Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek
Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls trek is a combination of two treks — Ballalarayana Durga and Bandaje Arbi — because many do not know they can go all the way to Bandaje Waterfalls when we say Ballalarayana Durga trek.
Arbi in local language means “waterfalls” and hence the words Bandaje Arbi, Bandaje Arbi Falls, Bandaje Falls are used interchangeably.
Ballalarayana Durga trek lies in Chikmagalur, nestled in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, just 280 kilometres away from Bangalore. Chikmagalur is known for its coffee plantations and lush greenery. And the trek adds a unique flavour to its landscape.
The Ballalarayana Durga trek holds an abandoned fort from the 17th Century at its peak, and a gushing waterfall in the end. Watching the water falling from the snout to almost a 1,000 feet below is a sight that sets your hearts racing!
And just for this view, the Ballarayana Durga – Bandaje Arbi trek is a must do.
Ballalarayana Durga is a monsoon favourite trek and is preferred by beginners and experienced trekkers alike. Anyone can do the Ballalarayana Durga trek with a bit of preparation.
Table of Contents:
- What To Watch Out For
- Trail Information
- GPX File And Route Map Of The Trek
- Best Time To Do Ballalarayana Durga Trek
- How To Reach Ballalarayana Durga
- Difficult Sections on The Trek
- How To Get Fit For The Trek
- Things To Take On Ballalarayana Durga Trek
- Permission, Water Sources And Other Finer Details About Ballalarayana Durga
- Nearby Places To Visit After The Trek
What To Watch Out For
The initial forest section
Although the forest section is short, it is filled with life. Watch out for its age old trees, a variety of insects, birds and flora.
The Himalayan meadow-like Shola Grasslands with Shola forests
The grasslands on the trek are so pretty that they almost resemble the Ali and Bedni meadows of the Himalayas.
Waterfall view from the snout
There are only a handful of treks that allow you to see the water falling from the snout over a 1,000 feet to the ground. And Ballalarayana Durga trek is one of them!
Ballalarayana Durga trek starts from a relatively higher altitude, hence the climb to the fort is not too tiring. However, you will descend almost 1,300 feet to Bandaje waterfalls and get back up the same way, covering approximately 6.5 kilometres overall.
Based on the distance and the altitude gain, the trek is divided into two sections:
| Section I: Kalabhyraveshwara Temple to Ballalarayana Durga Fort
| Section II: Ballalarayana Durga Fort to Bandaje Falls
Section I: Kalabhyraveshwara Temple to Ballalarayana Durga Fort
Trek Distance: 3 Kilometres
Trek Duration: 1 Hour and 30 Minutes
GPS Coordinates of Kalabhyraveshwara Temple: 13° 8’56.89″N 75°24’56.08″E
GPS Coordinates of Ballalarayana Durga Fort: 13° 7’56.92″N 75°24’53.67″E
The trail starts from Kalabhyraveshwara temple behind which you camp the previous day.
The route from the temple till the initial forest section (from where the actual trek starts) is on a mud road that is moderately steep.
Jeeps and other SUVs can go all the way up to the start point covering a distance of 1 kilometre. If you are in a normal sedan, we recommend you park your vehicle at the temple and start trekking from there.
| Note: If you are arriving in the morning and not camping behind the temple, head towards the temple to park your vehicles and start the trek.
In about 900 metres the mud road turns left, while taking the right turn leads you to the Rani Jhari View Point. It is a moderate ascent and takes about 10 minutes to reach the View Point.
Take the right to get a panoramic view of the entire Kudremukh National Park.
On a clear autumn day, you will see the valley stretched far and wide. In monsoons on the other hand, you may get to see only the initial view of the National Park.
Once you arrive at the actual trek start point, notice an old Forest Department billboard, a dustbin and a check post-like barricade.
On your left, you get the first glimpse of Ballalarayana Durga fort sitting atop the hill. This is where the initial forest section starts.
Follow the trail that leads you into the forest. In about 200 metres, at the fork, take the trail on your right that ascends.
Protip At the first and the second forest sections, always take the trail to your right when in doubt at the forks. This way you ensure you don’t deviate off the trail and always be on track.
Even though the trail is not challenging, you may get dehydrated due to exertion, especially in autumn and in months leading up to summer.
| Tip: Keep your water bottle handy and take small sips of water every 15 minutes. Do this even if you don’t feel thirsty. This trick will keep you hydrated throughout and helps regain the water lost through sweat.
Continue along the forest trail for 300 metres where you find a vertical rock face on the right with naturally formed uneven steps. Climb the rock to stay on the right path.
This particular section feels like you are transported to the magical world of Indiana Jones where there is an ancient rock cliff with vines hanging down. The section is slightly steep. Exercise caution while climbing up the steps.
In monsoons the forests are filled with leeches.
Protip Apply Dettol or Savlon Liquid at the base to avoid leeches if you are scared of them. If you are not too worried, the best option is to remove them once you reach Bandaje falls. A few leeches sucking a few drops of blood won’t do any harm.
In about 100 metres after you have climbed the vertical rock face and a crossed a zig-zag path, you will arrive at the first clearing.
You will get the second view of Ballalarayana Durga fort from here. You cannot make out at first as the fort is in complete ruins. All that is remaining of the fort now is one or two rows of foundation rocks.
Continue along the trail for 300 metres that goes into the second section of the forest.
This forest section is almost as long as the first one, but there are a different variety of insects and flora here. You will also come across a small stream during monsoons.
The trail starts to ascend gradually with slippery sections on the landslide-prone slopes. Take support of the branches on the right or use your trekking poles to ascend safely.
| Note: Stay on your right at this section as there is a straight drop for almost a 50 feet on your left.
Protip We recommend using two trekking poles on this trek. They help you get better grip on steep ascents and descents and reduce impact on your knees by absorbing shocks as a result of walking on constant rolling hills.
Before the small stream, there is another deviation. Take the trail on the right here as the trail to the left will lead you deep inside the forest that gets you off trail.
In approximately 200 metres you will reach the second clearing. From here, Ballalarayanadurga fort is accessible with a gradual ascent to the summit. This is your final push to the fort.
Upon reaching the fort which covers a large area, explore the ruins, the bastions on the edges, stone carvings and rest for a while by taking in the panoramic views of the Shola grasslands and Shola forests on one side, and Kudremukh National Park and its peaks on the other.
You can also see the Rani Jhari view point and the Kalabhyraveshwara temple from where you started your trek.
Section II: Ballalarayana Durga Fort to Bandaje Falls
Trek Distance: 3.8 Kilometres
Trek Duration: 2 Hours and 30 Minutes
GPS Coordinates of Ballalarayana Durga Fort: 13° 7’56.92″N 75°24’53.67″E
GPS Coordinates of Bandaje Falls: 13° 6’20.55″N 75°24’53.44″E
From the Ballalarayanadurga fort take the same route back from where you entered the fort. Descend for approximately 350 metres until you reach the point from where you had the last push to climb to the fort. At the deviation here, take the grassland trail on your left to proceed towards Bandaje falls.
There is also an alternate route to Bandaje falls from Ballalarayana Durga fort.
| Tip: To get a clear idea of these routes, click here to see the route map and download the GPX file for Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls trek.
The vast expanse of the grasslands with thick, dark green forests in patches is a highlight here.
Continue on the trail while enjoying the 360° view of the Western Ghats. Don’t be surprised if the clouds accompany you by floating right beside you!
In about a kilometre from the fort, there is an exposed section that acts like a wind tunnel. The wind blows from left and right.
During monsoons the winds are so strong, they might even throw you off course for a few feet!
| Note: Tread very carefully at this section in the monsoons. Always hold hands if you are trekking in a group or use your trekking poles to ground yourself with each step you take.
The entire trail from the fort till the waterfall is on rolling hills. You will come across three to four mounds which you ascend and descend.
One interesting section on the grasslands is the rocky patch that cuts the trail.
This patch in autumn and winter looks desolate and is filled with sand in between rocks. It makes you wonder if any river flowed here once upon a time to carry all that sand!
About 3.8 kilometres from the fort and two and a half hours later, the trail starts to descend towards the final downhill to reach Bandaje falls.
At this descent, you cannot make out if there is really a waterfall at the end. You will not hear the water flowing between rocks, neither will you see any signs of water.
It is only when you reach the section filled with thick trees will you hear the water flowing. You start to smile from the inside upon hearing the sound of flowing water.
After a 4-hour journey, the thought of drinking the fresh, unspoilt water and dipping your feet to cool off brightens your mood.
The first glimpse of the water gushing through rocks is a sight for sore eyes.
The waterfall looks different in each season. In autumn and winter, the water gently flows until it drops down from the snout.
On the other hand, in monsoons the water gushes with such force it looks as if it is milk that is flowing.
It is an unforgettable experience to peek from the snout of the water and watch the water fall to the depths almost a 1,000 feet below you.
| Caution: While it is extremely fun to watch the waterfall, always exercise caution and keep your body weight to the back. We recommend taking a friend along for this trek and he/she can act as a harness by holding your hands and staying back while you take a peek, and vice versa. If you are alone, lie down on your stomach and peek with only your head exposed from the snout.
Do not forget to take in the view from the snout of the waterfall. On a clear day, you may see the coastline of Mangalore on your right, whereas the forests of Dakshina Kannada district are always in front of you.
Ensure you spend your time generously at the snout. Soak your feet in chilled flowing water to get relief from all the tiredness.
This is an ideal place to have your packed lunch.
| Note: Please trek responsibly and take back disposable plastic wrappers, bottles and packaging with you and dispose of them in a dustbin once you reach your city. Do not leave behind your waste.
Close your eyes and reflect on your journey till the top. Notice the silence and the sounds of nature. Relax your over-worked muscles before you start your journey back to base.
GPX File And Route Map Of The Trek
Click here to download the KML file of the Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls trek.
Best Time To Do Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek
Ballalarayana Durga trek can be done from monsoons through the end of winter (July – March).
You will get the best experience if you do the trek in monsoons, as the entire valley is lush green and the grasslands seem like they are straight from the Himalayas. Also, Bandaje falls are gushing in full force!
Compared to Kumara Parvatha, which cannot be done in the monsoons due to risky terrain, Ballalarayana Durga is a treat to do in the monsoons. It is one of the few treks in the Western Ghats that you can do in monsoons.
On the other hand, if you want crystal clear views of the surrounding ghats and Kudremukh National Park, choose post-monsoon and winter seasons when the skies are not hazy.
Autumn and winters make up with panoramic views that are missed in the monsoons, while the monsoons make up for the views by presenting a vibrant carpet of grasslands and roaring waterfalls.
The reason why we do not recommend this trek in summer is because of the dry grasslands and very hot climate. Since there is no shade except the forest sections before reaching the fort and after reaching the waterfall, the sun and humidity drains you out quickly.
How To Reach Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek
Before you plan your travel, watch this video to know how to do the Ballalarayana Durgra trek by yourself:
Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Arbi trek falls in the Chikmagalur district and is 280 kilometres from Bangalore. The route passes through Hassan, Belur and Mudigere, ultimately reaching Sunkasale and Durgadahalli.
Since the trek starts from a remote location, driving to the place is ideal and that makes it a very rewarding trek with the right amount of leisure and rest, before and after the trek.
Reaching through Public Transport is possible. It just takes longer and you will have to walk a lot more to reach the base. However, it is no less fun!
If you are up for an adventure, then consider reaching the base by bus.
• Reaching Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek By Your Vehicle from Bangalore
The journey from Bangalore to Sunkasale / Durgadahalli takes you through some of the beautiful roads in Karnataka.
Watch out for the greenery that accompanies you after Belur until you reach Sunkasale.
Durgadahalli is another 6.5 kilometres from Sunkasale and the Kalabhyraveshwara Temple at Durgadahalli is the base of your trek. The temple is less frequented by locals, considering the remote location and the population in Durgadahalli is also less.
Right behind this temple, you will find an open space on a mound which is quite secluded. This is where you camp.
Use this link to set up GPS before you start your journey. If you cannot access Google Maps, here are the directions to follow:
In about 6.5 kilometres, take the sharp left onto National Highway 106. This turn can be easily missed. So, lookout for a small tea shop on the left and a hotel on the right.
Continue on National Highway 106 and take another sharp left turn, while Nirantara Homestay is on your right. You will see a big arch which says “Ballalarayana Durga Fort”.
This road takes you to Sunkasale. This is the point you fill your water bottles before starting the trek, because there are no drinking water sources at the base or at the place you pitch tents.
Look for small shops to stock up on water (minimum 2 litres).
Continue for 6.5 kilometres more on this road to reach Kalabhyraveshwara temple. Right behind the temple is a clearing that is on a mound and is secluded.
Use this spot to pitch your tents and retire for the day.
| Tip: We recommend you leave Bangalore by 8 AM and visit the Channakeshava Temple in Belur. If you leave by 7 AM, you can also visit Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu by driving back 17 kilometres from Belur. This adds another 35 kilometres to the overall journey.
Near the temple, you will find a water tank that can be used to freshen up in the morning. Please note this water is not suitable for drinking.
Protip Reach the base by 4 PM, pitch your tents at the camp and go for a quick hike to Rani Bagilu to witness the grand views of Kudremukh National Park from the Rani Jhari View Point. This is the best thing to do before you retire for the day.
• Reaching Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek By Public Transport System
As mentioned earlier, reaching here by bus takes longer and you have to switch multiple buses.
There are both Government run and Private buses that play to Horanadu. Most buses start from Bangalore after 10:30 PM and reach Mudigere around 5:30 AM the next morning.
Here is the link to KSRTC Online Booking: https://ksrtc.in/oprs-web/
If you are travelling through a Private operator, there are multiple pick up points in Bangalore. Choose the one that is nearest to you and get down at Mudigere.
Here is the link to book Private Buses Online: https://www.redbus.in/
| Note: It is a best practice to book your bus tickets online and not wait till the last moment.
Mudigere is a busy town. You will get buses at frequent intervals to Sunkasale.
Take a bus from Mudigere to Sunkasale. Stock up on drinking water (minimum 2 litres) here as there are no drinking water sources at the base, except for a water tank to freshen up in the morning.
There are very few vehicles that ply from Sunkasale to Durgadahalli. Ask around for a jeep or a minibus that goes to Durgadahalli. If you are lucky, you will get a ride. Otherwise it is a 6.5 kilometre walk to the campsite, where you pitch your tents.
Difficult Sections On The Ballalarayana Durga Trek
There are no sections that are difficult to traverse on the Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls trek. Since the entire trail is continuously rolling, a trekker must always anticipate and prepare for every eventuality.
Here are a few sections you must keep an eye out for while ascending and descending:
• Slippery trail: The trail becomes more tricky during monsoon months as the mud and loose gravel become very slippery and great caution must be taken while traversing. Trekkers must be very careful with their choice of footwear and should check weather charts so as to avoid days with anticipated heavy rains.
• Grassland sections: Watch out for the steeper sections after Ballalarayana Durga Fort. The grasslands are rolling and you descend down to the snout of the waterfall. You will also climb back up to the Fort. Some of these sections include loose stones and gravel that can be tricky to navigate.
Use your trekking poles to support yourself and make sure you grip your feet firmly so as to not slip in this section.
• Rocky patch at the snout of the waterfall: The snout of the waterfall takes you to the very edge from where the water drops down for more than a 1000 ft. This is the most dangerous section of the trek. Exercise great caution here, especially during monsoons as the rocks are slippery.
| Safety Advice: Lie down at the snout to see the water flowing down, so that only your head is exposed and your bodyweight holds you back. If you don’t want to lie down, ask your friend to provide support by holding your hand and staying back, while you take a peek down below.
How To Get Fit For Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek
The Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Arbi trek is classified as an Easy-Moderate grade trek. From the base, you will gain approximately 875 feet in altitude till the Fort and gain another 1,330 feet while returning from the Waterfall.
Although the altitude gain is not very high for a day trek, the rolling ascents and descents over 12 kilometres can be demanding for people who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Training yourself for a medium-altitude easy-moderate grade trek
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for the trek in 4 weeks:
➤ Cardiovascular Endurance
In case you’re just starting with a fitness routine, start slow and increase your pace everyday in the following manner –
- Target completing a jog of 5 km in 45 minutes when you begin.
- Gradually increase your pace by running 5 km, 4 times a week.
- As you become more comfortable, introduce another day of running in your routine.
- Progressively increase the distance you run in a workout until you can complete 5 km in 40 mins.
If you prefer cycling over running, target covering 15 km in 60 minutes when you begin.
- Progressively increase your pace to cover 20 km in one hour.
➤ Strength Training
This is an important area you need to work on.
Strength training is equally important to trek comfortably. Work on your glutes, calves and knees. Additionally, work on strengthening your core.
You must strengthen your core muscles. For strengthening your core muscles, holding a plank and it’s variations (elbow, side planks) are the best exercises to go about doing it.
Also, try these exercises for strength:
Target 4 sets of squats with 20 in each set.
– Squats (Mix it up with sumo squats)
– Lunges (Forward, backward and lateral lunges)
Flexibility determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
It is an aspect that will help you trek comfortably. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain. Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and lower back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
Things To Take On Ballalarayana Durga – Bandaje Falls Trek
- Basic First Aid kit*
- Identity Card
- Cap/ Scarf/ Bandana & Sunglasses
- Water (Minimum two litres)
- Lemon and salt OR Electrolyte Powder/Drink (Electral/Gatorade/Glucon D, etc.)
- High-calorie snacks (Nuts & dry fruits, home-baked cake, etc.)
- Safety Pins, Rubber bands & Whistle (Useful in emergencies.)
- Quick Dry T-shirts are preferable over cotton tees.
- A warm layer (Pull over, sweater or a jacket)
- Poncho, only during post-monsoons
- Plastic sheet to wrap electronic devices, only during monsoons
- Sunscreen (SPF 50+)
- Trekking poles
- Tent (3-Person or 2-Person – Depending on the number of people sharing)
- Sleeping Bag
*First aid kit:
- Band aids (Regular & Waterproof)
- Analgesic spray (Relispray, Volini, etc.)
- Antiseptic Liquid (Savlon, Dettol etc.)
- Antiseptic powder (Povidone-Iodine based powders like Cipladine, Savlon, etc.)
- Cotton roll & Bandage
- Crepe Bandage
- 1 inch wide medical tape (paper or cloth.)
- Micropore tape
- Tablet for motion sickness (Avomine), Acidity (Gelusil, Digene, etc.).
- Mild pain relief tablet (Crocin)
Frequently Asked Questions
❖ Is there any alternate route for this trek?
Yes. Ballalarayana Durga trek can be done in reverse which starts from Dakshina Kannada district.
You will start from Mundaje. Gowdara Mane is your starting point of the trek.
Reach Bandaje falls through dense forest section, trek to Ballalarayana Durga fort and descend down to Kalabhyraveshwara temple.
We have documented the reverse route of the trek. Click Bandaje Arbi Falls and Ballalarayana Durga Trek to get detailed information about the reverse route.
❖ Can I do this trek if I have never been on a trek before?
Yes. A person who follows an active lifestyle, can consider Ballalarayana Durga as their first time trek.
For people who lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle, we recommend a bit of preparation before attempting to trek.
❖ Do I need to obtain permission for trekking to Ballalarayana Durga?
Yes. Until 2019, you could trek without permission from the Forest Department.
Now, you need to obtain permission before attempting to trek. You must visit MyEcoTrip online and purchase a ticket. It costs Rs.250 per person.
Here’s the link to purchase the ticket: https://myecotrip.com/trailDetail/11/bandage-falls
You may even call up the Forest Department personnel, Mr. Naveen Kumar M C on +91 9480916228 to enquire about the trek.
❖ Where can I get food and water during the trek?
There are no restaurants at the base of the trek. There are very few small eateries in Sunkasale. Except these there is no other source of food on the trail
It is advised to pack your food from Bangalore which is not perishable. Something like Bread and Jam / Peanut Butter, Roti etc., will not go bad so easily.
Note: Remember to get sufficient food for dinner on Day 1, and Breakfast and Lunch on Day 2.
With regards to water sources, although there is a water tank near the temple at the base, the water is not suitable for drinking.
We recommend filling your water bottles at Sunkasale before starting the trek. If you have extra water bottles, fill them all up at Mudigere, in case you do not get water at Sunkasale.
Once you start the trek, the next water source is Bandaje falls, which is after 6 kilometres.
❖ Whom do I contact in case of an emergency?
• Hospital: The closest hospital is Sri Manjunatha Memorial Hospital & Kaveri Hospital in Kalasa, which is 30 kilometres away from the base. (Contact: +918263274628)
• Police Station: The police station closest to Ballalarayana Durga is the Kalasa Police Station. (Contact: +919480805159).
• ERSS: For any kind of emergency help, you can contact the Pan-India Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) number- 112.
❖ What about mobile network and connectivity on Ballalarayana Durga trek?
Mobile Network You will get mobile network for almost all major operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Jio etc., only at the base. You will be out of the network coverage area throughout the trek. Nearest ATM Mudigere is where you will get ATMs, which is roughly 40 kilometres away from the base of the trek. So, make a quick stop at Mudigere and withdraw cash so that you don’t run out.
❖ Do I need a guide to trek Ballalarayana Durga?
The trail is clearly marked from the base. Once you reach the Rani Jhari view point, the section from there till Ballalarayana Durga fort is faintly visible. Although this doesn’t make you lose your way. You can retrace your steps back and be on the right track in case you go off course.
We do not recommend a guide on this trek.
❖ Can I camp anywhere on the trail?
No. You can pitch your tents only on the clearing behind the Kalabhyraveshwara temple. Pack your tents and leave them in your vehicles before starting the trek. You are not allowed to carry tents on the trail.
If you have reached the base by bus, leave your tents at one of the local’s houses and request to look after them either in Durgadahalli or Sunkasale before starting your trek.
❖ Are they leeches on the trail?
You will definitely have the company of leeches throughout the trail if you are trekking in the monsoon season.
|Tip: Apply Dettol or Savlon at the base to avoid leeches if you are scared of them. If you are not too worried, the best option is to remove them once you reach Bandaje falls. A few leeches sucking a few drops of blood won’t do any harm.
During winters, there will not be any leeches on the trail.
❖ Where can I park my vehicle?
Vehicles can reach till the base of the trek with ease. The base is well connected by road.
Nearby Places To Visit After Ballalarayana Durga Trek
Ballalarayana Durga trek is nestled in the Western Ghats and is close to so many attractions in Chikmagalur district. Here are a few places to visit after your trek to Ballalarayana Durga.
Remember, these places require half a day or a complete day to visit and explore. So, plan to visit these places only if you have a few more days to spare after the trek.
➤ Kudremukh Trek – Trek to the third highest peak in Karnataka, which is also Karnataka’s most beautiful trek.
➤ Aane Gudda Trek – A perfect Western Ghats trek for a beginner, it remains largely unexplored and is nestled within the laid-back, peaceful village of Haluvalli, that is very close to Ballalarayana Durga trek
➤ Ettina Bhuja Trek – Ettina Bhuja is one of the prettiest treks in the Charmadi range. Panoramic views of the Charmadi range and Shishila valley can be seen from the peak. It is surrounded by many more hills like Deepadakallu, Amedikallu, Ombattu Gudda and Jenukallu Gudda.
Pictures Contributed By: Harikrishnan, Izzat Yaganagi and Suhas Saya
Author: Gautam Singh