Kavaledurga Fort: 9th century historical trekking destination nestled in the lap of the Western Ghats - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, October 05, 2020

Kavaledurga Fort: 9th century historical trekking destination nestled in the lap of the Western Ghats

Surreal Kavaledurga Fort Top view

It is a slice of forgotten history amidst the forests of the Western Ghats of Karnataka. From its top point, it offers a stunning 360 degree panorama of the lush greens of the Western Ghats, its rolling hills and its various water bodies. I am talking about the 9th century Kavaledurga Fort, a multi level fort with strong fortifications, palaces, temples and that makes for a fabulous monsoon trekking destination in the Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka.

The last capital of the Keladi kingdom, the Kavaledurga fort was built in the 9th century and later renovated in the 14th century. It was a stronghold of the Nayakas of Keladi, who managed the land initially for the Vijayanagara kings and later managed it independently after the fall of the Vijayanagara kingdom. It took prominence in the 16th century under the rule of Venkatappa Nayaka who fortified the place, added a palace, temples, matha, granary, treasury, stables and ponds.

Palace ruins inside  Kavaledurga Fort

Right from the time you buy your parking ticket and walk through the narrow mud trail flanked by lush green paddy fields on both sides, you cannot stop but wonder about the size of this fort and appreciate the nature surrounding it. A wide and steep cobbled stone path leads you to the main door and that’s where the action begins. The cobbled path is wide so may be elephants used to carry stuff up to the palace. Today, there are no elephants here, but there are gorgeous views that you can soak in while you catch your breath on this steep incline. Once you enter the main doorway, there are other mini doorways that lead you to the Kashi Vishwanath temple and Lakshmi Narayana temple. These temples are defunct and mostly in ruins. You can see the structures and may be a Nandi or other statues strewn around.

Kavaledurga Fort pathway

Now, the wide cobbled pathways give way to green fields and more gateways. Past this gateway and in the fourth level of this fort lies the ruins of a palace, which in its hey days used to consists of a durbar hall, a kitchen, bedroom and bathrooms. Stepwells have been found here, which shows that they had water storage and management in those days here. Water sewerage lines have also been found here. Post the ruins of the palace lies dense vegetation and it might look like the end of the trail, but this is where the best part of the fort lies. If you look closer into this dense vegetation, you will discover an extremely steep flight of stone steps that have been completely beaten down by the sun and the rains. As you huff and pant to the top and 5th level of the fort, you will be greeted by possibly some of the best views in the Western Ghats.

The green expanse inside Kavaledurga Fort

Coupled with a stiff breeze, this view of the backwaters of the Varahi and Mani reservoirs, the rolling hills of the Sahyadris and the green carpet totally makes up for the arduous climb to the fort top. There is also a smaller temple located at the top. Called Shikareshwara, this happens to be the highest point in the fort and it offers a 360 degree view of the entire landscape that includes the backwater views, the Kashi Vishwanath temple and fort views, the village views and the entire view of the forest floor below. They say sunsets here are a specialty and offer surreal views during the winter months.

Hiking to the top of Kavaledurga Fort

A highly recommended monsoon trekking destination in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, Kavaledurga Fort would also appeal to history lovers, nature lovers and those looking for a relaxed getaway amidst pristine nature. I am sure it would look fabulous even during winter and spring, but I visited it during the rains and I felt the entire trekking experience to be magical. If you are looking for a historical trekking destination in Karnataka, this place should certainly feature in your top list. I loved its diversity, terrain and views. And I am sure you would too!

Trail through paddy fields to Kavaledurga Fort, Karnataka

Best season to visit:

The monsoons are the best time to visit if you wish for the lush green experience and if you like the idea of a monsoon trek.

The winter months would be a great time to visit for spectacular sunsets.

Summers can be best avoided as the steep climb in the heat can be extremely tiring.

My personal favorite is the monsoon season.

The doorway that leads into Kavaledurga Fort premises

How to reach there:

Kavaledurga fort is located on the highway between Mastikatte and Teerthahalli. If you are traveling from the coast, you will either take the Hulikal ghat and turn right at Mastikatte towards Teertahalli or you will take the Agumbe ghat and turn left towards Kavaledurga on the Agumbe –Teerthahalli road. If you are traveling from Sagara, you can take the route via Mastikatte and if you are traveling from Shimoga, you can take the route via Teertahalli.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore international airport, about 133 kms away (3 and a half hours one way journey).

The nearest railway stations would be Kundapura (70 kms away), Shimoga (80 kms away) and Udupi (95 kms away).

Public transportation will not take you all the way till Kavaledurga Fort, but it will certainly take you till Shimoga, Teerthahalli, Agumbe, Kundapur or Udupi.

Kavaledurga Fort main entrance

Where to stay:

If you prefer homestays, try the ones in and around Agumbe, Sringeri or Teerthahalli.

If you prefer beach resorts, try the beaches near Udupi or near Maravanthe.

If you prefer larger hotels, try Udupi, Shimoga, Mangalore and Kundapur.

The trail through dense foliage that leads to the top of Kavaledurga Fort

Where to eat:

If coffee, tea and/or light snacks are on your mind, the parking lot in front of Kavaledurga Fort have two shops that can offer you a limited choice of beverages and packaged snacks.

If you want to find a decent restaurant where you can find good local food, the hotels at Maskikatte and Teerthahalli would be your best bet.

If you want something extraordinary, you should try the bigger hotels in Shimoga or in Udupi, but they will be a bit far away from Kavaledurga Fort.

Varahi reservoir as seen from the top of Kavaledurga Fort

Things required for this trek:

1) A good pair of walking shoes or boots to give you enough traction on slippery surfaces

2) An attentive eye to make sure leeches don’t climb up your shoes. This is mainly during the monsoons and during the rains

3) A bottle of water or two to stay hydrated

4) Some snacks or high energy bars in case you plan to stay on the top for a while. There is absolutely no food or water available once you cross the parking lot

5) A pair of sunglasses if you don’t like the bright sun hitting your eyes

6) A good camera to capture the beauty of this stunning landscape

Spectacular view from the top of Kavaledurga Fort, Karnataka

Approximate time taken for the trek:

The entire return journey from the parking lot would be roughly four kilometers and it should take you about two to two and a half hours for the entire journey. The ascent is steep and will leave you gasping for breath. Thankfully, the views are so good that you will want to stop and click pictures. While, the ascent is mostly steep gradient till you reach the palace section, it turns into steep rock cut steps post that. And these are a beast, both to climb up and down. Most of the trail is under the sun, so do remember to carry a bottle or two of water with you. The terrain is very slippery during the rains. Do exercise caution.

Ruins of Kavaledurga temples and the surrounding green landscape

Other trekking destinations nearby:

1) Narasimha Parvatha, a rainforest trek connecting Sringeri with Agumbe and that takes you to Barkana Falls, pristine rainforest and more

2) Kodachadri, a forest trek that takes you through Mookambike wildlife sanctuary and takes you to the top of Kodachadri mountain where Adi Shankaracharya had done penance. This place also offers stunning views of the Linganamakki reservoir

3) Kudlu Teertha Falls, a trek through the forests of Someshwara wildlife sanctuary that takes you to the pristine Kudlu Teertha waterfalls

4) Vanakebe Falls, a trek near Agumbe that takes you to the top of Vanakebe Falls and that provides a view of the rainforest from above

5) Jogigundi Falls, a trek that leads you to a cave waterfall near Agumbe

The ancient cobbled path leading to Kavaledurga Fort, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shivappa Nayaka fort or Nagara Fort, a fort from the 17th century that is surrounded by the forests of the Western Ghats

2) Talasi Abbi Falls, a hidden waterfall surrounded by lush green forests of the Western Ghats

3) Hulikal ghat and Hulikal Falls, one of the wettest regions of Karnataka

4) Kunchikal Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls of India

5) The rainforest village of Agumbe that is known for its sunset points, waterfall treks and king cobras

6) 8th century Sringeri Sharadamba temple that is located by the banks of the river Tungabhadra

7) Kollur Mookambika temple, an iconic 8th century temple surrounded by the forests of the Western Ghats and that provides a view of the Kodachadri peak

8) Thombattu Falls, a wide waterfall located near Hosangadi

9) Bhadra tiger reserve, a fabulous place to see river terns, tigers, leopards and many other wild animal and bird species

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