Visakhapatnam (or Vizag as it is known sometimes) was among the first 20 cities selected to be part of the Smart Cities project. A coastal city overlooking the Bay of Bengal, it has a spectacular hilly terrain. It was named after the god Vaishaka and is Andhra Pradesh’s second-largest city.
The city was a part of the Kalinga kingdom, and was ruled by Ashoka. It had also been a Dutch colony in the 18th century. It has one of the oldest and biggest shipyards in India, a beautiful natural harbour and houses the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. Vizag’s also a popular surfing spot.
It’s difficult to choose but here’s a list of 10 places you have to visit when in Vizag.
A half hour drive from the city will take you to what is probably this beach with one of the safest waters to swim in. Spend a day here lazing on the golden sands surrounded by thickly forested hills on three sides and the waters of the Bay of Bengal on the fourth.
A 26km scenic drive from Vizag brings you to Bheemili located at the confluence of Gosthani River and the Bay of Bengal. It was a major trading centre on the East Coast. Remnants of settlements of the Dutch and the East India Company include the ruins of a 17th century fort, Hollanders Green – a cemetery and an ancient clock tower, and an eclectic mix of sculptures of Buddhist monks and Hindu gods. Hindu mythology says Bheema killed Bakasura here. You can make a stop at Kaartheekavanam, an ethnic beach resort developed on the Visakha-Bheemili road.
Rishikonda, a smaller beach located a few kilometers from Visakhapatnam, is a hub for water sports – surfing, wind surfing and skiing. It has a few surfing schools like the Lonely Surfers Surf School. Former cricketer Jonty Rhodes likes to surf on this beach.
South Africans Albie Morkel and Dale Steyn have also been here. The white sand beach curves beautifully, with mango and palm trees on one side. Have some fresh seafood and watch out for the Dolphin’s Nose, a mammoth rocky headland that can be seen from here.
SRI VENKATESWARA KONDA, ROSS HILL AND DARGAH KONDA
Vizag is surrounded by three hills – Sri Venkateswara Konda, Ross Hill and Dargah Konda – that house shrines dedicated to three different religions. Lord Shiva is the deity at Venkateswara temple on Venkateswara Konda. Ross Hill has the Church of the Virgin Mary and the tomb of a Muslim saint, Baba Ishaq Madina. And there’s a dargah on Dargah Konda. This region was also a centre of Buddhism during the second century AD. Do take some time out for a visit to the ancient Buddhist site, Thotlakonda. Located by the sea, excavations here have revealed relics and rock-hewn sculptures, stupas and chaityas. Getting there involves a long scenic drive up a hill with brilliant views of the coast.
These stalactite and stalagmite caves have depths reaching 262.5ft, making them the deepest caves in India. The Gosthani River flows through the caves between the formations. Situated in Ananthagiri Mandal, on the way to Araku valley, they are believed to be 150 million years old and were discovered by the British geologist William King in 1887. Many come here to see the Shiva lingam and an idol of a cow.
The famous hill station, Araku Valley, situated 30km north of Borra Caves and 120km from Visakhapatnam is home to several tribal communities. The tribal museum and village are major attractions. The valley is 3200 square feet above sea level with streams and waterfalls. As a result, the train journey to Araku is picturesque passing through tunnels, hillsides and streams. The journey is also heaven for caffeine addicts, as you get a strong whiff of coffee – the area being home to rich coffee plantations. Do check out Sangda waterfalls located in the middle of a thick jungle.
KONDAKARLA BIRD SANCTUARY & KAMBALAKONDA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The area has several sanctuaries that house many species of birds and animals. The Kondakarla Bird Sanctuary, located about 50 km from Vishakhapatnam, by the Kondakarla Lake is home to migrating birds in the summer. Mechanized boats are not allowed on the lake. Instead take a ride on an interesting contraption made by joining two logs together with a cot, and this locally-made boat, surprisingly is quite stable and is a pleasure to go out on the lake in.
The Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary has a dry evergreen forest with meadows and scrubs. It houses leopards, the Indian Pangolin, chitals, Indian jackals, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, jackal, wild boar and wild dog, and multiple species of snakes and birds.
This village on the banks of Varaha River 65km from Visakhapatnam, is famous for its wooden toys, bowls, boxes and artifacts. The toys made of ankudu wood with lacquer colours, are very popular. This area was home to Buddhist establishments – excavations have thrown up symbols of early Buddhism, and Roman coins, which suggest it must have been a centre of trade.
SUBMARINE MUSEUM & VISAKHA MUSEUM
Check out the insides of a submarine at the Submarine Museum on the INS Kursura-S20 on the Beach Road. It is a Soviet built-I-641 class Submarine that was inducted into the Indian Navy on 18, December 1969. Retired employees of the Navy – six guides and a curator – will make your trip more interesting with anecdotes and titbits from naval history. Do also visit the Visakha Museum, which is located in an old colonial Dutch bungalow, and houses old artifacts and naval displays.
If you are visiting with children, this place will be perfect. It has 2000-odd trees and offers a string of physical activities for children. They have a play area, a yoga centre, a multi gym. The abandoned lighthouse premises adjacent to the park has a telescope, a children’s library, small adventure trails, rock and wall climbing and indoor games such as chess and carom etc.