Lesser known tourist places in Hyderabad

July 17, 2008

 

Hyderabad is home to so many historical monuments, parks, lakes and natural rock formations that the “Top 20” tourist attractions steal the lime light completely away from the other toursit spots. In this post I would try to throw light on some of the lesser known tourist attractions. I would be grateful if any of you could add to this list (by doing so in comments section). Here we go.

 

Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park: The park is located in Vanasthalipuram, on the outskirts of Hyderabad city on the Hyderabad- Vijayawada road. Once the Nizam’s (former Hyderabadi rulers) hunting grounds, it is now home to the beautiful black bucks with their spiral horns along with several species of birds.   

The deer park maintained by the Forest Department, has an undulating terrain, of 189 hectares dominated by acacia trees and grasslands. The park looks picturesque in the monsoon with the golden and white flowers of these trees on the lush green carpet of grass. Besides Acacias, neem, Bauhinias, Buteas ( Flame of the forest) and a variety of thorny scrub species are found in this dry scrub forest. The main species of fauna found here is the endangered Black Buck, the state animal of Andhra Pradesh. There are over 400 black bucks (Amtelope Cervicapara), about 500 Cheetals and large herds of wild boar. Several species of birds like Partridges, Quails, peacocks, Doves, pond herons, egrets, kingfishers, cormorants and birds of prey like kites, vultures etc are found here.

balckbuck

balckbuck

  

 

 

 

There are rest sheds and observation towers for viewing the animals inside the park. There are facilities available for a van ride inside the park to see the animals from close quarters for a nominal fee. The park is open every day of the week except Mondays from 9.a.m. to 5 p.m. 

 

Update: A multi-cuisine restaurant named “Peacock” will be opened at the park very soon.

 

 

Raymond’s Tomb was built in the memory of the brave French General Michel Joachim Marie Raymond (1755 – 1798 AD). Raymond’s Tomb is situated in Mussaram Bag, Malakpet. He joined as an ordinary soldier in the service of the ruling Nizam of Hyderabad. He rapidly worked his way up and soon commanded the position of an army General. Not only was he respected in the army, he was also popular among the ordinary public. He was fondly known as Musa Ram among the Hindus and Musa Rahim among the Muslims. Now you know why the place of Ramond Tomb is called Musarambagh!

The tomb is open on all days except Friday. The timings are from 9:30 am to 4:30pm. While touring the tomb, you can also head off to the French Garden, which is located nearby. It is a beautifully laid out lawn with velvety green grass and lovely flowers. You can also spot military barracks of the army that were once bustling under the command of the valiant general Raymond.

 

 

Moula-Ali Dargah: This Dargah is built on a hilltop near Moula-Ali, in North-Eastern corner of Hyderabad. The bird’s eye view of Hyderabad city from atop the Moula-Ali hill would be breathtaking. Moula-Ali dargah is unique in a sense because it does not contain the buried remains of any sufi saint like in the case of other dargahs, it was built on the site of a miracle.  According to the legend, a Muslim princess experienced a recurring dream in which she saw Hazrat Ali’s handprint on the side of a mountain.  Hazrat Ali, in case you don’t know, is son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. After years of searching for the handprint, she finally came to the area north of Hyderabad, inquired among locals about their knowledge of such a handprint, and found the image on a rock atop the hill where the dargah was later built. BTW, this dargah is one of the 11 heritage sites identified by “Heritage conservation committee” of HUDA. To make life easy for the visitors there is a long staircase to climb up the hill to reach Dargah.

Advertisements

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.


Weekend getaways from Hyderabad – part 2

July 11, 2008

In continuation of the last post on the same topic, the following are the tourist spots that can be done from Hyderabad in 2 days:

·         Tirupathi and Srikalahasti: Abodes of Lord Venkateswara and Lord Shiva respectively, they are some 600 KM away from Hyderabad. Srikalahasti is a major shaivite temple, and is located 30 KM from Tirupathi. The best route to reach Tirupathi by road is via Narketpally, Miryalaguda, Addanki, Ongole, Nellore and Nayudupeta. This way you can avoid thick traffic on some parts of Hyderabad-Vijayawada and Vijayawada-Chennai routes. Decent accommodation is available in Tirupathi and Tirumala (hilltop).

 

·         Srisailam: Srisailam is one of Jyothirlingas in India. It is some 250 KM from Hyderabad. Srisailam is also one of the most naturally beautiful locations 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.  Decent accommodation is available in Srisailam in private guesthouses or APTDC guesthouse.

 

·         Vijayawada (Kanaka Durga temple) and Mangalagiri (Narasimha Swamy temple) located on banks of river Krishna – 270 KM from Hyderabad. The other sightseeing options available at Vijayawada are – Undavalli caves (built in 420 AD), APTDC resort on Bhavani Island, on River Krishna abutting Vijayawada city. Accommodation for all budgets is available in Vijayawada.

 

·         Amaravati (Shaivite and Buddhist center): Though it is a historically important place, being the capital of Satavahanas who ruled most of south India and Deccan between 2nd century BC and 3rd AD, this place is known more as one of the largest excavation sites of Buddhist heritage in India. Lord Buddha preached at Dharanikota/Dhanyakatakam and conducted Kalachakra ceremony, which takes the antiquity of Amaravati back to 500 BC. Some of the finds from the excavation are preserved a museum here. Amaralingeswara Swamy temple is a major shaivite center. Amaravati is immortalized by a compilation of short stories called Amaravathi Kathalu (that was later made into a Hindi tele-serial) and many Telugu films (most notably Saptapadhi by K.Viswanath). One can reach Amaravathi via Narketpally, Miryalaguda and Guntur. As there are no decent hotels in Amaravathi, one can stay at Guntur (30 KM away) where accommodation for all budgets is available.

 

·         Warangal-Hanamkonda: Warangal was the capital of the Kakatiya dynasty which ruled most of present day Andhra Pradesh from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The Kakatiyas left many monuments, including an impressive fortress, four massive stone gateways, the Swayambhu temple dedicated to Shiva, and the Ramappa temple situated near Ramappa Lake. Warangal is also the home of my alma mater – REC, Warangal (now rechristened as NIT, Warangal) J. The major sights in Warangal are Thousand Pillar Temple (built by Kakatiyas), Bhadrakali Temple (near a huge lake with boating options), the Kakatiya fort, and Ramappa temple near palampet village (77 KM from Warangal). The drive to Warangal from Hyderabad, via Bhongir, is very conveniently short (2.5 Hrs), and decent accommodation is available in hotels in Hanamkonda and Warangal.

 

·         Medak, Pocharam Dam, Nizam Sagar Dam: Medak is a town 100 KM from Hyderabad. The church at Medak is built in Gothic style and is considered to be the largest in Asia. Medak also has a small fort on a hillock. 15 KM from Medak is Pocharam Lake with a dam, and Pocharam Wild life sanctuary which used to be a hunting ground for the Nizam. Nizam Sagar dam, 50 KM from Medak, was constructed across the Manjira River, a tributary of the Godavari River. The site is noted for its splendid scenic beauty. The most outstanding feature of the project is the gigantic masonry dam sprawling across the river for 3 km with a motorable road of 14ft width over it. The nearby Manjira wildlife & bird sanctuary comprises of nine small islands which are home to a number of resident and migratory birds in addition to Marsh Crocodiles and Muggers.

 

·         Suryalanka: This is a beautiful beach that has become popular recently with the weekend crowds from Hyderabad and nearby cities. This flat beach has a gradual slope with a wide shore. APTDC has built a few AC cottages that are just 50 yards from the undulating waves. One can reach Suryalanka via Narketpally-Miryalagua-Guntur-Bapatla. While you are there you may also want to visit vadarevu beach near chirala which is quite beautiful and quiet.

 

·         Faraharabad: It has a wild life resort nestled in Nallamala hills on Hyderabad-Srisailam route. In February 2004 Naxalites had blasted a dozen ethnic cottages with plush interiors and a hanging restaurant that presented a panoramic view of the area and a huge structure here. APTDC has revived the resort with the help of local tribal mean who will oversee the operation of the cottages. The spot is an eco-paradise, rich in flora and fauna, including tiger, neelgai, sambar and spotted deer.

 

      Belum caves and Alampur: Belum Caves is 320 KM from Hyderabad, located on Kurnool-Nadyal road. It is the largest cave system in the plains of India. The underground caves are located on a flat agricultural field, have 3 well like cavities with the centre one being the main entrance to the caves. Stalactite and stalagmite formations are the main attraction apart from the fascinating colour illumination. This bagged the award for the “unique Eco – Tourism Project” by Government of India. There is just an APTDC-operated dormitory in the viscinity and the food available in local canteen is paltry. Hence, one has return to Kurnool for overnight stay, if you are planning to extend this trip by visiting Alampur (near Kurnool) that is home to the very ancient Navabhramma temples dating back to the 7th century. The Nava Bhramma temples were built by the Badami Chalukyas, who ruled for about 200 years from the middle of the sixth century onwards. The Badami Chalukyas built several temples in Karnataka, and the Alampur temples in Andhra Pradesh.