Gandikota

Take a trip to the Grand Canyon of India, a scenic retreat steeped in ancient history

Priya Ranganathan | Nishanth Srinivas

Gandikota

Gandikota is a small tourist town located on the banks of the Pennar river, 15 km from Jammalamadagu in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. 

Tucked into the folds of the Erramala Hills, India's Grand Canyon is a much-sought-after tourist destination, renowned for its scenic beauty, excellent birding and historical significance.

Plan Your Trip

Getting there

Air

If you are travelling to Gandikota from Hyderabad, Chennai, or Vijayawada, the closest airport is Kadapa Airport, some 90 km from Gandikota Fort; but be aware that there are extremely few flights to and from Kadapa.

The Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore (210 km approx.) and the Tirupati International Airport (250 km approx.) are the other two airports nearby; however, the latter offers fewer flight options.

Rail

The nearest train stations are Kondapuram (10.7 km), Jammalamadagu (15 km), and Kadapa. From these, there are numerous buses headed towards Gandikota.

Road

By Car: 

  • From Bangalore (280 km; 4 hours): 

Take NH 44 to Anantapur, then continue towards Tadipatri and onwards to Gandikota. 

  • From Hyderabad (384 km; 7 hours): 

Travel to Kurnool and then to Gandikota. Alternatively, take NH44 and NH40 to Tadipatri/Gandikota.

By Bus:

Taking a bus from Bangalore to Jammalamadagu would be the best option for travelling by road if you do not have a car. The route takes approximately 6 hours and bookings can be made through the APSRTC website (Note: The KSRTC website may not show buses to Jammalamadagu as it is a small stop). 

Alternatively, take a bus from Bangalore to Anantapur and then take a local bus to Tadipatri, from where you can catch a rickshaw to Gandikota for just ₹100.

best time to visit

While Gandikota is open year-round, it is best enjoyed between September and February when the weather is still pleasant. 

Summers here are extremely hot, with the temperature ranging from 28-40 °C.

History

Gandikota, which translates roughly to 'gorge fort' was originally built on the picturesque Pennar river gorge in 1123 by Kapa Raja. A recently-discovered copper plate inscription at the fort dates its inception back to the 16th century. 

Throughout its history, the fort has been ruled by a motley of rulers, from the Kakatiyas to the Pemmasani Nayakas and the Qutub Shahis. One cannot miss the Madhavarayaswamy and Raghunathaswamy temples and the Jumma Masjid, which contribute to the diversity that Gandikota promotes. 

Stay

Gandikota, itself, has very few resorts and hotels with more options to be found in Jammalamadagu. A recommended option is the Haritha Resort in Gandikota – rooms are clean and spacious, and the resort has a restaurant and space to relax in during the afternoon. Do try and book in advance though, this is the most popular stay option here. 

Prices range from ₹1600 on weekdays to ₹2200 on weekends.

Alternatively, for the more adventurous, there are tiny lodges in Jammalamadagu that offer a simple stay at a relatively low price. It would be better to ask around at local shops for recommendations; lodges can be booked as late as on the day you arrive.

See|Do

Within Gandikota there are a few must-see heritage sights, both natural and manmade.

  • The Pennar river gorge, known as the Grand Canyon of India, is best viewed from the rocky walls of the Gandikota Fort. You can watch the Pennar river flow lazily through this deep canyon, and it is also an ideal spot for birding.

  • The Gandikota Fort complex includes a granary, two temples, a masjid, watchtowers, and a jail, among other buildings. Make sure to photograph the splendid rock archways as you wander through the fort. You can spot the Mouse-tailed Bat in the granary at Gandikota Fort.

  • Adventure sports on the Pennar river offer some thrilling experiences, with kayak rentals and zip lining across the gorge available all year except during the monsoons.


Don't Miss

If you are staying for the weekend, do explore the following attractions too.

  • Spelunking in the Belum Caves – India’s second-longest cave system – makes for a perfect half-day adventure. Located a mere 60 km from Gandikota, the caves are open to visitors from 7 am to 5 pm.

  • Located en-route Gandikota from Jammalamadagu, the Mylavaram Dam on the Pennar river is a birder’s dream come true. You will be able to spot a plethora of feathered beauties in the scrub vegetation surrounding the dam. You might even spot the Bar-headed Goose, one of the highest-flying birds on the planet. 

  • The Sri Lankamalleshwara Wildlife Sanctuary in Kadapa is one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered Jerdon’s Courser. Forest rest houses at Siddavotam and Kadapa provide the closest accommodation, one can also drive 15 km into town for more options. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between October and March, although the sanctuary is open to visitors all year long. 

What to pack

  • During summer, pack cool cotton clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and carry a hat or headscarf (afternoons tend to be extremely hot).

  • In the winter, pack a jacket and carry a moisturiser to prevent chapped skin.

  • Carry comfortable, close-toed, sturdy hiking shoes and extra socks.

  • Make sure to bring along binoculars and a bird guide.

  • First aid kit and an insect repellant would be advisable.

  • Water bottles (at least one, but it’s better to be extra-prepared!)

For photographers

  • Carry a wide angle lens to photograph the sunrise and sunset at the Pennar gorge, as well as the temples and monuments at Gandikota.
  • Don’t forget to bring your zoom lens; plenty of raptors can be spotted soaring above the cliffs of the Pennar gorge. 

  • Winter is the perfect time to try and photograph the Bar-headed Goose at the Mylavaram Dam.

Good To Know

  • Jammalamadagu and Tadipatri are the nearest towns with basic facilities like ATMs, pharmacies, convenience stores, hotels etc.

  • There is no organised transport from Gandikota to Tadipatri, and rickshaws are few and far in between. Your best option is to secure a rickshaw from Tadipatri to go up to the fort and request the driver to wait to take you back. You can try and find other tourists to share the rickshaw with you if the price is too high.

  • All major phone networks have good coverage at Gandikota and its surrounding attractions.

  • Lodge owners may not allow you to keep your baggage in the lodge after checking-out, so plan your stay accordingly. Be prepared to carry your luggage with you if you plan on exploring the region after your checkout time.

Budget per person

For two days and at least three separate tourist attractions, expect to spend between ₹1500 and ₹1800 per person.

Priya Ranganathan is a researcher with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore. She works on the ecology and conservation of wetland ecosystems. Her specialisation is in the broader field of landscape ecology and ecohydrology. When not at the office or collecting data in the field, Priya can be found dancing, writing articles on India's environment, and drinking steaming cups of cutting chai.
Nishanth Srinivas is a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society - India, where he studies the many dimensions of human-elephant conflict in the Western Ghats and Northeast India. Trained as a biotechnologist, Nishanth joined WCS-India out of a strong passion for wildlife, botany, and conservation. His hobbies include art - both graphic design and sketching - and writing.