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PICNIC SPOTS & WEEKEND GETAWAYS IN NEAR BANGALORE
Nandi Hills makes it to almost every list on 'Places around Bengaluru'. The reason why this happens is because of its proximity to Bengaluru. It is the nearest hill station from Bengaluru and a good option for somebody looking to go for a long drive. To reach Nandi Hills take the Hyderabad highway (NH7/Yelahanka Road) from Bengaluru. After 38kms along the highway, couple of kms past Devanahalli, you can see a road going to the left towards Nandi Hills. There is a sign board there and you should not miss it, if you are careful. After another 10kms you will reach a T-junction, from where you should take a left. 4 more kms, it is one more right turn followed by a ghat road leading to Nandi Hills.The place offers a nice bird's eye view from the top. An early morning drive to the hills, in time for the sunrise, is an exciting option.
Skandagiri aka Kalavaarahalli Betta attained fame following a few pictures of the place, circulated by email. This hill is right next to Nandi Hills & is famous for night trekking in the moonlight and the sunrise among clouds, which is seen in late winters. Weekend nights in the hill top, especially around full moon day, could be very chaotic and crowded owing to the large number of visitors. The trek by itself is moderate and should take an average of 2hrs. Check the Skandagiri Trek Page for my personal experiences there.
There are two approaches to Skandagiri foothills, both passing via the Kalavaarahalli village. The easiest is about 6-7kms from Chikkabalapur town, along the NH7/Yelahanka road towards Hyderabad and about 57kms from Bengaluru. The other option is to follow the trail to Nandi Hills till the T-junction, about 10kms from NH7. Nandi hills is towards the left from here. To reach Skandagiri, turn right towards Nandi village. At Nandi village, take the Chikkabalapur road and then take a left towards Muddenahalli. From Muddenahalli, Kalavaarahalli village is a couple of kms along a village road.
Gaganachukki and Barachukki waterfalls is at Sivanasamudram (aka Sivasamudram) near Malavalli, Mandya district. Both the waterfall are around 50meters tall on River Kaveri (Cauvery) and are beautiful sights, especially during monsoon. To reach Gaganachukki, take the NH209 (Kanakapura road) and continue till Malavalli, past Kanakapura. Around 10kms past Malavalli, along NH209 (Kollegal road), you can spot a board to your left, indicating a 4km detour to Gaganachukki. Alternatively, one can take the Bengaluru - Mysuru road and take the Malavalli road from Maddur. This may be a little longer but better in terms of road conditions. Barachukki is about 15kms from Gaganachukki and provides the option of getting down into the river and right under the waterfall.
Talakkad (Talakad/ Talakadu/ Talakkadu), situated in the banks of Kaveri (Cauvery) is known for its sand dunes and the temples buried underneath. River Kaveri flows very shallow here and is ideal to take bath and play around. Talakkad is in Mysuru (Mysore) district. To reach there, take the NH209 (Kanakapura road) past Malavalli. Soon after Malavalli, there is a T junction, with road on the right going towards Mandya/Mysuru. Take the left and continue in NH209, towards Kollegal. About some 5kms before the detour for Sivanasamudram, there are sign boards indicating Talakkad, 22 kms to the right.
This is a monolithic peak famous for rock climbing and is situated along the Ramanagar - Magadi road. There are two routes available from Bengaluru. First one is via Magadi. Take the Magadi road from Bengaluru. At Magadi, take the Ramanagar road to the left. Around 7kms from Magadi, there is a board on the left side, indicating Savandurga. A better route, though longer, is via Mysuru road. From Bengaluru, take the Mysuru road, till Ramanagar and then take the road going to Magadi on your right side. The same board for Savandurga can be located on the right side 7kms before Magadi. Check Savandurga Trek Page for more elaborate route information, but dont get scared by my trekking experience there!!!
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Migratory birds (like Storks, Pelicans, Cormorants and Herons) arrives in Ranganathittu bird sanctuary as large flocks starting December, lays eggs on the islets and moves out with the little ones in August. Best time to visit the sanctuary is around Feb - March when all the varieties are around and active. Boats are available here to take the visitors for a ride along the river and islets. To reach Ranganathittu, travel along Bengaluru - Mysuru road. Past Srirangapatna, take the road going to the right (connecting Srirangapatna to Mysuru - Madikeri road). A couple of kms along this road take another right to the sanctuary. Ranganathittu is a paradise for ornithologists as well as bird photographers. Apart from the migratory birds, one can also spot Kingfishers and Peacocks here as well as crocodiles lying lazily in the river.
Village of Kokkare Bellur is another haven for migratory birds, as well as bird lovers. This otherwise undescript village springs a surprise with numerous Painted Storks and Pelicans roaming around freely in the village. Best time to visit is around Feb - March and try to make it early morning (as early as 6 - 7). Kokkare Bellur is a short deviation from Bengaluru - Mysuru road. 75 kms from Bengaluru (infact, just after the milestone #75), before the Mysore Mylary hotel, there is a village road towards the left. Kokkare Bellur is abt 12kms from here. Almost half way through, there is a trijuntcion where u shud keep to the right. At Kokkare Bellur just park the vechicle(s) and walk around the village streets with trees on all sides infested with so many beautiful birds! This place offers a rare chance to spot some of the rare birds at very close distances. Yeah ... please remember to keep the silence and not trouble the birds/villagers.
This is a beautiful hill temple abt 32kms off Mandya, along Bengaluru - Mysuru state highway and about 135kms from Bengaluru. About a km after Mandya town, towards Mysuru, look for a road going to Melkote and then on follow the sign boards. Melkote is an ancient hill temple, which should interest pilgrims as well as people with an eye for historical monuments. Thanks to its location atop a hill, it also offers a beautiful view of the surroundings. The temple complex also has a couple of huge ponds, one of them being open for public to take a dip. There is also a lake just before the temple.
Lepakshi Nandi & Temple
This is for people interested in historical monuments. Lepakshi village hosts an old temple and a huge monolithic Nandi, constructed more than 500 years ago. Nandi here is 15 feets tall and 27 feets high, the largest in India. The temple has several beautiful structures demonstrating the finesse of our ancestors.
Lepakshi is about 15 kms from Hindupur along the Hindupur - Kodikonda state highway. Two alternate routes are available. Both involve NH7 (Hyderabad/ Ballary/ Yelahanka road, starting from Hebbal flyover in outer ring road) uptill Yelahanka. From there, one can continue past Devanahalli, Chickballapur, Begapally and Andhra border up to Kodikonda and then take the Hindupur road to the left. Lepakshi is 12 kms from Kodikonda and total 112 kms from Bengaluru along this route. An alternate route is to take the Doddaballapur road from Yelahanka and continue through Gauribadanur and Andhra border, till Hindupur. At Hindupur, one has to take the road going to Kodikonda. Road is bad from Gauribadanur till the Andhra border.
146kms from Bengaluru, Shravanabelagola (Sravanabelagola/ Shravanabelgola/ Shravanbelgola/ Shravanbelagola/ Sravanabelgola/ Sravanabelgola/ Sravanbelagola) is a huge 18 meter high monolithic statue of Lord Gommatheshwara on the top of a hill (Vindyagiri or Indragiri) is considered the tallest in the world.
The most striking feature of the statue is that, it is stark naked yet highly aesthetic. Made in 983 AD, this place is a legendary pilgrim center and shrine of Jains. Just opposite to the the Gomatheshwara statue is another hill (Chandragiri) with some Jain temples and the tomb of Chandragupta Maurya. To reach here, one has to take Tumakuru / Tumkur road (NH4) from Bengaluru, NH48 (Mangaluru / Mangalore Road) at Nelamangala (KM27 on NH4) junction and continue till Hirisave (KM128 on NH48) and then take the state highway (SH8) going to Shravanabelagola. Infact, there are numerous roads going to Shravanabelagola, the major one being SH8 connecting Hirisave (in NH48) to Shravanabelagola to Channarayapatna (back in NH48 at KM147). Hirisave to Shravanabelagola is 18kms and from Shravanabelagola to Channarayapatna is 11kms.
Hogenakkal is located in Karnataka - Tamilnadu border, around 200kms from Bengaluru. Its situated near Dharmapuri. To reach Hogenakkal from Bengaluru, take the NH7 (Hosur road) and go to Dharmapuri, via Hosur and Krishnagiri. At Dharmapuri, you can see a junction, one of the roads going towards Hogenakkal, via Pennagaram. Another route, which is shorter, but less travelled is via Hosur - Rayakkottai - Palakkodu - Pennagaram. Or even shorter, but bad roads, via Hosur - Denkanikota - Pennagaram. Hogenakkal is also along Kaveri river, this time dropping down around 100ft into a deep canyon forming waterfalls on all sides. Small round boats are available to take you to the middle of the canyon and from there to a river bank, where you can get an oil massage.
Sangam is the confluence of Rivers Kaveri (Cauvery) and Arkavathi. One more nice picnic spot along Kanakapura Road (NH209) formed around River Kaveri, it can be reached by taking a 33km deviation to the left, soon after Kanakapura, along NH209. A big arch is placed there to tell you the route. About 16kms from Kanakapura you will reach a junction, to the right of which is Cauvery fishing camp. Go straight for Sangam. The last five kms to Sangam is an enjoyable drive through the ghat roads, with picturesque hills all around you. Water is not so deep at Sangam and is very clean, in spite of the huge crowd generally found here. But the surroundings is filled with litter and plastic. Its a pitty that a place like this is not kept clean.
After its confluence with River Arkavathi at Sangam, Kaveri flows through a deep gorge at Mekedatu. The gorge is deep and a maximum 30ft wide at places. Some other sections, the rock almost bridges the river so that a goat can leap across. Hence the name, Meke(Goat)Datu(Leap). A lot of strange looking rock formations and deep holes can be found here. To go to Mekedatu, one has to come to Sangam, cross the river and travel another 4 kms through a jeep track through the Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary or along the Kaveri (Cauvery) river. The area is covered by hills on all sides and its very unlikely that you can spot wild life here. A special bus ply between these two places almost every hour. Walking along the river is a very good option, but not so adviced for families, since there is usually a lot of crowd and booze parties along this river route. And not to mention the huge amount of litter and cow/human dung.
This is a small water falls on the way to Sangam. Take the Sangam Road after Kanakapura and after 23kms you can spot a road on the left side going to Chunchi falls. 5kms more from here for the falls. Thanks to the Prime Minister's Gram Sadak Yojana roads are good to this place. This water falls is nothing particular, but worth seeing if you are going to Sangam/Mekedatu.
Bheemeshwari is more known as the Cauvery Fishing Camp (CFC) and famous for the 'Mahaseer' ('Mahasheer') fishes. The place is pasrt of the Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary. Log huts are available for staying at this place, which can be booked from Bengaluru KSTDC office. This point is almost midway between Sangam and Sivanasamudram in River Kaveri. To reach Bheemeshwari, you should take the NH209 (Kanakapura road) past Kanakapura, take the road to Sangam, till you reach a junction (Halahalli), about 16kms from Kanakpura, from where you have to take a right. One can also trek from Bheemeshwari to Muthathi and also to Mekedatu.
Bannerghatta National Park
Located 22 kms from Bengaluru city, along the Bannerghatta road, this is a good place to visit. Just about 10kms from IIMB campus, Bannerghatta national park is probably the easiest place, where you can spot wild animals like lions and tigers roaming freely in something resembling a forest. These animals are kept in fenced containment and safari is arranged to see them. There is also a zoo in the national park premises where you can have a look at a variety of animals. An Elephant joy ride or safari is also possible.
A major drawback with the place is that it is more of a zoo than a national park and lacks a wild feel. Also, the animals kept in cages paints a sorry figure. Still, some of the tigers/lions kept in fenced containment looks healthy, offering a rare experience.
Maidanahalli Blackbuck Sanctuary
Maidanahalli is home to the beautiful and endangered Blackbucks (Antilope Cervicapra). It is reachable from Bengaluru via Nelamangala -> Dobbaspet -> Koratgere -> Madhugiri and Puravara village. Take the Tumkur road (NH4) and continue on the toll road till Dobbaspet. At Dobbaspet, exit the toll road and take the Madhugiri road via Koratgere. An alternate route is to continue on the NH4 till Tumkur and then take the Madhugiri road from Tumkur bypass. From Madhugiri, take the Hindupur road and continue for another 10kms till the Puravara village. At Puravara, there is a left turn towards Maidanahalli / I D Halli. The turn to Maidanahalli is about 7kms before I D Halli.
There is no regulation within the sanctuary as of now. So, the visitors can have a free hand inside the sanctuary, driving or walking around to spot the Blackbucks. The lack of proper administration is evident in the high amount of gracing and herds of sheep inside the sanctuary limits. In spite of all these, there is a good number of Blackbucks in the sanctuary and they are indeed a beautiful sight to cherish.
Pandavapura & Kunti Betta
Pandavapura is a small village near Srirangapatna, about 130kms from Bengaluru. There are two approach roads to the village, going to the west (right side when heading towards Mysuru) from the Bengaluru - Mysuru highway - one midway between Mandya and Srirangapatna and the other just before Srirangapatna. Both these roads are about 10kms of driving treat in between sugar cane fields and sugar mills on both sides, especially if you time it on early mornings.
The most interesting picnic spot at Pandavapura is the Kunti Betta, about a km deviation before reaching the town, if you are on the approach road towards Mandya. Kunti Betta is two rocky hills seperated by a valley in between, housing a temple. Mythology says that Pandavas and Kunti stayed here during their exile. The way upto the hills is interesting with beautiful views of the surroundings hills, valley and a lake.
Pandavapura also has couple of other temples, contrasting in style and ambience. The first one at Hukkada, near the Pandavapura railway station, is thronged by devotees, especially on new moon days, to offer sacrifices and offerings. To reach Hukkada, one has to take the Srirangapatna road till the railway station (about 4kms from the town) and then take right. Look for a dhaba, with a road going to the left near it, which will take you to the temple. The other temple, the Sri Siva Shailam temple is inside a huge compound, also housing a sanskrit learning center, with a serene and sylvan ambience and streams flowing by.
Shivaganga (Shivganga, Shivagange, Sivaganga, Shiva Ganga) has a famous 'Shiva' temple near its foothills and a spring water source midway to the peak. The spring is called 'Olakallu Theertha' (meaning water inside the rocks in Kannada) and it is believed that only 'good' people can touch the holy water here. Also, ghee smudged on to the 'Shiva Linga' at the foothills is believed to turn butter. Naturally, numerous devotees throngs this place. The trail to the top is about 2hrs for a reasonable climber and is along vertical rock faces in some stretches. Steps are cut on the rock and railings are provided to make the climb easier for the visitors. There are many beautiful 'Nandi's and various other pillars and idols all along this trail. The top of the peak, at an altitude of 1368m above msl, offers a good view of the entire surroundings.
To reach Shivaganga, take the Tumkur road from Bengaluru and turn left @ Dobbaspet about 50kms from Bengaluru. From Dobbaspet town, Shivaganga is about 6kms. For people travelling by bus, autos may be hired from Dobbaspet to take you to Shivaganga. There are no good restaurants in the area, but one can find a few dhabas in the Tumkur highway. @ Shivaganga, there are numerous shops, especially in the beginning of the trail, selling juices, fruits and other eatables. So, there is hardly any need to carry anything. With monkeys patrolling the entire stretch for any eatables it may not be a good idea to carry food, while you are on the trail. Footwears are allowed for most part of the trail and a shoe with good grip is recommended, especially for inexperienced climbers.
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