Bored of the normal travel routine? Looking for something different? A perfect weekend getaway from Hyderabad and a much unexplored destination, Gandikota is an offbeat destination one could look out for!
What could one ask for when you have your cousins for company? An early morning drive from Hyderabad, first to Belum Caves located in Kolimigundla mandal of Kurnool district before heading to Gandikota village, home to the Grand Canyon of India and a historical fort on the right bank of the Penna river in Cudappah district of Andhra Pradesh, proved to be just the right destinations we'd chosen.
We started at around six in the morning and reached our destination, Belum Caves, by noon, around 1PM, covering a distance of around 320 kms via NH44. We had our fill before entering the caves and were ready to explore it to the fullest. It is the longest cave system open to the public in the Indian subcontinent, known for its Stalactite & Stalagmite formations. Belum caves was formed due to erosion in limestone deposits in the area by Chitravati River, millions of years ago. The have long passages with the total length of the caves extending to 3229 m, making them the second largest caves on the Indian subcontinent after the Krem Liat Prah caves in Meghalaya.
These caves were occupied by Buddhist & Jain monks over 2000 years ago. The relics which were found in the caves are now housed in a museum at Ananthapur. APTDC developed this as a tourist destination, created 2 km long pathways and fresh air shafts along the same. The entrance to the cave is like a pit cave and one gets down by metal staircase for about 20 m, after which the caves become horizontal. There are many sections to the cave, the important ones are - Simhadwaram, Kotilingalu chamber, Svaptasvarala Guha or musical chamber, Dhyan Mandir, Thousand Hoods (the stalactite formation looks like 1000 cobras have opened their hoods), Banyan Tree hall & a Mandapam and Patalaganga. One may also take a guide to know about the significance of the cave.
After this exciting visit, we proceeded to our resort Royal County Resort located on the Jammalamadugu-Proddatur Rd in Proddatur, Andhra Pradesh; a 2 hour drive from Belum Caves. This destination was chosen as it is located just 36 km away from Gandikota, our next destination on the itinerary. As soon as we checked into our resort, we called it a day & rested for the night with some wonderful dinner. Next day, after the breakfast, we were ready to head out for Gandikota.
Our first halt was at the Gandikota fort. The fort was a centre of power for many dynasties which include the Chalukyas, the Nayakas and the Golconda Sultanate. Gandikota was the capital of Pemmasena Nayakas for more than 300 years. Gandikota fort acquired its name due to a gorge formed by the Erramalai hills and the Penna river. In the fort, there are 2 ancient temples which are now in ruins, dedicated to Madhava & Ranganatha.
Other attractions at the fort are the House of Drums (used to alert army), Charminar jail where prisoners were held captive & Pond of Swords, the huge lake in front of the mosque. Post our visit to this magnificent fort, it was now turn to visit the Grand Canyon of India (earned this name owing to resemblance to the Grand Canyon), the Gandikota Canyon, which is a beautiful gorge formed by Erramalai hills with Penna river at the foot of the hills which offers a splendid view of this marvelous nature's formation. Formed by the erosion of rocks over a period of centuries, the canyon offers a breathtaking view!
Once this was done, rumbling of our stomach was distinctly heard. Just outside of the Gandikota fort entrance, there is Haritha restaurant run by APTDC. No other hotels are available in the vicinity. We had our lunch here which was mainly Andhra veg thali. Post our lunch, we headed towards Mylavaram Dam alongside downstream of the Penna river. It was our sheer luck, we were able to enjoy speed boat ride along the dam on the river to our heart's content. Post a wonderful day spent, we headed back to the resort with some beautiful memories of these hidden gems, which many people are not aware of. Back at the resort, it was once again time for some lovely snacks, dinner and games.
A visit to this part of Andhra Pradesh is definitely recommended as so much is to be seen, be it natural formations, archeological marvels or just for the fun of a road trip. Nowadays, there are a lot of travel companies offering campsites on the banks of the Penna river in Gandikota. Also included in the package are rock climbing, rappelling, trekking and kayaking. A perfect place for all age groups, do make it a point to include Belum Caves & Gandikota in your itinerary whenever you wish to explore Andhra Pradesh.