Beyond the concrete jungle of tech parks and business hubs, India’s IT capital is a southern metropolitan with a number of lesser-known places rich in natural beauty. Some of these hidden gems around Bengaluru make for ideal weekend getaways. By Trinetra Paul
Bengaluru city, located in Karnataka along the Western Ghats, is surrounded with destinations that are a stone’s throw away and ensure a truly blissful weekend retreat. From rock climbing in Gandikota and paragliding in Nandi Hills to simply soaking up the panoramic vistas of the Hesaraghatta Lake, these places are a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Explore some of the most underrated and hidden places that offer a peek into South India’s scenic beauty. Whether you live here or are planning to visit, lush green trees and nature walks around Bengaluru are the perfect way to ditch city life and its regular tourist attractions.
Here are some lesser-known places around Bengaluru to include in your must-visit list
Located about 60 km from Bengaluru, Nandi Hills offer a refreshing escape from the humdrum of urban life. At an altitude of approximately 1,478 m, the hilly range is a place that will appeal to nature enthusiasts as well as history lovers. A trek up the hills will unravel scenic viewpoints and historical remnants of forts and palaces, dating back to the times of Tipu Sultan.
Those wanting some adrenaline kick can try their hand at gliding and tandem paragliding. If you are in mood for some leisure strolls, the well-maintained trails are sure to elevate your mood and keep your worries at bay.
Offering spectacular panoramic views from a height of 600m is a cliff called Tipu’s Drop. History buffs can visit Tipu’s Summer Palace located on the hilltop.
The beautiful Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple is one of the oldest structures here, dating back to the ninth century. Situated in the foothills, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is currently maintained by the Archeological Survey of India.
There are regular buses connecting Bengaluru city and Nandi Hills. You can also opt for an hour-and-a-half drive to the destination.
The scenic lakeside destination is just about 33 km from Bengaluru and makes up for a perfect day trip. A site flocked by picnickers, the Hesaraghatta Lake is actually a man-made freshwater reservoir built in 1894 to provide water for drinking and irrigation.
Although it remains dry most of the year, don’t forget to pack your lenses to catch beautiful birds like Paddy Field pipit, Bushlarks, Kingfisher, Pond Heron, Magpie Robin, Black Drongo and Brahminy Kite. Sprawling over four square kilometres, the Hesaraghatta Lake gives an ideal respite from the urban jungles.
While here, you can visit the beautiful Nrityagram nearby, which was founded by renowned Odissi dancer Protima Gauri Bedi as a hub for learning Indian classical dance forms.
The best way to reach the place is to take a cab or drive down via Bellary Road, which is the shortest path from Bengaluru to Hesaraghatta. The best time to visit the place will be during the winters when you can avoid the scorching sun.
Even some locals wouldn’t know that almost 280 kilometres from Bengaluru, Andhra Pradesh houses an Indian Grand Canyon. One of the hidden gems around Bengaluru, these gorges are carved by the Penna River that flows through the Erramala Hills.
Gandikota is one of the lesser-known serene destinations offering an array of activities for all likings. Early sunrise views are something you cannot miss.
A stroll through the famous Gandikota Fort is a must. It has witnessed the reign of several dynasties like the Kalyani, Cholas, Chalukyas, Golconda Sultanate and Delhi Sultanate. It houses the Madhavarrya Swamy and Raghunatha Swamy temples, which are known for their brilliant ancient architecture. The Jamia Masjid is also situated in the fort complex and resembles Hyderabad’s Charminar.
For thrill-seekers, Gandikota offers rock climbing, trekking, rappelling and river rafting opportunities. A short trip from here will take visitors to explore the beautiful Belum Caves, situated in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh on the Nandyal-Tadipatri route.
Gandikota can be reached by a six-hour drive from Bengaluru via NH 44. The nearest railway station is Jammalamadugu which is about 15 km from Gandikota. The most convenient way to reach the place is by bus which ply regularly from Bengaluru, Vijayawada, and other cities.
Maitreya Buddha Pyramid
Located just outside of Bengaluru in Kebbedoddi, the Maitreya Buddha Pyramid is considered to be the world’s largest meditational pyramid. Nestled in a lush green valley, this is truly a hidden gem near Bengaluru city that even the locals may not know about..
It is a part of Pyramid Valley International, which is run and administered by the Pyramid Spiritual Societies Movement. The entire valley occupies an area of nearly 1 sq km in which the pyramid is the star attraction.
Standing at a height of over 31 m with a base of over 48 m x 48 m, the pyramid can accommodate 5,000 people in its regular intensive meditation sessions at a time. Additionally, it has an inner chamber measuring one-third of the pyramid’s height.
The scientifically built structure is influenced by the concept of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Set exactly in the north-south direction, the pyramid’s four faces have a golden angle of inclination — 51°50’.
About 40 kilometres from Bengaluru, the Pyramid Valley is well connected by roads. The visiting time is 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and the place also has paid accommodations for various budgets.
Another splendid trekking option near Bengaluru is the Savandurga Hills. Home to one of Asia’s largest monoliths, the climb up can be quite a challenge because of the hills’ extremely smooth surface. The trek up the monolith involves climbing two hills — Karigudda and Biligudda.
The Biligudda climb is an easier one compared to its counterpart and takes you to the ruins of a fort built by Vijayanagara chieftain Kempe Gowda. You can spend a night at Savandurga Hills and camp under the stars.
You can combine the trip with a short visit to the Manchanabele Dam, which is about 11 km from Savandurga Hills. The dam is built on the Arkavathi River and offers splendid options for boating, kayaking, rock climbing and much more. The beautiful vistas make up for a popular picnic spot.
Savandurga Hills is one of the less explored places around Bengaluru about 60 km from the city. Since there are no direct buses available, the most convenient way to get here would be to drive. The nearest railway station is the Magadi railway station.
Kunti Betta is one of the very few places in India that provides night trekking and is situated about 122 km from the city in the ancient town of Pandavapura. Its very name gives away the Mahabharata reference attached to it. Legend has it that the Pandavas had stayed at this hillock during their exile.
Today, it is a trekker’s paradise. From rock climbing to swimming and kayaking in the nearby Thonnur Lake, Kunti Betta is an ideal weekend escape for those longing to break away from monotony. You can also spot endangered fireflies here.
This involves a trek of around 4 km. On the way, you can see a utensil-shaped stone and another resembling a pestle, which is said to be used by the Pandavas and their mother Kunti. The view from up here is as gorgeous as it gets.
You can take an early morning bus from Bengaluru and reach the base. It would take about an hour or two to complete the trek and you can return to the city the same day.
One of the hidden gems near Bengaluru, Sakleshpur is a blissful weekend retreat, replete with nature walks, temples, forts and waterfalls. The enchanting hilly landscapes and rolling vistas make Sakleshpur an ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate.
The list of must-visits in Sakleshpur has to begin with Manjarabad Fort. Built by Tipu Sultan in 1792 to safeguard his army from the British, the fort displays a unique octagonal design with eight walls and impeccable Islamic architecture. The fort is perched at a height of over 987 m and offers a gorgeous view of the Western Ghats.
The Bisle View Point offers a wonderful panoramic view of the green cover that lies in front along with the many waterfalls that intersect the hills. It also gives a glimpse of the three ranges — Kumara Parvatha, Pushpagiri and Dodda Betta. The locals take care of the forests themselves, while the forest department has built a shelter for visiting tourists to enjoy the scenery.
Another noted spot that must be on your list is the Hadlu Waterfall. A hike through the verdant and aromatic plantations leads the way to the cool falls, which offer nature at its best.
Other popular spots in Sakleshpur include Pandavar Gudda, Jenukallu Gudda Hill, Sakleshwara temple, Manjehalli Falls, Hemavathi Reservoir and Ombattu Gudda Hill.
It is best to avoid the summer heat and visit this hidden gem near Bengaluru during winter. There are regular buses and trains from Bengaluru to Sakleshpur. You also have the option to cover the 221-km journey by driving down via NH 75.
(Main and feature image: Courtesy satyaprakash kumawat/ @sprakashk/ Unsplash)