Gandikota: A Beauty Lost In Time
We walked through the narrow alleys of the Gandikota village, dotted with houses, with goats tied to posts, chickens running around, men and women busy in conversations. I looked around the massive red sandstone walls of the impressive Gandikota Fort dating back to several centuries ago that must have guarded the town.
Spread over several miles, the fort has a long perimeter wall that can be seen alongside the ruins of the once-majestic fort and the beautiful Pennar river. The Pennar river – serene and tranquil, cuts through the Erramala hill ranges and forms a stunning gorge – the highlight of Gandikota.
I had heard about Gandikota, almost always being referred to as the Grand Canyon of India. Though I understand doing so gives one an idea about the place, but feel it’s more of a marketing gimmick. Calling a certain place a ‘this’ of ‘that’ is taking away the uniqueness of that place and comparing it to something else. And comparisons, in any form, is something I personally do not prefer.
Though Gandikota was actually an offbeat place until a few years ago, it’s not anymore. It still is less-frequented, possibly due to the fact that the place is quite remote with only limited options to stay, eat, etc. I had visited the place in February 2018, and if not for the comfy road-trip that H agreed upon, it would have been kind of difficult for me to be there.
The February weather is supposed to be cooler, at least it is so in the other parts of the country, but it wasn’t the case in Gandikota. The mornings & evening were comparatively manageable, but it got really hot during the day. So do check the weather, pack light clothes, sunscreen, hat, etc. On the other hand, you may want to consider visiting here during the relatively cooler months of December, January or the post-monsoon months of September-October, as per your convenience.
I was under an impression that I’ll definitely find someplace – out of the many – to stay, but after a lot of research, I learned that the Haritha Resort, maintained by AP Tourism department is your best (& only) bet for accommodation in Gandikota.
Pitching your own tent near the rocky cliffs is possible as well. There are no restaurants or shops in the vicinity of the fort or even around the village, so you may have to carry or cook your own food. Jammalamadugu is the nearest place where one can find any shops, ATMs etc. and which is 15ish km away. Perhaps this is the reason why not too many people crowd the place (which I think is a good thing! call me whatever).
If planning a stay in the Haritha hotel, expect very simple and basic food. The resort is well-maintained, the cottages are spacious and tidy. The staff speaks little English but is pretty helpful. As Haritha is the only accommodation available here (with about some 10-15 cottages) the bookings generally tend to get full soon. Also note that the booking can only be done online.
By the time I went to the APTDC website for the booking, there was no availability. I dropped a mail to the ID mentioned in the footer, & was super impressed when I actually received a call. The rep. was super helpful and after checking a few options like date change, etc, which were not matching with my plan, connected me with the Divisional Manager. I wasn’t sure if we’ll be able to continue with the plan or not but was happy to come across a team that was putting efforts in helping me.
After I had dropped the plan, two days later, the super helpful Divisonal Manager called me and told me we needn’t cancel our plan and that the accommodation will be managed for us! I must admit this level of customer-centricity was highly impressive. We set out on the road trip the next morning.
The drive was a pleasant one and passed through pretty sunflower fields, rocky hills and several nondescript villages. The final stretch of road leading up to the village had boulders and stones of various sizes on either side, that looked as if someone had neatly stacked them up.
A little before sunset we were relaxing on one of the many boulders strewn around the gorge formed by the Pennar river. The chaotic voices of the surroundings were subdued by the strong winds that blew over the dark water and across its magnificent gorge. We sat quietly watching the changing colours of the sky, the sunset on the rocky ruins opposite the gorge and the Pennar river moving quietly giving an illusion of stillness.
The next morning, however, we decided to go to the surrounding cliffs, a few kilometres away from the fort. It was absolutely quiet here, with not one soul around. If not for the cloudy skies, the sunrise over the gorge would have been a stunning sight. We walked around, hopped over the boulders until we found a perfect spot. I don’t remember how long we sat there, soaking in the peace and beauty of the surrounding that, for that moment, was just for us.
Other Places To See And Activities To Do In Gandikota
In the fort premises, there are numerous monuments and structures like the Juma Masjid, Charminar, Granary, Ranganath Swamy Temple etc. Apart from these, several adventure activities take place in and around the fort area. If interested one can also go for water sports like boating & kayaking in the nearby Mylavaram dam. The second largest natural caves in India – Belum Caves, which is at a distance of about 60ish km from Gandikota can also be visited.