A hidden gem of a trek close to Bengaluru!
The Varlakonda Fort Trek is a scenic hikes in the outskirts of Bengaluru. You trek through wildflowers and shrubbery, past cacti and vast rock sections, amid beautiful views of the city surrounded by other hills.
It is one pf the few treks close to Bengaluru to have such a diverse terrain. Further, the view from the top is unmatched.
What to watch out for
The rock section
For the most part of the trek, you are negotiating a path on the beautiful red, grey and black rock surface. You also come across depressions in the rock. This is where water collects during monsoons water. These depressions turn into ponds rich with aquatic life. This rocky section is a beautiful phase on the trek, and it is equally challenging.
View of the surrounding hills
You get an unmatched view of Avalabetta Hill and its surrounding hills from the summit of Varlakonda Fort. Look around carefully here to spot several little lakes as well. Sunset from this point is brilliant – the sky turns deep orange and then red behind the mountains, leaving a splash of purple and pink as the sun disappears into the horizon.
Author: Soumya Krishnamurthy
There are two ways to begin this trek. Let’s call them as Path A and Path B from now on.
This route begins from the road itself. It is narrow and easy to miss at first glance. But here’s a trick to find it. Face the Varlakonda rock and look to the left of the field. You will be able to spot the path in clear view. It runs past the field, and brings you to a small forest section.
This forest trail steadily climbs for 10 minutes It has great views of the Varlakonda rock. At the end of 10 minutes, you reach a rock section. Here, the ascent is extremely steep.
This is where the two paths meet.
Path B starts about 150 m away from Path A. It is closer to the National Highway to Varlakonda. You reach Path B when you go off the service road and take a left turn. Note that this route goes through a small portion of the Varlakonda village.
Path B begins from the mini-forest section. It climbs gradually for 10 minutes. The route winds in and out, almost like switchbacks and at the end of 10 minutes you reach a rock section with an extremely steep ascent.
The two paths meet here. The ascent is steep for about 10-15 steps. You might have to get down on all fours for this. Grab onto nearby rocks and shoots for support. Be careful of loose rocks here. Most shrubs have thorns, so place your hands carefully.
Look around, you will find mushrooms and plenty of butterflies fluttering around. Please don’t touch or pluck any of the mushrooms, unless you are an expert on mushrooms.
The Rock Section
The most exciting part begins after the two paths meet. This is the rock section. Here, you find only a slight imprint of a path. If you are unable to find it, don’t worry. Face east and keep climbing uphill with your back towards the highway. You will see the beautiful rock face unfold in front of you, layer after layer. Look back at the tree cover you just trekked through.
The rock section is a steep climb for 5 mins. Walk steadily and carefully on the rocks until you reach a small clearing. This is in a flatter area of the rock. This can be your first rest point.
This rock section is laden with well-camouflaged, beautiful bugs. They are so easy to miss!
Continue further up the trail for 20 minutes. There are no trees here anymore. It is a vast open space. Notice the colours of the rock while climbing up.
After climbing for about 20 minutes, you reach a very steep portion – an approximately 10 ft incline. Climb up on this.
On the top you see a small grassland, about the size of a badminton court. In early September, you see beautiful red flowers glistening in the sun in this patch.
From here, continue further up for about 15-20 minutes. The rock now has patches of grass, shrubs, and occasional cacti.
15-20 minutes later you arrive at a clearing where you will find the ruins of a fort. This is a good rest point. The views are wonderful from here.
Soon after this, descend a couple of steps and walk on a flat surface for about 200 m. You will also see a small cave-like enclosure formed in the rocks here.
It is almost a flat walk from here, punctuated with a couple of downhill steps. Nearby you see a small unstable looking structure. This is a temple – the Sri Seetha Rama Lakshmana Temple.
A couple of steps further you make a steep descent until you reach a small house-like structure made with rocks. Watch out for some lizards here.
From here, there is a large clearing. This is the top or the peak of the hill. Sit down and take in the beautiful views on all sides.
You may trace the same route back down. After crossing the grassy patches on the rocks, begin your descent. Be extremely sure-footed. The rocks are slippery, and the descent is steep. By this time, you will have a visual of where you began your trek, or at least the road head.
At any point, if you feel lost, make sure to move towards the road head. If you look carefully enough, some sections of the trek will bear an imprint of the path on the route. Follow this.
Trek Documented by Soumya Krishnamurthy
Note: Be alert and get of at the New KSRTC Bus Stand. Do not go to the old KSRTC Bus Stand or the KSRTC Bus Stand. You will uncessarilyhave a 15min walk back to the New Bus Stand.
Reaching The Base
From Bengaluru (via Chikkaballapura)
To reach Varlakonda you can take a bus from Majestic bus stand. Take a KSRTC bust from Bengaluru to Chikkaballapura. You will find the black-grey-and red KSRTC busses. There are sign boards at the bus stand directing you to the correct platform. In case you are having difficulty, ask around.
Note: KSRTC officials at the platform wear a white uniform with name badges. They are easy spot, and are ususally helpful.
You will also be able to board these busses at Hebbal Bus Stand opposite Esteem mall. Or at the the Kodigenahalli Cross under the flyover.
From Chikkaballapura bus stand keep your ears open. There are lots of private busses, and KSRTC busses plying towards Varlakonda. Make sure to inform your conductor that you want to get off at the exit to Varlakonda town. This drops you closest to the beginning of the trek.
In case you want to eat something first, or get some tea, get off at the Varlakonda bus stand. And there are a few stalls selling food and drinks.
Planning Your Return
Post the trek, join the service road you drove on. And make your way to the bus stand. You can ask locals, they will help you. Catch a bus to Chikkaballapura. They are frequent, so at the most you might have to wait for 45 minutes. From Chikkaballapura board a bus heading to Bengaluru City.
Trail Map for Varlakonda fort
The steep rock faces can be a bit of a challenge.
The rock section while ascending and descending are very steep. You must anchor yourself well while crossing these sections. Shoes with ankle support and a good grip on the sole will help. If required get down on all fours for better balance.
During the monsoon the rocks will become extremely slippery.
Nearest police station: Gudibande police station
Contact number: 081562 72262
Location link: Google maps link
ERSS: For any kind of emergency help, you can contact the Pan-India Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) number- 112.
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for the trek in 4 weeks.
In case you’re just starting with a fitness routine, start slow and increase your pace every day in the following manner –
- Target completing a brisk walk of 5 km in 45 minutes when you begin.
- Gradually increase your pace by walking 5 km, 4 times a week.
- As you become more comfortable, introduce jogging in your routine.
- Progressively increase the distance you jog 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 18 km in one hour.
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.
Here are a list of things you must carry on the trek –
- Basic First Aid kit*
- Identity Card
- Trail/ region map
- Cap with sun flap/ 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.)
- Ponco (During monsoons)
- Spare newspaper
- Multi-Tool/ Swiss Army Knife
- Safety Pins, Rubber bands & Whistle (Useful in emergencies.)
- Optional: Rope, Camera.
Mobile network and ATM
Mobile connectivity is good throughout the trek, with 4G network available for all major network carriers.
The closest ATM is about 10 kms toward Chikaballapur. Location link- SBI ATM