Images from Hampi

August 13, 2009

I received these pictures from the other group who stopped at Hampi on their way to Guntur.

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Images from Cave temples of Badami

August 13, 2009

The pictures of Badami that I originally posted in my last post some how didn’t come right.   Hence this short post with just those pictures.


Road trip to Goa via Cave temples at Badami

August 10, 2009

 

So it took me a Goa travelogue to put a stop to long silence in my blog. Some of us planned for a road trip to Goa to soak in the sights of Goa in monsoons. I wanted to make most of this road trip and added Badami and Bijapur as overnight halts while driving to and from Goa. The Bijapur stopover did not happen for the reasons I will elaborate later in this travelogue, but visiting cave temples at Badami turned out to be icing on the cake.

Summary of the tour
Timeline: July 22-27, 2009
Participants: 11 males, one Hyundai Verna and one Toyota Qualis
Route taken: Hyd-Raichur-Badami-Belgaum-Amboli Ghat-Goa-Karwar-Hubli-Gadag-Sindhanur-Raichur-Hyd
Total distance: ~2000 KM (incl. some 250 KM within Goa)

Among the group of 11, 6 are coming in from Guntur. So we decided that the group from Guntur will start at 6 AM and drive (in a Qualis) directly to Raichur where they will be joined by Hyd gang (5 of us in a verna) for lunch, and both groups will drive to Badami for overnight halt. Guntur gang realized a tad late that there is a Solar eclipse on July 22 morning. Hence, they were advised by their family members not to start till 8.30 AM. 5 of us from Hyd decided to go ahead and wait at Raichur for the others. We made a delayed start at 9.50 AM from Sainikpuri (because I decided in the last minute to invite the others for breakfast at my place with dosas and coconut chutney) and crossed airport on NH-7 by 11 AM.

Cruising on NH-7

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For reaching Raichur I picked Gadwal route over Mahabubnagar- Makthal route, for no particular reason. For reaching Gadwal you take a right from NH-7 after pebberu and tarvel for 10 KM. The distance is almost the same for both routes, but the road between Gadwal and Raichur is a single road that is favoured by 7-seater autos and tractors, and obviously was a pain for a sedan.

We reached Raichur at 2.30 PM (it took us almost 2 hours to do 55 KM between Gadwal and Raichur). We enquired around and settled for “just lunch” at Hotel Kubera. The chicken biryani (almost as good as Hyderabadi) and curd rice were good. We phoned up the gang from Guntur to find that they were trying a new route to reach Raichur (Guntur-Macherla-devarakonda-jadcherla-mahabubnagar-Raichur) and are not expected before 5 PM. We decided not to wait, and started for Badami at 3.30 PM. The route thru Lingsur-Mudgal-Hungund was good with sparse traffic. We lost our way after Hungund because we misread the KSTDC sign boards, and driven in circles for 30 minutes before we found the direct route to Badami. We reached badami at 7.30 PM, and negotiated with 3 hotels (Hotel Rajsangam, Mookambika deluxe and Anand deluxe) before we settled on Anand deluxe who offered one 4-bed room and three 2-bed rooms for Rs. 1700 for that night. We quickly freshened up and bought “medicines” and food for dinner and started the session at 9 PM. The Guntur gang lost their way from Raichur mainly due to their know-all navigator, traveled upto Sindhanur, tried “various” direct routes and finally reached Badami at 12 midnight. They were too tired to try any “medicines” and we called it day immediately.

Next morning we started exploring Badami after a sumptuous breakfast in an Udupi hotel. As we planned to reach Goa by evening, we decided to skip banashankari temple, bhootanatha temple, etc., and went straight to cave temple complex. It’s sad to see the state of approach road to the cave temples. It was narrow and dirty and is swarmed by pigs of all sizes. Its amazing how the govt. and locals manage to destroy or take the sheen of wonderful heritage structures all over India. Any ways, when we reached the entrance of cave temples the sight was awe-inspiring. There are 4 cave temples overall – one for Shiva, one for Vishnu, one for Mahavishnu and one for Jain Thirthankaras. These cave temples were built by Chalukyas who ruled most parts of Karnataka and A.P. between 6th and 8th centuries. Vishnu is the deity of Chalukyas, that explains the grandeur of cave temples dedicated to Vishnu. The sclupture was, as expected, truly amazing. All cave temples were built by carving the same hill. The cave temple complex overlooks a huge lake (Agastya Theertham) and the temples of bhootanatha and Mallikharjuna. We hired a guide who was very professional and loaded us with a lot of info about the scluptures and history of the place. Overall the experience was mind blowing. Some of us have already started thinking about visiting the place again for a tour of the temples at Aihole and Pattadakal (a world heritage site) too. 

So, we started from Badami at 10.30 AM after finishing with cave temples. The idea was to go to Bagalkot and get on to the highway (SH20?)connecting Bagalkot and Belgaum. But, after 6-7 KM from Badami we came to a junction where the bystading locals directed us towards a direct route to SH20. After 20 KM in to that route, we were cursing ourselves for taking that advice. The road steadily got worse in to a bad single road, and for almost 30 KM there was absolutely no village in sight.

Road to nowhere?

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Just when we were bracing ourselves for a long day ahead on a single road, we came across a village and from there SH20 was fortunately just 6 KM away. The highway upto Belgaum was absolute breeze. While we did 60 KM between Badami and SH20 in 2 Hrs (incl. a tea break), it took us just 1.5 Hrs to do 120 KM on the highway up to Belgaum.

Path to blissfulness

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We stopped at Belgaum at 3 PM, enquired with locals to confirm that route via Amboli Ghat is best to reach Goa considering the current road conditions of Londa-Ponda route. We stopped at a dhaba immediately after exiting Belgaum, to enjoy some beverages and yummy chicken thali. We spent only 30 minutes for lunch as we wanted to avoid the foggy conditions at Amboli ghat. I found Amboli ghat to be one of the easiest ghats to drive on, as there are no steep bends. I was enjoying the drive also because the rain is playing hide and seek- it rains heavily for 1-2 KM and it stops for the next 2-3 KM.

Sights on the way to Amboli ghat

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It was almost 4.30 PM when we reached Amboli, welcomed by gloomy and wet conditions for 3-4 KM.

I suddenly noticed thick fog developing on the top of some hills far away. In no time, that fog spread to where we are and I was switched on fog lights, distress lights, etc. but kept driving. The fog vanished as suddenly as it arrived, and then we were treated to the sights of water steams/falls on one side and the beauty of huge valley on the other side. The visibility was so good that I could see a lake in the valley which must be some 20 KM away. Next minute we entered the slow moving traffic blocked by revellers enjoying a shower in the water falls and a swig at the bottle in their hand, alternatively. My camera battery conked off at that precise moment (But some one else in our group captured all those moments, I expect to get those pictures in a couple of days). I must have seen at least 6 water falls/steams that are easily accessible for a shower. So, we clicked a lot of pictures and quickly moved on for North Goa. We reached Calangute at ~7.30 PM. I had originally planned to check-in into Paradise Village resort. This is one of the 3 places recommended by mobike (Molly Malone’s was struck out because it did not have swimming pool, and Osborne was temporarily shut down for renovation). When I called Paradise Village resort from Hyderabad, the guy at the reservations offered Rs. 1500 per night for a double room, which sounded decent enough for me. Since we are a group of 11, we wanted to strike good bargain and started negotiating with the lady managing the front desk, without revealing about my previous phone enquiry. That lady should be the most grumpy professional I have come across in hospitality industry. She offered Rs. 1800 per night and no extra beds. Even after I revealed that I got an offer for Rs. 1500 when I spoke over phone, and even when the guy who actually made that offer over phone came there to resolve the situation, she stuck to her guns . And all this when most of their rooms are apparently empty and when there is not a single car in their parking lot. I pity her employer.

So, we went to a place a few steps away that we noticed while driving to Paradise. It is a small hotel with ~20 rooms, a nice swimming pool and a temorarily closed restaurant. The rooms were decent and the best part is they have 4-bed and 3-bed rooms. We negotiated a rate of Rs. 8000 for two 4-bed rooms and one 3-bed room (All air-conditioned) for 3 nights . Now I felt like thanking that lady at Paradise for driving us out.

We settled in, took shower, took few gulps of IMFL bought at Goa prices and set out for the night. We woke up a tad late on Day-3 because most of us indulged ourselves the previous night at various pubs and discos in Baga area. I was feeling little heavy in the head, so I quickly freshened up, wolfed down idlis and vadas at an Udipi hotel near Calangute bus stand, and popped in a Meftal forte. I was feeling fresh by the time the others got ready at 10 AM.
Our first stop over was Aguada fort. We took in the sights and clicked a good number of pictures. By 11.30 AM, the sun was beating down on us mercilessly, and I felt like I am in Guntur/Vijayawada. The first thing we did after climbing down from the fort is to gulp down a few lemon sodas.

Sights at Fort Aguada

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We then set off to Panaji to enquire about various cruise options, incl. Casino Royale. There are many rickety cruises offering a ride on River Mandovi for 1.5-3 Hrs @ Rs. 150-200 per head. The deal with Casino Royale was very tempting, with music, free F&B, Casino, etc. @ Rs. 1500 per head, but the down side was that one has to spend almost 10-12 Hrs on the cruise once they sail out at 8 PM.

So we decided to come back in the evening for a short cruise. We drove back to Calangute, and decided on “Hotel Infantria” for liesurely lunch. We ordered few beef, pork and chicken dishes from the continental menu. After spending almost 3 Hrs on lunch, we trudged back to the hotel and slept for 90 minutes before the first among us hit the pool. After several rounds of competitions and pranks in the pool we dragged ourselves out, freshened up, drove down to Panaji, only to find that we missed the last of short cruises by a couple of minutes. Without wasting much time we drove back to Calangute beach. This beach is much cleaner than Baga beach (that we visited the previous night, er.. well past mid night). There are a few restaurants facing the beach, but there is one restaurant who placed tables right on the beach, we went for this one. We must have spent around 2 Hrs taking in the sights and sea breeze. The sea breeze and the exertions earlier in the day made a few of us yearn for a quiet dinner and long sleep in the cosy confines of our hotel. So, some of us (incl. yours truly) retired to the hotel at 11 PM, while the others headed for the watering holes in Baga beach, mainly to check out the new crowd we have seen driving in to the nearby hotels for a weekend in Goa.

Next morning the routine was almost same, except that I did not have to pop in my Meftal forte. The plan for the day was to visit the South Goa beaches. Some of us had started early to visit nearby Anjuna beach. We decided on visiting Colva and Majorda among the beaches in the South. It took us almost 2 Hrs to drive down to Colva beach from Calangute. Colva is definitely more picturesque than Calangute or Baga. There is a resort right on the beach, that has a neat restaurant offering direct view of the beach. The food was good and so was the crowd, which kept building up through out the afternoon with tourists, ostensibly from Mumbai and Pune.

Sights at Colva beach

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After finishing lunch at 4 PM, we moved on to Majorda beach on our way back to Calangute. Majorda beach is much quieter and cleaner. The beach bed is also very flat much like Suryalanka beach in A.P. For once we all were tempted to swim in the sea, but the “life guards” stationed there warned us against it. Though we were not so sure of the life guards’ wisdom, we just complied with their advice and moved on. After reaching our hotel in Calangute, we went for the pool right away because we were in no mood to waste even a minute considering that we wanted to start our return jounrey next morning (Sunday) immediately after breakfast.

We spent couple of hours in the pool, having fun watching 2 non-swimmers among us trying to drown each other in the pool. That night, as expected, every watering hole near Baga beach was packed with the weekend crowd. So, we happily did some sincere pub hopping and wound up finally at 3 AM.

After breakfast next day, we went to Mapusa market for some value shopping and to buy the local varieties in beverages. After confirming with the vendor about the legal limit per person to carry local beverages across the border, I enquired about Amboli ghat route. My original plan was to travel to Bijapur via Amboli ghat, Belgaum, Athni, for overnight halt and for some sight seeing at Bijapur next morning. The vendor advised me against taking Amboli ghat route because of the crowds that throng during weekends to enjoy the waterfalls. Recalling the crowds we have seen while driving to Goa on a Thursday, we have decided to try out the route to Belgaum via Margao that the vendor alluded to. It was only after crossing Panaji it dawned on me that this route must be Londa-Ponda route. Even during the tour planning I have resolved not to use this route because of the bad roads and the truck traffic. So, we have turned our original plan on its head, and decided to drive to Hyderabad via Karwar, Hubli, Hospet, Raichur and Mahabubnagar. The other group from Guntur had any way planned to go via Hubli, Hospet, Bellary and Kurnool (with a stop over at Hospet, and sight seeing at Hampi the next morning). So all of us were happy to spend one more day together. We drove at not so great speeds across south Goa and were stopped just before Karwar at the border check post. First it was the turn of Goa excise staff. We had all licenses/permits except for Fenny and port wine we were carrying (the vendor at Mapusa told us that no permits are required to carry Fenny and port wine across the border). So, as you would have guessed, we still had to shell out some money (Rs.50) to get away with all our bottles. Next is the turn of Karnataka excise and police, who robbed us of further Rs. 150 and Rs. 100, respectively. Since we started little earlier than the group from Guntur, I immediately called them up to warn them about the “procedures” at the border check post. As it turns out, one member of that group apparently started arguing with the custodians of law and was promptly relieved of Rs. 2000. That aside, the sights of Arabian ocean at Karwar and Devbagh beach are awesome.

On NH-17 towards Karwar

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The views near Karwar/ Devbagh beach

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We exited the NH 17 just before Ankola and joined the Highway leading to Hubli-Hospet-Bellary-Gooty. By now, it was almost 2.30 PM, and we were depserately looking for a dhaba. We found a dhaba after almost 15 minutes. The dhaba was large, clean and nestled among picturesque hills.

My car parked near the dhaba

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Dhaba in a serene location

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We had a liesurely lunch and resumed our drive at 4 PM. Our plan was to reach Hospet (which is 290 KM away) by 9 PM, stay overnight and to start early next day for completing a short tour of Hampi by noon, so that we can reach Hyderabad by 7-8 PM. However, we could only reach Gadag at 8.45 PM, Hampi is another 90 KM away. So, we decided to halt at Gadag, which we found to be a large town. That very moment, we knew that we have to skip Hampi tour if we have to reach Hyderabad, ~ 500 KM away via Raichur, by sunset next day. So, next day we started at 8.30 AM from Gadag and reached Hyderabad (via gajendra gadh, kushtagi, sindhanur, raichur and Mahabunagar) at 7.30 PM. We were terribly slowed down by the narrow roads between Gadag and Sindhanur (almost 170 KM).

Wind mills at Gajendra gadh

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Our friends from Guntur later informed us that we could have done much better had we chosen Gadag-Hospet-Bellary-Alur-Kurnool-Jadcherla-Hyderabad route. The roads were apparently good, the distance would have been 460 KM. Any ways, on our way back we stopped at a dhaba outside Raichur to continue our practice of having a liesurely lunch.

Summary of distances

Hyderabad-Raichur via Mahabubnagar: 250 KM
Raichur-Bagalgot via Lingsigur: ~220 KM
Bagalkot-Belgaum: ~100 KM
Belgaum-Calangute via Amboli and Mapusa: ~155 KM
Total distance for onward journey: ~725 KM, Time taken (incl. lunch and tea breaks): 17.5 Hrs

Calangute-Gadag via Karwar and Hubli: 330 KM
Gadag-Raichur via Sindhanur: 240 KM
Raichur-Hyderabad via Mahabubnagar: 250 KM
Total distance for return journey: 820 KM, Time taken (incl. lunch and tea breaks): 20 Hrs

Even 2 days before the tour, I was worried about driving in unfamiliar territory in the monsoon rains lashing across Karnataka and Goa, and I was worried about staying indoors in Goa if it continues to rain heavily for those 3 days. Luckily there were no rains at all during my entire 6 day tour, except for nice cloud cover and some brief showers. Secondly, we also got very lucky with hotel rates because of the slack reason. The entire tour cost us Rs. 6000 per head, incl. fuel for cars and men. It sort of made up for the slow night life at Goa on Thursday and Friday. In fact some of the famous joints like Titos and Brittos are closed for the entire month of July.

Last but not the least, the tour made all of us feel much younger, though the truth is that all of us gained weight during the tour and were looking older.


Holiday season

January 10, 2009

 

Firstly, Happy New Year, Happy Sankranthi/Pongal/Baisakhi, Happy holidays to every one.

 

I am yet to settle down into a steady blogging mode. So if any one is coming back frequently to see a new post from me, my apologies. I am assuming that there are at least a couple of visitors like that J, based on the fact that my blog now has registered more than 10,000 hits. Thanks dudes for that JJJ

 

My blogging was also affected by the work pressures accentuated by the recession in global markets. Today I am leaving on a short vacation to my home town. I will spend the next 3 days in doing a road trip across south coastal Andhra. Watch out for a travelogue and pictures on that trip soon.

 

As mentioned in my last post, I toured USA in Nov-08 for a short business trip. Though it was a really short trip of just 14 days, I visited 9 cities in USANew York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Miami and Pittsburg. Sadly I could not do much sight seeing in any of these places because it was all business in the day and quiet dinners in the nights, and packing & unpacking suitcases every day. Of course, I have visited some of these cities in my previous trips to USANew York, Atlanta and Chicago.

Gateway Arch

“Gateway Arch” in St. Loius

 

More of St. Louis

More of St. Louis

 

CNN center @ Atlanta

CNN center @ Atlanta

 

From outside the CNN Center

Outside the CNN Center

 

Images from the tradeshow I attended

Images from the tradeshow I attended

 

Images from the tradeshow I attended

Images from the tradeshow I attended

 

I always enjoyed touring in USA for its friendly people, the sights, and the food (global cuisine, and the steaks). From whatever little first hand experience I had in European countries, USA is a much better tourist-friendly place. But, from the 2nd day itself I would start missing the hustle and bustle, smells, heat and dust of India. There is nothing like India.


Vacation in Dandeli and Goa

December 19, 2008

 

As mentioned in my previous post, I was very busy in the last couple of months with traveling. In October I took a short vacation to Dandeli and Goa with my family. In November I was on a 3-week business trip to USA.

 

Firstly about my vacation in Dandeli and Goa. Dandeli is in North Karnataka, about 130 KM from Goa. Our plan was to travel to Dandeli by train (it’s just a little more than overnight journey from Hyderabad), spend a couple of days there and then travel to Goa by road, and finally return to Hyderabad by flight.

 

We started from Kacheguda station for Dandeli. This was first long distance train journey I took with my wife and kid after a long time, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. We alighted at Londa Jn, from where “Hornbill resort” people received us for a 40 KM drive. On the first day we stayed in a picturesque and exotic tree-top cottage and the next day we moved to a rockhouse cottage, as we originally planned. I was glad that I made that arrangement. Though the idea of a tree-top cottage overlooking the river Kali was very romantic, I could not sleep peacefully thru the night because the windows do not have shutters (they just have curtains) and you can feel and hear small creatures/insects crawling under the cabin floor. Spent the next morning looking at the Mist-laden river Kali in full flow. Dandeli’s USP is river rafting. The rapids in river Kali are not very dangerous and that makes Dandeli ideal location for clubbing river rafting with a 2-day stay with mother nature. I saw a lot of young tourists preferring to stay in tent houses in the resort. Except for river rafting we tried every thing else  on offer – trekking in the forest, paddle boating, natural Jacuzzi (i.e. squatting in the way of rapids amongst the rocks) and fishing. The food served in buffet style in the resort was good. The down side of the resort was that there is no TV and no group activities were organized by the resort people. It can get boring after you are done with your trekking, fishing, lazing in the sun, etc. The Ilayaraja songs loaded into my mobile phone helped me kill some time though. Overall, I would strongly recommend a trip to Dandeli if you love nature.

 

Tree-houseinside tree-houseroom with a viewroom with a view

 with mother naturerock house 

Rapids- River Kali

river raftingideal for natural-jacuzzi

 

The resort people arranged a cab to drive us to Goa from Dandeli, for a fee of Rs. 2500, phew.. We booked in to a 2* property near Baga beach. The hotel has a small swimming pool that I and my 5-year old son used every morning and evening J

 

This was my first trip to Goa, and I was not exactly impressed. In spite of reading a lot of reviews – I felt – I could have prepared better in choosing the right location among numerous beaches in Goa, and in choosing the company J And, I should have planned for a longer stay than 2 days.

 

Baga beach is one of the dirtier beaches I have ever seen. Sadly I assumed that Calangute beach next door would be equally bad, and hence did not visit that. We killed time in the hotel or in restaurants for most of those 2 days. I liked the easy-going crowd and the restaurants – Baga beach thankfully has a lot of good restaurants. I had also planned to experience the famous discos in the neighborhood, but the action always starts after 10.30 PM and my son fell asleep before 10 PM on both days. We did, however, enjoy the scooter rides thru paddy fields to the nearby markets.

 )

Goa, I shall be back soon with my friends and for at least 3-day vacation.


Good begining to the month of August

August 14, 2008

 

Been quite busy past few weeks and hence no blogging.

 

Joined my new job on Aug 4. Really felt good to receive such a rousing welcome (yes, there was a formal reception) from old colleagues who I worked with during 2003-07. As expected there was no formal orientation and not even a honeymoon period, so I had to hit the ground running. There was so much to do, and I am loving it.

 

Seems like this month will be very good to me. A property deal that was dragging its feet for the past 4 months was finally settled this week. Made a quick trip to Tenali to attend to this task, but the public did not notice it because “Superstar” Krishna also was visiting his hometown (Tenali) on the same day J

 

Took a few days off last month to spend some time with my friends at Guntur. I was joined on this trip by some of my Hyderabad-based friends. So we hopped over to Suryalanka beach resort (operated by APTDC) and spent a whole day there. They charged Rs. 1100 per day for an AC cottage with double beds. I believe they charge Rs. 200 more during the weekends. As we were there on a week day there was not much crowd, which suited us very well. The beach was very flat and one can wade into the sea for almost 50-60 meters during low tide. We spent more than 2 hrs swimming in the sea in the morning. Couple of points about the resort that I want to highlight – Outside food is not allowed and hence one has to put up with just-okayish food served by the canteen. Two, the place can get lonely during the week days, so not ideal for a single family even though NO security issues are reported so far.

 

Finally, I join my fellow Indians in doffing my hat to Abhinav Bindra, India’s only gold medal winner at Olympics in an individual sport. No praise is too high for him. Back in 2002 when I and my wife were considering various names that start with Abhi for my first born, I plumped for Abhinav because the guy was already making waves in international sports. I hope that my son will achieve at least 1% of what AB has achieved.


Weekend getaways from Hyderabad – Part 3

July 11, 2008

Concluding my posts on this topic, the following are the tourist spots that will take more than a weekend to visit, but are highly recommended if you are truly interested in exploring this part of the country: 

 

·      Srisailam, Mahanandi, Mantralayam and Ahobilam: I have clubbed these places together because one can plan to visit these places in single trip spanning 2-3 days. Srisailam is one of Jyothirlingas in India. It is some 250 KM from Hyderabad. Srisailam is also one of the most naturally beautiful lolcations in Andhra Pradesh. The drive from Hyderabad thru thick forest and hills would be very enjoyable. Apart from the temple, one can also visit the dam (on Krishna River) that abuts a huge Hydel power project. Mahanandi is about 120 KM south of Srisailam. Mahanandi is surrounded by Nallamala forests. About 15 km radius from Mahanandi, you can see nine Nandis known as “Navanandis” and Mahanandi is one of the Nava Nandis. From here, you have to travel southeast for about 65 KM to reach Ahobilam which another beautiful temple (Lord Narasimha) located on a hill in thick forests. Ahobilam is one of the 106 Divya Desams. From Ahobilam, you can return to Hyderabad (~380 KM) via Nadyal, Kurnool and Jedcherla. Or, you can travel to Mantralyam, some 160 KM to the west, to visit the temple/Mutt of Guru Raghavendra Swamy. The temple and “Mutt” complex is the main attraction here. Behind the temple the Tungabhadra river flows, if the rains are good in that year, which is also worth seeing. From Mantralayam, you can return to Hyderabad (~360 KM) via Raichur and Jedcherla.

 

·     Konaseema (in East and West Godavari districts): Konaseema area in Godavari delta is famous for its lush green paddy fields, coconut groves and, of course, its back waters. The major tourist attractions here are – 1) the Boat cruise that starts at Dindi  (near Narsapur/Palakollu) which also houses a brand new APTDC guest house and some private guest houses, 2) boat ride up to papikondalu (a hill range located between Bhadrachalam and Rajahmundry, through which river Godavari flows) from pattiseema near Rajahmundry, and 3) a host of temples near Amalapuram/Kakinada (Ainavilli, Muktheswaram, Muramalla, Draksharama, Kotipalli, G.Mamidada, Biccavolu, Pavivela, Mandapalli, Ryali, Vanapalli, Appanapalli, Antarvedi). Narsapur, Rajahmundry and Kakinada are accessible by train also. But I would rather you drive down to those places enjoying the greener parts of Krishna and Godavari districts. Decent hotels are available in Bhimavaram (near Narsapur), Rajahmundry and Kakinada, but at the other places you will have to make do with Panchayati Raj or forest guesthouse.

 

 

·      Visakhapatnam, Annavaram, Araku, Bheemili: Visakhapatnam is the most beautiful place in Andhra Pradesh, period. Within the city you have places like Simhachalam (Appala Narasimhaswamy temple), Kailasa Giri – beautifully landscaped hill that gives a panoramic view of Vizag city, Gangavaram beach (abutting Vizag Steel Plant) where many Telugu/Tamil/Hindi movies were shot, and, of course, the famous beach road that stretches up to Rishikonda (where a lot of resorts are under construction) that is the site of Kali Temple, Naval Museum and Dolphin Nose (a view point). The city tour can be completed in a day. You need one full day for driving down to Annavaram (Sathyanarayana Swamy Temple) and return by evening. Then you need one full day for visiting Araku valley, with stopovers at Borra Caves and Tyda. Bheemili a.k.a. Bheemunipatnam is a small Dutch settlement 25 KM from Vizag. Its beach is very safe for swimming. The other sights of interest at Bheemili are Old Dutch fort, Church, Cemetery and Light House.

 

     Bijapur-Badami-Pattadakal-Aihole-Hampi: This essentially is a trip for history lovers. We go thru the ruins of the capital cities/ temple cities built by Adil Shah dynasty (one of the 4 Bahamani sultanates), Chalukyans, and the great Vijayanagar Kings. Bijapur has many historical attractions, mainly related to Islamic architecture, such as Gol Gumbaz, Ibrahim Rauza, Asar mahal, Gagan Mahal, etc. The drive from Hyderabad to Bijapur is 400 KM (try to stop over at “Café Ethnic” near Zahirabad, a unique restaurant that prepares a lot of dishes by using only millets). After overnight stay, the following day would be entirely consumed by sightseeing in Bijapur. Bijapur has decent options for accommodation. The next day, we travel to Badami, the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. It is famous for rock cut and other structural temples. The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Do you know that “Barso re” song in the film Guru was shot in Badami? From Badami we travel to Pattadakal, which is 22 km way. Pattadakal is the capital of the Chalukya dynasty of Southern India, who built the temples in the seventh and eighth centuries. There are ten temples including a Jain sanctuary surrounded by numerous small shrines and plinths. Four temples were built in Dravidian style, four in nagara style of Northern India and the Papanatha temple in mixed style. Remember, Pattadakal is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, no less. We then travel to Aihole, which  was the first capital of the early Chalukyas. Here they built over 125 temples in various styles and is said to be a laboratory of experiments in rock cut architecture. Visit Badami’s cave temples in the morning and visit Pattadakal and Aihole in the afternoon/evening, and stay overnight at Badami/Bagalkot. Next day we travel to Hampi, a drive of 150 KM, and take in some sights in the afternoon, and go to Hospet for overnight stay. We continue the sightseeing in Hampi next day too. Hampi is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Vast stretches of boulder-strewn hills make the backdrop of Hampi unique. Dotted around the hills and valleys are 500 plus monuments. Among them are beautiful temples, basement of palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, royal platforms, treasury buildings.., the list is practically endless. The return to Hyderabad, a drive of 350 KM, is via Gangawati, Raichur and Jedcherla.