Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway


Grand Canyon Of India

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan

TGIF takes a whole new level in Bangalore. Toll Booth lines of car on weekends leading to outside the town run miles. Hearing and reading a lot about the HIDDEN GEM, we (me, my wife and my 2 year old) finally planned to cross a place out of our bucket list that has eluded us for very long time. The place being our own version of Grand Canyon surprisingly not even shown as point of attraction in India. For those who have guessed yes I am talking about GandiKota, a beauty so dunked in ignorance that it still retains charm of wild wild west.

The Early Start

The plan was to start early at 5 am on Saturday towards GandiKota with an intermediate break at lepakshi followed by Belum Caves. We surprisingly did manage to be ready sharp at 5. My kid seemed happy about getting up in the early hour, a good Omen of things to come. We were driving a TUV- Mahindra so were not afraid of any potholes as we heard many stretches of AP State highways were being worked on. We took the outer ring road to reach the airport and then the NH-44 going towards Nandi hills. We covered good ground and had crossed Nandi hills in about one and half hour.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a mist started forming on the roads, initially, we thought of it as smoke as Bangalore is not so chilly these days. But as we progressed we had to switch on our fog lights and the drive speed fell below 40 kmph. As the stretch is clear of any living population so the entire area was looking as if we are in by lanes of Ooty. My baby was full awestruck to even talk as she hadn't seen such a fog in her small life. We were also enjoying the beauty but were only worried about time. Luckily though it lasted for only around half an hour and then we zoomed past to lepakshi. Lepakshi, a place forgotten by the government but kept alive by the villagers nearby. It serves them well as their livelihood depends on the place.

Day 1

Photo of Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swamy Temple (లేపాక్షి), Lepakshi Temple Road, Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India by Abhinav Ranjan

Luckily we were the first one to arrive on the scene. Even the priest entered the gates as we were parking. The place entrance is a small gate as compared to the huge Nandi idol at the corner of the road leading to the temple. The initial idea was we will go check out the place and leave in few minutes, but Boy o Boy! We were in for real surprise. The place is huge once you go inside and has some amazing marvels carved out of stone. The main temple itself is of Lord Veerabhadra standing majestic among the big boulders. Although fully enclosed there is artificial light inside that will not make you feel claustrophobic.

The priest himself explained us the history of place once puja was done. The Puranic lore has it that the Veerabhadra temple was built by the sage Agastya. Another legend gives the town a significant place in the Ramayana - this was where the bird Jatayu fell, wounded after a battle against Ravana who was carrying away Sita ma. When Sri Rama reached the spot, he saw the bird and said compassionately, "Le Pakshi" - 'rise, bird' in Telugu. It has idols of Ganesha, Nandi, Veerabhadra, Shiva, Bhadrakali, Vishnu and Lakshmi.

The whole place is a cameraman's delight and you will find scope for taking some amazing pictures here. The place is well known for its floating or hanging pillar. So out of multiple pillars supporting the structure there is a huge one which does not touch the ground. You can actually pass a handkerchief or newspaper at its base. Wish some of these architectural genius would have passed down to our generation. After eating the Prasad we had a hearty breakfast at APTDC hotel, the only decent place to eat in vicinity. After inquiring if they accept cards a big no came and we ended up paying in cash. Low cash alert sounded its first bell.

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan

After this, the journey was smooth with occasional patches of road where some construction was going on to expand the roads. For people who don't know, this area is one of the largest groundnut producers in India, there is also a ground nut school nearby. Suddenly out of nowhere a beautiful stretch of Red Rock Mountains came, with a temple on one side and mountain on other we thought it might be entry to the destination but Google map said otherwise, so we pushed on, I still don't know what was the name of place but it was a beautiful spot.

As we continued on the stretch a fort wall came in picture with a board confirming that it was our destination of GandiKota. No one was there to tell where to go next so we followed some car to enter the fort, it is a stony patch of road which continues till back side of the wall via a small establishment of people. Because of morning domestic animals like hen, dogs were all marching ahead of us and we were trying not to hit any of them.

Photo of Gandikota Fort, Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Abhinav Ranjan

Soon the road ended and we parked our vehicle at one end. Again as no one is there to tell which route to take we followed a group of local people. There were few old ladies selling nuts at one of the steps and showed us to take the steps and move toward some granary buildings nearby. These all buildings look like old store house and also houses a JAIL here. In front of JAIL building there is a beautiful pond having lots of steps o reach the water that is not worth use, Though be careful with it though as the path is not very well maintained and is also made of stone blocks.

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan

As we continued on the same path the mountain cliff started showing in background. It's a small walk of 500 meters but still be careful as it is made of stone only. Once you enter the cliff region you know you are entering a different world with all stone lying on each other as if someone has chiseled them and put them on top of each other to create a huge castle of sorts, that too all in red the same stone which has been used to make Red Fort maybe.

We keep on moving keeping our breath close as we know this place has taken the breath out of many previous tourist. And well even the preserved breath found its way to skip as soon as we saw the gorge area. "PHEW" "WOW" "REAL??" all these questions if it comes to your mind join the group. It's a place beyond explanation. Mesmerising to the core you can sit here without any sense of time. With the sunset, the whole place changes to god's place because only he can create beauty like this. You can stand on top of rocks feel like KING of the World or simply meditate and enjoy the serene unspoiled beauty of the place. Though we didn't explore but there is a mild trek that can take you the bottom of the river for the adventurous types.

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan

We somehow dragged ourselves back as we all were very tired and headed for APTDC hotel. Now one word of caution here, the only hotel for stay here is an APTDC Haritha hotel which is situated next to GandiKota fort but before booking it please ensure you have everything with you as for miles there is no shop. Better option could be staying at Kadapa which is the nearest town and has many options for stay and food.

Photo of Haritha Resort, Gandikota Road, Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Abhinav Ranjan

Oh and yes they have ATMs which finally gave cash without any lines (For people who are unaware India is undergoing demonetization and all existing cash are null and void). As compared to metro cities there was no rush in front of ATM here and we merrily took out money from a SBI ATM. We stayed in Haritha Kadapa which was a basic hotel with average service but good food and dirt price liquor. Beat this Smirnoff listed price was 35 Rs along with Royal stag for 30 ml. The place in itself is very big with huge lawns and neat rooms.

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan
Day 2

Day 2: Belum Cave

Morning we got up and started at 8 am deciding to skip breakfast in Hotel but trying out something good on the road. Monumental mistake to the level of awesomeness of GandiKota, being a small town there were hardly any restaurant open at this time or maybe the people wanted to laze around on a Sunday morning. So all in all we kept on driving empty stomach munching biscuits and cakes that we had packed for snacks. Savoring each of them and looking out of place to eat we detour to a resort based on google selection, but no joke was still on us, the entire place was booked for some political meeting and lots of people with big flags furling everywhere were gathered at the gate. We cursed under our breath and took a U-turn to meet a random Police check. Police guy were looking for something which they didn't find on us and ended up opening bags of diapers and baby milk.

Anyways good news was that we were only 30 min of our destinations and there would be restaurants open there as confirmed by the inspector. We were so hungry that we were not even enjoying the amazing roads we were travelling. Unlike GandiKota road to Belum is well laid out and with good markings throughout. We found many school buses doing local excursion tours to the place. As soon as we reached the place the debate was on should we eat first and then go and visit the caves or first visit the caves and then eat so that we can do brunch and save some time as it was already 11 am. But the rumbling in my stomach convinced everyone that it has to be food, the restaurant inside Belum cave campus opens very late but luckily there are small places just at the gate that serve some basic south Indian delicacies. We settled on paratha, dosa and alu ki sabji all tasting amazingly fresh and tasty. I still don't know who was happier the shop owner for we being the first of the tour group or us devouring everything he said is available.

Photo of Belum Caves, Kolimigundla, Andhra Pradesh, India by Abhinav Ranjan

After a smiling stomach we entered the cave. There are few steps which lead you the cave and after that it stretches for around 2 km. There is only a common entry and exit so walk to the limit you can come back as inside it becomes kind of claustrophobic as there is no natural ventilation but only artificial pumps taking care of letting fresh air inside. As you will go inside you might feel a bit light headed and getting tired soon. So be careful. But back to the cave in itself it's another wonderful creation of nature. Government has done some good work here for the 50 Rs ticket they charge as the area is well lit and aired. Even the paths have been made in such a way that you can walk easily. Even my kid was running on her own most of the parts. You should definitely go there at least once to get the feel of cave living.

Photo of Best offbeat destination near Bangalore #offbeatgetaway by Abhinav Ranjan

Again after some heavy dose of picture clicking we started back, where we found a storm of kids from the excursion tour of some local school. My kid became the instant hit among the crowd as she was the youngest one roaming around the place on her own. She happily waved to all her fans and we too said silent byes to the two wonderful places that we explored. Both of its own kind but worth a visit to see nature at its most creative mood. Savoring all the moments we stormed back in the setting sun to the blaring headlights of Bangalore (No in Bangalore we the car owners don't know how not to use high beam!#$@#$) as we neared home tired but enthralled.

Tips for the Trip

1. Take good amount of food with you as you will find nothing on long stretch.2. Carry your sun lotion, shades or umbrella if coming in afternoon as the stone becomes very hot3. Best time to come is early morning to see the Sunrise4. Caves could feel a bit claustrophobic so take precaution5. If you want to stay in Haritha Gandikota do booking at least a month in advance on aptdc official website.