As travel restrictions ease around the world in the aftermath of the coronavirus, we are raring to step out of our homes. Most of us will be looking for out-of-the-box places instead of the usual tourist hotspots. Many will choose to avoid crowded public transport (trains or flights), looking at vacations that are closer home and can be reached via a road trip. However, just because you cannot go on your international or cross-country trip, does not mean that you have to miss out on the thrill of adventure.
For those of you who have always dreamt of visiting the Grand Canyon in the US and now find that dream indefinitely postponed, we have good news! India has its very own version of the Grand Canyon and it is just as beautiful as its American counterpart. If you want to witness this gorge, all you have to do is head to Gandikota in the Kadappa district of Andhra Pradesh. Owing to its strategic location, it was the seat of power of many ancient dynasties, ever since its discovery in 1123 by Kakatiya Raja, a subordinate of the then Chalukya ruler. The name can be broken into two parts – 'gandi' meaning canyon and 'kota' meaning fort. In fact, the entire village in the area is known by this name.
When to Visit
While it remains open almost all year round, the best time to visit Gandikota would be after the summers have passed. This is because the temperatures can soar up during the summer months, making it a tad uncomfortable to go around. Furthermore, owing to significantly low water levels, the canyon can seem less visually appealing.
How to Get There
If you live anywhere in or around Bangalore or Hyderabad, you can easily take a road trip to Gandikota. If not, you can get to Bangalore and then take a train from there to Jammalamadugu. Many cars from that station will take you to Gandikota which is approximately 18 km away.
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Unfortunately, there is only one hotel in the region. Therefore, it is advisable to make bookings months in advance of your trip. However, a lot of people also go to Gandikota for camping, which can be an excellent alternative. One can eat at the hotel and then camp outside for the night.
Things to Do
Other than the canyon, you must also visit the Gandikota Fort. While most of the structure is in shambles now, if you walk around a bit, you will spot some interesting stuff, like a watch tower, a jail and a granary. The place also holds the Madhavaraya Swamy and Raghunatha Swamy Temples and Jamia Masjid, all of which are in ruins.
A two hour drive will take you to the Belum Caves, India’s largest and longest natural cave system that is open to the public. It is very well maintained and divided into multiple sections like Paatalganga, Dhyan Mandir, Saptasvarala Guha, and others. It is easy to navigate owing to maps and good lighting. You will be charged a nominal entry fee.