This port town in Andhra Pradesh cradles vast stretches of golden sun-kissed beaches, ancient monuments, and thriving industries.

Ross Hill Vizag where a church a mosque and a temple are located on three hillsRoss Hill, Vizag
Features Tourism Friday, December 25, 2020 - 16:26

I was on an exploration spree in the coastal district of Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam (popularly known as Vizag), which is punctuated with the most fascinating places that are worth a visit. My sojourn took me to the breathtakingly beautiful beaches of Vizag, the red sand dunes near RK Beach, historical monuments at Bheemunipatnam and several other iconic landmarks that K Balachander, the famed filmmaker of yesteryears, had immortalised in the Telugu blockbuster Maro Charitra and many others.

The Hindi version of the film, Ek Duje Ke Liye, had Kamal Haasan and Rathi Agnihotri romancing in the exotic-looking locales of Vizag in song sequences depicting their intense love and agony. One cannot forget the overhanging rock known as the ‘Vasu-Swapna’ rock, which had the names of the film’s hero and heroine inscribed on it. I went scouting for this rock made famous by the movie. Blessed with the Bay of Bengal coastline and several pristine locations in and around the city, Vizag has played muse to several filmmakers.

Marine Museum
From a small fishing village half a century ago, Vizag has metamorphosed into a thriving harbour. This port town, named after Baisakha, the god of valour, cradles vast stretches of golden sun-kissed beaches, ancient monuments, and thriving industries. It is today one of the fastest growing cities in India, with a massive steel plant, shipbuilding yard, thermal power station as well as a number of major industries and oil refineries. Embraced on the east by the sea, the area is bound on the west by hill ranges that form part of the Eastern Ghats, canopied by dense forests and inhabited by scores of tribes.

The most prominent landmark of Vizag is the Dolphin’s Nose, a huge rocky promontory jutting out into the sea. This gigantic rock, which is more of a hillock, has a powerful lighthouse capable of signaling 65 km out to sea. What intrigued me is the unique example of communal harmony at the port. Any ship entering the docks here has a view of a church, a mosque and a temple located on three hills. Ross Hill is named after a prominent local authority, who built a house there in 1864. This house is now a Roman Catholic chapel called ‘Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’. Dargakonda, the second hillock, has a mosque and shrine dedicated to Ishaque Madina, the Muslim saint who was famed for his prophesies. Sri Venkateswarakonda, the third hillock, has a temple at the top. The temple is said to have been built by British officer Captain Blackmoor in 1886.

Rushikonda Beach
Famed for its beaches, Vizag has a 25 km expanse languorously stretching along the eastern flank of the city. Different stretches are known by different names. Vizag offers the most spectacular sea vistas, particularly at Lawson’s Bay, Rushikonda and Bhimili. The shores are shallow and the waters crystal clear, making the beaches ideal for swimming, surfing and bathing. The beaches of Vizag are calm, uncrowded and private, and are among the most beautiful beaches on the east coast of the country. The miles and miles of golden sand are a major draw for sun bathers, while the sparkling waters beckon swimmers and water skiers.

There is Ramakrishna Beach, with Beach Road running parallel right in the heart of the city. RK Beach’s centre of attraction is the INS Kursura, an old submarine that has been dry-docked and transformed into a museum. I had a peep at the control room, periscopes, nautical instruments and torpedo room. This visit was an enlightening experience, offering a new dimension to Vizag’s maritime and naval history.

Submarine Museum
Lawson’s Bay, just a few kilometers further along Beach Road, adds beauty to the city. But my favourite beach is Rushikonda, a quieter and cleaner alternative to RK Beach. From my room in the Rushikonda Haritha Beach Hotel, I had panoramic views of the rolling sea with its azure waters and golden sands. What makes Rushikonda Beach enticing is the backdrop of the lush green hills of the Eastern Ghats. Just 8 km from Vizag, it is secluded and its placid waters are ideal for swimming and water sports. Incidentally, Rushikonda is one of eight beaches in India that has bagged the Blue Flag certification.

Dutch Cemetery, Bheemunipatnam
Hugging the coastline is a road that leads to Bheemunipatnam, at the mouth of the Gosthani river, just 24 km from Visakhapatnam. Harking back to 17th century colonial days are remains of a Dutch settlement, including a fort in ruins and a Dutch cemetery. The beach at Bhimli, as the town is called, exudes a unique ambience because of the vestiges of the Dutch traders. The 24 km-long metal road leading to Vizag is one of the longest beach roads in India.

Ancient Buddhist site, Sankaram
The last halt in my coastal itinerary was Sankaram, which is a 41 km detour from Vizag. This ancient site boasts of an amazing concentration of Buddhist relics dating from 300 BC to 700 AD. Unearthed by a Briton, Alexander Rea, in 1907, these monastic ruins tell the tale of three phases of Buddhism – Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana – that flourished there. A series of geologically fascinating pinnacles have been carefully cut into Buddhist stupas. The biggest of these pinnacles is 10 m across.

Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer, and photographer based in Bengaluru.

All pictures by Susheela Nair.

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