota fort, Gandikota, Andhra pradesh
Jama Masjid, Gandikota fort

Charminar

This is the first structure you will see after entering the  fort premises, it is meant to house pigeons. Honestly speaking there is nothing special about it, it is just a small structure and also it has been painted freshly which takes away the rustic charm.

Gandikota fort, Gandikota, Andhra pradesh
Charminar, Gandikota fort

Jail

It lies right after the Charminar structure to the left, a massive building with no windows.  It was the first structure we visited, and a big turnoff! If possible only go till the stairs because there is nothing inside, you will find only a dark dingy place with pungent smell of rats excreta. If you surpass it, there is a view of lovely landscape of windmills and  Gopuram of Madhavarayaswami temple.

There are other structures such as granary, water tanks, mausoleum etc which you will spot while walking into the fort premises, our pick is to climb up the fort walls to have a bird eye view of the fort and and landscape.

Gandikota fort, Gandikota, Andhra pradesh
Granary, Gandikota fort

Other activites

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.

Places to see nearby

One can club the trip to Gandikota with Belum Caves which is in Tadipatri, like we did. The other options are Gooty fort(113km)and Lepakshi(189 km). We had one extra day in hand after Gandikota  and Belum Caves before heading back to Mumbai, which we utilized in visiting temples of Tadipatri, took us by surprise honestly. It was suggested by a local girl we met in bus 🙂

Wherever we travel, we get to meet this beautiful bunch of people, local or co-travelers, they  go out of their way to help us. The experiences fill our heart with gratitude and give us a reason to travel more!

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