Vizag: A Quick Getaway with Srishti
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
3 Days in The Jewel of East Coast - Vizag
Here’s presenting my trip to Vizag and Araku Valley, read on to find out how you can experience Switzerland feelz in your very own India:
Best time to travel: October to March. The weather is rather pleasant during this time.
Disclaimer: I travelled with my gormint wali family so all stays were guest houses that were arranged via my father’s office. Given that, I do have some great recommendations by others who have travelled.
Day 1 for us started with dinner at the guesthouse itself as we arrived at night. Post dinner we retired to bed early as we wanted to catch the sunrise at this beautiful east coast beach.
On your left, a glimpse of the vintage guesthouse. It had a heritage site certificate and had won a prize for its maintenance as well.
Day 2 started at 5:45 am as we freshened up to witness a beautiful sunrise at Ramakrishna Beach which was walking distance from the guest house. We walked along the coast and enjoyed the sunrise for a good hour and a half. The next stop was for some authentic South Indian breakfast (Scroll to the end for a list of food recommendations)
For any family trip to be a complete success, it’s important to balance experiences and make sure everyone gets to have their kind of fun! Hence our next destination was for us adventure lovers while our parents sat slapping their foreheads - Go Karting!
A Square Gokarting is said to be one of India’s longest Go Karting tracks of around 800 meters a lap covered in about 1 min 20 secs, I would say they could also claim to be the most expensive ones out there: 8 laps - Rs 650, 12 laps - Rs 800 and 20 laps - Rs 1200. Having said that - the tracks were extremely well maintained and so were the go karts. If you wish to add in some adventure to your trip, it’s a must visit! Be warned that the track is about 40 mins outside the city, hence it can be clubbed with another attraction around. You might want to add Thotlakonda to your trip, you can visit it on your way back from the track! (Scroll to the end to check out a list of attractions that I recommend you visit but wasn’t able to visit myself!)
Like I said, it’s important to find a balance so next was a mommy fav, Simhachalam Temple.
Built on the Simhachalam Hill (Lion’s Hill), it was to worship Varaha Narasimha, a form of Vishnu from Hindu Mythology. The temple is filled with history and is a sight for architecture lovers. The temple still contains inscriptions left there by Sri Krishna Devaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire. With all the history that the temple had, it ended by impressing my history fanatic father as well! To avoid lines, you can pay for special darshan (Rs 150/person) which will allow you to get inside the main temple and get prasad from the pandit there. There is also some laddoo and tamarind rice prasad (Rs 25 each) available outside the temple which was really delicious.
Be sure to greet some of the friendliest cows I’ve met at the Gaushala!
Travel Tip : The temple does not allow any electronic devices, cell phones included, to be carried inside.
Make sure to leave it with a trusted person in your car or you can deposit it in the lockers. You can be sure that the device is safe. We did not have any issues in this regard.
Since the day had a lot of travelling, we decided to call it a day. Afterall, we had the most awaited experience waiting for the day to come!
Day 3 started at 5am for us as we had to catch a 7am train to Araku Valley!
It was time to ride the Vistadome: a panoramic tourist car train! Yes, this is my switz in India experience and the pictures say it all! (Visit @onherwaycation for videos as well!)
The train took off at 7:15 sharp. We had no idea about what we had really signed up for until we the train started it’s journey on the picturesque ghats of Andhra Pradesh. The train snakes through the Anantagiri range and takes you through 58 tunnels and over 84 bridges.
Quick tip: Your chairs are movable! You can merely push a lever to turn your chair, face the panoramic windows and enjoy the view with some hot coffee! (You’ve got to carry your own food! No vendors on this train!)
The journey was about 4 hours long with some delays. It worked out beautifully since we got more time to admire the mountains, valleys, and some surprise waterfalls too! Although the train takes you all the way to Araku, we decided to deboard at Borra station and visit the very intriguing Borra Caves. The caves are open from 10am to 5pm and prices for entry are Rs 60/adult and Rs 45/child. Borra Caves were formed as a result of the flow of Gosthani River on the limestone deposits. These caves are known for the breathtaking stalactite and stalagmite formations (in picture). You can also hear bats!
Tip: Do not hire a guide at Borra Caves.
They tend to formulate random stories to make the experience more intriguing that it might actually be. These are mostly false. You can read up on the AP tourism website to know more about the history of the caves.
Next in the journey was a quick lunch stop at the guest house followed by a visit to 2 museums.
We started with the Tribal Museum. Entry for the museum was Rs 40 for adults and Rs 20 for children. It had a garden, a couple of galleries that held installations and dioramas of masks, dances, ritualistic rooms, hunting scenes, etc. It’s interesting to see the kind of lives the tribals lived. Make sure to also witness the tribal dance performance, although it has an additional entry fee. You might also do some local shopping inside the museum. You will find many items made of bamboo and some food products.
The Coffee Museum was next which was equally interesting. It explained the birth of coffee and how it spread across the globe. The museum is specially a haven for coffee lovers as it has a coffee and spices based gift store and a coffee shop attached. The coffee shop had about 50 odd coffee drinks available and they sounded really yum. Do not miss trying out the coffee here - their special blend cold brew and peaberry cinnamon coffee was what we tried and it was really good. Can easily leave Starbucks behind.
You will also find another gift store here that looked slightly more expensive, but had better quality souvenirs. You can buy some bamboo based gifts from here as well. Feel free to pick some coffee powder for your own home too!
Because there aren’t many good stays at Araku, the suggestion would be to return the same day.
Since we had a guest house there, we decided to stay the night and leave the next morning.
Day 4, our last day there was quite chilled out. We had a good night's sleep and coffee and breakfast was devoured amidst lush green trees and birds chirping. We took off at around 10am and returned back to Vizag. Because we were quite tired, we decided to only visit the few museums that were left to explore in vizag - The INS Kurusura Submarine Museum which was a different world all together, a submarine full of knowledge that will leave you in awe no matter how old you are.
The TU 142 Naval Aircraft Museum, filled with so much that you would have never heard of! The representation of women in this museum was a refreshing change. If you have the time, you can explore the gaming zone at this museum as well. Both museums had life size submarines and aircrafts each that had all components intact for everyone to look at. Very very intriguing indeed.
To take in a beautiful sunset at this beach city, we visited Kailasagiri Hill. We took the ropeway exactly at sunset. It was a quick way up but we took in each second of the journey and saw the city below and the sea meeting the sky seamlessly. The entry fee for the park and ropeway was minimal, about Rs 40. The ticket was two way and was valid for 1 hour. On the hilltop, there were parks, one included a huge Shiva idol, a train that takes you around the hill and a football shaped building which turned out to be Indian Meteorological Department’s Weather Radar Station. Here us siblings relived our childhood memories of swinging together and buying plastic sunglasses and toy cell phones.
Panoramic view from the ropeway
To bring about the balance to this family holiday, we also visited some textile and jewellery stores. Its wide varieties of sarees such as Pochampally and Ikat among the rest is another thing for which this city is quite famous. Among the must visit stores is Mugdha which is known for its authentic interior and in store temple. Even if you aren’t travelling with your family, you can surely shop for some great gifts for the saree lovers in the family!
Sairam Palace is known for it’s fast service and authentic breakfast meals. We each had some Dosas, Idli Vadas and Upma. To finish, we ordered some sweet pongal. A must have! You have to visit Sairam Palace as early as possible to catch the sweet pongal as they run out of it quite early in the day. They also have a section that serves only thali, again - very authentic.
Dakshin at Hotel Daspalla for authentic flavours of Southern corners of India. The non-vegetarian dishes here are worth a try! The restaurant looks a bit old, but the food tastes great and it’s quite economical.
Make sure to try Bamboo chicken which is a local tribal/adivasi dish in Araku Valley.
Safety & Hygiene:
I found the entire journey to be quite safe although it could be given I was travelling with my family. Suggestion for women would be to dress simply and comfortably as you will be travelling by road a lot, plus most temples prefer to follow dress codes.
To travel to and around Araku Valley you will need to hire a vehicle prior to arriving (if you're not planning to take the train). Make sure to authenticate the travel company and keep them informed about the date and time of your arrival. If you are planning to drive yourself, make sure to take a video of the car before driving off in it.
None of the beaches are bikini friendly. They are mostly family style beaches.
Borra Caves is a long stop, you can and must use the washroom here. It’s not the cleanest but the only one you will find along the way, unless you don’t mind some bushes.
Beware of the monkeys at Borra Caves, the WILL snatch ANYTHING that's in your hand.
The steps in Borra Caves are slippery, make sure to wear sports shoes, soles should have good grip.
Be cautious of the meat you eat on the way to Araku. We were suggested to try the bamboo chicken in Araku town instead of the roadsides.
Some more places to explore:
Thotlakonda For architecture and history enthusiasts - Find here an ancient Buddhist Monastery at a height with a great view of the coast. The dome of the Maha Stupa at this Buddhist heritage site was scientifically restored very recently. Go to the scenic beach here for some insta-worthy pictures. Make sure to get some with the natural arc next to the water.
Coffee Plantations at Araku Valley You will come across these while driving from Araku to Vizag. If you go in the right season, you can see the berries too. Another photogenic spot!
Indira Gandhi Zoological Park For people who love wildlife and nature, it’s unique factor is a natural forest reserve outlook and an open serpentarium make this zoo something you won’t find in all of India.
Rishikonda beach A very pretty sight indeed, the beach also offers multiple water activities including windsurfing. Make sure to inquire if the activities are active before visiting.
That's all, Folks!