Located in a bay with rocky promontories, Vishakhapatnam (popularly known as Vizag) commands a stunning position between the Eastern Ghats and the sea. Ancient temples, pristine beaches, verdant hills, maritime museums and Buddhist sites combine to make Vizag a great holiday destination. From a small fishing village of just a few hundred people, this eastern coastal city, has over the years, metamorphosed into a progressive, cosmopolitan port city and is today, the country’s largest ship building yard. This bustling industrial center houses big steel and petroleum refineries, as well as the Navy’s Eastern Command.
With its golden beaches and a long coastline, Vizag is a sea lover’s ultimate paradise. Vizag has a 25-km long seashore stretching languorously along the eastern flank of the city. Different stretches are known by different names. The most seductive of the beaches is Rishikonda Beach, very calm with panoramic views. The Ramakrishna Mission Beach and Lawson’s Bay are equally charming. The most prominent landmark in Vizag is the Dolphin’s Nose, a huge, rocky promontory jutting out into the sea and shaped like the nose of a dolphin. The powerful beacon of the lighthouse on this hill directs ships 65 km away. From here you can get a panoramic view of the city as well as the Bay of Bengal.
THE HILLY TRIO
The undulating terrain of Vizag is punctuated by three hills. The first, Ross Hill, is topped by Mother Mary’s church, where the pathway to the shrine is strewn with Catholic icons. The second hill, Durgakonda, has the tomb of a Muslim saint and is visited by Hindu and Muslim devotees alike. Sri Venkateshwara Konda, the third hillock, has a temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshswara and is believed to have been built by an Englishman, Captain Blackmoor, in the 19th century. With its rich mix of culture and religious harmony, Vizag is known to be one of the most peaceful cities in the country.
Once a Dutch settlement, Bheemunipatnam is a sleepy fishing hamlet to the north-east of Vizag, at the mouth of the Gosthani River. The ruins of their fort, the Dutch factory and cemetery are still found here. There is a Gothic style 19th century church here with beautiful stained glass, some old houses from the Dutch period, and other relics of the European past. The most unique feature is the array of obelisk –shaped tombstones in the cemetery which houses both Dutch and British graves. With the oldest graves dating back to the 17th century, this is among the most ancient European cemeteries in this part of India.
Housed in an antiquated Dutch bungalow, the maritime museum is dedicated to the naval history of Visakhapatnam. The museum has on display maritime memorabilia like knives used by seamen and divers, a ship’s crest, fog horns, an anti-aircraft missile and stunningly realistic models of ships. In the aviation section, there are pictures of naval aircraft, models of aircraft carriers, while the nautical gallery has on display instruments from ships and submarines that measure speed, distance and depth.
The museum on Ramakrishna Beach offers the opportunity to actually board a naval submarine and see its operations. The submarine, INS Kursura, built at Riga in Baltic region in 1969, traversed 73,500 nautical miles over 31 years including naval operations during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Inside one can see the control room, periscopes, nautical instruments and the torpedo room.
The village of Sankaram, 38 km west of Visakhapatnam, is famed for its Buddhist antiquities, the dilapidated remains of which are seen on two hills. Lingalakonda, the east hill, has several rock-cut stupas arranged in ascending tiers, dominated by the outlines of a large monolithic stupa. The Bojanakonda has a rock-cut temple with images in its niches and also a massive stupa.
Getting there: Vizag is 365 km from Vijayawada and 638 km from Hyderabad. It is well connected by road, rail and air to major cities.
What to eat: Try the hot and potent Andhra cuisine- the chicken curries, prawn masalas, bhagara bhaingan,chutneys, gongura pickles