As the merriness of the new year still keeps you swiping the calendar, each month carries abundant possibilities for tapping the untapped exploration opportunities at exciting destinations. Who would not love to break free after a weeklong toil? Often, budget constraints may keep you from planning a long getaway somewhere far away. No worries, we have skimmed off a list of scenic drives around Bangalore to try in 2024.
For most of us, the word “long drive” may trigger the visuals of vast serene stretches of road in a picturesque background in Ladakh or Spain as depicted by movies. Being an explorer’s paradise, Bengaluru offers some marvellous drives that would take less than a day to charge you up. Busy-bee Bengalurean hodophiles wait for the weekend to go on quick long drives to quench their wanderlust.
Unlike the tour commutation by buses, trains and flights, long drives let you enjoy stopovers at your will, connecting with the locals, familiarising diverse cultures and trying a variety of cuisines!
So here are the top 5 spectacular drives around Bangalore that you can set out for this year.
1. Nandi Hills
The number one destination for one-day trips around Bangalore, Nandi Hills sets a perfect spot to behold a beautiful sunrise and sunset. Situated 4851 feet above sea level and close to the Bangalore International Airport, it attracts swaths of bikers, couples and tourists. One may halt in the city and set out for the drive early in the morning to reach the spot to witness a magnificent first light. A place that once served as the summer home of Tipu Sultan, Nandi Hills is also known as “Hillocks borrowed from the heaven”. The monuments, vividly carved arches and pillars, and shrines on the hilltop add to its beauty.
You will get immersed in the beauty of the weather as you drive to Nandi Hills greeted by scenic views and spots where you may stop over to do some amazing clicks or photoshoots. The road to the top of the hills is somewhat steep and has about 40 sharp curves before the entry gate. You may prefer to keep the windows of your car closed as you may spot plenty of monkeys on the way who might want to snatch a snack if found with you. Apart from the breathtaking views, on the way you also get to see kids park, cottages for stay and trees houses.
Distance from Bangalore: 61 km
Estimated Drive time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Activities to try: Cycling, bird watching, rope course, trekking
Must-visit spots: Tipu’s Summer Residence, Tipu’s Drop, Sunrise Point, Yoga Nandeeshwara Temple
2. Manchanabele Dam
Situated in the Ramanagara district and built on the Arkavati river this scenic water body sets a splendid view of the majestic Savandurga Hills that surround it. The dam is the major water source for Magadi town and it serves as an ideal camping spot accompanied by activities including kayaking, river rafting and other water sports to get the adrenaline rush. The place also attracts nature lovers with its clear water, lush greenery and reserve of a wide variety of birds. Though there have been strict restrictions for dam entry since 2011, it remains an irresistible trip destination by offering a scenic ride all along.
With beautiful villages, floral nurseries, and rose farms en route, you are greeted by the mesmerising blue beauty of the backwater as you approach the spot. Suppose one is looking for a day’s getaway from the bustle of the city. In that case, Manchanabele serves as the ideal spot to begin the day watching a marvellous sunrise and end it with a vibrant sunset, both of which demonstrate a mix of hues from the greenery, the blue of the water and the crimson of the sky.
On the way to the dam, you may enjoy the rich flora and fauna as well as stop by the Big Banyan tree which is about 10 km from the dam. You may also visit the Hazrath Shirajuddin Sha Khadri Dargha or Manchanabele Dargha near the dam.
Distance from Bangalore: 60 km
Estimated Drive time: 1 hour 17 minutes
Allowed Activities: Camping, Birdwatching
3. Chota Ladakh
An old quarry filled with water and surrounded by a rocky plateau, it resembles the barren mountain foothills of Ladakh and thus earned its name. With a ten-minute walk from the main road through the beautiful fields, you can trek up the plateau to reach the quaint spot. Known initially as Dodda Ayur, the place rightly fits in the list of the ideal destinations for a weekend’s long drive and to hang out for dusk or dawn. The small water body in the quarry, the hilly surroundings and the sky view make it an ideal camping spot to spend a night with your friends and loved ones.
You’ll really love the trip to Chota Ladakh from Banglore as it greets you with some amazing stopover spots and scenic views. From the city you will cross Kadugodi and reach the Kolar Highway which leads you to the Dodda Ayur village, a small village where once stone mining was done in the past. A narrow village road with green fields on its side leads you to a valley surrounded by green hills and from there in about a kilometer you reach the rocky terrain to trek up to the destination.
Distance from Bangalore: 60 km
Estimated Drive time: 1 hour 29 minutes
Activities to try: Short trek, Camping
Situated near Chickballapur, Skandagiri is surrounded by picturesque greenery around the hill and houses famous age-old forts to explore atop. Also known as Kalavara Durga or Kalwarbetta, it remains a favourite destination for trekkers paving way for a memorable hike along its tall and steep rocks. Trekking doesn’t get over at the Kalavara Durga, and one has to continue spotting more forts, a total of 6 forts to culminate the exciting trek. The peak finally greets you with a spectacular view– be it a full moon, the clouds, or a sunrise.
The route to Skandagiri takes you through small villages and narrow roads and offers several spots to stop over, enjoy a refreshing view and even have a photoshoot. The trek begins from the Papagni Matt at Kalwa village. You may also like to visit the Shiva temple as well as Tipu Sultan’s fort atop.
Distance from Bangalore: 70 km
Estimated Drive time: 1 hour 12 minutes
Activities to try: Trekking, Rock climbing, camping, birdwatching
5. Sangam & Mekedatu
About 95 kilometres (via Kanakapura) from the Silicon Valley of India are Sangam and Mekedatu, two spectacular weekend picnic spots situated close to each other. With the gushing waters of the rivers in a serene natural backdrop, these places render a pristine paradise for nature and river lovers.
Sangam is the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathy and Cauvery is about 150 meters wide at this spot. The coracle ride on the river is a popular activity and a delightful experience for tourists which gives them a glimpse of the river and its scenic beauty.
From Sangam, about 3.5 kilometres downstream, the river Cauvery can be seen flowing through a deep narrow gorge, the place known as Mekedatu. The name Mekedatu means goat’s leap in Kannada, implying that the river is so narrow that even a goat can leap across it. Here the river flows fiercely hitting the rocks, showcasing itself as a wild natural beauty. The deep ravine through which the river flows is only about 5-10 meters wide.
The rocks are steep and slippery, risky to descend yet the place is a feral beauty to behold. One can have a fabulous one-day picnic by driving up to Sangam and then using boat service or public transportation to cross the river to reach Mekedatu.
An ideal road trip would be from Bangalore via Kanakapura to Sangama/Mekedatu. From the city, the route transits the crowded regions of Kaggalipura, Jakkasandra, Kanakapura, Malavalli and Sargur. Apart from the destination, you may also visit the Kallahalli Sri Srinivasa Temple in Kanakapura and the Shivanasamudra Falls. The drive to the destination is pretty scenic with plenty of small lakes and greenery all along the route.
Distance from Bangalore: 95 km
Estimated Drive time: 2 hours 39 minutes
Activities to try: Coracle ride at Sangam
Other one-day trip destinations around Bangalore:
Chunchi Falls: the 50 feet high waterfall is fed by the Arkavati river is named after a tribal couple and is situated 90km away from the city on the route to Sangam and Mekedatu. The nearby watchtower lets you enjoy a panoramic view of the rocky surrounding covered by deciduous forest. The water down the fall is known for its strong current and is home to many crocodiles.
Avalabetta: located 95 kilometers from Bangalore, a small hillock with giant boulders, lush greenery and a couple of renowned temples to get immersed in the tranquillity of nature.
Amidst the miffy city lifestyle, it may not always be feasible to skim out quality time for long trips to distant locations, yet you deserve a quick refreshing and rejuvenating break. The above five scenic locations are ideal destinations around Bangalore that you can embark on, to enjoy a long drive, get beguiled in the captivating scenery, and de-stress with fun activities, all in less than a day without risking your schedule.
Written by: Rajani R Pai