Gandikota. Doesn’t the name have an interesting ring to it? It almost has a mystical tone.

Situated on the right bank of the river Pennar in Andhra Pradesh, Gandikota is popularly known as the “Grand Canyon of India.”

Once you see it, it actually feels like one. Though, I’ve never been to the real Grand Canyon yet.

“Gandi” in Telugu means “a gorge,” and “kota” means “a fort.” So, Gandikota literally translates to “a fort around a gorge.”

I’ve been planning to ride to this place since a terribly long time. It’s not that far away from Bengaluru; just around 300km away.

The ride-and-camp plan was etched a month in advance, and off we 4 departed on the morning of 12th March 2016.

Route: Bengaluru – Gorantla – Kadari – Pulivendula – Muddanur – Jammalamadugu – Gandikota

Distance Covered: ~300 km


Google Maps:

Bengaluru to Gandikota: A Late Start

We started a bit late than usual, which turned out to be a pretty bad idea. More on that later as you unravel the adventure.

I reached my friend’s place in Wilson garden at 7:30 AM to pick up my riding jacket, fueled up at Shell, and headed towards Kodigehalli gate.

My bike’s accelerator cable was acting up. The throttle wasn’t turning beyond a certain point, thereby limiting my speed to 60kmph.

I was thinking of places where I can get it fixed, when suddenly it freed itself without any notice. That’s Royal Enfield for you in a nutshell.

It was fun to ride with all the power returned. I roared towards the International Airport Road. I halted in front of Coringa and called my friend. It was 8:13 AM. He asked me to wait at the toll gate just before entering the Airport.


Waiting eagerly at the toll gate for my friends to arrive.


It looks so calm in the morning. Everything does when you have no immediate work.


Well, the bike needs to wait too. It’s not gonna ride by itself. At least not yet.

I reached there in a few minutes and waited till 8:50 AM. After a quick chat, we moved towards breakfast.

Breakfast at Nandi

Nandi Upachar, the recently opened restaurant near Nandi Hills, is where we decided to have our breakfast. It was a light affair. The time was almost 9:45 AM by the time we’re finished.


Crispy Masala Dosa. It wasn’t that great, but decent enough for the price.


Idli-Vada with Sambar Dip tasted better. The texture makes you drool!


The trip is just getting started. Look at the charming-disarming smile.

It was mildly hot now. The sun was up, but it was still far away from showing off its full glory. We’d experience that soon.


Awesome road with a buttery smooth tarmac.


It’s just the other side of the road. What did you expect?


The bike gets thirsty too. Waiting for Pramod to refuel.


Can you spot the tent tied up at the back? It’s a 4-person massive tent.

We reached Gorantla at 10:48 AM, took the deviation towards Kadiri, and stopped for a drinks break. Coconut water is a lifesaver on highways, especially in this blazing hot weather.


Hey there! Are you feeling empty inside? Come, have a drink.


Every revolution is a potential Animal Farm. Napoleon and Snowball spotted.

One-third of the ride was already complete. It looked like we’d reach Gandikota sooner than we’d planned.

Horrible Road and Hot Weather


A straight one-lane hellish road to Kadiri. This is the good bit. It gets worse.


It was as hot as a furnace out here.

The road from Gorantla to Kadiri was in an atrocious shape. It was single-lane road (or a 1.5-lane road at max). The surroundings were drier than anything I’d seen in a long time. The temperature was rising to unexpected levels along with the sun.

It was 40⁰ Celsius. We were getting parched in the hot sun out here. It took us more than an hour to ride just 30km.

My body was dehydrating out here real quick. We stopped for a small break at around noon. Did I mention it was unbelievably hot?


The “sharp” rider. You don’t wanna mess with his charm!


The rare tree canopies on the road.


Why am I here?


I wonder whether someone lit up the area or it just lit itself due to the blazing heat.


A Bollywood song sequence can be shot here.

We were feeling damn thirsty. The drinks break (and smoke break for the rest) was much needed. We stopped at a roadside stall in Kadiri. It was around 1:00 PM now.

A Refreshing Break

The first sip of the masala soda felt so good. I gulped the entire glass in a second and was ready for a second one.

I noticed that the shopkeeper also had Nannari syrup. So, we ordered a round of Nannari sherbet (also with soda). We drank two of these (or three, not sure). It felt great to rehydrate myself. Nannari is also claimed to be a coolant. So, that helped too, I guess.


A familiar sight, not for the guy in sight though.


Caption this! And guess what’s in their hands.


The heavenly Masala Lime Soda. An awesome thirst-quenching drink.


Nannari Lime Soda, a local favourite. Couldn’t stop at just one glass after a sip.

The time was around 1:15 PM now. After almost 190km of riding, this half-hour break was worth it. The weather was still unbearable. There was almost 100km more of riding before us.

We came across a scenic bridge a few km later. It was surrounded by glorious rock formations, which gave it a captivating allure. Under the hanging rock formation, on the right, was a temple perched in between the ground the rock.

It looked kind of abandoned and out of place.


A brilliant rocky formation on the way towards Gandikota.


Looks beautiful. The sky. The road. The rocks on the sides. Surreal.


An abandoned stretch of the road. We spent a few minutes here taking snaps.

On the way towards Gandikota. #Highway #Travel #India

A photo posted by Salman Ravoof (@salmanravoof) on Mar 13, 2016 at 6:11pm PDT

A few pics later, we were on our way again towards Gandikota. We stopped for a short drinks break, again. Yes, we were getting dehydrated in minutes.


A lifeline on the roads. Bless capitalism? Maybe.


Villagers going by their lives as usual. We’re the strange travellers here.

I think we’d already drank more than 3 liters of fluids each.

I could literally feel the heat emanating from the road while riding. It felt like I was placed in a big oven, and I was riding inside it. The heat waves splashed over me as I cut through the dry air.

It was around 3:00 PM now. I checked the temperature in the area on my mobile. It was still 40⁰ Celsius. I guess that’s pretty normal here.

Looking at the way things are going, I concur Bengaluru would join the league soon.

Nearing Gandikota

A few minutes of ride later, we entered a small ghat section (with a warning board at its beginning), but before we could enjoy its curves, it was over. That was funny.


A panoramic shot of the “ghat” section leading towards the straight road.

It took half an hour of constant riding to reach the last stretch towards Gandikota. There was still around 40km of distance left between us and our destination.

The road was still under construction, with lots of loose gravel and dry mud. It was quite hectic to ride here, especially under the hot sun.


A muddy road. Took a lot time to traverse through it.


Bala off-roading through the crazy stretch. He was the slowest. The reason he got clicked!


Finally, a proper road. The next stop is Gandikota.

The last 10km of the ride was great though. It was a single lane road with decent twists, turns, slopes, and downs.

We reached Gandikota A.P. Tourism Hotel at 4:28 PM, after almost 300km of riding.

Where’s the Lunch?

The first thing we did after we reached the hotel was ask for lunch. The staff told us that the hotel was closed until night and there was nothing left to serve.

Oops! We’d decided to have lunch here, and now we’re left with nothing around us except this place.

Funnily, we could hear the cooker whistling. Such cruelty. All our stomachs were grumbling.

We settled for a bottle of Maaza each, and some water.


The Gandikota Hotel. It’s a great place to halt for the night. The rooms are pretty cheap too and look decent enough.


The far end side of the hotel. It looks like a classic Mad Max setting.


Hey lamp, wanna shed some light on what’s happening here?

After some rest, I and my friend Bhargav decided to go to the gorge and check out where we can pitch our tent.

The front of the granary looked like a decent place for a tent. A few people were already planning to pitch their tent on the rocky hill.

We returned to the hotel. The sun had almost set. After catching a glimpse of the beautiful sunset, all of us went back to the gorge to check it out.


Watching the sunset from the hotel. If you plan to catch the sunset, don’t go to the gorge. Stay back at the hotel.

You need to trek a bit to reach the edge of the hill, but the view is worth it.

Though it was a bit dark, it was exciting to take a look at Pennar River flowing between the massive walls of rocks. I’d seen it countless times in pictures and videos, but it’s something else to see it with your own eyes, isn’t it?


Gandikota gorge with Pennar river flowing in between. This shot was taken during sunset.

We stayed here until the sun had set completely. It was almost 7:00 PM now.


A lovely shade of sky. So serene.

A Quite Lunchy Dinner

All of us went back to the hotel, hoping that the kitchen will finally be open.

It wasn’t. We had to wait until 8:00 PM to order our dinner, which unfortunately was also our lunch.

Chicken, paneer, vegetables, roti, rice. We ordered almost everything listed on their menu. The food was decent, but I can’t really say the truth because I was damn hungry. Almost anything would’ve tasted great then.


We ordered one of almost everything on their menu. The late lunch / dinner was satisfying.


Bala writing down the points for his travelogue before he forgets them. I do something similar.


The Gandikota Hotel at night. Strangely (or not), it looks kid of romantic in this shot.

After whiling away our time in the playground, we went back to the granary to pitch our tent. We switched on our motorbike headlights for light.

Pitching the Tent Hopelessly in Darkness

It was a messy affair. None of us knew how to pitch this large 4-person tent. It took almost 2 hours to figure it out. In the end, it was a colossal achievement.


Struggling to pitch the 4-person tent. It took us almost 2 hours.


Finally, a moment of glory.

Though it was extremely hot, we took the help of the guide there to light a fire. And then we talked, and talked, and just dozed off in front of the fire. We shifted into the tent a while later.


Setting up the bonfire, trying to relive our cavemen days.


Of course, we worship the Lord of Light. “For the night is dark and full of terrors.

I woke up at 5:30 AM and roamed around the tent, just checking out the surroundings. The sun wasn’t visible yet.

I took my camera and headed towards the cliff, took a few pics, and just sat there waiting for the sunrise. The sun wasn’t visible directly because of the clouds.


Gandikota during sunrise. It was a cloudy day.


A tempting opening in the rocks far way. What secrets does it hold?


Remnants of the Gandikota fort. Once upon a time, this was a mighty fort. And now? That’s how all great things are and will be.


This is how I imagine most of our days will be. Just chilling, doing nothing and experiencing everything.

Awesome view of river Penna from Gandikota – the Grand Canyon of India. #Travel #India #Landscape #River #Canyon

A photo posted by Salman Ravoof (@salmanravoof) on Mar 14, 2016 at 5:17am PDT

Bala and Bhargav joined me a bit later. Pramod took his own time. It was almost 7:30 AM now.

A Trek Down to Pennar River

We relaxed for a few minutes at the cliff, enjoying the scenery and the atmosphere. And then we trekked down to the edge of Pennar River. It was a fantastic trek, charting through loose stones and barbed branches (tip: follow the steel pipe).


Some were still seen packing up their tents. The day has just begun!


Other monkeys spotted.


Tread carefully! The rocks are unforgiving. Also, protect your belongings.


Trek down to the Pennar river. It was worth it.

Gandikota looked even beautiful from down here. It was worth all our not-so-significant efforts.


Yep, the gorge looks even more gorgeous from down here.


Bala trying to strike his Batfleck pose.


A view of Gandikota from down under.


Looks like a mysterious door to me. What about you? Had Ali Baba been here with his 40 thieves?

The uphill trek was tougher and even more challenging. Naturally, we were all exhausted by the time we reached the top again.


A phoenix rises from the bushes.

Wrapping up the massive tent was as laborious as pitching it. Finally, by hook and crook, we did pack it up. Not perfectly, but who really cares?


The mammoth granary. We pitched our tent right in front of the steps here.


From inside the granary. I like this picture.


The entrance to the Gandikota mosque. Thankfully, atheists needn’t pray here, or anyone else for that matter. It’s just a relic now.


The mosque. It’s in a bad condition. Should be maintained better by the authorities.


A wider shot of the same mosque. It’s not that big.


The design is impressive. One of the few things I can’t deny about religions. Hijacking culture.


A view of the entrance from the inside.

A Quick Brekkie

We went back to the hotel for breakfast at 9:30 AM. Thankfully, we reached just in time before there was nothing left for us.

Just 1 Idli was left for each of us, and some Pongal. That would do. We didn’t feel like eating much in this heat anyway.


Our simple breakfast. One idly and a few spoons of pongal.


Hey, who said I don’t indulge in birdwatching.

After a quick photo shoot (with all of us in the frame), we departed at 11:45 AM.


All of us in the same photo, thanks to the timer. Bala, Pramod, Bhargav, and me (from left to right).

Return Route: Gandikota – The Elusive Tunnel – Muddanur – Kadari – Gulur – Bagepalli – Bengaluru

Distance Covered: ~300 km

Searching for the Darkness at the Start of the Tunnel

Before we set our sights towards Bengaluru, we went in search of an unknown tunnel. A tunnel which one of our friends (Tejus) had stumbled upon by chance more than a year ago.

None of us knew where exactly this tunnel was, but it was supposed to be somewhere nearby.

In our quest to find the tunnel, we ended up at Mylapur museum. We’d ridden almost 40km for over an hour to get here. The tunnel was nowhere in sight. Even the locals didn’t know much about it.


Mylapur Museum. How did we end up here? I still don’t know. The locals were as confused as us.


Time to take a U-Turn, legally that is. We don’t want any Kannada filmmaker to get ideas.


Reaching another dead end, yet again.


Bow to us you heathens. We’re destined to be your future mothers.


What next? Let’s laugh it off.

After ending up at multiple dead ends, we stopped at a huge construction site. Bhargav went in to enquire about the tunnel. Thankfully, they sent a guide along with him to show us the way.


Our last bastion. Sort of. Bhargav came back with a messiah. Sort of.

We followed him to this elusive tunnel, which didn’t turn out to be what we expected at all.

Apparently, this tunnel is an irrigation canal which is still under construction (almost 97% complete according to the builders). Its construction was started way back in 2007.

The canal connects various reservoirs in Kadapa district, which includes Gandikota Reservoir too.

Naturally, it’s not meant for public transport. Since the guide was all too willing to lead us through the canal and show us the way to the other side, we just complied and followed him.


This is the tunnel? Damn cool. Bring it on!


Just the view was exhilarating, let alone the ride to down here.


Off we go, into the tunnel.

The atmosphere inside the canal was so cool. Protected from all the outside elements, and with a pool of water on one side, the weather here was completely contrasting to what it was outside.

It was a bliss to ride in here.

We rode almost 7km inside the tunnel before we emerged out of the other side (Gandikota Dam). It was a terrific experience.


There’s light at the end of every tunnel, and a biker.

The time was almost 2:00 PM now. We dropped our plan to visit Belum Caves. Riding through the long “artificial cave” was adventure enough.

Plus, we didn’t have the time.

It was hard to believe that we’d spent just around 3 hours riding. Extreme heat does that to you.


The Gandikota reservoir. We rode over this small stretch.


Didn’t I mention it earlier? I indulge in the usual birdwatching too.


I don’t really know why, but I like this picture. It looks kind of balanced to me.


Learn more about the Gandikota Reservoir.

Gandikota to Bengaluru: The Journey Back

Bengaluru was still more than 270km away. We set on our eyes on that and pointed all our handlebars straight towards home.

The hot weather was killing me. I’m sure the rest were as beaten up as me.

We stopped for a quick drinks break at Muddanur. As we’d done before, we’d forgot all about lunch.


A hipster photograph with a literal filter.

So, we decided to find a place where we could fuel up (our tummies that is). We did end up fuelling our bike’s tanks at the same place.

Unfortunately, Bala’s bike’s rear tyre got punctured. Shit happens at the most unexpected times, right?


A puncture at the most unfortunate time.

Fortunately, there was a puncture shop nearby (though we had to spend quite some time under the hot sun to find it).


The puncture was repaired damn quick. All thanks to this guy.

Once the puncture was fixed, we headed straight to lunch.

A Heavy Lunch and Tiring Eyes

It was a simple South Indian meal at a roadside thatch made of aluminum sheets. I also had chicken curry along with it.

The meal was highly satisfying. Too satisfying, in fact. I felt extremely sleepy.


Rice, sambar and chicken curry. More food than I usually eat for lunch. Highly fulfilling.

I had to control my eyes from shutting down on the boring straight stretches. At one point, I even gave in and almost fell asleep. I parked my bike under a tree and took a few minutes break to recharge my senses.


A short stop for water. The stranger looks on with heightened curiosity!


Pramod resting his “back.”


A panoramic shot of the lovely road and green fields towards Kadiri.

After a few more breaks, we reached Kadiri at 5:50 PM. We stopped at the same roadside shop where we’d stopped earlier, and had the same drinks too.


The same Masala Lime Soda which we’d a day earlier, at the same shop. Life repeats.


Is it the same pig too? We can never know. The animal revolution keeps on repeating too. Forever.

A Slight Change on Our Way Back

Considering the fact that the road between Kadiri and Gorantla was in horrendous condition, we decided to take an alternate route to Bagepalli via Gulur.


A serious discussion. Don’t forget to notice the smoke in the background.

Bhargav had to pester the locals for the proper directions, but it turned out be worth it in the end. Though not that great, this new route was much better than the one we’d taken previously.

We stopped at Bagepalli for a short tea/coffee and snacks break. After that, we headed straight towards Bengaluru after NH7.

A Wee Bit of Rain

It started raining after a while.

It’s amazing how Bengaluru’s weather changes suddenly. Every time I’m returning to Bengaluru after a ride, it’s always raining, no matter what the season is.

I continued to ride in the rain, but I got separated from the rest. Thankfully, the rain simmered down after a few miles.

I reached the toll gate near the airport and waited almost an hour for my companions to catch up. They didn’t. It was almost 9:50 PM now.


I waited here for others for more than an hour. They didn’t show up. I moved on.

I found out later that they’d stopped somewhere on the highway until the rain subsided.

Back to Home

I messaged them goodbye and headed straight towards home; I took almost an hour. It was almost 11:00 PM when I reached home.

All in all, it was a great and hectic short weekend ride.

I’d like to visit Gandikota again (and Belum Caves) in a more relaxed weather. Until then, this experience would do.

If you have any comments or questions about the ride, please leave a comment.