Located on the East Coast Economic Corridor of India (the first such coastal corridor in the country), Guntur in Andhra Pradesh is better known as a transport, business and education hub of the state. About 40km from Vijaywada, Guntur is also an offbeat tourist destination and gateway to temple towns, a bird sanctuary and a hill fort.
Guntur is also famous for its fiery hot chilli which is also exported worldwide. Of the several varieties grown here, the long and thin Guntur Sannam Chilli is protected under geographical indication (GI) tag.
Things to see and do
Pedakakani This pilgrim town is about 10km from Guntur city. Sri Bhramaramba Malleswara Swamy temple, dedicated to Shiva, is said to have been built under the aegis of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara kingdom. The temple has many legends associated with it. At one end of the temple is a well which, according to local belief was filled by the hermit Bharadwaj with water from all the holy rivers of India. The temple remains closed during afternoon, usually between 1.30pm and 4pm. The dargah and the church located here are also popular, and visited by people of all faiths.
Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary A popular local attraction, the sanctuary is home to a variety of birds, including migratory birds who flock to this place usually between September and February. Frequently seen birds include open billed storks, painted storks, spot billed pelicans, white ibis. The heart of the sanctuary is a tree-lined lake. Soon after the entry gate, a long paved path with railing runs along one side of the lake from where one can watch the trees full of birds on the far side. On the other side of the path, you will find bill boards with details about the commonly seen birds. There is a canteen and a children&rsquos park too. The bird sanctuary is about 10km from Guntur town.
Mangalagiri With several ancient temples dedicated to Narasimha (Vishnu), this is a popular pilgrim centre. The place is also known for the handmade eponymous sari.
Kondaveedu Fort This fort, which served as the capital of the Reddi rulers between 1328 and 1482, has been occupied by various powers (including the French and the English) till it was abandoned in the early 19th century. It lies on a hilly ridge and can be approached via a ghat road it is popular with trekkers. However, with the area set to be developed as a tourism zone, a motorable road is also being built. The fort, which still contains ruins of storehouses and magazines, offers a panoramic view of the surrounding hills. The fort is about 30km west of Guntur.
Chebrole Although it is difficult to say how many of the one thousand ancient temples which once dotted this town have survived but you still you will find them in plentiful, old and new. This is also one of the few places where a temple is dedicated to Brahma. Apart from the Kakatiya style Brahmeswara Alayam, the other important temple is Nageshwar Alayam, dedicated to Shiva. Chebrole (or Chebrolu) is about 20km south of Guntur.
Information Guntur is about an hour's drive from Vijaywada, the nearest airport. There are many hotels, from luxury to budget, in Guntur. Best time to visit - between November and March.