Beyond the well-trodden paths of popular tourist destinations, a world of enchanting landscapes, ancient heritage, and untamed wilderness awaits those willing to explore Andhra Pradesh. From tracing the footsteps of ancient monks along the Buddhist Heritage Trail to immersing yourself in the wilderness of its national parks and sanctuaries, from leisurely cruises along meandering rivers to unraveling the secrets of centuries-old ruins, this state offers a myriad of opportunities to embark on unforgettable journeys. Here's how.
The new capital of Andhra Pradesh is named after the legendary city of Amaravati, the capital of the Satavahanas. Its historic location is traced to the south bank of the Krishna River, near modern-day Guntur. Here lay a great deal of built Buddhist heritage, which has since been plundered or shipped off. AP's Buddhist Trail, in fact, lies closer to Visakhapatnam, at Bavikonda (15km from Vizag), Thotlakonda (16km) and Bojjannakonda (40km), where a mahachaitya, a stone-pillared congregation hall, large vihara complexes, several votive stupas, rock-cut caves and other remnants of monastic life has been excavated. (www.aptdc.gov.in)
You could take the Narasapur Express from Hyderabad, get off at Palakollu and then hop into an auto for Dindi, or fly to Rajahmundry and then cab it to Dindi. APTDC has a resort waiting for you by the banks of the Godavari here, where you cruise the river on a houseboat. This is the Krishna-Godavari delta. A land so fecund that sparkling water and green fields dominate the landscape any which way you turn. Castaway on your houseboat then, and sip something enjoyable with delicious local food and 360-degree views on the upper deck. (www.konaseematourism.com/stay.php)
Here's how Andhra food got to be called very spicy - for there's spicy and then there's Guntur spicy. It comes as no surprise that the bustling small town in the coastal Andhra region, dotted with wayside restaurants dishing out the tongues-on-fire, call-the-fire-brigade fare, which is also the focus of food fests in big city hotels, is Asia's largest market for red chillies. Local specialities that come highly recommended include jonna (sorghum flour) roti served with fried or gravy-based chicken (kodi vepudu or kodi koora), mutton in a gongura-leaf gravy (gongura maamsam), godhuma attu (wheat flour dosa) and ulava charu (a clear soup with horse gram). The gongura pickle, believed to be rich in antioxidants, is a yummy takeaway.
The great Indian bustard and lesser florican declined drastically and the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, 45 kilometres from the district headquarters at Kurnool, was set up expressly to protect them both. Rollapadu's grassland ecosystem and mixed forests also support more than 125 other avian species, including migratory birds like bar-headed geese, greater flamingos and Demoiselle cranes, many of them drawn to the freshwater of the Alganur reservoir (enjoy the coracle rides, do). Sloth bears, black bucks and bonnet macaques are often sighted too, as are reptiles like cobras, rattlesnakes and Russell's vipers. (Safari charges Rs 500 per person; October to February is peak season)
Hidden amidst the rugged hills of Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh lies the mystical village of Gandikota, often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of India." Here, adventurers can embark on a truly offbeat experience by camping under the vast expanse of the star-studded sky, perched atop the breathtaking cliffs overlooking the Penna River. As the crimson hues of sunset paint the landscape, visitors can explore the ancient ruins of the Gandikota Fort, which dates back to the 13th century, and delve into the region's rich history and folklore. As night falls, the tranquil ambiance is accentuated by the rhythmic chants of nearby temples, offering a serene backdrop for stargazing enthusiasts. Awaken to the melodious chirping of birds and the gentle rustle of leaves as dawn breaks, signalling the beginning of another day filled with adventure and discovery. This immersive experience in Gandikota promises to be a soul-stirring escapade for those seeking to connect with nature and unravel the mysteries of the past in one of Andhra Pradesh's best-kept secrets.