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Sandur | The Unexplored Wonder!

Written by Poorna & Brinda

Sandur was in news two weeks back. Neela Kurinji flowers had bloomed in the hills of Sandur! These flowers bloom once in twelve years! We could not go. Unfortunately.

“See Sandur in September” said Mahatma Gandhi. How true he was! Sandur in September is spectacular. Mahatma had stopped over in Sandur for few days in 1934 on the invitation of royal family of Sandur. Not to worry. Sandur is lovely in October too!

We had heard of this place first time when we saw the Kannada Movie “Manasa Sarovara” shot by the famed Director Puttanna Kanagal. Puttana who was known for exploring unheard locales had set the story in the green Sandur. Much before it was devastated by mining. Sandur in the movie looked so beautiful.

Years of reckless mining had ruined the hills and had turned it brown. Thanks to Supreme Court’s banning of mining in the region, the hills have sprung back to life once again.

We had another reason to visit it. We had read about lovely Shiv Vilas Palace of the Sandur royal family being converted into a cute boutique hotel. When we called them, we got a reply that it will take another two months before it is opened to guests. We promptly called after two months and landed there.

This was our first visit in 2012.

The drive to Sandur is a breeze till Kudligi. After that the road is broken. It turned worse once entered the Yashwant Nagar. The hub of mining activities. Everything is brown in this small place. Trucks zipped menacingly on the dusty roads. But as soon as we left Yashwant Nagar, and started climbing the ghat, we were in for a treat. The green expanse was a huge surprise.

It had rained well in the region after a long time and everything was green. Let us take you through our Sandur adventure through the pictures!

Please click on the pictures to see them in larger size.

The dirt track – blame it on the mining and trucks – is a bad contrast to the greenery all around…..

Sandur

“See Sandur in September” is written on a boulder next to the view-point. We climb around 200 steps to the view-point which gives fantastic views the valley. The rivers which should flowing full in monsoon are already dry……

Sandur

 

Sandur

SandurWe arrive at Shiv Vilas Palace Hotel. The palace is located in the town in a 30 acre estate. Beautifully maintained, it rivals any palace hotels in Rajasthan. The view of the place as we enter the gate…..

Sandur

Sandur

The Entrance lobby….With the plaque. The palace is built in 1940!

Sandur

Sandur

The Central court-yard….

Sandur

Sandur

The sit out areas well decorated by local furniture and handicrafts.

The living room and ante rooms….

The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated. The wall hanging behind the cot is a lovely embroidery work done by Lambani tribes in the handicraft centre supported by the royal family.

The wooden staircase to first floor. Decorated by lovely Ganjifa paintings on the wall!

A fantastic collection books in Royal Library. Late MY Ghorpade was a man of multi talents. More on him here 

The billiards room….

Lovely dining hall…

We meet Sameer, the entusisiatic young manager. Sameer is a local boy and is proud of the place. We discuss the places to go around in the evening. He suggests Nari Halla. “It has rained well and looks fabulous” he says.

We have lunch and go around the estate. We are the only guests in the palace! A beautiful place. The estate is a nice place for morning walks, cycling. It is also a good place for bird watchers too.

After a cup of tea, we leave for Nari halla with Sameer. The road is bad. The black top is gone long ago. Driving a Scorpio really helps. Blame on it reckless mining. Rain has also made a mess of the roads.

As we drive, we can see the landscape slowly changing for better. The small hills in the horizon against clear sky. The greenery all around. And then the huge water body!

We stop at a vantage point and walk down to the banks of the huge lake formed by the backwaters of the Nari halla dam. A small dam. But the setting is picturesque.

Let the picture talk….

The freight train from Donimalai mines to Tornagallu travel along the banks of the lake. A journey in this must be a fascinating experience!

Poorna climbs up on a vantage point to click this

We return back. On the way, Sameer takes us to Narasimha Kunda. A temple and a natural Gorge!

We return back in the evening. We spend the evening sitting in the lovely balcony listening the chirping of birds of the estate.

Next day morning, Sameer suggests that we visit the ancient Kumaraswamy temple also known as Krauncha Giri. A quick drive up the small hill takes us to the temple built by Chalukyas. The setting in the middle of the forests is lovely.

We return back for a sumptuous breakfast. After breakfast, we go to Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra. A handcrafts centre started by the royal family, it is a treasure trove of Lambani handicrafts. We pick up lovely wall hangings and durries from the place.

We stay for two more days in the palace to explore Hampi. Stay tuned. We will be back with a detailed post on Hampi.

We went again in 2015. The mining had stopped. The forests had rejuvenated.

Few days back, this was the scene in the forests of Sandur! Neela Kurinji Flowers ( Photo Courtesy – Sandur Fans Club )

Plan a trip to Sandur now! We will assure you, you will come back refreshed!

Travel Information

Getting there

By Air – The flight services from Hyderabad have been recently started to Tornagallu airport which is at a distance of 20 KMs

By Train – Tornagallu is the nearest railway station and is on the trunkline which connects Bangalore to Hospet.

By Road – Sandur is well-connected by road. State transport buses run from Bangalore, Hubli and Bellary.

Stay Option

Shiv Vilas Palace Hotel is a gem of a place to stay and explore Sandur and also Hampi. Check out Poorna’s review of the hotel done in 2012 in Trip Advisor here – Review on Trip Advisor

Travel Tips

  1. Shiv Vilas Palace is an excellent base to not only to explore Sandur but also Hampi. The UNESCO World heritage site of Hampi is just 20 KMs away and connected by a superb concrete road which runs through beautiful landscape.
  2. The best time to visit Sandur is immediately after monsoon and through winter. Summer months of April – June will be very hot during the day.
  3. One can go for day treks in the hills of Sandur with proper guides.
  4. Sandur is a birder’s paradise. Check out this lovely blog on birds
  5. When the water level is high in Nari Halla, one can do boating.
  6. If one is interested one can also explore the mines around Sandur.
  7. The train journey form Donimalai mines to Tornagallu must be an experience. Not sure about getting permission for that.
  8. The road from Sandur to Hampi is an excellent stretch for cycling early in the morning.

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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