Visakhapatnam - Port City with Beaches, Temples and Caves
Legend has it that Visakhapatnam is named after Visakha, the God of valor. Popularly known as, Vizag and Waltair, Vizag was once a part of the commanding Kalinga Empire, ruled by King Ashoka in 260 B.C. The town then, fell into the hands of the Andhra kings of Vengi followed by the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Gangas till it finally became a part of the majestic Vijaynagar Empire in the 15th century. Trade and export flourished and Vishakapatnam shot into prominence, the kingdom exported bullion, arts, handicrafts and artists to other coastal regions such as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma and Indonesia. The metamorphosis of this city into an important port city occurred with the arrival of the Europeans, the Dutch were the first European occupants of Vizag followed by the British.
The British developed the city and opened it to out-going vessels in 1933. The tradition has carried on and Vishakapatnam continues to serve as a small but important port on the eastern coastal belt. Post- Independence, Vizag’s role expanded to include that of an industrial town with a steel plant, an oil refinery and a fertilizer factory. The country's largest ship building yard is also located here. You can spend a day visiting these industries after getting prior permission from the authorities to understand better the operations that govern large enterprises. Besides being a significant port city and a consequential industrial city, Vishakapatnam is today, the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy. The navy still maintains bases here. The city is large and well planned, the main reason is the presence of the Navy that built the entire city and helped its development.
The native beauty of Vizag is admirable. The charm of this beautiful port city is enhanced by the endless stretches of cobalt blue sea colliding with the rocky mountain ranges, The Kailasha Hill, The Porupalam Hill and the Yarada Hill forming the perfect arch to envelope the golden city with its stunning golden beaches on one side and abundant green hills on the other. Vigaz is an ideal holiday destination, also known as Andhra’s jewel on the east coast it has something to offer everyone. It caters to the religious minded people with the Simhachalan temple located nearby, the Buddhist pilgrim because of the numerous places of religious significance dotting its coast line, the adventure-seekers and the holiday makers. There are quite a large number of beaches along the sea-shore up to the town of Bheemunipatnam, also famous for being the second oldest municipality in the country which are an absolute pleasure to experience. Vizag is also one place where the shopkeepers do not try cheating you, most of the people in the city are extremely helpful and do not coax you into buying anything or cheating you. This perhaps is a perk that comes with visiting places off the tourist beaten track.
The most recognized feature in Visakhapatnam is the Dolphin's Nose, a rocky promontory in the port. This colossal rock, 174 m in height and 358 m above sea level, is shaped like a Dolphin's nose. The rock juts out into the sea, forming a foreland on which a lighthouse is built. This lighthouse has an extremely powerful beam that can be seen 64 km out at sea.
Celebrated for its golden beaches, Vizag does not disappoint. Ramakrishna Beach is well maintained, clean and very popular with domestic tourists and city dwellers. There is a marooned submarine that is now used as a unique museum which you can tour from inside. From the first domestic merchant navy ship to an array of navy artifacts, the museum has them all. Just five km from the town of Visakhapatanam, this beach occupies the largest chunk of the seafront and is a great place to spend time lapping up the environment or leisurely strolling on the beach. The mission ashram of Sri Ramakrishna after whom the beach is named is located nearby. Shell stalls on the shore are a must visit. From shell curtains to key chains, you can help yourself to some of the well crafted souvenirs. The best part of the Ramakrishna beach is the sunrise and sunset, the city is bathed in a glow of orange gold as the sun majestically rises out of the sea and climbs higher in the eastern sky.
If you prefer the seclusion of nature then head towards Rishikonda, a densely forested hill. The Rishikonda Beach has the trademark golden sands and is considered to be one of the best beaches in Vizag. Adventure sports are aplenty and it is ideal for water skiing, wind surfing and swimming. You can plan to spend a night here as the hotels and restaurants are well developed offering tourists the comfort of private lodges and individual rented cottages. The Sri Sapta Rusheswara Temple dating back to the 14th century is also located here. Surrounded by seven hills it is an important place of worship for the Hindus. According to the information given at the temple the Shiva Lingam here increased in height by 2ft in 1993. Another interesting aspect about this beach are the water wells, even though the wells are right next to the sea they do not contain saline water.
The Kailasagiri park is perched on Mount Kailash, a hillock right on the sea front. The grandeur of the statues of Shiva- Parvathi and the Shanku Chakra Naama which are symbolic of Lord Vishnu are illuminated at night and visible from more elevated sections of the city are well worth the trip. The ropeway to the top of the hill got its name from the statue of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. The park also looks down to the entire city, offering a bird’s view of the endless beaches, lush green forests and the well lit, progressive city. Kailasagiri is also a gliders paradise with excellent gliding terrain. Situated at an altitude of 130 meters, the gliding point provides adventure seekers with an excellent opportunity to glide.
The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park sprawls over four hundred and twenty five acres of land and has over four hundred different types of wildlife, this is one of the largest Zoological Parks in Andhra Pradesh.
The Belum and Meghalaya caves are of great geographical and historical importance. Discovered in 1854 by H.B.Foote, the Belum Caves were initially explored by the Department of archeology and Museums, followed by a team of European scientists led by Mr. Gebaner. The Meghalaya Caves are underground caves with their entrance being on a flat agricultural field. After descending 20 meters from the entrance, the cave stems out horizontally. Both the Caves have long passages, large and spacious chambers, fresh water enclosures and siphons. These features make the Belum Caves an archeological attraction worldwide. The Meghalaya Caves are the largest natural caves in the Indian sub continent with the Belum caves coming in second.
A trip to Vizag is incomplete if you haven’t adventured out to Araku. Located at a distance of 110 km away, this quaint and charming valley lies nestled amongst the Eastern Ghats. The stunning locales of this pictorial hill station are perfect to spend a weekend at. Besides the obvious physical beauty, the verdant valley boasts of a tribal museum complete with tribal dancing, an impeccably manicured botanical garden and a small man made artificial lake for boating. The valley with its luxurious meadows is generously endowed with coffee plantations and can be a memorable experience.
Around Vizag, there are several other places that you can plan to visit for single day trips besides Araku Valley (112 kms). Borra Caves (90 Kms), Araku tribal museum, Anantagir Ghats, Sangda Falls, Matsyagundam (135 kms), Paderu (74 kms) and Simhachalam Temple are other single day excursions that you may go to around Vizag.
The Borra caves are famed to be over a million years old and a must visit for all. The impressive caves are awe-inspiring and famous for their stalactite and stalagmites formations. Found in the Eastern Ghats, the limestone caves are shaped as an answer to the action of the Gosthami River. Currently the river Gosthami flows through the caves to Orissa, but it once meandered its way over the limestone formations. Due to the intense pressure of the water over the limestone, the limestone was naturally molded into a cave. The dissolved limestone then trickled down drop by drop forming an interesting variety of shapes. Similarly, some of the water droplets from the roof solidified to form stalactites. Over a course of time, these calcium deposits of stalagmites and stalactites changed with age and pressure forming their own unique shapes in different parts of the caves. The Borra caves have a variety of interesting limestone formations inside the caves. These include a mushroom formation, a temple, a mosque, a church and many more. Along with the calcium deposits, there are traces of yellow-colored sulphur deposits on the ground. Flowing between the solidified stalagmites and stalactites is the Gosthani River, which heads towards Orissa, once out of the caves. Many of these formations have developed a religious significance over time and are worshipped by the local population. The written description of this cave tells us a story embedded with folk lore and mythology. The Shiva lingam which lies deep in the caves supports the idol of a Kamadhenu cow and the river Gosthani springs from the udder of this cow. Discovery of these caves are attributed to popular legend, a cowherd lost his cow which wandered off while it was grazing. He realized that the cow had fallen into a 60 feet deep hole. Assuming the cow to be dead, he peeped into the cavity only to behold that his cow was safe and feeding on the grass deep below. The tribals discovered the existence of the caves and turned it into a place of worship. They credited the survival of the cow with the presence of God in the caves. From then on, people started worshiping the lingam, around witch a small temple was built and where pujas are still performed regularly.
The APTDC or Andhra Pradesh tourism development corporation has arranged for the caves to be brightly illuminated by sixty-three lamps of mercury, sodium vapor and halogen lamps, which make the interior of the caves colorful and bright. The landscape around the cave is wild and covered with forests. The valley is inhabited by about nineteen tribes. Their Dimsa and Mayur dances are still performed during their festival 'Itika Pongal' - the famous hunting festival in April.
A twenty five minute drive takes you to the 11th century Simhachalam temple built on a small hill. The presiding deity Varaha Lakshmi Narsimha Swamy looks like a Shivalingam. The actual face of the deity cannot be seen because it is covered with sandalwood paste every passing day except for one. Folk lore has it that the sandalwood is smeared on the Lord as he is fierce and powerful, so the sandalwood soothes his temper.
Being an important commercial city, with visitors from all over the world, Visakhapatnam has many good restaurants which offer a variety of cuisines. Vizag offers a range of typical Andhraite cuisine besides the traditional Vizag seafood which mainly consists of fish and curried prawn cooked in sesame and coconut oils. Vizag is also known for its great variety of pickles and heavy use of spices and chillies. Its huge assortment of spicy pickles and chutneys are famous all over the country. The food is divine and the prices are ridiculously cheap.
As Vizag is an important City, it is connected by Road, Air, and Rail and also by Sea from many important places. If you wish to get to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, u can take a ship out of Vizag.
Visakhapatnam is well connected by air with all major metros such as Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.
There are daily services from all major towns-Mumbai, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata.
Numerous buses ply from Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar and Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam
Best Time – Oct to Feb
Internal transport– Public transport, autos and taxis can be used.