The first weekend of March 2020 took me to Visakhapatnam (Vizag, a city located in the south-east of India). I traveled to the city to attend a friend’s wedding and it gave me the much needed break, from the busy, mega city of Bangalore.
I started from home in the afternoon on a Saturday, covered the ~40 km long distance to the airport and finally boarded my flight. The turbulent skies during the flight hinted at a cloudy weather, in the beach town of Vizag, where I was about to arrive.
I had heard the earliest stories about Vizag from my mother, who had travelled to the city, more than three decades back. She was travelling for her research on the lives of tribal families, as a part of her Masters course in Anthropology. I feel, it was her unique experiences, that always pulled me subconsciously into the city. And i was all excited to see what it had in store.
The plan making
After reaching there on Saturday night, I had my dinner and started planning the next day. Arathi (my friend, who was also travelling to the city for the wedding) and I, made plans to go to the beach for a morning walk. And may be, if the schedule (of Sunday) permits, see the Submarine Musuem. Once we were done with our basic planning, we retired for the night, to ready ourselves for the next day.
At around 6.30 in the morning on Sunday, we set out for RK (Ramakrishna) beach. The beach is located well within the city and is responsible for making the marine drive of Vizag, beautiful. That Sunday was International women’s day. So when we arrived at the Marine drive, we saw women police officials, bank employees and many others had gathered together for a Women’s day parade on the Marine drive. The mood was upbeat and we witnessed the enthusiastic paraders, as they marched on with a message.
We walked over to the beach and strolled for a while. I dipped my feet in the sea, while watching the waves crash onto the shore rhythmically. People around us were also walking, bathing in the sea, jogging, playing beach volleyball. The vibe was just like another beach town, jolly, fun, very different from that of a cold hilly place, like Bangalore. I was enjoying the sudden change, mentally reveling in the beats of the city.
On our way back, we visited the Dakshineshwar temple (a replica of the original one), which overlooks the RK beach. The beach is named after swamy Ramakrishna Paramhansa (Guru of Swamy Vivekananda). Swamy Ramkrishna had built the original shrine (in Belur Math, West Bengal) dedicated to goddess Kali.
As we exited the shrine, the hunger pangs grew louder and we landed up at Mr. Idly for breakfast, located quite close to the temple. I tried Ghee roast masala dosa and Arathi had a plain dosa. One of the most unique things was the potato curry fillling inside the masala dosa. The small restaurant had given a unique spicy twist to the taste and we loved it. So if you travel to RK beach, do go to Mr. Idly and try the masala dosa/ghee roast masala dosa. Please note that the place is super humble, but the food sure is great. It is located right behind Matsyadarshini Aquarium on Dr. NTR beach road.
On our way back, we also walked up to Ram Krishna Mission prayer hall. Vedic chanting was going on, as we entered. We sat there for about 10-15 minutes and absorbed the positive vibrations of the chants. Then we returned back to our guest house.
We rested for a while and post noon, went for lunch at the bride’s house. After a sumptuous lunch we had a small window of time, after which we had to start getting ready for the wedding. In that small duration, we decided to pay a quick visit to the submarine museum.
Visit to the Submarine Museum
Located at RK beach, INS Kursura (now a museum) was a submarine of the Indian Navy. The submarine had participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
Now the submarine has been converted into a museum and is open for public visitors. INS Kurusura is the first submarine in Asia, to have been converted into a museum.
Experience at the Submarine Musuem
When i entered the museum, I was overwhelmed to see the number of controls and complex systems inside it. I was imagining how tough it must be to manage these and the level of deftness that must be required to do so. The submarine would carry about 70 people at once. The hardship of the submariners’ lives was also evident from the several cramped bunk beds, that were located across the compartments of the submarine.
The tourists could easily walk through the doors between these compartments. We were told by the guide, that these doors had been widened for tourists and are much narrower in reality. All this again got me thinking that, how mentally strong one has to be, to be able to stay inside this compact space, especially for 2-3 months at a stretch.
This reminded me of the Cu Chi tunnels in South Vietnam. A small stretch of the tunnel there has been widened, to let the tourists experience it. When I was there, then too i was riddled by similar thoughts, that how tough the life of the rebels must have been, who lived inside those narrow tunnels for years together, in the tumultuous times of the war.
Coming back to the submarine museum, the tour of the museum lasts for about 10-15 mins. The tour happens in batches, only when one batch (of 6-7 people) moves to next compartment, the next batch enters the submarine. The guides there, tell you the details about the history, the operations and the life of the submariners (quite listlessly :P) . One must ask questions (if interested) to get more answers, else they just want you to move onto the next compartment :P.
On completing the tour, we went back to our guest house. In the evening, after winning over the challenge to wear a saree (traditional Indian wear), finally, we arrived at the wedding. Apart from taking a lot of pictures (with and without the bride), the other highlight was the amazing local sweets, which we tried at the wedding.
The amazing sweets of Vizag
There were three sweets which I liked a lot, which were Pootharekulu, Bobbatlu and Booré. Sharing some details of the same below:
- Pootharekulu (paper thin rolled rice shells with stuffed jaggery and dry fruits)
2. Bobbatlu (pancake/flatbread stuffed with a sweet mix made out jaggery and chanal dal/petite yellow lentils, similar to holigay (of Karnataka) or Puranpoli (of Maharashtra))
3. Booré (sweet bonda/fritters with sweet stuffing)
Local tourist places we visited in Vizag
Once we married off our dear friend, we set out to explore vizag the next day. We had about half a day, before we had to catch our flight back to Bangalore and we decided to make the most of it.
We took an Ola rental for the day tour and visited all the places we planned, with a drop to the airport, at less than 30 USD.
Following are details of all the local tourist places, that we covered from 7.30 am in the morning to 4 pm in the evening:
1. Rushikonda beach
The beach is located up north from Visakhapatnam. With fewer people than RK beach, it is a nice place to hangout and play with the waves. The beach is also cleaner than RK beach. The waters are greyish blue and the small rocky stretch on the right side of the beach adds a unique element to the view. The beach offices and changing rooms are built with eco-friendly material (bamboo). Arathi and I just walked around, dipped our feet in the sea and soaked in the sun, to get a feel of the beach. And yes, we also spotted some tiny ghost crabs, playing peek-a-boo in the sand.
From Rushikonda, we drove down south towards the Kailasgiri hill. The drive from the beach to the hill is beautiful, with the sea accompanying you on the left hand side. The Indira Gandhi zoological park is also located in between the two locations and one can take a detour if they wish to and have the time for it.
As the car drove up the hill, we got a beautiful view of the sea and the beaches.
Kailasgiri hill has a park on the top, centered around huge statues of lord Shiva and Parvati. As we entered the park, we spotted the observatory belonging to the Meteorological department of India. Then we walked up to one of the observation points on the edge of the hill and gazed at the view from the top. We could see the Rushikonda beach from up there. It was a wonderful view.
The main attraction of the park, however is a toy train which takes you around the park and lets you enjoy the scenic view from the edges of the hill. The timings of the train are 10 am to 7 pm. They have, both AC and non-AC coaches. As we arrived a little earlier and had more things planned for the day, we missed out on the train ride. But I am sure it is fun and something different. The park also has lot of small eateries, however most of them open at around 10 am.
After Kailasgiri, we stopped for some breakfast at Café Military, which offered delicious food, at very pocket friendly prices. We had a very nice meal comprising of masala dosa, podi idli and vada, in just a little more than 2 USD.
Once done with breakfast, we started for the famous and revered Varaha Laksmi temple at Simhachalam. The temple history traces back to the 13th century and is one of the 32 Narasimha temples in Andhra Pradesh which are important pilgrimage centres.
The temple has a free entry/INR 20 entry/INR 100 entry. We opted for the INR 100 entry and did a quick darshan of the temple. Darshan happened smoothly and we left soon after, to save ourselves from the rising heat at noon time.
4. Ross Hill Church
After leaving from Simhachalam, we had our lunch in Kamat hotel. We had the Andhra prawn curry and rice there. It was delicious. We asked them to make it medium spicy and the taste came out perfectly.
From Kamat we set out towards further south of Visakhapatnam to visit the Ross Hill Church. To reach there, the car drove through the industrial side of the town, very close to the port. After crossing that area, as the car drives up the hill to reach the Church, one can also see a Mosque and a temple on the left hand side.
We finally reached top. Overlooking the sea and the port, Ross Hill Church boasts of a beautiful panoramic view of the Vishakhapatnam town.
The Church has a beautiful white façade, contrasted with blue borders, doors and windows. Built in 1904, the Church mesmerizes you by its simple beauty. The white and blue colours give it a Mediterranean look, which adds to a tourists delight. I took this opportunity to click a few pictures with the beautiful edifice.
Arathi and I reached the Church, at around 1.50 – 2 pm and we were tired from all the Vizag heat and humidity. We took off our shoes, entered the church and sat on the seats near the entrance. As the Church is accompanied by the sea on either side (also the front), the cool sea breeze, playing between the two entrance doors, suddenly hit us. All the tiredness was slowly washed away by the soothing breeze. The positivity inside the church also made us feel peaceful. We felt calm, almost meditative. We sat there for about 15-20 mins, absorbing all the energy. This experiences was to stay with me in my heart, as one of the most beautiful experiences in Vizag.
Finally we pulled ourselves out of the bliss, to carry on with our onward journey as planned. We had a 40 mins drive from the Church to Dolphin’s nose Light house, the last tourist spot on our list.
5. Dolphins’ nose Light house
Timings of the light house are 3 – 5 pm. We reached there just in time when the light house was about to open, so we got down from the car and stood in the queue for entering the premises. The entry fee is very nominal, its INR 10 for Adults and INR 3 for kids.
The hill, on which the light house is located is called so, because it resembles a dolphin’s nose. The lighthouse on this hill, guides ships entering the Visakhapatnam Port. The lighthouse was erected in 1957 and since then, it was opened for tourists as well. Photography is strictly prohibited from atop the lighthouse.
By the time we reached the place, the clouds had covered the sky, same as on the day when I flew into the city. It was a huge respite from the heat we experienced earlier in the day. The weather, coupled with the breeze from the unhindered, huge expanse of the sea, created an wonderful feeling. The grayish blue waters were dotted by numerous ships and fishing boats. It was a unique experience, one which makes you feel as if you are flying, on the edge of the world.
There were several tourists along with us, and we all stood there huddled up on the viewing floor, with each person hooked on to the view that they were exposed to. On one side it was the infinite blue, and on the other side, we saw the greens of the hill merging into the blues of the sea, creating a beautiful imagery.
Finally we descended from the lighthouse and made our way to the airport. By 4.30 pm we reach the airport, to board our flight back to Bengaluru. We had been successful in covering all the spots, make time to eat comfortably and finally reach the airport, as planned, well on time.
It was a successful half day trip of the city! And we were glad, that we could make it 🙂
Bonus: The wall paintings of Vizag
Apart from everything else that I mentioned, one thing which stood out for me about the city, was the sheer cleanliness of the it. Kudos to the Indian Navy, the city is spotless, with dustbins (after every few hundred meters) placed all over the city, with separate bins for wet and dry waste. It may be common place in the first world cities, but indeed is a rare sight and a commendable effort, in a developing country’s city.
To maintain cleanliness, one of the things which has been done, is, the city walls ave been beautifully coloured (so that people don’t spit, stamp or pee on it). Across the city, one can see on the walls, colours, paintings, patterns, created tastefully. These paintings depict different elements of nature and everyday life and is definitely a unique feature of the city. Sharing some amazing wall paintings that I was able to capture:
This brings me to the end of my beautiful Vizag trip, I hope that you all liked it and I also hope that it will be of help, in case you are planning a trip to the city.
For more information you can also visit the official website of Visakhapatnam tourism
Things to see in Viskhapatnam (which I have visited):
- RK beach
- Submarine Museum (On Dr. NTR beach road – Marine drive parallel to RK beach)
- Rushikonda beach
- Ross hill Church
- Dolphin’s Nose Light House
Rankings for the places I visited
|#||Places to visit||My Ranking||Remarks|
|1||RK beach||6||Beautiful location. People have left plastic products on the beach sands|
|2||Submarine Museum||3||Unique experience|
|3||Rushikonda beach||5||Wonderful drive to the beach|
|4||Kailasgiri||4||Highlight is the toy train and view of the beach from the top|
|5||Simhachalam||7||Will be ranked higher if you are a religious person|
|6||Ross hill Church||2||Amazing place|
|7||Dolphin’s Nose Light House||1||You will love it more, if the skies are cloudy|
Other places which you can also consider to visit (which I have not visited) are:
- Beaches – Yarada beach, Bheemli beach, Lawson’s Bay Beach, Gangavaram Beach etc.
- Indira Gandhi Zoological Park
- Matsyadarshini Aquarium ( On Dr. NTR beach road )
- Victory At Sea War Memorial (On Dr. NTR beach road)
- Aircraft Museum (Bang opp. of Submarine Musuem)
- VUDA Park
One day tour options from Visakhapatnam:
- Araku Valley (>3 hrs from Vizag) – Main attraction here is the glass top toy train that takes tourists from Vizag to the Valley. The reservations need to done months before travel date to ensure reservation
- Borra caves (~3 hrs from Vizag)
- Katiki Waterfalls (~3 hrs from Vizag)