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.
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Wow, these look amazing! I’m a sucker for caves, but the carvings look so intricate and incredible. Thanks for highlighting these off-the-normal path places, your insights are really helpful.
glad you enjoyed it!
Gorgeous! I get that it’s not everyone’s jam, but I love the idea of travel around ancient history.
The carvings are absolutely amazing but I’m totally in love with all of the different rock formations. I imagine it would be really cool to hike around here. I love that photo where you’re (almost) camouflaged by the rocks!
Yeah it’s really cool but smells like bats! lol so didn’t like going in the caves
What a lovely place, I’m not usually huge fan of caves but these temples are something special, love the carvings too!
This looks like a pretty awesome place. Diamond in the rough surprised it’s not visited more.
yes, diamond in the rough is the perfect description
It never ceases to amaze me how many possibilities India throws up. I’ve never heard of these caves, and never been to Hampi – will need to be the next trip!
Very informative article Rachel. I am planning to travel to Badami from Hampi. I have some questions in my mind.
1. Do I need to travel back to Hampi for the stay or are there any good places to stay in Badami
2. How long does it take to complete the tour of whole Badami
3. Are there any other places to visit near Badami.