HILL STATION / VALLEY

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HILL STATION / VALLEY

ARAKU VALLEY

Located at a height of 3,200 feet in the midst of the hills of Anantagiri, Araku Valley is a beautiful and enchanting hill station. Araku Valley is located about 120 km from Visakhapatnam in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The area of the valley is roughly 36 Sq.Kms. and the altitude is between 600 and 900 meters above mean sea level. From August or rather after the monsoon, is when the tourist season begins. The best time however is between November and February although by December/January the temperature often drops to four degrees. It's time to pack your bags and head to the Araku Valley. After a spell of rains, the valley is a verdant green. There's a chill in the air and on misty mornings the fields can be seen slowly creeping into a yellow blanket.


Since the days of the Raj, the lush green landscape and the salubrious climate of Araku Valley have been a major draw. Nestled in the Eastern Ghats, the valley has numerous cascading waterfalls and gushing streams. And as one drives through the winding ghat roads, the mild aroma of coffee from the numerous plantations sprinkled across the valley, greets the visitors.


The journey to Araku valley is most enjoyable when you travel by both rail and road, according to the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department. from Visakhapatnam. While the road, covered by thick jungle on both sides, snakes through the Anantagiri range, the rail takes you through 58 tunnels and over 84 bridges. The engineering marvel of the Kottavalasa-Kirandul line on the Waltair Division of the East Coast Railway will leave you awestruck. On the way to Araku is Shimliguda, a station perched at 997 m above sea level, which was the first highest broad-gauge railway station in the country till the construction of Qazigund in Jammu and Kashmir. While cabs are aplenty, there is only one train that leaves Visakhapatnam early in the morning and returns late at night. (For full details of Rail cum Road trip refer to TOURS section of this site).

Though civilisation has made deep inroads, the valley is still steeped in the culture of its ancient tribes. In the interior parts of the valley, the PTG (primitive tribal groups) have still not changed their lifestyle, and are hospitable to outsiders. Araku Valley is home to 19 indigenous tribes and offers a wonderful opportunity to get insights into the lifestyle of these tribes and their culture and traditions. Dhimsa dance, a kind of folk dance, is a major attraction for its rhythmic beats and colourful costumes. Itika Pongal is a popular festival that is celebrated in the region and is worth experiencing.The natural beauty of this valley is enhanced by the tribal people who abound here with their own folklore and traditions. Dhimsa Dance is a unique feature of the tribes of Araku, which is being organised in the nights of every Saturday and Sunday for entertaining tourists.


Getting there: Araku Valley is 120 km from Visakhapatnam. It can be reached either by road (three hours) or rail (five hours).
Where to stay: There are a number of hotels in Araku Valley with the APTDC having two resorts.
What to see:
The Botanical Garden at Padmapuram,
Government Silk Farm with Mulberry gardens,
Tribal Museum.

ANANTAGIRI

Anantagiri (Araku):
Located at a distance of 90 Km from Vizag, on the way to Araku valley, Ananthagiri Hills is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Vizag. It is an ideal retreat for nature lovers and honeymooning couples. Ananthagiri Hills is known for its beauty and natural splendor.

Another speciality of these hills is that it is a paradise for coffee lovers and nature enthusiasts. The village is surrounded by coffee estates that emit the rich aroma of coffee and the surrounding hillocks are home to cascading waterfalls that feed the lush greenery. The salubrious climate is an open invitation to rest, relax and rejuvenate.

Regarding the flora, Anantagiri forests embrace vast variety of medicinal plants and herbs. Cascading gorges, beautiful landscape and lush greenery would replenish your energies and revive you to the soul.
Once there, it is for sure that you would fall in love with the beauty of the Ananthagiri Hills.

Accommodation:
AP Tourism Corporation has setup a 3-star resort at Anantagiri, at a cost of Rs.5 crore, which is the perfect base for visiting the beautiful Araku Valley and exploring the ancient Borra Caves. The resort is equipped with 37 rooms, which are categorised as Standard Non-Air-Conditioned, Non-Air-Conditioned Cottage, Air-Conditioned Cottage and Air-Conditioned Luxury. All rooms in the resort have balconies, cable television, intercom, attached bath, hot and cold water and toiletries. Suites have a well-furnished living room and refrigerator. The resort offers railway station or airport transfers, bonfire and parking facility for guests.

TYDA

The AP Tourism Development Corporation joined hands with the State Forests Department to create an eco-tourism project and the result was Tyda. Located on the Visakhapatnam-Araku Ghat Road, Tyda is home to an extremely attractive forest resort called Jungle Bells, which is located at a height 2,000 feet above sea level. The road leading to this beautiful eco-tourism project is equally enchanting and alluring. The lush green fields, plantations and farms are breathtakingly beautiful. There is even a train ride that visitors can take to reach the forest resort. This ride is captivating and enthralling as the train meanders through dense forests, tunnels and hillocks. Jungle Bells is spread over an area of five acres and boasts of 18 beautifully furnished cottages. The surrounding forest is teeming with a wide array of wildlife. Visitors also can enjoy hiking, trekking, bird watching and visiting tribal hamlets located within the forest.

BORRA CAVES

BORRA GUHALU (BORRA CAVES) (In Telugu - 'Borra' means something that has bored into the ground and 'Guhalu' means caves.)

The Borra Caves, also called Borra Guhalu in Telugu Language (‘Borra’ means something that has bored into the ground and ‘guhalu’ means caves), are located on the East Coast of India, in the Ananthagiri hills of the Araku Valley (with hill ranges elevation varying from 800 m (2,624.7 ft) to 1,300 m (4,265.1 ft)) of the Visakhapatnam District in Andhra Pradesh. The caves, one of the largest in the country, at an elevation of about 705 m (2,313.0 ft), distinctly exhibit a variety of speleothems ranging in size and irregularly shaped stalactities and stalagmites. The caves are basically karstic limestone structures structures extending to a depth of 80 m (262.5 ft) (considered the deepest cave in India).

Located deep in the Earth, these million-year-old caves were discovered by British geologist William King in 1807, who served in Geological Survey of India. The beauty of the stalactites and stalagmites inside the caves, that have stood the test of millennia, have now been beautifully electrified and illuminated  by The Andhra Pradesh State Tourism Department, which  has installed 26 mercury, sodium vapour and halogen electric lamps, which provide beautiful views of the formations. Tourists visiting the caves are enchanted by the lighted caves.

The Palaeolithic cave, which is revered by the natives and is a tourist's delight, has both geological and Historical importance. Deep in the caves there is Sivalingam over which the water drips from above which is said to be the origin of the river Gosthani.The natives believe that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana lived in the caves for a while during their 14-year- exile and that the forest was a part of the mythological Kishkinda forests.

What to see: The million-year-old Borra Caves. The Gosthani River, which originates from these caves and flows between the solidified stalactites and stalagmites in the karstic limestones formation, is the cause for the development of the odd shapes of structures. Water percolating from the roof of the caves dissolve limestone and trickle drop by drop to form stalactite at the roof of the cave and then dripping down to the ground form stalagmite. These deposits have developed into interesting forms and structures inside the caves such as Shiva–Parvati, Mother–Child, Rishi’s beard, human brain, mushrooms, crocodile, temple, church, etc. These shapes have captured the imagination of tourists, while some have been given religious interpretations.  The geological features of these caves are stated to be found only in Borra in India. Archeological artifacts (Paleolithic implements) have been found in the caves. The excavations carried out in the caves by the archeologists of the Andhra University, have unearthed stone tools of middle Paleolithic culture dating back to 30,000 to 50,000 years, which confirm human habitation.

How to reach: By road: From Araku it is 38 km. From Vizag it is 90 km. By rail: The Vizag Kirandul passenger passes through this village and there is Railway station named “Borra Guhalu”.

LAMBASINGI

A meteorological oddity has suddenly placed this tribal village of 500 people in Vizag District on the tourism map of Andhra Pradesh.

On January 15th, 2012, due to a local weather condition, the temperature of Lammasingi dropped to zero degrees celsius.  Nestled in the Eastern Ghats, the phenomenon caught the attention of tourism authorities, who announced big plans for Lammasingi, billing it as the "Kashmir Valley of Andhra Pradesh."

The village, located 120 km from Vizag, is now a getaway destination for bikers and college students from the port city.  The tourist crowd swells to a few hundred during weekends.  In December, adventurous youngsters make for Lammasingi, braving the chill and low visibility on the ghat road.  There is little to do here but sit around a bonfire and admire the mist-enveloped trees.

Getting there: Lammasingi can be reached by car, motorcycle and APSRTC bus.  The nearest railhead is the Narsipatnam Road, 30km away.  Reaching is not difficult but finding a place to stay is.  There are no hotels or lodges.  Two local people rent out rooms with toilets at Rs.1000/- a day.  But only 3 rooms are available.  There is no way to contact these makeshift inns by phone.  There is no organised tourist infrastructure.  So tourists stay overnight at Narsipatnam, start early to Lammasingi and return by night.

For a decent meal, one has to go to Lothugedda Junction, about 10km away.

According to Indian Meteorology Department, the near zero temperature seen in Lammasingi is on account of the cooling effect of the hills.  It was on January 15, 2012 that Lammasingi is said to have recorded zero degree centigrade.  That day, the Regional Agricultural Research Station at Chintapalli (850 m above Mean Sea Level) recorded 1 Deg Centigrade.  Lammasingi, being 900m higher, was estimated to have experienced 1 - 1.50 Degree C less.  The lowest dip in the mercury here occurs in January.

Future Plans: With Lammasingi attracting tourists' attention, the State Government has drawn up big plans.  Some 18.75 acres of land has been identified and handed over to AP Tourism Development Corporation.

An architect has prepared plans for 25 eco-friendly cottages.  The project will have luxury facilities, including a conference hall, a swimming pool, children's play areas, landscaping, etc.