Despite its impressive views and picturesque temples – forts are usually underrated tourist attractions in India. However, these structures have seen so much history – serving as a base of operations during wars or summer retreats for the royals. Add to this picturesque hilltop views, exciting trekking, and photography opportunities, and you’ve got yourself the perfect weekend destination.
In an era where fort construction has become a relic of the past, these forts and their remnants now hold a unique significance. They evoke a sense of pride, ignite excitement, and feel like an escape to the past.
Bangalore, known for its pubs and restaurants or IT tech parks and malls, is surrounded by a good number of forts, which serve as perfect weekend getaways, offering a much-needed escape from the confines of office cubicles and the city's relentless traffic.
Did you know that there are Navadurga or the nine hill forts around Bangalore? When I started researching forts around Bangalore, I was surprised to learn about this fact, even after exploring around Bangalore for almost 10 years now. While reading more on this topic, it seems that which 9 forts are part of the Navadurga is not concrete. So here's a list as per my interpretation. In 2024, I now plan to cover all these forts and find out more such forts in Karnataka, especially around Bangalore.
Top Forts in Bangalore within 100 km
This list has the following forts:
- Bangalore Fort 4.4 km
- Devanahalli Fort 40 km via NH44
- Makalidurga Betta 57.9 km via SH9
- Savanadurga fort 60 km off Magadi Road via NH275
- Nandidurga Fort 61.4 km via NH44
- Devarayanadurga Fort 71.3 km via NH48
- Hutridurga Fort 79.4 km via NH75
- Gudibande Fort 100 km via NH44
- Madhugiri Fort 104 km via NH48
With only 5/9 of these forts covered personally, I have a good road trip list ready for the weekends :)!
Time required: No hiking or trekking required, it is a land fort. Doable in 1 hour.
This is one of the two forts in this list which is a land fort and you won't need to trek to explore the fort.
Kempe Gowda, a Vijayanagar Empire chieftain, laid the foundation of a mud fort in 1537, marking the birth of modern Bangalore. This fort, along with temples and lakes, transformed the village into a cultural hub. Hyder Ali later replaced it with a stone fort. In 1791, during the Anglo-Mysore war, the British captured the fort, demolishing most of it for roads and buildings. The board in front of this fort says, “The original fort was oval in plan, with round bastions and huge gateways at important places – Delhi Bagilu (Gate) and Yelahanka Bagilu on the north, Ulsur Bagilu at the east, Mysuru Bagilu in the south and Kengeri Bagilu in the east. It was surrounded by a dry moat." Today, only the Delhi gate and remnants of the two bastions are standing.
I am still to take a photo walk around this fort, but sharing some pictures from Tipu Sutlan's summer palace, which is hardly 500m away and can be easily explored along the Bangalore Fort.
Tips to note:
- KR market metro station is within two minutes' walking distance.
- Tipu Sutlan's summer palace is nearby.
- It is not a good idea to bring a car as the parking is a big challenge or park near Tipu Sultan's summer palace which is just 500m away.
Distance: under 50kms.
Directions: After the BLR airport, on the main highway to Hyderabad.
Time required: Around 2-3 hours to enjoy the trek and the views from the top
Famously known as the Birthplace of Tipu Sultan, this is a small land fort with a relaxed of the highway. I love this fort for the simplicity it offers and with no crowd at all, a perfect short bike trip from Bangalore to enjoy a cup of coffee and chill on the bastions at the fort. I visited this place last in 2019, but forgot to take any pictures, I was too into the moment.
Close to the entrance is a signage with some useful info.
“Devanahalli, located at a distance of 35 kms towards north of Bangalore is a fast-growing suburb having an antiquity right from pre-historic times down to the period of Tipu Sultan. It was part of Gangawadi and later came under the rule of Rashtrakutas, Nolamba, Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas, and the Vijayanagara rulers. During the rule of Vijayanagara rule, one Malla Baire Gowda of Avati, a feudatory constructed the fort in 1501 AD with the consent of Devaraya at Devanadoddi - the earlier name of Devanahalli. Subsequently, in 1747 AD the fort passed into the hands of Wodeyars of Mysore, which was conquered many times from the Marathas and later came under the control of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan. The present fort is ascribed to Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, and it was the favorite hunting place for Tipu Sultan which incidentally was his birthplace as well. The roughly oval east-oriented veneered with dressed masonry has as many as 12 semi-circular bastions at regular intervals. A spacious battlement is provided towards the inner side of the fortification. The fort is provided with entrances at the east and west decorated with cut plasterwork. The bastions are provided with gun points built in brick and lime.”
The fort and trek are very nicely written here by India Hikes
Nestled on a granite hillock, Makalidurga Fort has long been a cherished destination for trekkers from Bangalore. It's renowned as one of the rare railway treks in the area. This medium to difficult trek offers challenges as you ascend the hill, but the rewards are truly worth it. Once a proud sentinel, the fort now lies in ruins, enveloped in an eerie silence. With roots tracing back to the Vijayanagara Empire, the architecture of this crumbling structure continues to captivate. Explore its grounds, and you'll stumble upon a fort temple and other intriguing remnants of the past.
I am yet to visit this fort and explore it myself. So pictures to come in 2024 hopefully!
Savandurga, one of Asia's largest monoliths, bears a daunting name in Kannada - "The fort of death." It lives up to its reputation, serving as a true trial for novice trekkers. The trek presents nearly vertical ascents in various sections, making it one of the most demanding and challenging treks in the vicinity of Bangalore. One of the reasons, I have yet to complete this trek. In the bucket list for sure.
Catch views of the Manchanabele Dam from the top.
- There are not many proper restaurants or eatouts near Savandurga or Manchanabele. It is better to have a packed lunch.
- No options for overnight stays in either place. Also, it is not safe to roam around the locations after it gets dark because there is no proper lighting and the roads are deserted.
- While returning from Manchanabele Dam to Bangalore, you can also visit the 400-year-old Big Banyan Tree spread across 3 acres. It's huge!
Everyone knows Nandi Hills! :D
One of the most popular places to visit near Bangalore in one day, sadly Nandi Hills is often very crowded on the weekends nowadays. Uptil 2017-18, or even before Covid, I used to just randomly drive up Nandi Hills. Be it after breakfast or as an excuse for a short road trip, but now seeing the crowd, it's been a long time since I visited Nandi Hills. When we got our car in 2022, we made our first road trip from the showroom to Nandi Hills :D. The fantastic views of the lush landscape can be captured from a cliff at a height of 600 meters. I usually prefer to visit Nandi Hills after lunch before the evening rush comes in. It's windy at the top and you can easily chill under the shade of a tree.
Tips to note:
- Visit after 10 or around 3pm to get a comfortable parking
- Do wear shoes and comfortable clothes, as you will need to walk quite a bit. No vehicles inside the fort complex.
Another fort I need to visit! Near Tumkur, I have heard the drive is scenic and comfortable.
Some say the fort is good for nature lovers: The fort has scenic beauty and is a nice place for photography. Keeping this space empty to explore the fort and fill it up! Hoping in 2024!
The last one on this list, I am yet to visit.
Hutridurga, also known as Uttari Betta, is located approximately 80 km from Bangalore, in the direction of Kunigal and Magadi. This historical gem, Hutridurga hill fort, is recognized as one of the Nav Durga (Nine Hill-forts) constructed by Kempagowda in the 16th century. It proudly stands at an elevation of 3700 feet above sea level, offering a glimpse into the rich history of the region.
Directions: Bengaluru – Devenahalli – Chikbalapur – Gudibande
Time required: Around 2-3 hours to enjoy the trek and the views from the top
The fort, which is small compared to other forts in Karnataka, was inspired by the Madhugiri fortress. It is a multi-level edifice that was built about 400 years ago, in the 17th century, by Byre Gowda, a local chieftain of Gudibande who ruled the place for only three years.
Enjoying the cool breeze at the top. It's usually very less crowded and has great views of the countryside.
Tips to note:
- Carry plenty of water. One bottle per person is mandatory because the flight of stairs is not fancy. It will drain your energy very soon. And there is nothing in the vicinity or at the top.
- Start early in the morning to avoid the scorching heat of the afternoon sun.
- Wear comfortable clothes like track pants or jeans so that walking is feasible. Avoid skirts and maxis (sarees too). This goes without saying that you need to have proper shoes.
- Shades and caps should also find a place in your bag
- Don’t litter. Take back whatever waste you produce.
Distance: Around 110kms
It's atop the Second Largest Monolith of Asia.
I visited this fort in 2015, on a random bike trip. Around 10 of us made a sudden plan to start the weekend with a bike trip. We were naive to ride in the night and sleep randomly on the hill itself, unaware there could be bears. We saw the warning in the morning, as we woke up to a gorgeous Sunrise! But it was great fun to camp without any proper gear. We just slept on the rocks after getting tired to reach the top. We were completely unprepared, with no food and water. But yes I agree, that was a very very stupid move in retrospect.
About the fort:
The fort complex is a huge one, majorly in 3 parts.
I didn't have my camera or the majority of daylight to explore the fort, since we hiked most of it in darkness. Sharing an old pic from my phone.
It's about time I visited this place in the daylight with the camera to explore this beauty.
In conclusion, Bangalore is surrounded by forts, each brimming with history and natural beauty. Whether you're exploring the historic Bangalore Fort, the regal Bangalore Palace, the serene Nandi Hills, or the majestic Madhugiri Fort, each destination promises a unique and enriching experience. Plan your day trips from Bangalore, immerse yourself in these historical treasures, and create lasting memories in the heart of Karnataka.