When you can easily reach your destination in a 100 minute flight but you still prefer an extra 800 minutes on the highway, you can call yourself a true seeker of adventure.
After experiencing Durga puja in its full grandeur in my home city ( read about my experience here ) we used up the rest of my break in driving from the ‘City of joy’ to the ‘City of destiny’.
Visakhapatnam, also known as Vizag, is a port city in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in India with Eastern Ghats on one side and Bay of Bengal on the other. So if your parents are torn apart (like mine) between chilly mountains and sandy beaches then just head to Vizag to get a taste of both for it has various green mountains and a plethora of beaches on offer.
Set at a distance of 868 kms from Kolkata, Vizag is an easy and smooth drive away. Minus the time taken to stop and pay at the numerous tolls. If you carry loads of loose change (collect them at home and use them on highway ) like us it will surely be a cake walk. As per Google its a 15 hour drive but the beautifully done roads will take you there in less than 12. We only did quick stopovers for lunching, fuelling, rest rooms and photo stops 😉
If you are looking for an easy and relaxed trip, consider stopping at any of these places overnight –
- Bhubaneswar – Only a seven hour drive from Kolkata, it is the capital of the state of Orissa.
- Puri (68.7 Km from Bbh) – Orissa is home to many a stunning beaches and Puri beach is one of the busiest in the east coast. When in Puri you can visit the Jagannath temple which is also one of the four holiest pilgrimage site of Hindus.
- Chilka lake (103 Kms from Bbh) – It is the Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, here you can enjoy a boat ride to watch Irrawaddy dolphins leaping out of the water or spot various migratory birds. The luxurious Swosti Chilka resort overlooking the Chilika lake is a wonderful property which shouldn’t be missed.
- Gopalpur (170 Kms from Bbh) – This place is known for its white sand dune beaches, surrounded by coconut and palm trees. Once a fishing village it is now a popular tourist destination with many a picturesque spots.
Or like my dad if no road seems long enough to you then complete the journey on the same day. In fact if you are a nature lover then October is the best month to drive to Vizag because of the lush greenery and the pendulous catkin flowers on both sides of the road. Weather too turned out to be in our favour.
When in Vizag, the most sought after tourist attractions are –
INS Kursura Submarine museum – INS Kursura was a diesel submarine of the Indian Navy. It served us for 31 long years after which it was decommissioned. Much to the delight of patriots it later got converted into a museum. INS Kursura still receives the honour of “dressing ship” which is only used for active ships. People wait endlessly in serpentine queues to enter this Asia’s first submarine museum and India’s only one. I was thrilled to experience the interiors of the submarine which had more machinery parts than space for the crew members. When on a mission the crew had to spend months without bathing and they shared two small toilets between 75 people. Unfortunately my parents had dead phones then so we couldn’t capture some precious moments but it better be experienced than explained. We were very well guided by few retired navy staff who knew the submarine in and out.
Kailasagiri hill top – It is one of the most scenic attraction in Visakhapatnam. A park, a toy train, a ropeway and a grand Lord Shiva statue attracts crowd to Kailasagiri in a large number. The ride from Vizag to Kailasagiri is beautiful and there are several points on the way where you can stop for a breathtaking view of the splendid beaches set in the lap of hills.
Rushikonda beach – Most popular among all the beaches in Vizag, Rushikonda beach is a must visit. Over crowded in the evenings but far better than Ramakrishna beach (also called RK beach) where INS Kursura stands. Natural rocks on the Ramakrishna beach makes it unsafe for swimming and bathing hence the locals prefer Rushikonda which is also quite famous for adventure sports. Since the sea was rough I chose to make sandcastles while parents were soaking in the view. I also enjoyed a pony ride later.
Araku Valley – Andhra’s very own hill station is a weekend escapade for many. The train ride from Vizag to Araku is very scenic but due to unavailability of tickets we opted for road which was breathtaking too. It took us 4 long hours to reach there and the valley itself was a tad disappointing with nothing more than a tribal museum but you must experience the Anantgiri mountains which needs to be crossed to reach the valley. Famous for its coffee plantations and spice gardens, you can buy them loose or packed on the route to Araku or try the very popular bamboo chicken. I settled for boiled corn cobs which were delicious too. Chilly wind, picturesque mountains and water tumbling down them in the form of mini waterfalls will satisfy your travel quench and for the adventurers try trekking. Ananthgiri can be done in the same day but if you must stay then the Jungle Bells Tyda park, a state run lodge has private cottages scattered in the forests to give you a unique experience. We loved their igloo accommodations but you must book them in advance.
Borra Caves – This deepest and largest caves in the country is one of the favourites among locals and tourists. Avoid weekends to explore the caves thoroughly. Since Borra caves are on the Ananthgiri hills ideally one should see them before going to Araku valley. Mornings are less crowded than evenings and natural daylight gives a better view of these deep caves where less light penetrates. These limestone structures had irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites formed from calcium present in dripping water. I have never been to a cave before and this turned out to be a unique and learning experience.
We stayed four nights in Vizag. In order to experience the city from two different angles we had split our four nights stay between two hotels. Four points by Sheraton, located in the centre of Vizag helped us discover many hidden gems which would have remained hidden otherwise. Fresh choice bakery being the best of the lot. A french style patisserie, bakery as well as a cafe, this one is reasonably priced and they sell morning breakfast bread products. We loved their cheese overdosed Margherita and perfectly balanced banoffee pie.
For the last two nights we chose Novotel Vizag which is beautifully located right across the Ramakrishna beach. The hotel is an engineering marvel and if you can avoid holiday rush this property will surprise you to the brim. Stunning sea view, infinity pool,the lush green garden by the pool and super courteous staff were the highlight of the hotel. Please look for Ram at the front desk, who made it all possible. He gave us an unforgettable experience at Novotel and established our trust in the brand for ever.
Finally after five days of fun, taking memories and leaving footprints behind, we left for Kolkata.