Have you imagined a weekend getaway where the resort pool is not the highlight of your day and 32-inch plasma screen in your plush room is not the focus of your evenings? Escape these trappings of the urban weekend so pack your rucksack with bug repellant, walking shoes and tell the kids it’s time to conquer the wild!
1) Kolleru Lake Bird Sanctuary: Even if birds are not your thing, the sight of a majestic body of water, swollen and expanded over a 260sq km area can make for an inspiring sight. A habitat to over 50,000 resident and migratory birds like Painted Storks, Glossy Ibises, Teals and Red Crested Pochards, the Kolleru Bird Sanctuary has seen a revival of sorts in the last couple of years due to conservation work and the sightings are now in gigantic clusters. Bring your binocs!
Top Tip: The town of Eluru (332km from Hyderabad) doesn’t throw up any great holiday options so it may be a good idea to check in at the Gateway Hotel, MG Rd, Vijaywada and take a drive (73km) to the sanctuary and return by sunset.
2) Blackbucks at Bidar (146km from Hyderabad): You may have been to the old walled city of Bidar to see the Bidar Fort, or visit the ancient ruins from its time as the capital of Bahmani kingdom, but have you may not visited Bidar to see it’s blackbucks. The Black Buck Resort occupies a sweet spot between the Honnikeri Reserve and the Vilaspur Lake. As a result, the area is home to a healthy population of blackbucks and other fauna like peacocks, black-naped hare, wild boars and porcupines
Top Tip: Don’t go back without buying some exquisite pieces of Bidriware from Bidar. This metal handicraft from the Behmani era makes for a beautiful gift for friends and family.
3) River ride the Papi Hills (400km from Hyderabad): This one may take a bit longer but the pay off here is bigger. Not only is Papi Kondalu or Papi Hills among the most beautiful places in the State with spectacular valleys and waterfalls, but this holiday will be unlike any other because it involves traveling by boat and sleeping in riverside bamboo huts. The boat tour (www.aptourismrajahmundry.com, Adult/Child Rs 2000/1500) meanders through the scenic hills and reaches the Godavari riverside camp at Kolluru Village for an overnight halt amidst a stunning combination of rolling hills and flowing water.
Top Tip: The boat tour starts fairly early in the morning so it may be a good idea to get into Rajamundry the earlier night and check in at the Anand Regency.
4) Belum Caves (368km from Hyderabad): When a 3km long tunnel of underground caves usually found in hills, are instead found under a flat agricultural field just 5 hours outside your city, it is your duty to pack your bags and begin driving immediately. The Belum Caves (10am─5 pm, Adult/Child Rs 50/25) have long passages, spacious chambers, fresh water galleries and imaginative color illuminations but the highlight are the phenomenal stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Top Tip: The government has provided a dormitory for overnight stays but you may be more comfortable staying at Kurnool (110km) and taking a day trip to the caves.