Srisailam, home to one of the 12 “Jyotirlings” of Lord Shiva, is situated in Andra Pradesh, in heart of huge Nallamala forest. We started from Bangalore, which is ~550KMs or 16hrs bus journey in “Super luxury” bus of APSTRC, which was unluxurious in all ways, except that it had good push back seats. It tracked the following route: Bangalore-Anantapur- Kurnool- Atmakur- Doranala- Srisailam.
Best time to visit: Monsoon/winter. We went on 2nd Week of June (12th & 13th) & weather was perfect with pre-monsoon clouds covering the sun through out the day, but not raining & temp between 25-30 degC. Lucky to have perfect weather.
What to look out for? a) Obviously Holy temple first. Other local attractions are Patalaganga (banks of a dam, considered very holy locally, even the name suggests so), Srisailam Dam, Shikhareswara temple.
How to reach Srisailam? Only way is road. It is well connected by APSRTC bus. Surprisingly good number of buses ply between Srisailam and Atmakur (nearest major town) through out day. Its surprising, because the remotest part of AP is so well connected by bus, that it easily puts my home state capital to shame also. Roads are excellent by Indian standards, given the terrain and thin population it connects. The whole town (temple, bus stand, market) is within radius of ~1-2 km, making it very easy to navigate by feet.
Srisailam, is well maintained town by Tourism authorities, with 15-20 Dharmasalas or lodges. Prices are fixed and there’s no tourist torchoring, as we see in other Indian tourist hotspots. Prices are very reasonable. We stayed in a room costing Rs 250 per day which had neat bedsheets, clean toilets and balcony. Prices ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 1000 depending on luxury. In off season, lodging should not be a problem here at all.
Town is very neat and clean with well planned layouts and houses. Temple authorities have banned Cigarretes, alcohol and other items related to anti social activities. So if you are chain smoker, ensure you bring your stock with you and smoke in hidden places. Special request: avoid use of plastics, avoid waste of water (hardship for water is visible) and maintain the cleanliness & sancity of the place.
About temple: It opens from 4AM to 1:00PM and then from 3PM to 9PM. It has facilities of free darshan & paid darshans. Unlike other south Indian temples, people who pay for special offerings are allowed inside the main sanctum and even touch god. Another unsual feature, main sanctum is well lit by modern lights. On a normal day, it is good to be early bird (4AM) or visit at 4PM or after 8PM to have quick darshan. Otherwise in a normal day, it may take 3-4 hrs in free line and 1-2 hr in paid darshan line.
Architecturally, its a typical south Indian temple with Gopurams and temples inside a rectangular campus. Most of temples looked very new and were devoid of architecture. The main temple is dedicated to lord Shiva. Other temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati.
Do have laddoos, which taste very similar to Tirupati laddu and cost just Rs 5 per piece.
Patalganga: It is 1 KM walk from temple. As the name suggests, the water is considered very holy. The lake is nothing but catchment area of Srisailam dam. It has ropeway facility (not impressive), Boating facility (Just Rs 20 per person). Reaching water is ~1000 steps journey. So be prepared for some hardship to get decent views of dam and its catchment area. The steps are dotted by houses and shops catering to thirst and hunger.
To go other places like Sikhareswara temple & Srisailam Dam, sight seeing bus is the best & cheapest option. It costed us just Rs 28 per person, covering 4 different places in about 2.5 hrs. Other option to explore these places is by Autorickhaws or local jeeps. But be skillful in bargaining with them.
Sikhareswara temple: As the name suggest it is the highest peak in the region, at a height of ~2800 ft above sea level. It has a well maintained beautiful temple atop and provide stunning views of surrounding hills and forests.
Few other places where bus take to is a Ganesha temple, another temple (forgot the name), and a place where supposedly 5 water stream fall together for a height of 50 ft or so. Pray water is there to make it a worth a visit. The place is also famous, because many monks did penance here in ancient times.
Eating options: Donot expect luxurious and variety food in mid of this huge jungle. Nearest major town in Kurnool which is 5-6 hrs drive. Decent meals available within Rs 100. Most of the hotels serve South Indian food, but few of them did serve North Indian food as well. We had food (twice) in hotel Annapoorna, which seemed to be the most decent eatery in the temple town.
Other Facilites: 2-3 ATMs [SBI, Andra bank] are there. Mobile coverage is good. Cloak room facility, shoe stand facilities are also available. Shops mainly catering to toys and ladies costumes dot the market. Lot of road side stalls sell forest product as ayurvedic medicine.
Conclusion: It is a religious place and its sanity has certainly to be taken care of. Please avoid littering, as environment is very pristine and govt has maintained the place very neat and clean [very rare to see such neat tourists places in India, especially the religious ones]. Also ensure careful driving in forests, as wild inhabitants may also be using highway. Anyways God Bless all of Us and Wish you Happy Journey.