For those of you who cannot see the possibility of visiting the Grand Canyon (Arizona) in the near future do not be saddened as the solution to your problem is right here in India. The solution is Gandikota, a small village located in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. Let me warn you from the very beginning that this is not an easy place to reach as this place has very limited connectivity from rest of the India except for places like Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad from where you can simply drive off over a weekend. The best part, however, is that a trip to this place will let you cover two other interesting places which include Belum Caves – Gandikota Fort – Gooty Fort.
How to Reach
By train, there are many small towns around Gandikota from where you can access this place namely Tadipatri, Gooty and Guntakal. The largest town amongst these three is Guntakal but its bit far from Gandikota and the nearest is Tadipatri but this town has almost no proper hotel or guest houses so your best bet would be Gooty, which is also the best choice if you plan to visit Belum Caves and Gooty Fort.
Some, however, prefer to visit this place by driving on a weekend en route to Hyderabad or Chennai for them take the quickest route and you can park at the APTDC Haritha hotel which is situated just at the gates of Gandikota Fort.
Where to Stay
Gooty has limited options and I managed to only see three hotels where you can stay overnight with only one amongst the three recommendable. Even the locals will tell you that Hotel Ravi Theja is the best place with air-conditioned accommodations in the town. The only downside is that the hotel rooms do not have western toilets and you would have to get yourself accustomed with the Indian version. On the positive side, this hotel has a restaurant attached which takes care of your hunger problem. However, the taste of food is not that great and the saving grace would be that there are quite a few restaurants all around this place serving both veg and non-veg food.
If you want to stay directly at Gandikota then APTDC Haritha Hotel is the only option. On the downside, this place is completely ill-prepared to host guests if you visit them without prior booking. We wanted to have lunch at the restaurant inside the hotel since this was the only place around the fort but we were told that the only option for lunch would be fried rice and egg fried rice. The hotel staff themselves admitted that it is only during the weekends that this place springs into action with guests visiting else this place remains completely vacant throughout the week thus they plan the food availability accordingly.
Considering that you are going to stay at Gooty you will find plenty of Auto and Vikram plying from the station towards the main town. Gooty station is bit far (nearly 5 kilometres) from the main Gooty town thus this is the only viable option. A fully booked auto will cost you around 60 Rs. and takes around ten minutes to reach the hotel. Since this is a small town thus all the auto drivers know all the hotels in town so sit back and enjoy the short ride from the station to your hotel.
To reach Gandikota and Belum Caves you have to book a car since there are no regular bus services on which you can rely. The car rates are 1000 Rs. for a day plus 300 Rs. for the driver, fuel cost will be at actual at the rate of 10 Kilometres per litre of diesel. Roughly a trip to Gandikota including Belum caves from Gooty would roughly cost you around 3000 Rs.
Trip to Gandikota
Start early so that you can reach Gandikota post lunch, this is considering that you would travel to Belum Caves in the first half. In order to get the best view of the canyon, you need to visit when the sun is behind you thus second half is the best bet.
The car ride will take you through three states in Andhra Pradesh since all these spots are on crossroads between the three states. Gooty falls under Anantapur, Belum Caves falls under Kurnool and Gandikota falls under Kadapa district. This region of Andhra Pradesh is some of the driest regions thus agriculture is very limited, what you will do find are numerous cement plants and thousands of wind turbines installed on hill tops to power this industry.
Being a dry zone you are most likely to find clear skies and even a splash of rain would only last a couple of minutes. You will pass a couple of bridges over rivers but do not expect to see water as these have remained dry for many years.
Tourist Attractions at Gandikota
The main tourist attraction at Gandikota is the gorge, however, do keep some time in your hand to visit the Gandikota Fort which lies right next to the canyon. The fort was strategically built above the canyon as a song defensive position from where an attack was almost impossible.
The gorge is around 6.5 Kilometres long and the height from top to the river varies from 300 to 400 feet the distance between the two ends of the cliffs are approximately 600 feet. The red rock face clearly indicated that it’s mainly sandstone. The word “Gandi” in fact means gorge and “Kota” means fort in the local Telugu language thus the words together clearly mentions this place as the Gorge Fort or Gandikota.
Cars are allowed right inside the fort and you would need to park right next to the old mosque from where you have to approach the gorge viewpoint on foot. It is highly recommended you wear comfortable shoes with a good grip as to get the best of views you would have to walk over slippery boulders. If travelling in summer then a sun hat is a must, umbrellas can be difficult to manage as you may need to use your hands for balancing and holding on. If travelling with children do not leave them alone especially near the edge of the gorge as it’s a straight drop also occasionally some of the boulders on the outer edges either come loose or wobbles under human weight thus you need to be extra careful.
The higher you go from the edge of the gorge the better is the view but remember to climb according to your own strength as you have to climb down and this can become tricky sometimes. Lucky for me our driver was as enthusiastic as me thus he guided me to the top of the gorge to get the best view. He, in fact, insisted on going to a certain point to get the best viewing angle and honestly he was absolutely right.
Coming back to the gorge it is one of the most breath-taking landscape views that I have ever seen in India. I had earlier seen smaller gorge in West Bengal (Gangani) but trust me nothing compares to this. What I am told is that the real Grand Canyon in the USA is larger than this and what we see out here in Gandikota is just a slightly smaller version.
The faces of the gorge have a sheer vertical drop with green waters at the bottom which forms the Penna River. Luckily the check dam upstream ensures a presence of water in this section giving it a perfect ten in terms of a visual bouquet.
The beauty of this place is such serene that you forget the time and it was hours since we had our last meal but still, we never felt hungry. I would recommend you got to this place during weekdays as there are almost no tourists so you would spend time at this beautiful place with just the sounds of winds hitting you face as you watch the red cliffs play hide and seek with the shadows of the clouds above. The scenery is such that many local tourists were posing like Bahubali, they were happy to pose for my camera, don’t get fooled by the size of the stone its tremendously heavy and they were somehow holding on for me to finish clicking. The locals are very friendly and some young students enthusiastically translated signage written in Telugu for me.
APTDC Haritha Hotel is the only restaurant which is located right outside the Gandikota Fort entrance. This place is huge and has ample parking space. There are many air-conditioned rooms where you can spend the weekend. This place also has an attached restaurant but the service is limited due to the low tourist turnout on weekdays. Only on weekends, this place sees an influx of tourists who come on a weekend drive.
Gandikota has another big attraction which is the Gandikota Fort which also has quite a few beautiful structures. All that in my next blog till then bon voyage.
Click here to open the route map to Gandikota from Gooty on Google Maps
Click here to open the route map to Gandikota from Gooty via Belum Caves on Google Maps
Click here to open the route map to Gandikota from Gooty via Belum Caves and return to Gooty on Google Maps
Action Camera Video Footage
Gooty – Hotel Ravi Theja (Mobile – 83093 86360, this is the mobile number of the owner who can speak Telugu and Little Hindi. You can also WhatsApp him in this number in English)
Local Transportation Details
Toyota Etios & Toyota Innova – Call Malli at 91000 91666, he can speak English, Hindi at Telugu