Although Andhra Pradesh and the recently created state of Telangana together occupy a great swathe of eastern India, stretching more than 1200km along the coast from Odisha to Tamil Nadu and reaching far inland from the fertile deltas of the Godavari and Krishna rivers to the semi-arid Deccan Plateau, most foreign travellers simply pass through en route to their better-known neighbours. This is understandable, as places of interest are few and far between, but the sights that the two states do offer are absorbing enough to warrant at least a brief stop-off.
The best travel tips for visiting Andhra Pradesh
A major high-tech hub and, for the time being, the joint capital of both states, Hyderabad is an atmospheric, predominantly Muslim city with lively bazaars, the eclectic Salar Jung Museum, impressive Chowmahalla Palace and the mighty Golconda Fort.
Warangal, 150 km northeast, has Muslim and Hindu remains from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, while the region’s Buddhist legacy is preserved in museums at sites such as Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati. The delightful region around the Godavari Delta is also well worth a detour.
By contrast, the temple town of Tirupati in the far southeast is a fascinating, impossibly crowded pilgrimage site. In the southwest, Puttaparthy attracts a more international pilgrim crowd, who still flock to the ashram of the late spiritual leader Sai Baba.
Although modern industries have grown up around the capital, and shipbuilding, iron and steel are important on the coast, most people in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana remain poor.
Away from the Godavari and Krishna deltas, where the soil is rich enough to grow rice and sugar cane, the land is in places impossible to cultivate, which has contributed to the desperate plight of many farmers.
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What to do in Andhra Pradesh
From the capital Hyderabad to the verdant hills of the Godavari Delta, these are the best things to do in Andhra Pradesh.
#1 Be enthralled by Hyderabad
A melting pot of Muslim and Hindu cultures, the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana comprises the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, with a combined population of around eight million.
Secunderabad, of little interest, is the modern administrative city founded by the British, whereas Hyderabad, the old city, has teeming bazaars, Muslim monuments, the absorbing Salar Jung Museum and the magnificent Chowmahalla Palace.
The two cities are basically one big sprawl, separated by an artificial lake, Hussain Sagar. The most interesting area, the old city south of the River Musi, holds the bazaars and Charminar, the city’s principal landmark, as well as the Salar Jung Museum and Chowmahalla Palace.
North of the river, the traditional shopping areas are found around Abids Circle and Sultan Bazaar. Four kilometres west of Hyderabad railway station lies the posh Banjara Hills district, full of gleaming malls and fancy restaurants.
#2 Visit the dramatic Golconda Fort
Golconda, 122m above the plain and 8km west of old Hyderabad, was the capital of the seven Qutb Shahi kings from 1518 until the end of the sixteenth century, when the court moved to Hyderabad itself.
Well preserved and set in thick green scrubland, it is one of India’s most impressive forts, boasting 87 semi-circular bastions and eight mighty gates, complete with gruesome elephant-proof spikes.
Set aside a day to explore the fort, which covers an area of around four square kilometres.
#3 Take a day trip to Warangal
Warangal – “one stone” – 150km northeast of Hyderabad and just about possible to visit as a day trip, was the Hindu capital of the Kakatiyan empire in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Like other Deccan cities, it changed hands many times between the Hindus and the Muslims – something reflected in the remains you see today.
Warangal’s fort, 4km south of the city, is famous for its two circles of fortifications: the outer made of earth with a moat, and the inner of stone.
Four roads into the centre meet at the ruined Shiva temple of Swayambhu (1162). At its southern gateway, another Shiva temple, from the fourteenth century, is in much better shape; inside, the remains of an enormous lingam came originally from the Swayambhu shrine.
Also inside the citadel is the Shirab Khan, or Audience Hall, an early eleventh-century building very similar to Mandu’s Hindola Mahal.
#4 Visit the island of Nagarjunakonda
Nagarjunakonda, 166km south of Hyderabad and 175km west of Vijayawada, is all that remains of the vast area, rich in archeological sites, that was submerged when the huge Nagarjuna Sagar dam was built across the River Krishna in 1960.
Ancient settlements in the valley had first been discovered in 1926, and extensive excavations carried out between 1954 and 1960 uncovered more than one hundred sites dating from the early Stone Age to late medieval times.
Nagarjunakonda was once the summit of a hill, where a fort towered 200m above the valley floor; now it is just a small oblong island near the middle of Nagarjuna Sagar Lake.
Several Buddhist monuments have been reconstructed, in an operation reminiscent of that at Abu Simbel in Egypt, and a museum exhibits the more remarkable ruins of the valley.
#5 Go upriver at the Godavari Delta
A previously uncharted region that is just beginning to open up to tourism, though still mostly aimed at domestic visitors, is the enchanting Godavari Delta, where the mighty river ends its journey of almost 1500 miles across India from its source in the Western Ghats.
The best base for exploration of the area is Rajahmundry, roughly halfway between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. From there, you can take a trip upriver to the verdant Papikondalu Hills, delve into the lush Konaseema region to the south or visit the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary to the southeast.
#6 Take a pilgrimage to Sri Venkateshvara temple
Set in a stunning position, surrounded by wooded hills capped by a ring of vertical red rocks, the Sri Venkateshvara temple at Tirumala, 170km northwest of Chennai, is said to be one of the richest places of pilgrimage in the world, and is certainly the most popular drawing more devotees than Rome or Mecca.
With its many shrines and dharamsalas, the whole area around Tirumala Hill, an enervating drive 700m up in the Venkata Hills, provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Hinduism practised on a large scale.
The road trip up Tirumala Hill is a lot less terrifying now that there’s a separate route down; the most devout, of course, climb the hill by foot. The steep trail starts at Alipuri, 4km from the centre of Tirupati. Look out for a large Garuda statue and the soaring gopura of the first temple. The walk takes around four hours. Start early.
Where to stay in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh offers a range of accommodation, from business and family guesthouses to modest chain hotels and stays in 1920s heritage buildings. Here’s where to stay in the state.
The area to the east of Hyderabad (Nampally) railway station has the cheapest accommodation, but you’re unlikely to find anything acceptable for less than ₹500: avoid the grim little collection of five lodges with “Royal” in their name. A little over 1km north of Secunderabad railway station, several decent places can be found on Sarojini Devi Rd.
Accommodation at Vijayapuri is limited and there are two distinct settlements 6km apart on either side of the dam. For easy access to the sites it’s better to stay near the jetty on the right bank of the dam; ask the bus driver to leave you at the launch station.
Unless you’re a pilgrim seeking accommodation in the dharamshalas near the Sri Venkateshvara temple at Tirumala, all the decent places to stay are in Tirupati.
Many visitors stay in the ashram accommodation, which is strictly segregated by sex, except for families. Costs are minimal, and although you can’t book in advance. Outside the ashram, many of the hotels are overpriced. The ashram also has a canteen open to non-residents.
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How to get around
Andhra Pradesh has various transportation options for zipping around the state, from buses and trains to auto-rickshaws in the cites. Here's how to get around.
There are at numerous reliable train services connecting most major destinations in Andhra Pradesh, including Hyderabad, Warangal, Visakhapatnam – on the main Chennai–Kolkata line – Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Dharmavaram, Chennai, and Vijayawada.
They may be slow but buses run everywhere in Andhra Pradesh. The cheapest option by far, there are direct services (like Guntur to Vijayawada), as well as regular services between bigger destinations like Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Rajahmundry, Bengaluru and Tirupati (with special services every few minutes to Tirumala Hill).
Boats go to Nagarjunakonda island from Vijayapuri. They then leave 90min after they arrive. So if you want to see the ruins and museum in detail, take a morning boat and return in the afternoon.
How many days do you need in Andhra Pradesh?
If you have seven days to spare for your visit to Andhra Pradesh, you can get a glimpse of the diverse offerings of this state. However, it would be ideal to extend your visit if time permits, considering the state's rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. In case you only have a week, here's a suggested breakdown of a well-rounded itinerary that covers the major highlights.
On days 1 and 2, start your journey in Hyderabad, where you can immerse yourself in the city's captivating history by exploring landmarks like the Charminar and Golconda Fort, and indulge in the local cuisine.
On days 3 and 4, travel to Tirupati and Vijayawada to experience the spiritual side of Andhra Pradesh. Here, you can visit the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple and enjoy the serene atmosphere of Vijayawada, including a boat ride on the Krishna River.
On days 5 and 6, discover the ancient city of Amaravati and explore its Buddhist heritage. Then, make your way to Visakhapatnam to enjoy the stunning beaches, Borra Caves, and the picturesque Araku Valley. On day 7, return to Vijayawada to delve into the cultural scene, including witnessing a special Kuchipudi dance performance.
What is the best time to visit Andhra Pradesh?
As with the rest of the south, the ideal time to come to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is during the winter months from December to mid-March. April to June is blazing hot, particularly inland towards the Deccan Plateau. The southern part of Andhra Pradesh misses most of the main summer monsoon but is hit by the northeast monsoon between September and November, when cyclones can create havoc, especially in the coast areas.
Find out more about the best time to visit India.
How to get here
Andhra Pradesh is well-connected by air, rail, and road networks, making it easily accessible from major cities in India.
Modern and efficient Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is around 20km south of central Hyderabad. Until the metro connection is complete, the airport is only linked to the city by taxis and Pushpak Airport Liner buses (every 10–15min); heading to the airport, you can catch these from the Secretariat.
Many long-distance trains terminate at Secunderabad; your ticket is valid for any connecting train to Hyderabad (Nampally) railway station. The two stations are also linked to each other – and other points in the city, such as Banjara Hills and HITEC City – by the overground Hyderabad Metro (or MMTS).
The railway's reservations office at Hyderabad is to the left as you enter the station: counter 211 is for tourists. The Secunderabad reservation complex is more than 400m to the right as you exit the station: counter 34 is for foreigners. Most northeast-bound services call at Warangal, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
The long-distance Mahatma Gandhi Bus Stand occupies an island in the River Musi, 3km southeast of Nampally railway station. Destinations From the long-distance bus stand, regular bus services run to destinations throughout the state and beyond, including Bidar; Tirupati; Vijayapuri for Nagarjunakonda; Vijayawada; and Warangal. Various “deluxe” private buses depart for Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and other major cities
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