A tourist's paradise

Print edition : December 16, 2005

A Buddhist complex at Thotlakonda on the Visakhapatnam-Bheemali road. - C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The Andhra Pradesh government aims to place Visakhapatnam on the global tourism map.

VISAKHAPATNAM, with its myriad names such as City of Destiny, Vizag, Waltair, Port City and Steel City, is today in the process of transforming itself into a world-class city.

Once a fishermen's village, the city's has undergone a sea change over a relatively short period. It has grown immensely in terms of size, population and, most important, number of industries. Now, high on the agenda of the Andhra Pradesh government is a plan to put the city on the tourism map of the world.

Aptly called the `City with a Future', Visakhapatnam can boast of having many notable tourist locations. The picturesque city is situated on the east coast of India with a natural protective harbour. Its environs are endowed with rich mineral, water and forest resources. The city's landscape is a feast to the eyes. It has several hillocks, golden beaches, shopping malls and gardens. The Visakhapatnam railway station (originally known as Waltair station) forms part of the newly formed East Coast Railway - and is an important junction on the Coromandel coastline.

Andhra University, which has had several luminaries including Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, and Sir C.R. Reddy as its Vice-Chancellor at different points of time, is truly a centre of excellence.

Visakhapatnam is already an industrial hub. The State government is now planning to develop it as an Information Technology hub. The gigantic Visakhapatnam Steel Plant; the NTPC Simhadri Super Thermal Power Plant; India's premier shipbuilding facility, Hindustan Shipyard Limited; Bharat Heavy Plate and Vessels Limited; and several other public and the private sector industries are located here.

The Visakhapatnam Port has been declared the country's leading port for the fifth year in a row. It handled 50 million plus tonnes of cargo during 2004-05. Going by the trend in the first half of the current fiscal, it is poised to retain its position this year too.

Efforts are under way to develop a satellite port at Gangavaram, a Pharma City and a Special Economic Zone at Parawada, a research wing of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and a Naval Armament Depot on the Rambili-Achutapuram road, a greenfield refinery of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and an international airport to meet the future needs of the city, which is set to grow by leaps and bounds. "With massive investment plans, the city is certain to become a growing metropolis. It is emerging as an ideal destination for IT, next only to Hyderabad, owing to the proactive policies pursued by the State government," says Commercial Taxes Minister Konathala Ramakrishna.

The city is endowed with several natural tourist spots. The long coastline, the lush valley and the surrounding hillocks provide a spectacular landscape.

The district administration, the Andhra Pradesh Tourism (AP Tourism) Department, the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA), the Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam (MCV) and other agencies are working jointly to increase the tourism potential of the city.

Kailasagiri park, developed by VUDA, is located atop the hill on the fringe of the Bay of Bengal, One can get a panoramic view of the bustling city, the balmy beaches and the dense forests from the park's several view points.

A 375-metre ropeway connecting the park and the foothills of Kailasagiri, the first of its kind in the State, was introduced last year. It provides a breathtaking 360 view of the landscape from its fibre-glass cabins. Kailasagiri is also a popular location for film shooting. The State government awarded the `best tourist spot' award to Kailasagiri in 2003. Apart from the ropeway and the motorable ghat road, one can use the two stairways to reach the hilltop. On an average, three lakh Indian and foreign tourists visit the park every year.

Another major attraction is the submarine museum, which is the result of a well-executed work by the National Ship Design Research Centre. A 2,468-tonne Soviet-built submarine belonging to the Indian Navy, INS Kursura, which was decommissioned in 2001, was hauled from the Bay of Bengal along with its weapons package to Beach Road. VUDA made the necessary changes in the submarine to provide air-conditioning and interior decoration before throwing it open to the public in 2002. The `Victory at Sea' memorial, erected by the Navy to commemorate the destruction of the Ghazi submarine of the Pakistan Navy in the 1971 war, is located near the Submarine Museum.

The Rushikonda beach and AP Tourism's Punnami Resorts overlooking the sea are a favoured haunt of business delegates and leisure tourists. Beach Road is a 5 km-long curving stretch of asphalt running parallel to the golden beaches. The latest addition to Beach Road is the Visakha Museum, developed by the MCV. The museum, housed in what is locally famous as Dutch Bungalow, has a display of artefacts and historical documents relating to the origin of Visakhapatnam and the various kingdoms of the region.

A huge investment has been made to develop the 25.5-km-long Visakhapatnam-Bheemunipatnam beach road on the lines of the Marine Drive of Mumbai. After obtaining clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, tenders were invited to complete the project. State government officials say that the beach corridor, once completed, will resemble the `Florida-19-mile drive'.

The Indian Railways, in association with AP Tourism, are in the process of introducing a air-conditioned train between Visakhapatnam and the Araku Valley. Araku, located 114 km from Visakhapatnam and close to the Orissa border, is a hill station surrounded by green valleys. It is generally regarded as the `poor man's paradise' and `Andhra Ooty'. A visit to the Araku Valley can be educative as it provides an insight into the lifestyle and cultures of Girijans, some of the most primitive tribal groups.

AP Tourism is providing accommodation to suit all types of tourists. For those who do not want to compromise on comforts, the Punnami Hill Valley resort provides air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned cottages with facilities such as a billiards table, a swimming pool and a herbal beauty parlour.

A visit to Araku Valley is not complete without a visit to the Borra Caves located in Anantagiri mandal, another area known for its hill stations and pleasant climate. A journey to Borra and Araku by the Kirandul-Kothavalasa passenger train is fascinating as the train passes through a number of tunnels and one can also enjoy the enchanting view of the jungles of the Eastern Ghats.

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