A stunning grassland habitat in the Deccan Plateau and a cluster of droolworthy monuments make Bidar worth the long journey off the popular tourist track
Bidar is a semi-arid region located in the Deccan Plateau, in North Karnataka, dominated by grasslands, dry-deciduous and scrub vegetation. This, however, does not portend a bleak scenario for wildlife; if anything, Bidar offers a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with the vibrant world of grassland species, with sightings of peafowl, partridges, coursers, munias, raptors, porcupines, hares, jungle cats, wolves, jackals, foxes, and many more. Numerous lakes that dot Bidar and its surrounding areas are also a magnet for water birds and winter migrants.
Bidar’s Air Force Station is home to India’s second largest Air Force Academy, and its vast neighbouring grasslands are home to a large number of Blackbucks.
With close to a 100 monuments scattered in and around the region, Bidar is also fondly referred to as the 'city of whispering monuments'.
Plan Your Trip
Hyderabad (150km; almost 3 hrs) is the nearest airport, with good flight connectivity from all over India.
Bidar is accessible via train from eastern Maharashtra, Telangana, and Karnataka.
Bidar is at a convenient driving distance from Hyderabad (150 km; almost 3 hrs), but, can make for an extremely long drive from Bangalore (700 km; 11 hrs).
best time to visit
November to February is the coolest time of the year, with temperatures ranging from 10-32 °C through the day. This is the best time to visit for birding enthusiasts, as the winter migrants descend on Bidar.
April to June is peak summer, and Bidar is best avoided, as the temperature soars to well over 40 °C.
From June to October, Bidar receives the little rainfall that it does. It doesn’t impact travel plans in a big way, though.
Ruled by the Mauryas, Chalukyas, Bahmanis and the Hyderabad Nizams, Bidar was once a prosperous capital where art, craft and architecture flourished. The city has earned a place in the ‘World Monument Watchlist’, and it is hoped that this will lead to better preservation of its architectural masterpieces.
Bidar has a few low budget and mid-range hotels, but they are more suited to travellers who don’t mind basic facilities.
The Jungle Lodges & Resorts’ (JLR) ‘Blackbuck Resort’ is highly recommended. The property is located almost 18 km outside Bidar town, in a tranquil setting. The cottages are spacious and clean, and some are situated by Vilaspur Lake. The resort provides excellent service and good food. There are three types of cottages, priced between ₹3811–5664 per person per night, on a twin-sharing basis. The tariff is inclusive of all meals, a nature walk and a jeep safari to spot Blackbucks. Children between 5 and 12 years pay 50% only.
JLR has a sightseeing drop and pick-up service from Bidar town for its overnight guests. They can also help guests find department guides for sightseeing.
Spot-billed Ducks and Lesser Whistling Ducks by a lake in Bidar.
Indian Coursers are found in plenty in the grasslands, but shrinking habitat is a threat.
Cattle Egrets and Black Drongos follow a tractor all around a field, foraging for insects that are dislodged by the ploughing.
A highly camouflaged Indian Eagle-owl surveys passersby from its perch in a rocky outcrop. Image copyright: Karthik Pattabhiraman
Red Avadavats in scrub vegetation. Image copyright: Karthik Pattabhiraman
A cottage at the Blackbuck Resort run by Jungle Lodges & Resorts.
Monuments and a striking ficus tree inside Bidar Fort. Photograph: Karthik Pattabhiraman
A view of Bidar town from Bidar Fort. Photograph: Karthik Pattabhiraman
Bidar Fort at sunset.
One of the access points to the karez system of water channels.
A craftsman delicately hammers pure silver strands into a Bidriware elephant.
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- Go on birding and nature walks in Bidar’s rich grasslands ecosystem.
- Blackbucks are found in large numbers in the grasslands adjacent to the Air Force Station; JLR’s jeep safari with a naturalist is the best way to experience this.
- With a predominantly agrarian economy, Bidar’s farmlands offer surprising birding opportunities. Avoid trespassing and check with the farmers before walking into their fields.
- In winter, Bidar’s lakes become home to water birds and winter migrants. Sitting by one of these lakes and watching these birds is a pleasant way to spend time in Bidar.
- Karanja Reservoir, a 40-minute drive from the JLR property, is a birding hotspot. Hire a local naturalist to accompany you if possible.
- Hike to the top of the hillock next to the JLR property for views of the Vilaspur Lake and cottages.
- Bidriware is a metal craft dating back to the Bahmani period in the 14th Century and is inspired by Persian art. Objects are created out of a zinc and copper alloy, which forms the black backdrop for delicate silver inlay work. The craft has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag and can be purchased from shops in Bidar town, and if you are lucky, you might also get to see the manufacturing process.
- Of Bidar’s astounding monuments, four are currently maintained by the ASI: Bidar Fort, Mahmud Gawan Madrasa, Bahmani Tombs and Barid Shahi Tombs. If pressed for time, visit at least these four; it will take you around half a day to do them justice.
- Karez is a subterranean water harnessing and distribution system which dates back to Bidar’s Bahmani times. Adapted from a Persian system and tweaked to suit Bidar, these underground channels lay unused and neglected for decades, until local efforts in the last few years led to their revival. The Karez system has been functional since 2016 and saved Bidar during a subsequent drought. Though fluctuating in its efficiency due to maintenance issues, one hopes that the authorities and locals see value in its preservation.
- Bidar has many temples, mosques, churches, and even a gurudwara, which attracts local pilgrims.
- Try North Karnataka’s distinct cuisine at unpretentious khanavalis (lunch homes), where the food is piping hot and homely.
What to pack
- During summer, it is imperative to carry loose cotton clothes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion. Avoid being outdoors in the afternoon, as heat-strokes are a serious threat.
- During winter, carry warm clothing like sweaters and jackets. Additionally, woollen socks, ear muffs and mufflers work well during early mornings and late at night, especially if you are outdoors birding.
- During the monsoon, an umbrella or a rainproof jacket is adequate.
- For birding and Blackbuck sighting outings, dress in muted shades of brown, green, grey, black or blue.
- Mosquito repellent will come in handy.
- Ensure you have a torch for emergencies.
- Camera gear and a bird field guide.
- Binoculars, especially if you are an avid birder.
- A telephoto lens of at least 300 mm focal length is essential for bird photography since grassland birds are often small and/or well-camouflaged. Also, Blackbucks are very shy and cannot be approached at close quarters.
- Carry a wide-angle lens (10-24 mm) to photograph Bidar’s architecture.
- A kit lens (18-70 mm) is useful to photograph architectural details, handicrafts and markets.
- Bidar has clear skies for most of the year. It is also not hampered by harsh night lights, making it a great place for star-trail photography. Carry a shutter release cable and a sturdy tripod.
- Early mornings and late evenings in winter are extremely misty, and a beanbag or a tripod for wildlife and landscape photography can be useful.
Good To Know
- ATMs, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience stores, petrol bunks and hospitals are available in Bidar town. However, being away from the popular tourist circuit in Karnataka means that the facilities may not be available round the clock, so plan ahead.
- All major mobile phone networks provide good network coverage and data connectivity in the region. Certain patches have unreliable network, though.
- Public bathrooms are rarely available.
- Small shops near Bidar’s tourist spots sell water, tea/coffee, and snacks. Food is available in restaurants, but don’t expect crowd-pleasing variety.
- Jungle Lodges & Resorts has trained naturalists who guide guests during the nature walk within their campus.
Budget per person
- A two-night stay at Bidar is highly recommended, to allow you to enjoy its wildlife, architecture and culture. It is possible to experience some of the key highlights with a one-night stay too.
- A one-night stay at Jungle Lodges’ ‘Blackbuck Resort’ costs ₹3811–5664 per person, excluding transport, shopping and other personal expenditure. The budget includes accommodation in a twin-sharing cottage, all meals, one jeep safari to sight Blackbucks, and a nature walk.
- The cost of entry to architectural sights in Bidar town is negligible.