Popularly known as “Vizag”, the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh is perhaps better known for its Steel Plants. However, there is another side to Visakhapatnam, one that includes a never-ending pristine coastline, scenic landscapes and a rich heritage of religious significance. Visakhapatnam is particularly favorite as a beach holiday destination, but the myriad of temples, wildlife sanctuaries, valleys-waterfalls-caves and ancient Buddhist sites sprinkled around Vizag also deserve a visit. To keep up with the sudden burst of tourism, numerous hotels are popping up across Visakhapatnam, making this place even more tourist-friendly. The best time to visit Vizag is in winter.
The most popular and perhaps, the most crowded beach in Andhra Pradesh is the Ramakrishna Beach with a coastline of about 4 kilometers. Named after the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, the RK beach attracts throngs of tourists not only because of its natural harbor but also because of the various other tourist hotspots in and around this area. Since this beach is not safe for swimming, it is prohibited here. However, you can take a walk along the pedestrian pathway. Lush green trees dotting along the golden sands, overlooking the cool waters of Bay of Bengal make this place an ideal location to relax and unwind.
Amongst the various highlights on the Ram Krishna Beach, the most fascinating attraction is the Submarine Museum. The uniqueness of this museum, that draws the crowds, is the fact that this museum is housed inside a real submarine – the INS Kurusuram. This 91-meter long, Soviet-built submarine was decommissioned in the year 2001 after an illustrious 31 years of service in the Indian Navy. The submarine is very well preserved and retains its originality as well as the “Dressing Ship” honor which is awarded only to actives ships. Retired naval personnel serve as guides and curators in this museum.
Another popular destination in the vicinity of the Ramakrishna Beach is the VUDA (Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority) Park, which is also known as the Taraka Rama Park. Spread across an area of 55 acres, this park is home to over 2500 trees and a wide variety of plants. Needless to say, this park is a green oasis against the backdrop of the blue ocean and a soothing delight to the eyes. In addition to the greenery, the park is equipped with a children’s play area, multi-gymnasium, yoga center, a musical fountain and a roller skating ring.
Offering panoramic views of the Bay of Bengal complete with its beautiful beaches and the surrounding greenery, is the Kailasagiri Hill. Best known for its landscaped park – Kailasagiri Hill Park, this hill has an altitude of 360 feet from sea level and is the perfect point for a bird’s eye view of the city. Apart from the stunning views, this place offers a wide variety of other delights that include playgrounds, toy train for kids, sculpture park and adventure games. While here, it is very hard to miss the imposing marble statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati placed on a raised platform. You can either drive up this hill or opt for the ropeway.
Situated at a distance of 8 kilometers from Vizag, the Rushikonda Beach is one of the finest beaches along the east coast of India. In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Ramakrishna Beach, the Rushikonda beach is an unspoiled, offbeat destination that is nestled amidst mountains. You can spend an entire day exploring this scenic natural paradise at your own leisurely pace and rejuvenating yourself. Apart from that, you can also indulge in some water-based adventure sports such as surfing, kayaking and jet-skiing, all of which, are available at this beach. If you are in a mood to venture out into the sea, you can also opt for sailing here.
Located at a distance of about 16 kilometers away from Visakhapatnam, Andhra’s famed temple – Simhachalam Temple is dedicated to Lord Narasimha. Varahalakshmi Narasimha is a combination of the 3rd and 4th incarnations of Lord Vishnu and is carved out as the lion-man avatar that he was, on the stone panels in this temple. Influenced by the Oriya style of architecture, this temple is particularly known for its intricate stone carvings and inscriptions. However, the most notable features of this temple are Kalyana Mandapam and the Natya Mandapam which are supported by 16 and 96 beautifully carved pillars respectively.
Located in the Anantagiri hills in the Araku Valley are the Borra Caves at an elevation of 1400 meters above the sea level. One of the biggest caves in India, they are particularly known for their spectacular stalagmite and stalactite formations. These ancient caves were first discovered in 1807 by William King George. Apart from the formations, a Shivalingam (phallic symbol for Lord Shiva) and an idol of Kamadhenu (Holy Cow) are found 80-feet deep inside the caves. Hence, archaeology enthusiasts as well as pilgrims flock these caves making it popular destination.
Home to the famous Borra Caves, the Araku Valley is an entrancing hill station at an elevation of 3200 feet above the sea level. An offbeat destination, this valley offers a tranquil respite from the hullabaloo of the city life. Add to that, beautiful streams and waterfalls dotting the lush green landscape and Araku Valley is the favorite weekend getaway from Vizag. Also, 19 local tribes reside in the Araku Valley and those interested can get a sneak peek into their culture and traditions while on a holiday here. The best time to visit Araku Valley is either immediately after monsoons or in winter. Apart from the Borra caves, the Katiki, Chaprai and Anantagiri waterfalls are also worth a visit.
Isolated from the world and located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Vizag, is the picturesque beach of Yarada. Flanked by towering mountains from three sides and the cool waters of Bay of Bengal on the fourth, Yarada Beach is a paradise for those seeking a secluded holiday. Due to its offbeat location, relatively less number of people visit this place and hence this beach is relatively cleaner. This beach has shallow waters; hence, swimming and water-based activities are available here. You can either drive to Yarada from Vizag, or opt for a trek from the Sagarmatha Temple to the beach.
Located at a distance of 4 kilometers from the Borra Caves, is the stunning Katiki Waterfall in Anantagiri. With a height of about 50 feet, these waterfalls have their origin in the Gosthani River. The beautiful waterfalls against the backdrop of the lush green Araku Valley offer an arresting sight and should not be missed while in Anantagiri. Tourists also have an option of trekking to this waterfalls as a nature trail is available here. The trek is short (just about 2 kilometers) and has steps towards the base of the waterfall. Avoid a visit to these waterfalls in summer, since this place goes dry in the heat
As the name suggests, this huge rock formation projecting out is similar in shape to the nose of a Dolphin. Located at an elevation of 358 meters above sea level towards the south of Visakhapatnam, this huge rocky headland protrudes majestically over the Bay of Bengal. Due to its unique structure and the resulting fascinating views of the Bay, this natural rock formation attracts travelers. Situated close to the Yarada beach, this place is also renowned for its majestic lighthouse that stands 19 meters tall. The light beam from this light house is so luminous that it can be seen as far as 64 kilometers out in the sea, imparting a dramatic effect to this place.
Indira Gandhi Zoological Park
After the Hyderabad Zoo, the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park is the second biggest park in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Overlooking the Bay of Bengal in the east, this park is surrounded by mountains on the other sides and serves as natural habitat for the wildlife residing here. Spread across an area of almost 635 acres, this park is home to a wide variety of wildlife which includes different types of monkeys, rare species of deer (Thamin Deer, Spotted Deer and Barking Deer), Himalayan Black Bear, a plethora of wild cats (White Tiger, Panthers, Lions, Pumas, Jaguars) and many more animals. This park also boasts of a rich avian population as well as a variety of reptiles with different sections for different types of wildlife. This park can be visited throughout the year except Mondays when it is closed.
Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary
While at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, do not miss to visit the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary which is just in the vicinity of the Zoological Park. This park is relatively small with an area of just about 71 sq. kilometers, however, the terrain and the flora and fauna residing here make this place a popular destination for tourists. The prime attraction of this sanctuary is the Indian Leopard, but apart from that various other animals, reptiles and birds are also spotted here. In addition to the wildlife, this sanctuary with its dry evergreen forests offers picturesque trekking trails.
Another attraction around the RK beach is the Matsyadarshini Aquarium (Public Aquarium) set up by the Municipal Corporation of Vizag in the year 1994. Distinctly known for its display of aquatic species both fresh water and salt water, some of which are rare, this aquarium is a must visit, especially for kids. The different marine species include butterfly fishes, long horn cow fish, the lion fish, Moorish idol, surgeon major, stone fish, peacock wrasse, perch dusky, red squirrel fish and many more, all housed in around 18 huge tanks. Do not miss the multi-colored starfish with their different hues while at this aquarium.
Located 32 kilometers away from Visakhapatnam, the tranquil fishing town of Bheemunipatnam welcomes you with its pristine beaches and rich cultural heritage. According to local legends, this town was named after the Pandava “Bheema” from Mahabharata, however, it also shows Buddhist roots. The highlight of the town is the 30-kilometer long and utterly gorgeous Bheemunipatnam or the Bheemli Beach located at the confluence of Bay of Bengal and Gosthani River. Apart from the beach, this town also boasts of a 12th century Hindu Temple (Narasimha Swami Temple), a 17th century Dutch Fort, old churches, Buddhist sites and a lighthouse dating back to 1868.