Backpacking to Gandikota can prove to be one heck of an experience. After all, it’s India’s own version of the Grand Canyon. The only difference is that we have it at this place known as Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh.
For those of you who are not familiar with this gem right in our own country, this place called Gandikota resembles the world-famous Grand Canyon based in Arizona, United States with its unique topography. Being here even for a day can be mesmerising.
Gandikota will intrigue you as a traveller. It is in the truest sense – Nature’s marvel. Gandikota has a lot to offer in terms of activities. I was here a while ago and loved it to the core. Hence, it’s a pleasure sharing my experience with all you people.
Backpacking to Gandikota – What a Place!
There is no dearth of activities when it comes to the Grand Canyon of India. Ranging from cliff jumping, kayaking, boating, rappelling and trekking – Gandikota has it all.
The most amazing part here is the experience one can have camping overlooking the Pennar River with a gorgeous sunrise straight from your tent.
Backpacking to Gandikota – A Super Cheap Affair
A backpacking trip to Gandikota over a weekend can easily be done under 3000 INR. Yes, you read that right. This is the money needed to travel to India’s Grand Canyon.
Let me help you with splitting the budget below.
Staying in tents will cost you way less than if you plan to spend your night at a hotel. By the way, there are not many hotels in Gandikota. You’ll have to make reservations at places near Gandikota instead. However, camping options are available in plenty.
Overnight stay in a tent where you bunk with 2 more people will cost you around 500 INR per person. This includes dinner. A few tents offer services for 1000 INR as well. Choose the option that suits your pocket.
If you’re a budget traveller, the two most feasible commuting options are by train and bus. I won’t mention flights here because the nearest airport is in Bangalore and that is at a distance of around 300 Kms. And so this doesn’t make sense.
Instead, reach Jammalamadugu by bus or Kondapuram by train. From there, take a shared cab or an auto rickshaw till Gandikota. Overall, this will not cost you more than 250-450 INR.
Internal transport will comprise of the commute options you take from Kondapuram or Jammalamadugu till Gandikota and for sightseeing within Gondikota. These will cost you anywhere between 150-250 INR.
Since you’re in Andhra Pradesh, make sure you savour some authentic Andhra food. Ordering meals or in popular terms an entire Thali is a good option. It’ll cost you anywhere between 50-100 INR and will keep you super full.
Buying a plastic bottle full of clean water will cost you anywhere between 10-30 INR. Make sure you buy a reusable plastic bottle. As travellers, it is our responsibility to help cut down on plastic waste.
There will be an entry fee at some places and that will cost you anywhere between 30-50 INR per visit. Try carrying cash with you here.
Depending on the adventure activity you’d like to pursue, single participation will cost you anywhere from 300-1000 INR.
I’ve travelled to a lot of places but backpacking to Gandikota has surely been a super fun and super affordable experience.
6 Wonderful Reasons to Go Backpacking to Gandikota
Gandikota is actually derived from two words “Gandi” meaning Gorge in Andhra and “kota” means “fort”. It is home to the famous gorge cutting through the Erramala range of hills.
There are so many reasons to go backpacking to Gandikota. But the chief of them is being shared below for all of you to read.
1. Gandikota allows travellers to camp beside a magnificent gorge
Gandikota is majorly famous for its gorge. This hugely resembles the Grand Canyon of Arizona in the United States of America. The natural setting here is such that you can go camping here by the side of the gorge. The first look of the Gorge with river Pennar flowing in between will astound you.
There are camps and benches overlooking the gorge where you can sit and enjoy the view. The first ray of sun falling on your tents is so enriching. Get up early in the morning and don’t miss out on the gorgeous sunrise. The view of canyons at night with the occasional lightning in the sky is one of my fondest memories of Gandikota.
2. Explore the huge fort built during Vijayanagara empire at Gandikota
Apart from the Gorge, Gandikota has a huge fort built during the Vijayanagara Empire. This Fort houses temples, a granary, mosque, mausoleum, jail etc. The architecture resembles much of Hampi and the fort walls can be explored on foot. It takes around 2 hours to cover the entire fort area. It’s very much like the Great Wall of China.
Gandikota Fort is built right beside the Gorge in a way that the canyons act as a natural defence from enemy attack. Fort premises are huge which houses several temples, mosques, a granary, a water tank, a jail, a mausoleum and an entire village where people still live.
The fort is surrounded by a 5-mile wall which was built to guard the ancient city. You can climb up the wall and go around to watch the entire village around you with a gorgeous view of canyons.
3. Watch windmills rolling at Gandikota
During evenings, watch the sun go down on the other side of the canyons at Gandikota with windmills in the background.
The road to windmills looks straight out of a movie scene. I didn’t have enough time to explore that area but if you have some extra time at your disposal feel free to drive around those roads.
4. Take a tour of India’s second largest ecosystem – Belum Caves
The second day can be used to visit Belum caves, situated at a distance of 60 km from Gandikota. Belum caves are the largest and longest cave ecosystem open to the public in the Indian subcontinent.
Belum caves have a length of 3229m, making them the second largest caves after Krem Liat Prah caves in Meghalaya. The Belum Caves are so important for both travel and the environment that scientists have conducted extensive studies on them.
5. Go kayaking at the Penner River Gorge
Pennar River not only offers great views but plenty of activities. One such activity you can try is Kayaking. It’s therapeutic to sit in a boat with gorgeous views all around.
You can also grab a vantage point and just sit there overlooking the gorge and thank your stars for bringing you to this place. Being in the water will bring you respite from all the heat around.
6. Witness the beauty of ancient temples at Gandikota
Two temples that are an absolute must-visit in Gandikota are the Madhavaraya Temple and the Raghunatha Swamy Temple. Both these temples are standing examples of the grandeur of the heritage of the times gone by.
By the way, the Madhavaraya Temple has a striking resemblance to Vijay Vitthala Temple located at Hampi. If you ever go backpacking in Hampi, check out the resemblance. It’s uncanny.
Where to Stay as a Backpacker in Gandikota?
Ideally, as a backpacker, you should stay in tents and enjoy camping. It’s super affordable and includes meals as well. However, if this is your first time then you do have the option of staying at the APTDC Complex which is situated at a distance of 2Kms from the central point.
Tents will cost you 500 INR (and even these prices can be negotiated) whereas the APTDC Complex will cost you a whooping 2000 INR. So make your pick well. By the way, you can carry your own tents as well and enjoy a real camping experience.
Backpacking to Gandikota & Being a Foodie
If you’re a foodie, you have got to try authentic Andhra food at Gandikota. I don’t have enough words to praise Andhra food. If you’re non-vegetarian then Andhra chicken is a must try. It’s lip-smacking. And if you’re a vegetarian then try the Andhra special Pappu (Lentils) also known as Dal in North India.
This spicy and tangy Pappu is definitely going to leave you licking your fingers and asking for more. I had three servings of Poppu and wanted to go for more. The second dish which I can’t stop drooling over is Podi. This is a masala made by grounding lentils, groundnuts etc. and eaten with rice and ghee. Andhra Podi has been on top of my list ever since I have tasted it.
Try Plain Dosa, Egg Dosa, Idli with coconut and tomato chutney for breakfast. Don’t hesitate to try out the food served in the shacks just outside the fort in Gandikota. They serve very good food at affordable prices. Also, ask them for Dinner beforehand if you are planning to stay at the camps as the quantity of food they make depends on orders placed.
What Essentials to Carry for Your Gandikota Trip?
Don’t forget essentials like a good SPF sunscreen, umbrella, raincoats, sunglasses, and caps to avoid the sun. Also, carry water bottles and keep sipping at regular intervals to avoid cramps, dehydration and sunstroke.
Even in winter months, Andhra is quite hot and hence it’s advisable to consume a lot of liquids to avoid heat stroke.
Put a backpacking trip to Gandikota on your bucket list. Trust me, you’re falling in love with this place.