Badami is one of the loveliest places in India and it is extremely satisfying for both culture and nature lovers. A rare combination indeed, this Karnataka destination offers loads of archaeological sites set in idyllic rustic settings and rock climbing options. Presenting this comprehensive Badami travel guide which will help you plan your trip better and combine it with neighbouring Aihole and Patadakkal.
Table of Contents
Where is Badami?
To begin this Badami travel guide, let us understand where it is located. The Badami group of cave temples are located in the town of Badami in the north-central part of Karnataka in India. The temples are about 142 km east of Belgavi and 140 km northwest of Hampi. The Malaprabha River lies 4.8 km away from Badami. The cave temples are located 23 km from the UNESCO world heritage site Pattadakal and 35 km from Aihole – another site that has over a hundred ancient and early medieval era Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist monuments.
Why you should plan a Badami travel?
The Badami rock-cut temples are excellent examples of India’s rich cultural heritage. The Badami Chalukya architectural style is considered to be one of the most innovative techniques of construction of its time. There are several forts built by later Chalukya dynasty rulers in the north and south of the caves. A ringed man-made lake borders one side of these caves. The countryside is also spectacular.
A brief history of Badami
Badami was once the capital of the Chalukya dynasty. The foundations of Badami, or Vatapi as it was called then were laid by Pulakeshi I (535 – 566 AD). His son Kirtivarman, the Ist (567 – 598 AD) embellished the town with temples & other buildings. Mangalesha (598 – 610 AD) brother of Kiritavarman I completed the construction of the cave temples. The greatest Chalukya ruler, Pulakeshi II (610-642 AD) once defeated the Pallava King Mahendra Verman I. The Pallavas later captured and destroyed Badami to avenge their defeat. In time, Badami changed many hands and was ruled by the Vijayanagar Kings, the Adil Shahis, the Savanur Nawabs, the Marathas, and Hyder Ali. The British made Badami a part of the Bombay Presidency.
The best time to plan your Badami travel
The winter months from October to March are ideal for visiting Badami. Avoid summer months as it gets intensely hot.
How to reach Badami
Badami is in Bagalkot district of Karnataka, 35 km from the district headquarter. The nearest major towns are Bijapur (120 km), Hubli (100 km), and Hospet (130 km). It is around 420 km away from Hyderabad and 450 km from Bangalore.
By Air: Badami is not connected by air. The nearest airports are Hubli and Belgaum. These airports are connected by some domestic flights and air travelers usually follow the Hubli/Belgaum – Bagalkot – Badami route. Taxis for Badami are available at both these airports.
By Train: Badami railway station is 4 km from the town. The following trains connect Badami: UBL SUR PASS Train (Hubli to Bagalkot) and BASAVA EXPRESS Train (Bangalore to Bagalkot).
By Road: Hubli To Bagalkot 122.6 km Via NH52, Bijapur To Bagalkot 83.8 km via NH52, Belgum To Bagalkot 140.5 km via Bachi – Raichur Hwy and Bangalore To Bagalkot 529.0 km via NH 48
Reaching Badami by bus
- From Bangalore – There is no Karnataka State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) service between Bangalore and Badami. However, buses are available from Bangalore to Bagalkot. The options are non-ac sleeper and Rajahamsa executive. You have to get another bus from Bagalkot for Badami. There are plenty of private company buses available from Bangalore Majestic Anand Rao Circle for Badami. These connections are mostly in the evening from 8 pm to 11 pm. All the buses are non-ac sleepers and take around 10 hours to reach Badami. Tickets can be booked online on various portals like Redbus.
- From Hyderabad – There are no direct buses to Badami from Hyderabad. There are, however, plenty of connections between Hyderabad and Bagalkot. These are operated by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and tickets can be booked online at the KSRTC website. The journey takes approx. 11 hours. The fare depends on the bus category that ranges from non-ac sleeper to comfortable Rajahamsa executive buses. These buses ply from the MG Bus Stand.
- From Hampi – Since this is another spectacular archaeological site in Karnataka, many travelers do the Hampi – Badami circuit. Note that there is no direct bus from Badami to Hampi. You have to undertake a circuitous journey to first take a bus/train to Hospet and then change to another bus/train to Gadag. Direct buses and trains are available between Gadag and Badami.
From Mumbai – There is a direct bus is between Badami and Mumbai (588 km). It starts from Badami at 05.00 PM and reaches Mumbai Kurla Stand at 09.00 AM via Bagalkot, Bijapur, Sholapur, Pune, and Panvel. A direct bus also operates between Hospet and Mumbai. Information Credit – Solobackpacker
Where to stay in Badami
Just because it is an offbeat destination, your Badami travel does not need to be uncomfortable. There are quite a few good accommodation options available in this town. I stayed at the Hotel Rajsangam International and found it to be pretty comfortable and conveniently located. Both luxury and budget accommodation options are available in Badami and rooms can be booked online.
Dining Out in Badami
Your Badami travel will not feature as a gastronomical delight. However, there are plenty of restaurants in the town to cater to all budgets and tastes.
The Northern and Southern Hill temples and attractions of Badami
Badami travel attractions can be easily separated into two zones: the southern hill and the northern hill. The southern hill temples are the most famous ones and these constitute the rock-cut or the cave temples. There are 4 cave temples and all of them are exquisite. This is also the most popular part of Badami and can get crowded. The northern hill comprises the Badami Fort, the Malegitti Shivalaya, a watchtower, a cannon, and some other temples. Though the distance between Badami Fort on the northern hill and Badami Caves on the southern hill is 1 km, most tourists tend to overlook the northern hill. That is why it is a wonderful place, one that you can explore anytime in peace. Badami is an easy destination to cover on foot.
Places to include in your Badami travel itinerary
- Badami Caves – This group of 4 cave temples are carved out of the hill opposite Badami fort. The Chalukyan king, Mangalesa(598-610)AD)was responsible for the completion of these cave temples. Of the four, three are Hindu temples, while the fourth is dedicated to Jainism. Nearly 2000 steps have to be climbed to reach the cave.
- Archaeological Museum of Badami – The museum is on the left-hand side near the main entrance of Agasthya Lake complex. There are four galleries of inscriptions and sculptures excavated from the nearby cave temples. The most notable attractions inside the museum are a sandstone image of Lajja Gauri, a Makara Torana carved on both sides, Kalantaka Shiva and Shiva Tripurantaka panels. The visiting hours are daily from 9 am to 5 pm (except on Fridays). The entry ticket is Rs. 5 per person and children below the age of 15 are free. Photography and videography are not permitted inside the museum.
- Agasthya Lake – This is a large man-made lake that makes Badami all the more alluring. Agasthya Lake or Agasthya Tirtha is bounded by the Badami Cave Temples to the south and the Badami Fort to the north. The beautiful Bhootnath Temple Complex lies on its eastern side. The views of the lake from the Badami Fort and Badami Cave Temples are very picturesque. The lake is used by the locals for washing and laundry.
- Bhootnath Temple Complex – Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is located on the eastern side of Agasthya Lake. Another Group of Bhootnath Temple is located on the north-eastern side of the lake. The eastern Temple Complex is the major one. There are some excellent carvings on the walls of this temple. This temple is open from sunrise to sunset and there are no entry fees.
- Badami Fort – Strategically situated on top of the hill, the fort offers stupendous views of the surrounding areas. It encloses large granaries, a treasury, and impressive temples. A stepped path adjacent to the museum leads up to the northern hill. The passage sometimes gets narrow and goes between two towering cliffs. One has to pass through the Upper and Lower Shivalayas while ascending to the Badami fort. There are some beautiful sculptures there. Close by are a 16th-century cannon and a watchtower of the fort.
- Malegitti Shivalaya – This is the crowning jewel of the northern hill and perhaps the oldest temple of the lot. It is dedicated to the benign aspect of Shiva as the garland maker and lies perched beneath the Badami fort. Known to be the finest and most beautifully preserved monument from the time of early Chalukyas in Badami, Malegitti Shivalaya can be easily accessed through a narrow lane from the main road opposite the bus stand.
- Banashankari Temple – A highly revered pilgrimage site, the Banashankari temple is located at Cholachagudd, about 5 km away from Badami Caves. The entrance is free and the temple is open from sunrise to sunset. Shared and private autorickshaws/tuk-tuks are available from Badami to Banashankari temple.
Visiting hours and entrance tickets
Badami Fort and the northern hill complex are free attractions and remain open from sunrise to sunset. The Badami caves, however, are open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The entrance ticket is Rs 25 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners. Entrance is free for children up to the age of 15. Photography is free and allowed inside the temples. The video camera charge is Rs 25. Car parking is available near the complex and the parking fee is Rs 40. The ticket counter is next to the main entrance of the caves.
Badami Caves in details
- Cave 1 – Situated about 18 m above the ground level, Cave 1 is the highlight of this complex. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has fantastic carvings of an 18-armed dancing Shiva, a two-handed Ganesha, Mahishasura Mardini, Ardha Nareeshwara & Shankarnarayana. The ceiling is adorned by serpent motifs, celestial nymphs, and other carved figures. The cave temple was built by the Chalukyan king Pulakesin I and dates back to the 5th century.
- Cave 2 – This cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the carvings inside the temple depict different stages of his life. It is reached through a flight of 64 steps from the first one. The highlight of this cave is the magnificent carving of Lord Vishnu in his varaha (half human and half boar) avatar.
- Cave 3 – This cave faces the north and is about 60 steps above cave 2. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it has along with magnificent carving, important inscriptions dating back to 578 CE, the period of Kiritivarma Chalukya.
- Cave 4 – Lying on the east of Cave 3, the fourth cave is Jain. There is a beautiful carving of Mahavira adorning the sanctum. Other carvings of Cave 4 belong to Padmavathi and other Thirthankaras. There is a steep climb up some steps cut in a crevice between Cave 2 and 3. It leads to the southern part of Badami Fort and to the old cannon.
Beware of the monkeys
The area around the Badami caves is teeming with pesky monkeys. These animals are on the lookout for food doled up by the tourists and it also their natural habitat. Please do not feed the animals as it tends to make them aggressive and often snatch food from children. Watch out for monkey droppings.
Moving on from Badami
There are quite a few places to move on to after visiting Badami.
- Aihole – Pattadakal – Mahakuta circuit (it can be done while being based in Badami)
- Hampi – magnificent Vijaynagar ruins set amidst a gorgeous natural setting
- Bijapur – Gol Gumbaz is a mausoleum of king Muhammad Adil Shah from the Adil Shah Dynasty. The circular dome of this mausoleum is considered to be the second largest dome in the world.
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