There was once an empire called the Chalukya’s. Yes, I also didn’t know that. But I was about to find out a hell of a lot about them! Just a 3 hour drive from Hampi, it’s another awesome spot for temples and hiking, yet none of the tourists come here. Oh wait, I did see one guy, so there’s that.
They used to have their Empire in Aihole / Pattadakal but then moved it to Badami in 500 (ish) AD. This was part of the goMowgli Hampi Loop and after a night of sleeplessness in Hampi, we were off to Badami first.
Update: As of 2018, GoMowgli is no longer in operation. If you want a tour to Badami, check out this one from Viator which includes the nearby awesome caves of Aihole and Pattadakal which I wrote about here.
the entrance to the main caves
Badami Cave Temples Galore
People come here for one thing only, let’s be real. It’s to go see the cave temples then get the heck out! It’s a noisy run down city with not much on offer in terms of quality hotels and restaurants… but the thing is lots of amazing places in India are in towns like this (Agra home of the Taj Mahal, anyone?).
Badami means Almond in Kannada, named from the color of the stones. Unlike the massive granite boulders of Hampi, these are made from soft sandstone so they haven’t all held up as well, not to mention they’re about 10 centuries older.
I’m almost hidden if it wasn’t for this purple shirt! (that my dad got me 5 years ago at Gap, thanks dad!)
Badami used to rule it all: Tamil Nadu, AP, Kerala, etc but as the story always goes, someone took them over. Interestingly enough, they were secular people so in the caves you have a Hindu temple (Shiva and Vishnu), Jain, and Buddhist. The archaeological museum isn’t huge, but it has some seriously old tools in it I found very interested to look at.
Cave 1 is for Shiva, cave 2 is for Vishnu, 3 is for both, and 4 is for Jainism (that’s what they are actually called, by number). You have more natural caves that are simpler. They are all overlooking an amazing lake called the Agastyatirtha Tank which is where you’ll see the Bhuthanatha group of temples on the other side of. Guides will also show you the South and North fort.
view from one of the 2 main hills, to the other with the famous lake between
If you choose not to go with a guide or tour group here, you may miss things as they’re kind of spread out and not kept up with well. You could easily accidentally only see half the area and miss some of the good stuff. If you’re going to come all this way, I recommend doing it right and having someone explain things to you or at least lead you where to go.
The Mythology here can get confusing especially when trying to understand the history of the Kingdom, but even if you skip the museum it’s a great place to hike and just look at the ancient carvings and sculptures. You’ll end at the Buddhist cave, which has a super tiny entrance you have to squeeze through.
To be honest, even with the goMowgli guide here, it was difficult to understand all the carvings which always tell a story, but it was still very worth seeing. Usually an temple tells a story that interlinks and I can follow, but here there where many stories from Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, and Parvati (and more!) written on the walls with carvings.
Secret Cave Paintings and Wandering beautiful blue streets
When you’re all done for the day and you have some extra time, it’s nice to walk into the alleys where everyone seems to paint their white houses with blue doors/ blue frames all around.. or a light turquoise /green. It’s so gorgeous! They must have thought I was nuts taking photos of doors.
- To tour you’ll need about half a day. It’s a little tiring and monkeys are manic, more so than usual.
- As always with goMowgli you have your pick of where to stay, but do know pickings are slim! We stayed at a Lonely Planet recommended Hotel Rajsangam which was basic. I asked if there was “garum pani” and I was brough a bucket of boiling hot water. Rooms were spacious and WiFI was in reception. BUT there were light up stars and a planets on the ceiling bringing me a very peaceful night!
- If you want something luxe, I looked up other options and it seems Hotel Badami 2 km outside town is super legit with a pool. GoMowgli can help you find this place if you’d rather!
- If you aren’t with goMowgli, you can arrange a tour here from Hampi or you can get here by local bus. The bus stand is actually just across the street from the hotel I stayed at.