Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam: The town by the sea
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Visakhapatnam had always been on my list of destinations to visit. Articles and brochures promised a winding road along the beach and vantage points to see the waves of the Bay of Bengal crashing against the coastline. It was time to take affirmative action to visit the largest city of Andhra Pradesh. A spur-of-the-moment decision found me on the overnight train to Visakhapatnam from Hyderabad on a weekend.
After a hot shower and Andhra’s staple breakfast of pesarattu, a type of dosa, with ginger chutney, at the hotel, I was ready to explore the city.
Hopping into a cab, I took off for Kailasagiri, a park perched on a hill. Large statues of Shiva and Parvati dominate the landscape and the park provides spectacular views of the ocean-hemmed city.
Visakhapatnam’s attractions are largely located on Beach Road, that scenically wends along the coast from the Naval Base in the city to Thotlakonda, 34km away, providing several photo opportunities. There are food vendors all along the route, selling chaat, coconut water, roasted corn, banana fritters, Irani chai and kulfi.
Thotlakonda is home to an ancient Buddhist monastery, a delightfully serene setting atop a hillock from where I imagined monks would have had unobstructed view of blue skies touching the aqua waters.
Around 14km from Thotlakonda is Bheemunipatnam, a charming little fishing village. Shrimp hatcheries along its approach announced its presence way before it appeared in sight. This was once a prominent Dutch settlement, which was to later become a major trade post under the British East India Company. Its colonial past can be seen at the beach-side cemetery across from a flagstaff signal that bears its name.
Back in Visakhapatnam, I reserved the evening for INS Kursura, a submarine of the Indian Navy. A key participant in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, it was decommissioned in 2011 and sited on Ramakrishna beach as South Asia’s first submarine museum.
Little surprise, that the day-long exploration found me passing out as soon as my head hit the pillow; refreshed and ready for travelling to Araku Valley, about 110km away.
En route, I stopped at Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, its elaborate Rajagopuram crowning the Simhachalam hilltop just outside Visakhapatnam. Pressed for time, I fast-tracked into the sanctum via the “Special Darshan” queue.
Next up was a peek into the 150-million-year-old Borra Caves, a geological wonder about 80km from Visakhapatnam that requires descending many hundred steps to view its stunning karst formations. One could stand and gaze for hours at the hundreds of spot-lit stalactites and stalagmites in one of the deepest caves in India, but I had to reach Araku Valley by early afternoon.
The drive was a slideshow of astounding sights; broad valleys, patchworks of red soil and green fields hosting clusters of neat hutments framed by distant rain-washed ranges. I visited Araku’s Tribal Museum that features exhibits about the Gadabas, Savara, Koyas and other tribes of the state. A small Coffee Museum across the road was easily added to the plan. An invigorating cup of Araku Valley Arabica later, I headed back to Visakhapatnam, to catch a late night train to Hyderabad.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @babesbanter