One of the golden rules of travelling is to follow the advice of the locals but this was perhaps one of those instances we really shouldn’t have.
We had been reliably informed that if you go to Nandi Hills, you must go for sunrise. Apparently it’s beautiful and it’s what everyone does. So we woke to a 3:15am(!!) alarm and shuffled downstairs to meet our driver for the day.
It was a treat to glide through the city streets without a hint of traffic chaos, a novelty to see a driver use second gear for a change. We felt smug to have beaten the crowds and were already mentally taking our amazing sunrise pictures. But as we approached our destination we were welcomed by brake lights, then a few more, then too many to count, all disappearing around a bend ahead of us. It was 5:30am and we had arrived at the foot of Nandi Hills with at least a hundred other cars and motorbikes all with the same idea.
Our eldest woke from his slumber and asked if we were here yet: ‘Kind of…’ was the best we could answer. We joined the long queue where we sat for 20 minutes watching the sky lighten. The sun was due to rise at 5:54am. There was no way we were going to make it to the top by that time. Our driver appeared at the window and quietly broke the news that we weren’t allowed up yet due to the fog. However, it was only when we passed the entrance gates that we realised they don’t actually open until 6am! After sunrise!
We chugged up the the narrow hair-pin bends, three cars abreast with motorbikes weaving between the cars, everyone asserting their position with the horn. Ah, the serenity once out of the city… Eventually we arrived at a large car park and managed to skip the mile-long queue for entrance tickets by paying a random man with a cane an extra Rs50. It was then only a short walk to the breathtaking views below, which for us were completely shrouded in cloud, fog, mist and any other weather phenomenon which means whiteout.
This is what the view is supposed to look like:
Now travel teaches you that you win some, you lose some. It was a lesson for us and the boys that it’s not always like in the postcards. We managed to find the funny side of our situation and searched for the positives; we were breathing in some lovely fresh air and finally getting to wear those jumpers we had packed from the UK. The boys were more than happy playing around on the rocks and we sat quite happily, joining the locals in taking numerous selfies in the mist.
What to do
Once at the top and you’ve absorbed the (ahem) views, there are a couple of small temples to explore, a cave and a lovely walk along the ancient fortress for more (ahem) fine views. There is also a small cafe serving hot local food. Allow at least a couple of hours for exploration and breakfast.
Nandi Hills is 60km north of Bangalore. There are local buses from Bangalore central bus station departing around 8:30am and returning at 2:30pm, 4:15pm and 5:00pm. The journey is approximately 2 hours and costs Rs40. The easiest way to get there however is by car. We hired a driver and car for the day costing Rs3500.
What to take
Take a jumper and rain jacket. It can get muddy up there and slippery on the rocks, so avoid wearing flip flops. Take snacks, but be wary of the stray dogs and hungry monkeys. Also, don’t forget your camera for those awesome views 😉
Our top tips
Check sunrise time and weather. If sunrise is before 6am (when the gates open), don’t bother with the early start. Go a little later in the morning when it’s quieter, although still try to beat the crazy traffic out of Bangalore. Winter is the time to go for sunrise when the sun rises at around 6:30am, after the gates have opened. Checking the weather forecast will also allow you judge what the views will be like from the top. Finally, try to visit during the week to beat the crowds, it’s quite a popular weekend escape for Bangaloreans.
On the way back to Bangalore, stop in to Prestige Golfshire, a fabulous golf resort, for a swim and a bite to eat. It’s just a 25 minute drive from the main car park at Nandi Hills and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. We wholeheartedly recommend the steak sandwich or beefburger (for those that have been missing beef on their Indian travels!). As well as a large infinity pool, there’s a fantastic shallow pool for the kids, an adjacent playground and even an indoor play area. The staff are incredibly friendly and will look after you very well.
Day rates (available Tues-Fri) for non-members are Rs930 (inc. VAT), children under 6 free. This is for pool use only, golf access is additional.
To read more about travelling India with young kids, head to our India page.
The India Lonely Planet is an excellent guide to purchase for further research.