Of hills and sea: Head to Vizag this summer to experience the best of both worlds
One of the least explored cities along the coast of India, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh offers views of lush green valleys alongside the turquoise blue of the ocean.travel Updated: Jan 08, 2018 16:53 IST
Some of my travel buddies wanted to experience the peace of the hills while others wanted to spend the holidays by the beach. After a lot of quarrels, we managed to find the one place in India that offers both -- Visakhapatnam.
In September, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh greeted us with blowing winds from the Eastern Ghats and the smell of the ocean from the coast of Bay of Bengal. Our first stop, soon after settling in a lodge near the Ramakrishna Mission Beach, was Rushikonda beach - about 20km on the outskirts of the city.
It took us some dumb charades to understand the local language (Telugu) and an auto ride worth Rs 200 to get there from the main city. Soaking in the morning sun, I felt as though someone had given me my own private island where I could lie all day with not a soul to disturb except the tiny crabs darting in the golden sand. With water lashing at my feet, absolved of any dirt or garbage, I collected sea shells and for most part of the day, swam in the sparkling water.
There were just a few local vendors offering coconut water and souvenirs and one resort at the corner of the beach. After spending the whole day at the beach, we made our way back to the city. A restro bar named Zoom bar, opposite RK beach became our go-to drinking hole, what with its cheap liquor, sumptuous fish and prawn fry and the view of the endless sea.
The Local Way
The next day, we went to the Submarine Museum, which is housed inside INS Kursura (S20) submarine of the Indian Navy on the RK beach. Kursura was India’s fifth submarine and after being decommissioned in 2001, it was preserved as a museum, retaining its originality. It is also the first submarine museum ship in South Asia.
After spending an hour exploring the ship, we made our way towards the fishing harbour where boat rides can be availed at a price of Rs 50 per person. However, we spent our time watching fishermen bring their catch of the day and chatting with them on the deck since the boat ride did not look so promising with its broken seats and clear lack of maintenance.
Our next stop was Kailasagiri Park, a hilltop park covered with flora and tropical trees, offering stunning views of the Bay of Bengal and overlooking the whole city. To reach the park, take the ropeway which is a thrill in itself. The rest of the day was spent strolling down RK beach, which is not as clean as Rushikonda but offers the same beautiful views. Try the local mirchi vadas and tea to get a whiff of local culture.
Hills and Caves
We started early in the day to catch a train to Araku Valley - - a hill station located about 114 km from the main city. Book a one-day package trip costing around Rs 1,000 per person from the Andhra Pradesh tourism office to get a guided tour.
The train, which leaves around 7 in the morning, takes you through 58 tunnels and over 84 bridges while waterfalls can be spotted through thick lush trees on both the sides. Upon reaching the hill station, we were taken to a tourism resort for some lunch and afterwards to witness the Dhimsa dance being performed by the tribals. You can also join in and learn a step or two with them.
Araku is known for its bamboo chicken, which we had the fortune to sample. The tribals cook the chicken inside the hollow of a bamboo without using any oil or water. The delicacy -- which is a must-try -- is not served in many restaurants, but can always be arranged from local sellers on the streets.
Apart from its natural beauty and breathtaking views, Araku is particularly famous for its coffee plantations. Don’t forget to buy organic coffee beans and chocolates, which are now being imported to Europe too.
Next, we headed to the million-year-old Borra Caves.
Located deep in the Earth in the Ananthagiri hills of the Valley, the caves are at a height of 800-1300 m from mean sea level and were discovered by a British geologist in 1807. The beauty of the stalactites and stalagmites inside the caves has now been enhanced with a thematic lighting scheme. There are many mythological stories associated with the caves ranging from Ramayana and Shiva Lingam but the beauty and the eeriness is what makes the place a tourist’s delight.
After spending the rest of the day exploring the cave, we boarded our bus back to Vizag as heavy rains lashed the town with purple and red hues dancing on the green mountains, bidding us the perfect adieu.
Reach there: Vishakhapatnam airport is well connected with many major cities of India and is almost 16km from the core area of the city.
Stay: A number of luxury as well as budget hotels and lodges line the RK beach road offering amazing views.
Eat: Very spicy. Try local dishes like mirchi vadas, fish fry and biryani. Don’t miss out on the bamboo chicken in Araku Valley. Check out Sea Inn, Dharani and Bamboo Bay for authentic Andhra food.
Commute: Easily available auto-rickshaws and local buses at affordable prices. Don’t forget to haggle.
Shop: Buy souvenirs from Rushikonda beach. Avoid falling for the expensive pearls which the peddlers swear are real but of course, aren’t. Handicrafts, coffee and chocolates from Araku Valley.
Be safe: Certain beaches have banned swimming as currents are strong. Visit Yarada, Rushikonda and Bheemili beach for swimming.
Pay: Rs 10,000 approx for a 4-day trip (excluding tickets).
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