Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota: Surreal Natural Wonder between Bangalore and Hyderabad - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota: Surreal Natural Wonder between Bangalore and Hyderabad

Panoramic Pennar river canyon at Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh

It is popularly referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of India’. It is one of India’s most gorgeous natural wonders. It is so beautiful that efforts are being put to give it a world heritage tag. I am talking about the surreal Pennar river canyon at Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh and the 12th century Gandikota fort that is built along this steep and stunning canyon.

Gandikota, which literally translates into ‘gorge fort’ in Telugu is a 12th century fort that was built during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas on the steep  Erramala or Gandikota range of hills by the narrow Pennar river. This gorge is more than a million years old and could have been formed due to a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago. Such lava flows from volcanic eruptions in this region are referred to as Deccan traps. This steep rocky canyon of red granite could be one such Deccan trap.

The East flowing Pennar river is usually a seasonal river, so technically this canyon should be dry most months of the year, but due to the Gandikota dam upstream and the Mylavaram dam downstream that get water from the much larger Srisailam dam on the Krishna river, this canyon usually has water. It is technically a river, but it behaves more like a backwater or reservoir overflow. This constant water in the gorge is what makes this canyon look so beautiful and may be that is why it draws comparisons with the grand canyon in the United States which has such a similar riverine landscape.

The darkish green water, the red granite rocks, the in between greenery and the colours of the sky all add to the dramatic effect of this landscape. It is this heady concoction that makes this place a hot favorite with everyone. Add to it, the beautiful fort enclosure with temples, mosques, granary, pigeon tower, palace, massive fort walls with canons and water bodies and you have an amazing heritage and nature package.

Admiring the Pennar river canyon view on a dark monsoon day

And the fact that it is located right in between the bustling cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad make it a perfect weekend getaway destination. It offers a lovely mix of stupendous nature, adventurous trails, history and rustic location. Have you visited this place as yet? If not, I would recommend you to visit this place on your next road trip from Bangalore. And do remember to tell me your experience in the comments below.

Enjoying the beauty of Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota on a monsoon day

Things to keep in mind before visiting:

1) Drone photography is not allowed at Gandikota. I don’t know if there are people checking this, but I think the ban exists due to the dam nearby. The heavy winds in the gorge also renders drones useless.

2) The rocks by the Pennar river gorge are slippery. Do exercise caution and ensure that you wear footwear with good grip.

3) It can get quite hot here during the day and there is hardly any shade. Do ensure that you carry a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, some power snacks and water with you at all times.

4) You can trek down to the Pennar river through the gorge. Do check with locals for the exact trail.

5) Sunset is the best time to visit Gandikota if photography is your agenda. After 3 pm, the sun shines directly on the Pennar river gorge.

Beautiful Nature - Pennar river canyon at Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh

How to reach there:

The nearest airports would either be Bangalore (290 kms) or Hyderabad (390 kms).

The nearest railway station would be Jammalamadugu (about 12 kms away), though connectivity would be poor. Gooty junction ( 116 kms away) and Muddanuru (about 26 kms away) would be the options with better rail connectivity.

Gandikota is connected by good roads to both Bangalore and Hyderabad.

If you are driving from Bangalore, opt for the scenic forest and gorge route. Bangalore to Koikonda on the NH 44 4 –lane highway. Then turn right towards Gorantala, Kadiri, Pulivendula and Muddanur. The route between Kadiri and Pulivendula is the beautiful gorge and canyon route while the earlier stretch between Gorantala and Kadiri is the hilly forest stretch. The entire route is about 290 kms and takes about 6 hours to drive from Bangalore.

Temple, Mosque and dark clouds at Gandikota

Other places to visit enroute:

1) 7th century Bhoga Nandeeswara temple at the foot of Nandi hills

2) The vineyards and vegetable farms of rural Chikkaballapur

3) Sri Veerabhadra temple at Lepakshi

4) Gudibande fort

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta

7) Skandagiri hill

8) Chandrayana betta

Juma Masjid inside Gandikota Fort, Andhra Pradesh

Where to stay:

There are 3 options to stay at Gandikota.

Option 1: Stay at the decent lodging at Haritha Resorts, a property run by Andhra Pradesh tourism department.

Option 2: Opt for the local camping services and stay in a tent by the river Pennar.

Option 3: Carry your own tent and pitch it somewhere in the Pennar river gorge. Do remember that this is not recommended, but there are people who have done this in the past.

Pennar River Canyon at Gandikota - One of India's beautiful natural wonders

Where to eat:

There are shacks just outside Gandikota fort where one can find basic things to eat like fried rice, omelette, tea, etc. If you want something more appropriate, head to Haritha Resort, a hotel run by Andhra Pradesh tourism department. For more options, you will have to head to Muddanur, about 28 kms away.

The steep walls of the Gandikota canyon with the reservoir in the background

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The 15th to 16th century Vijayanagara era temples of Tadipatri (Sri Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple and Sri Chintala Venakaramana Swamy temple)

2) Belum caves, one of the largest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

3) The beautiful caves and Sri Uma Maheshwara temple at Yaganti

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