When people think of Karnataka, they often end up traveling to mainstream tourist destinations like Mysore, Mangalore, Coorg, and so on. Many don’t even realize that Karnataka is full of hidden gems and offbeat locations that offer you a chance to escape from your daily stresses. Dandeli is one such magical hideout that has slowly risen to popularity in the past few years. Literally living to its name, Dandeli (translates to ‘by the river’) is perched on the banks of the majestic Kali River amid the dense woodlands of the Western Ghats.
The breath of fresh air, the delightfully green surroundings, the endless songs of the birds, and the splish-splash of the river water all make staying in Dandeli an exhilarating experience. You might be wondering about how to make your trip to Dandeli the best vacation you have ever had! Don’t worry, we got you! Here’s our pick of the top 7 exciting things to do in Dandeli.
It’s absolutely impossible for you to travel to Dandeli and not be tempted to try out the plethora of water sports this wonderful town has to offer. Kali River is the lifeline of this charming little town and the magnificent river circuit offers a great blend of bewitching natural beauty and enthralling adventures. Splashing around in the cool waters of River Kali in itself is a refreshing experience but wait till you try out all the adventure activities that are available here.
The activity that immediately captures the attention of all the visitors is white water rafting in River Kali. The Grade 3 rapids and the wild terrain of this turbulent river ensure that both the beginners and professionals experience a rush of adrenaline throughout their bodies. Apart from rafting, kayaking is the most sought-after sport in Dandeli. Paddling the tiny watercraft in the wild water of River Kali while the sun rays hit your face tends to be a heavenly experience.
Not to mention the fact that the banks of River Kali are dotted with rocks and the river water hits on these rocks. This has led to the formation of several natural jacuzzi points where one can sit back, relax, and rejuvenate themselves. The bubbling water hitting all the right spots on your back, the gorgeous view, and the sounds of the swaying trees and whistling birds ensure a therapeutic experience to have in Dandeli.
Also Read: Top 9 Things To Do In Karnataka
Resting deep inside the dense woods of the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary are the Kavala Caves. The reason these caves are so famous is the fact that they haven’t been created by any humans. In fact, these caverns are actually a consequence of a sudden volcanic eruption that happened many, many centuries ago. If only walls could talk! It is believed that these caverns have existed since prehistoric times and that’s what makes them extremely fascinating.
But that’s not all! There’s a small Shiva temple inside these caves and several devotees flock to this temple during the festival of Maha Shivaratri. To reach this temple, you’ve to descend roughly 375 steps after which you will arrive at the entrance of the cave. The tunnel passages inside these caves are so small that visitors often have to resort to crawling if they want to get to the temple. After crawling through about 40 feet of twisting and turning cave passages, you will witness the beautiful Shivalinga, which again, isn’t man-made.
Believed to have formed due to some natural process, the Shivalinga is about 4 feet high and has a rugged exterior that resembles raw nuts. These raw nuts are called Kavala in Kannada which is the native language of Karnataka and that’s why the caves are named Kavala Caves. Not only this, but water constantly keeps on dripping on the Linga from the udder-shaped rock that has formed naturally over it.
The forest trail that leads up to this place is vividly scenic and it offers you a panoramic view of the Kali River flowing through the verdant valleys. Rolling up your sleeves and trekking to the caves is one of the best things to do in Dandeli. Even if trekking isn’t your forte, you can always get a cab or bus as well!
Also Read: Experience: Kodachadri Trek In Karnataka
Sykes Viewpoint, one of Dandeli’s ethereal tourist attractions, is located about 23 km away from Dandeli. This place was named after a British engineer who uncovered this hidden site. Spending some time here will leave you hazed and mesmerized because the things you witness here will completely blow your mind. The top view of the expansive stretches of lush green valleys make you feel so tiny and this really puts things into perspective.
Apart from that, Sykes Viewpoint is mostly visited by those who want to witness the magical confluence between the Kali River and the Nagzari River that meander through these valleys. The endless sky is often decorated with the pink and orange hues of sunsets and that’s why many visitors love spending a peaceful evening here.
Visiting Sykes Point is also among the most exciting things to do in Dandeli as many people also often get to spot several giant hornbills flying across the valleys. Those who are up for an adventure can choose to go trek to the Sykes Viewpoint but only after receiving all the necessary permits from the Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. Trek through the strikingly beautiful surrounds and you will feel extremely exhilarated by the time you reach Sykes Point.
Your vacation in Dandeli would be incomplete if you don’t go for a coracle ride in the Kali River. There’s a good chance that you might not have even seen a coracle before. A coracle is essentially a tiny, lightweight bamboo boat that is circular in shape. This bowl-shaped boat is made up of broken bamboo rods that are held in shape with a bark. The coracle’s outer covering is waterproof in nature and the roundness of it helps to distribute weight evenly. Generally, up to 5 people can use one coracle at a time and cruise down the Kali River.
Going for a coracle ride truly gives you an insight into the authentic life experiences of the locals of Dandeli. Constructed by the tribal fishermen, coracles were earlier used by the local fisherfolk to go up and down the river. But as Dandeli became more and more popular, coracle rides ended up becoming a major tourist attraction. Now, all the people who visit Dandeli make sure that they don’t miss out on going for a coracle ride in the river.
Depending on where you book it from, the coracle ride generally lasts for about 20-30 minutes. If you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of some sleepy crocodiles basking in the sun on the river banks or some pretty hornbills going about their daily lives. Riding a coracle in the calm river waters, surrounded by flourishing woodlands, and feeling the cool breeze on your face sums up to an exhilarating experience.
Want to know more about coracle riding? Check out all you need to know about The Coracle Ride At Hogenakkal Falls In Tamil Nadu!
The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is the life and soul of Dandeli and the good news is that these forest areas house some beautiful campsites. Although living in luxurious hotels might seem super appealing, the amount of fun you’ll have camping out with your family and friends in the dense jungles under a blanket of a million stars is unparalleled.
Camping in the jungles is a total win-win situation. Staying in tents and camping out in the divine woodlands of Dandeli will help you to save up a lot of money. On the other hand, these comfortable camps let you enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, the raw nature, and the proximity to the wildlife to its fullest without any disturbance.
The camp supervisors generally organize hiking and trekking tours around the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. You’ll certainly have a great day hiking along the seductively green trails of the forest and spotting animals like tigers, elephants, leopards, black panthers, bears, deer, antelopes, etc. Moreover, these jungles are home to over a hundred species of birds and reptiles. Sitting around the campfire that keeps you warm during the chilly nights and singing along to your favorite melodies will put a perfect end to your day.
One cannot talk about the Western Ghats and forget about the majestic forts built by the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that have stood the test of time. All the history enthusiasts can grab the opportunity to explore the Shivaji Fort that is located roughly 25 km away from the town of Dandeli. Apart from being covered in fog, and lavish greenery, this place emits a mystical vibe that will leave all types of history enthusiasts intrigued.
History claims that this ancient fort was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj while he was fighting against the Mughals and extending the boundaries of his empire. People also believe that this fort was also a residence to Sangoli Rayanna, a warrior king who fought valiantly against the British who tried to take over the area.
Exploring the fort provides you with a glimpse into the clever battle strategies that were utilized by these kings in the olden times. The local guides will also offer you an insight into how these techniques and ideas exactly worked when the rival enemy would try to enter the fort by force. Walk around the fort and you’ll be able to spot and appreciate the typical Maratha architectural style. We believe that hiking to the fort and learning about the heritage of the state will be a highlight of your trip to Dandeli.
Many people don’t associate tourist destinations of Karnataka (like Dandeli) with tribals. However, you’ll be surprised to know that Dandeli is a hub of one-of-a-kind cultural practices because it is home to a wide range of tribes that are unique to that area. For instance, you’ll probably encounter the Lamani Tribe who have descended from the gypsies of Rajasthan.
Apart from them, Dandeli houses a popular tribe known as the Siddi tribe that has African ancestry. That's because their ancestors were brought to India as slaves. Many other tribes like the Medar tribe (bamboo handicrafts artists), and the Gowli tribes reside in the areas around Dandeli. Spending time with these tribal people gives you a chance to interact with different types of people, learn about their authentic culture and have a unique experience.
These tribes also produce some beautiful handmade products like home decors, wooden toys, pens, and so on. To add to that, some of these tribes are also famed for producing terracotta pots and painting them with their authentic tribal art. These tribes also sell freshly grown spices and raw honey. Visit one of their shops and purchase all that you want to carry back as souvenirs.
How Many Days Are Enough For Dandeli?
Dandeli offers a chance to escape from reality to all those who want to enjoy and rejuvenate amid nature and take a break from their daily lives. As most of the main attractions of this town are located around the River Kali, you can stay at a resort and camp and go through multiple experiences in a single day. According to us, 2-3 days are enough for a vacation in Dandeli.
Which Month Is Best To Visit Dandeli?
Dandeli is located in the very heart of nature and the weather here tends to be pleasant and appealing all year long. However, if you are wondering about when Dandeli is at its best, we would suggest visiting Dandeli any time between October and May.
Which Railway Station Is Near Dandeli?
Although Dandeli does not have any railway station, you can easily travel to Dandeli by train. All you have to do is get off at the Dharwad station which is located about 55 km away from Dandeli and then rent a vehicle in order to reach Dandeli.
Is Dandeli River Rafting Safe?
There’s absolutely no need to get worried about rafting in the River Kali as white water rafting in Dandeli is an extremely safe adventure activity. There are several skilled professionals who supervise the rafting activities and ensure that no accidents are happening during the activity. Rafting can be enjoyed by anyone here, be it a newbie who doesn’t know how to swim or a professional rafter who wants to experience the more turbulent rapids.
What Is Special In Dandeli?
Dandeli is hidden away in the Western Ghats and surrounded by raging rivers, evergreen dense woodlands, and stunning waterfalls. Dandeli is extremely special because there is a range of things to do here that can end up making your trip memorable. Here are some of the best places to visit in Dandeli.
How Can I Reach Dandeli By Flight?
Although there are no airports in the town of Dandeli, you can easily take a flight to the Hubli Airports which lies just 56 km away from Dandeli. From there, you can either rent a private car or take a cab to Dandeli. Apart from that, you can also choose to take a flight to the Belgaum Airport which is located about 65 km away from the town. Upon reaching the airport, you can travel to Dandeli by hiring a cab.
How Far Is Dandeli From Goa?
By road, Dandeli is 110 km from Goa.
How Many Wildlife Sanctuaries Are There In Karnataka?
There are 30 wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka.