The Complete Guide to Visakhapatnam
Often called ‘The Jewel of the East Coast’ this city has a lot to offer for a packed cultural weekend or a relaxed holiday exploring ancient Buddhist caves and excavation sites. Beyond the beautiful beaches and spicy Andhra cuisine, take a peek into the country’s maritime history and a vibrant festival season that runs from November to February. This is also the best time to enjoy the pleasant weather in Vishakhapatnam.
What to See and Do in Visakhapatnam
There is no dearth of places to visit in Vishakhapatnam. Get a feel of ‘Vizag’ by spending your first evening strolling along the famous Ramakrishna Beach, or RK Beach, as it is popularly called. Complete with funky statues, from large fish and a gorilla eating an ice cream, to memorials of freedom fighters from the state, the beach promenade is the city’s favourite hangout, and a good place to people-watch. Walk to the southern end to check out the colourful fishing boats and imposing Navy ships anchored in the Bay of Bengal. A Vishakhapatnam map is recommended for those who like to tick off places as they complete seeing them. Spend time inside the INS Kurusura, now converted into a Submarine Museum and learn about the life of an Indian submarine crew. If you are tired of the crowds, head north to Rushikonda Beach, which is clean enough for a swim (but only for experts. Be warned, the currents can be strong). You can also sign up with Melville, a local surf pioneer, who can take you kayaking and surfing.
Elsewhere, the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, set amidst the Eastern Ghats, is the perfect getaway to spot many different species of animals and plants including mandrills, pumas and the majestic white tiger and is worth a visit.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, cable car it up to one of the best tourist places in Vishakhapatnam, i.e. Kailasagiri Hill.This hill is a must visit for amazing sunset views, some of the best things to see in Visakhapatnam. The park up on the hill has a play area for kids, a toy train, sculpture park and walking paths. The famous Simhachalam Temple, located on the outskirts of the city, is dedicated to Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The central shrine was built in Kalinga architectural style and bears influence from the Odishan style of temples. Large but orderly, the temple is worth a visit, especially for the carvings and stone panels. Don’t miss the carving of Lord Narasimha disembowelling a demon on the rear wall.
Getaways from Visakhapatnam
Full of history, the coast of Andhra Pradesh has an interesting mix of Buddhist, Dutch and Hindu monuments and heritage sites. The oldest is the Buddhist Complex of Bavikonda and Thotlakonda, north of the city, which was inhabited by monks from 3BC to around 3AD, and is a well laid out excavation site. Head further north to explore the old Dutch settlement at Bheemli Beach, of which the old Dutch cemetery remains intact, with interesting looking tombstones and a lighthouse from 1861. The beach itself is fascinating with statues of mermaids and goddesses and an oversized head of the Buddha strewn across the sand.
The other set of stunning ancient Buddhist sites lies 40km south of the city. Bojjannakonda and Lingalakonda were used by monks from the 2nd to the 9th century AD and they are made up of rock-cut caves, stupas, ruins of monastery structures and remains of statues of the Buddha. Climb to the top of the caves to get some amazing views of the surrounding countryside and checkered rice fields.
Where to Eat
Zaffran, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun BeachLocated on the top floor of the hotel, Zaffran is perfect for a fine dining experience, serving excellent north Indian cuisine with lovely views of the Bay to round out the dining experience.
Flying Spaghetti Monster, Waltair UplandsIf you need a break from India food, head to this small and cosy eatery, with its super thin crust pizzas, great pastas and authentic Italian flavours. Come early if you don't want to wait.
Bamboo Bay, The Park, VishakhapatnamThis open-air seaside restaurant serves up Indian fare including Andhra and Chettinad options, and is perfect if you are dining to impress.
Sea Inn, RushikondaIf you are looking for authentic Andhra fare without the fuss, then head to the Sea Inn, more popularly known as Raju ka Dhaba, after the owner. His wife cooks homestyle spicy Andhra delicacies. The food is cheap and service quick. Ask for the mutton biryani and local prawn fry.
Where to Stay
The Park, Visakhapatnam, Beach RoadOne of the most famous hotels in Visakhapatnam, The Park is beautiful and elegant, with one of the best locations in the city. There are lovely green lawns overlooking the bay, a swimming pool and great restaurants including the beachfront Bamboo Bay and the ultra-posh Vista.
Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, Beach RoadLocation. Location. Location. Bang in the middle of RK Beach, the newer Novotel gives stiff competition to the Park Hotel as Visakhapatnam’s best. The terraced poolside venue with large lazy lounge chairs and live music most nights is perfect for sunsets. The service is great and the coffee shop serves excellent international fare at not too exorbitant prices.
Haritha Beach Resort, RushikondaRun by Andhra Tourism (APTDC), rooms here are simple but large and comfortable with the higher-end rooms boasting balconies with beautiful sea views. An excellent mid-range option, the Hairtha is located just above Rushikonda beach, which is its prime selling point.
Hotel Daspalla, SuryabaghOne of the oldest hotels in the city, Hotel Daspalla is located in the heart of town and is a favourite with tourists from around the state. The rooms are comfortable and the guard at the gate is a storehouse of information. The hotel is home to some of the best food in town, including their special filter coffee, a modern spin on the south Indian classic.
Hotel Supreme Visakhapatnam, Beach RoadThis is one of the best budget hotels in Vishakhaptnamis located on the opposite end of Beach Road from The Park. It has modern and spacious rooms, some of which have sea views. The breakfast buffet is basic but good, the shipyard is walking distance and it’s a great option for a beach front stay without breaking the bank.
Where to Shop in Visakhapatnam
Shop like the locals and head to the area around Kurupam Market with its narrow lanes and tiny shops to buy gold and silver. In many of the older shops you might find goldsmiths stoking their furnaces by blowing into them, melting ornaments in their crucibles. Head to Lepakshi Handicraft Emporium or the Eastern Art Museum for handicrafts, ethnic clothes, tribal jewellery, the famous kondapalli toys and other souvenirs. Tribes India on RK Beach, showcases exquisite tribal art and handcrafted items. The products are all sourced directly from tribal craftsmen and it’s a one-stop-shop to acquire a slice of the indigenous culture of the state.
6E & Cheeky
One of the best things to do in Vizag, if you are in the mood for tranquility, is to head down to Araku Valley as a guest of the India Railways, taking Andhra’s best train ride through beautiful lush forests of the Eastern Ghat. The area is home to tribal communities and is known for its organic coffee. Hop into the excellent Museum of Habitat to understand a little more about the tribal population of Andhra Pradesh. If you are there on a Friday, don't miss the weekly market, where locals and tribals come to buy and sell. And if adventure is what you are in the mood for then head to the famous Borra Caves, 40km before Araku Valley. The million-year-old limestone caves are some of the biggest in India, complete with spectacular views, waterfalls and includes a crawl through an 80ft tunnel. Stay at the Jungle Bells Eco Camp run by the APTDC and get back into nature.
The best time to visit Visakhpatnam is during the festival season to truly experience the vigour of the city and all that it has to offer. The Visaka Utsav in January (3rd Friday of the month) organised by the AP Tourism Department and the Rishikonda Festival in December (22-25) both showcase the vibrant culture and lifestyle of the region. There are a variety of exhibits, stalls, book fairs, food and craft bazaars, traditional programmes and other activities. If kite flying is fascinates you then head to RK Beach during Makar Sankranti, to see the sky above the Bay of Bengal explode with colourful kites of all shapes and sizes.
|Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh 530009||VTZ|