Bike trip to Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota

Tripoto
1st Nov 2019
Photo of Bike trip to Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Trip to Andhra Pradesh was long pending on list for places to visit especially the Lepakshi temple and of course Gandikota which has been getting a lot of attention off late as the Grand Canyon of India. The connectivity by public transport of these places is not the best from Bangalore so I decided to do a bike trip with my cousin and cover these places.

Lepakshi

Lepakshi is about 125 kms from Bangalore by road and the road for the most part is the Hyderabad highway barring the last 15 kms which is small road going towards Lepakshi. We started early around 6 am and were able to avoid the city traffic. This part of the area is dry and rocky and can get very hot during the day to explore in the open. So it's advisable to reach early in the morning and have at least a couple of hours to explore the place in detail.

The Veerbhadraswamy temple in Lepakshi is 16th century temple complex built in the Vijaynagara style. What remains today is the main shrine and big part which are ruins of the temple complex. The hanging pillar of the 70 odd pillars is of special significance and an ancient engineering marvel. The naaglinga shivling is unique and not found elsewhere. The verandah and the kalyana mantapa which is incomplete are other notable things to see inside. Just about 500 meters from the temple or rather the first thing that welcomes you to Lepakshi is the huge monolithic Nandi statue surrounded by a park.

Kalyana Mantapa

Photo of Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Naaglinga

Photo of Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Monolithic Nandi at Lepakshi

Photo of Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Lepakshi can very well be done as half a day trip from Bangalore starting early morning or it can be combined with a trip to Belum and Gandikota which make for at least 2-3 days at the least. There are not many restaurants around the temple and the AP tourism hotel Haritha is a decent option near the Nandi statue and the bus stand. Beware of leaving shoes unattended outside the temple as we encountered cases where all the shoes we stolen.

After exploring Lepakshi, we headed straight towards Tadipatri which is the closest town to Belum caves (about 30 kms). About 70 kms from Lepakshi on the route we stopped by Dharmavaram for lunch. There is a huge reservoir formed by Chitravathi river at Dharmavaram which is worth visiting on the way. We reached Tadipatri in the evening around 6 pm after traveling a good 300 kms on bike.

Dharmavaram Lake

Photo of Dharmavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Tadipatri is decently big town near Belum caves and good place with few stay options. There are limited food options too but you can get good local south indian food at some of the small restaurants. Guruvayoor restaurant is one good food options if you are here for some time.

Belum Caves

The road from Tadipatri to Belum is a treat to the eyes with Sunflower fields on both sides of the road and the road is extremely good. The ride is a short one (about 30 kms) and can be covered within one hour. As you near Belum caves, you see the majestic statue of Buddha and ‘Belum Caves’ written on the hillock behind it.

Belum caves are one of the lesser known places in this area but totally worth visiting. They are the second biggest cave system in Indian subcontinent after the Borra caves near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. About 3.5 km of the cave has been explored yet of which 1.5 km is open to the public. The deepest point in the cave is about 150 ft known as Patalganga where there is a waterfall.

Belum caves entrance

Photo of Belum Caves, Opposite Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Kolimigundla, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Inside Belum caves

Photo of Belum Caves, Opposite Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Kolimigundla, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Buddha Statue near the entrance of caves

Photo of Belum Caves, Opposite Indian Oil Petrol Pump, Kolimigundla, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

It takes a good 2 hours if you have to explore the caves and take a guide along to understand each section well. It’s best to avoid shoes and socks inside as there are puddles of mud formed by water flowing inside. It can feel stuffy and sweaty inside at that depth but the authorities have done well to pump air from ducts are various places. The cave is well lit and does not require a torch to be carried but it's beneficial to do so.

The next stop after Belum was Gandikota or the beautiful gorge as it is named in the local language. The road is average from Belum to Gandikota and it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Jammalamadugu town which is nearest to Gandikota village. This place has few hotel and food options. We had our lunch here before heading to Gandikota. The Mylavaram dam route towards Gandikota is a scenic one and I would recommend taking this detour and driving along the dam wall to experience the flow of Penna river downstream and local activity of fishing. Also the view of the dam brimming with water is breathtaking.

Gandikota

It takes about an hour to reach the Haritha resort in Gandikota which is run by the AP tourism and the only hotel with stay facilities in Gandikota. There are limited rooms here and it gets very full these days on weekends.

As the name goes, Gandikota is a beautiful and deep gorge formed by Penna river with Erramala hill range. This place has come to prominence in recent days and better known as the Grand Canyon of India. The sunrise and sunset in the Penna river valley are special and not to be missed. Apart there are other places to see like the Gandikota fort which is a huge area in ruins today and houses a temple, mosque, a granary and jail too.

Mosque and temple a

Photo of Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Penna river gorge viewpoint Gandikota

Photo of Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Staring at the gorge

Photo of Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Gandikota fort wall along side the gorge

Photo of Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Coming to stay options are Gandikota, the only two options are to stay in the Haritha resort which runs out of rooms very soon for weekends or to camp in tents of two on the hill top besides the fort wall. We stayed in the camp with food included but in hindsight could have stayed at Jammalamadugu and traveled to Gandikota during sunrise and sunset. The reason being that the tents may seem very cool and adventurous but the truth is it gets stuffy inside the tent and there are mosquitoes to deal with. Food that is part of the package is good simple south indian food but lacks options. The place gets littered with tourists drinking and playing havoc all night. It’s anything but calm and serene on weekends. The biggest problem though is that there is no toilet near the camps and the nearest place to go to the loo is the Haritha resort which is 1 km away. They need to install bio toilets here else it does not seem like a sustainable option.

Lines of tents at the camping site

Photo of Bike trip to Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota by Ajinkya Deshmukh

Litter near the campsite

Photo of Bike trip to Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota by Ajinkya Deshmukh

After camping overnight, we started towards Bangalore after breakfast from Gandikota and reached Bangalore in the evening with a few food and rest breaks. The entire stretch is about 700 kms drive on the bike. It can get a bit tiring on two wheels if one has to cover it in 2-3 days. I would strongly recommend planning to be in Gandikota on weekday nights to experience the peace of camping under the stars.

Bike route from Bangalore

Photo of Bike trip to Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota by Ajinkya Deshmukh

After visiting places like Lepakshi, Belum and Gandikota I have developed a lot of interest in exploring places in Andhra Pradesh. I think the state can do more good to promote responsible tourism around such places. I like the fact that there is raw beauty which is not harmed by too much development but I also worry that such places when discovered by tourists turn into trash cans in a matter of 2-3 years.

For more information on off beat travel, please visit my blog.

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