December 8, 2017

Vishakapatnam and Nearby Places


Vishakapatnam or Vizag is one of the well known city for Eastern ghats,  beautiful and clean beaches. This is the 3rd clean city in India. Vishakapatnam has the oldest shipyard and the only natural harbor in east coast of India.

Just drive up on any hill to see the beautiful view of the beach and get a cool breeze from there. Be it Kailasagiri hill, Ramanaidu studios hill, Bheemunipatnam, Thotlakonda or Dolphin nose you get beautiful view of the city and beach from any of these hills.

This is our second trip in the state of Andhra Pradesh and we were really amazed to see beautiful places in and around this city. Our first trip was to Grand Canyon of India which is Gandikota, Belum caves, Yaganti, Oravakallu and Maha Nandi. Read this blog for details and photos.

Let us start with beautiful shot from the Lighthouse on Dolphin nose view point. Zoom to see the "VUDA Kailasagiri Hills" - words written over the hills. Also you could see the harbor below and the fishing harbor right next to it. You cannot visit Harbor, but you can visit Fishing harbor and from there, one can see the harbor and ships coming and going.

Vishakapatnam Dolphin Nose Lighthouse view
Beautiful view of Harbor and Kailasagiri hills from Dolphin Nose Lighthouse

Let me categorize the places you might be interested, so that you make decision on visiting these places. Continue to read below for more details, Amazing Facts and Beautiful photos on each of these places.

A. Historical monuments (2)
1. Sankaram - Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda - Ancient Buddhist monastery
2. Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist monastery - You get a good view of beach on opposite from here

B. Important Temples (5)
1. Simhachalam - Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
2. Kali Temple, Beach Road
3. Bheemunipatnam - Narasimha Temple (view of beach on opposite is great from here)
4. Polamamba Temple
5. Kanaka Maha Lakshmi Temple

C. Few main Beaches (5)
1. RK Beach or Ramakrishna Beach
2. Yarada Beach - On the way to Dolphin nose light house and Fishing harbor, Less crowded
3. Bheemili Beach - Opposite to Bheemunipatnam Narasimha Temple, more cleaner and less crowded
4. Tennetti Beach - More cleaner than other beaches
5. Rushikonda Beach

D. Other scenic places and view points (4)
1. Submarine museum - Must see to know how a submarine looks like
2. Ramanaidu Film studio on hills - View from here is so cool and amazing, see photos below
3. Kailasagiri hills, Train ride, Rope ride and view points from there - Again amazing views
4. Fishing harbor - If you like to see the Fish market and fishing boats
5. Dolphin Nose Light house - Must visit for the excellent scenic view from top, also working light house can be seen as well. Timing is from 3 to 5 in noon.
6. Tenneti Park, VUDA Park for Kids
7. Early morning walk on Beach Road would be awesome

E. Important Nearby places, Hill stations (2)
1. Borra caves - Must visit from Vizag, India's deepest cave and amazing sight.
2. Arakku Valley - Really beautiful hill station and Train ride seems superb.

F. Other places
1. Ramakrishna Mission Ashram and Doll Exhibition, Book stall and Library
2.Matsya darshini (Fish Aquarium) - Kids might like it, though not great collection.

Now I understand, how confused you are, but don't worry. With the details and photos from this blog post, I am sure you will be able to choose and decide / plan your visit. Read on....

Reaching Vishakapatnam
There are multiple flights from all major cities. And if you plan from Hyderabad or Vijayawada, it is just a 7-8 hour drive. Apart from flights, you also have multiple trains.

Stay options
There are plenty of stay options at Vishakapatnam. We somehow narrowed down to Hotel Winsar Park and we had a comfortable and great stay there. Read my Tripadvisor review here.

Shopping

1. Lepakshi Emporium for Handicrafts and variety of items - Jagadamba Junction
2. Tribes India on Beach Road
3. Laddu Gopal Sweet shop for Andhra special sweets - You must try Puthrakulu, Malai Puri, Kaja (ask for flight packaging for leak free and nice packing if you plan to carry home on flight)

Andhra sweet specialties are : Puthrakulu (Sugar and Jaggery versions), Kakkinada Kaju, Garuvidi, Kaja, Annavaram. You should refer Wikipedia for the complete list. 

Restaurants and Eating out
1. Venkatadri Vantilu Pure Veg - Local South Indian specialties including Sweet Pongal
2. Ramaiah Hotel Pure Veg for the Great South Indian Meals on Banana Leaf.
3. Heritage Tycoon Veg Restaurant
4. Restaurant at Hotel Winsar Park was also good and had all varieties.

Planning tips

If you plan a visit to Vishakapatnam, you must plan and visit Arakku valley on train which goes through multiple tunnels and scenic ride. Borra caves is also another important place you must plan and visit. Borra caves is on the way to Arakku valley and you need atleast 1.5 to 2 hours to visit the caves and come back. Ask for guides where you buy entry tickets and they will help explain the history and locations inside the cave.

Arakku valley planning

For Arakku valley trip you need at least a one night stay at Arakku valley. You will find plenty of resorts and options to stay. You may want to check these APTDC accommodations as well: Haritha Valley Resort and Mayuri Araku from their official website http://www.aptdc.gov.in/accommodations.html (APTDC - Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation). Unfortunately we could not plan to visit this place, but we did visit Borra caves, hence you may not see photos of Arakku valley here.

You can also hire a taxi from Vizag and that should cost around 3K up and down (same day) and you can cover Borra caves on the way. But if you plan to stay overnight at Arakku valley you might prefer train. Book it online on www.irctc.co.in from Vishakapatnam and back.

Note: 
Station codes: VSKP and ARK
Onward Train Numbers (Vizag to Arakku):  58501 (6:50AM) and 08512 (10:15PM) 
Return Train Numers(Arakku to Vizag): 58502 (3:40PM) and 08511 (11:40PM)

Remember if you go by train, the Train stop at Borracaves (Station name: BORRAGUHALLU -BGHU). Also if you plan your visit by train, you may want to book in advance to get confirmed ticket.

Note: To see the list of all tourist places in and around Arakku valley see below the Information board. 



Planning other places

You need atleast two full days to visit other places in and around Vishakapatnam. Check the categories and the places and decide based on your interest.

Some details and Distance of places :

  • Fishing harbor, Dolphin nose light house and Yarada beach are on same route. 
  • Starting on Beach Road the following places are on same road: Ramakrishna Ashram, Matsya Darshini, RK Beach, Aero Museum, Submarine Museum, VUDA Park, Tenneti Park, Kailasagiri Hills, Ramanaidu Film studio hills, Thotlakonda, Bheemunipatnam or Bheemili Beach are on same road and in this order. 
  • Sankaram village and the Bojjannakonda, Lingalakonda sites are 15 Kms from city.
  • Borra caves is on the way to Arakku and 92 Kms from Vishakapatnam city. Arakku valley is 118 Kms from Vishakapatnam


Now, Let's start with the photos and details.....

1. Borra Caves

Timings: 10AM to 5PM, All days

I would like to start with the most amazing part that is found on 1807 by William King who is the Geologist. India's deepest cave and naturally formed. I suggest you ask for Guide where you buy the entrance ticket and let him guide and explain details. You could see huge formation of Stalagmites and Stalactites. There is a small stream flowing from caves called Gosthani river. (Gov means Cow and Sthani means Cow's udder). They found stone tools from Paleolithic age which is 30000 to 50,000 years back. There is also a natural Shivalingam and locals worship. During Shivarathri, there will be a huge crowd.

Another amazing fact about this Caves, the Gosthani river starts from here and joins the ocean at Bheemunipatnam also called Bheemili beach. See photos below.

Do you know, when you visit the cave, don't forget to see the board, that says, the railway track goes exactly above the cave 160+ feet. Yes, the railway track goes about the cave.

Earlier, we visited Belum caves which was largest cave and that too in Andhra itself. See photos and details here in my blog. The same blog also covers about another famous cave temple, Yaganti Caves and Uma Maheshwara Swamy Temple. There are six caves in this temple and all are so beautiful and natural.

Zoom the below photo, you could see the railway track (on left center of photo) which goes via Borra caves. Beautiful isn't it ? The train goes from Vishakapatnam to Arakku valley and stops at Borra caves.

Vishakapatnam to Arakku Valley Train Route
Did you notice the Train Track on left-middle? 


Gosthani River starts from Borra caves
The River Gosthani starts from here, see the next photo where it joins the Ocean.

Gosthani River Confluence at Bay of Bengal
Gosthani River started at Borra Caves and Joining here, what a beautiful sight !


Borra Caves Vishakapatnam
Do you now believe how deep is this cave? You MUST plan and visit !

Borra Caves Vishakapatnam
An opening seen from inside the cave !

Borra Caves Vishakapatnam
Stalagmites formation, an amazing sight !


Borra Caves Vishakapatnam
An inside view of the cave, do you see the steps leading to top in middle of this photo?, there you could see many naturally formed Shiva Lingas !

2. Simhachalam Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

Temple Timings: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 6PM, All days

I am sure you will prefer to take the 1000 steps instead of driving up the hills after looking at the hills. Very beautiful and relatively small hill of 800 feet high from sea level. This temple faces west as compared to all other temples that are facing east. East facing entrance brings prosperity while west facing entrance brings victory.

Another unique thing about the main deity is about the sandal paste covering the whole of deity and looking like a big Sandalwood Shivalinga. Only on the third day of Vishaka Month (or) Akshya-Tritiya day (Mid-March to Mid-April) this sandalwood paste is removed and one can see the real appearance of Lord Varaha Narasimha swamy or Appanna. This temple is believed to be constructed before 13th century.

Simhachalam Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
Temple Tower of Sri Simhachalam Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

Simhachalam Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
Inner Tower of the temple


Simhachalam Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
Lord Hanuman at the Entrance of Simhachalam Hill

3. Dolphin Nose Light house and Yarada Beach

Timings: 3PM to 5PM, All days

The very first photo in this blog is taken on top of the Light house. The sight from here is really amazing. You get to see the Harbor, Fishing harbor, Ships moving around, Dockyard, RK Beach, Kailasagiri Hill...... Wov really cool.  And that is pefect golden hour for photographers to take great shots. Few more captures below

Vishakapatnam Harbor View from Dolphin Nose Lighthouse
View of the Harbor from Dolphin Nose Light house 

Vishakapatnam Harbor View from Dolphin Nose Lighthouse
The stone blockage that you see on the right hand side I guess is to protect harbor from high tides
Dolphin Nose Lighthouse Vishakapatnam
You could climb up and get a beautiful view of Harbor


Dolphin Nose Lighthouse Vishakapatnam
View of the actual Light source of Dolphin Nose Light house

4. Kursura Submarine Museum

Timings: 4PM to 8PM on all days (Monday holiday) and Sunday from 11AM to 1:30PM and 4PM to 8PM

This is the first of it's kind in South East Asia. This is completely air conditioned submarine. you get to see the complete interiors, torpedo launchers and many other controls. It is really amazing to see so many wheels and controls to operate. This can dive upto 280 meters and it had three 2000 HP diesel engines and the fuel capacity seem to be 439 tons. And loaded with 22 torpedoes to be fired from 6 tubes in front and 4 at back.  Wov.... dont you feel like visiting that? .... here are some photos .....


Kursura Submarine Museum Vishakapatnam
Once they complete the painting, this will look pretty awesome... completely Air conditioned !

Kursura Submarine Museum Vishakapatnam
Look at that rudder....... so big? 
Kursura Submarine Museum Vishakapatnam
I adding this photo to show how big is that Torpedo, now you know what impact this can cause !


5. Bheemunipatnam Narasimha Temple and Bheemili Beach

Timings of temple: Morning 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM (usual temple hours)

If you continue to drive few kilometers, you will get to see a temple on top of a small hill on left side and you will not miss to look at the huge colorful statue of Lord Narasimha on top. That is the temple assumed to be built around 14th century. From here you get to see the River Gosthani confluences into Bay of Bengal. Look at some captures below

Bheemunipatnam Narasimha Temple Vishakapatnam
Huge statue of Lord Narasimha at Bheemunipatnam

Bheemili Beach Vishakapatnam
Gosthani river confluence at Bheemunipatnam, Bheemili Beach

Bheemunipatnam Narasimha Temple Vishakapatnam
In Andhra Pradesh, this is the local tradition to decorate the temple steps with Turmeric and Kumkum. Imagine Devotees do this on 9000+ steps at Tripathi. Devotion is powerful !

6. Kailasagiri Hills

Timings: 10AM to 9PM. Rope way / Train timings: 11AM to 1PM and 2PM to 8PM

This is one of the famous destinations everyone visit. There is a beautiful VUDA Park (Vishakapatnam Urban Development Authority) on a small hill of 360 feet high. There is a huge Lord Shiva Parvathi statue in middle which is a major attraction. Apart from that, there is also a Rope way of 375 meter length which gives a beautiful view of the beach which is on opposite side. Also there is a train that comes around this hill region, from within this Train you get a view of entire city and the beach. Also you can see Dolphin nose as well. Overall I am sure kids will love this place. Lots of trees and view points with park for everyone to relax. There is also a Telugu Museum. See few photos below.

Kailasagiri Hills Vishakapatnam
Entrance Arch of Kailasagiri Hills

Kailasagiri Hills Vishakapatnam
Huge Statue of Lord Shiva and Parvathi

Beach View from Kailasagiri Hills Vishakapatnam
View of the beach from the Train at Kailasagiri hills

7. Ramanaidu Studio hills

Timings: 9AM to 6PM

This is a great place with amazing views of the beach again. As I mentioned, there are continuous hills on entire beach stretch. And this is a famous film shooting place. Traditional model houses, streets, model hospitals, Model police station and statues of Leaders are there. See photos below...

Ramanaidu Film Studio Hills Vishakapatnam
View of the beach and the road from top of the Ramanaidu Film Studio

Ramanaidu Film Studio Hills Vishakapatnam
Bungalow at Ramanaidu Film Studio

8.  Fishing Harbor

Timings: No specific timings, mornings will be busy

Fishing Harbor Vishakapatnam
Fishes are dried in Hot sun in Fishing harbor, nutrient rich food !

Fishing Harbor Vishakapatnam
How nicely he arranged the fishes !

Fishing Harbor Vishakapatnam
Fishing boats at Fishing harbor 

9. Ramakrishna Mission Ashram and Doll Exhibition

Timings: Monday holiday and other days 4PM to 8PM

Really amazing details and the complete story of Vivekananda and Ramakrishna can be seen. Kids will love it. Apart from this, you can also buy books. There are many Hindu mythological stories of each and every God and Goddesses are available for purchase. See few photos below...

Ramakrishna Mission Ashram Doll Exhibition Vishakapatnam
You must see the amazing details and colorful dolls, A Must visit to understand Vivekananda story

Ramakrishna Mission Ashram Doll Exhibition Vishakapatnam


10. Sankaram - Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda

Timings: Not seen any specific timings, might be around 9AM till 5PM

Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda are two Rock-cut caves on adjacent hillocks in a village called Sankaram. The sites are believed to date between 4th and 9th Century A.D, when the 3 phases of Buddhism - 1. Hinayana, 2. Mahayana, and 3. Vajrayana, flourished at Sankaram. On Eastern side is the Bojjannakonda and on western side is the Lingalakonda. More details in Wiki here.  See below the photos. Have not seen any guides here. but you may check in the entrance where you buy tickets.
Behind this hillock you get to see the most amazing green fields up to the distance your eye can see. Paddy fields and too many cattle egrets flying over the fields giving you an amazing sight.

Bojjannakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam
Full view of Bojjannakonda Rock Cut Caves

Bojjannakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam
Meditating Buddha at Bojjannakonda Rock cut caves

Bojjannakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam
Another close up shot

Bojjannakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam

Lingalakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam

Lingalakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam

Lingalakonda Rock Cut Caves Vishakapatnam

11. Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist Monastery

This place seem to be most active during 300 BC to 300 AD i.e. 400 years. And during an aerial survey by Indian Navy they found this place and started excavation. This revealed the ruins of well established Theravada - Hinayana Buddhism Monastery. Guides are available for Rs.100 to 200/=. Guides can explain the history in detail which will be interesting.


Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist Monastery Vishakapatnam
Stupa at Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist Monastery 

Thotlakonda Ancient Buddhist Monastery Vishakapatnam
Do you see the beach behind? 

12. Beach Road and Early morning Walk

It is so clean and neat, you will love to walk during early morning hours along the beach here. I appreciate all the people of this city and VUDA for maintaining it so neat. As I mentioned earlier, this city is the 3rd clean city in India. The beach road stretches for more than 10 KMs and you can really have a great walk on both sides. Wake up early and start at around 5:45 or 6AM. See below few photos. There are multiple statues of all great leaders, Poet Thiruvalluvar...etc.

Beach Road Vishakapatnam
Amazingly Clean and Neat isn't it ? 

Aero Museum Beach Road Vishakapatnam
Upcoming Aero museum

Kali Temple Beach Road Vishakapatnam
View of Kali Temple on Beach Road

Ramakrishna Mission Ashram and Doll Exhibition Center
On Beach Road


13. Other Temples

Polamamba Temple Tower Vishakapatnam
Polamamba Temple Tower Vishakapatnam

Sankaram Village Vishakapatnam
This can be seen near Sankaram village, just few KMs from Bojjannakonda site on Main Road

Feel free to add your suggestions, comments below in comments section and share this blog post with your friends. Let me know of any corrections, I shall update.

Infact Vishakapatnam and Arakku valley can be covered in 3 days if you could come by flight. Similarly you can also visit Jaipur which is an amazing and India's most visited tourist destination.

Ajmer Fort Jaipur

Read my very detailed blog post on Jaipur and Nearby places blog here.