They call it the City of Destiny and its residents agree that it is worthy of the name. One thing’s for sure: Visakhapatnam (Vizag for short) in Andhra Pradesh state isn’t your typical Indian tourist destination, but it has a charm of its own.
Known for its landscapes ranging from hills to beaches, the Jewel of the East Coast is one of the cleanest cities in India. As home to the country’s deepest port, it is the headquarters of its largest naval command. More than its maritime importance, the city is the gateway to significant Buddhist and Hindu sites.
There are a number of parks in Vizag with lookout points, among them is Kailasagiri, which has stunning sunset views of the city. Noted for the gigantic statues of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati, Kailasagiri can be reached via ropeway. At 150 hectares, the park is large but can be covered on a toy train.
Farther and less developed than the more popular RK and Rishikonda Beaches, Yarada Beach is famous for the Dolphin’s Nose, a cliff that resembles its namesake. The big waves make it unsuitable for swimming, but the peaceful setting is ideal for picnics.
Colourful fishing boats make the Fishing Harbour a good location to shoot video and photography, though the strong fishy smell might repel some. A boat ride is a touristy but fun way to see the harbour. Come early in the morning to see the wholesale fish market in action.
Simhachalam Hill in the suburbs of Vizag is an important pilgrimage centre because of the Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, where the Hindu god Vishnu has been worshipped since the 9th century. The temple is a mix of architectural styles, reflecting the changing trends over the centuries.
One of the two Narasimha temple tanks is the scenic Gangadhara, or Varaha Pushkarini, at the bottom of the hill. The natural spring water is said to have medicinal properties.
Further out, the legendary Borra Caves in the Araku Valley (90km from Vizag) are believed to be 150 million years old. The cave formations have been named after characters they resemble. Stone Age tools from 30,000 years ago and older have been found in the cave.
The Visakhapatnam Circuit of Buddhist pilgrimage sites include the 1st century CE rock-cut stupas of Sankaram, the Bavikonda complex, and the monastery complex of Salihundam. Other ancient Buddhist sites accessible from Vizag are Pavuralakonda and Thatlakonda. As the sites are in ruins, a guide is recommended to explain the significance of the structures.
Back within city limits, the INS Kursura Submarine Museum is the first of its kind in Asia. Decommissioned in 2001 after 31 years of service, the submarine is now at RK Beach, where you can see how its crew lived and worked in close quarters.
GETTING THERE AirAsia flies to Vizag from Kuala Lumpur. For fares and flight info, visit airasia.com.