The Andhra Art and Craft Hotel—one of the top 50 art hotels in the world—is a new boutique heritage property in Visakhapatnam that pays tribute to traditional Andhra art forms, and is totally worth a visit when exploring the city. By Sushmita Srivastav
Coconut groves swaying with the breeze, pedestrian promenades perfect for evening strolls, and sandy beaches gleaming under the balmy sun—Visakhapatnam (Vizag) in Andhra Pradesh cheers all up with queen’s weather. This port city doubles as a beach getaway, and is a pivot of many art forms. The Andhra Art and Craft Hotel is an hour’s drive from the airport. This new heritage wing of Palm Beach Hotel is not only among the top 50 art hotels in the world, but is also the only one focusing on handicrafts.
An imposing wall mural of Telugu Thalli—a metaphor for mother, and harbinger of prosperity and happiness—draws me in even before I step inside. On one side of the mural are paddy stalks, and on the other a kalasam, the traditional metal pitcher found atop Hindu temples. Referred to as a ‘microcosm of Andhra Pradesh’, the hotel has art peeping from every corner—a stunning statuette of a sprinter with a horse’s head, giant sculptures of eagles mounted at the entrances, golden monkeys holding up the pillars, and a wall fitted with colourful windows inspired by old Andhra households.
The hotel boasts of owning 70 sculptures, and 50 art illustrations that weave the narrative of the state’s art and crafts tradition with modern twists. All 24 boutique rooms have their own art-themed interiors, with unique colour palettes. Each of the four wings are dedicated to a traditional Andhra art form—Tholu Bommalata (leather shadow puppetry), Budithi (brass work), Kalamkari (pen art), and Etikoppaka (toys).
My Etikoppaka room in the art hotel is painted in a subtle pastel pink that breaks the otherwise monotonous off-white tone. The traditional toys carved out of the locally-grown wood called ankudu are largely made in the nearby village, Etikoppaka, which is where the craft gets its name from. A king-size bed inspired by the colonial-era Pandirimancham style featuring a headboard that represents the 400-year-old toy-making craft; matching hand-woven bedspreads, throws and cushions; a little alcove with an old-school cement bench inspired from traditional homes; and an attached balcony that opens up to the sound of waves—the room is a veritable artist’s canvas.
Exploring the artsy rooms here is an experience by itself. The Budithi wing is inspired by brass work from temple sculptures of women adorned with jewellery, and these rooms are decked with brass bells and traditional swing beds called uyala. The Kalamkari rooms take you into an underwater world stirred by splashes of bright colours, and detailed ink work. The festival of Jatara that celebrates Tholu Bommalata, or the leather puppetry, inspires the eponymous fourth wing. Here, each room comes with a headboard that looks like a theatre backdrop, and side benches in the form of soda-vending carts.
The three dining outlets in the hotel offer everything—from authentic Andhra cuisine to contemporary dishes, plus drinks of all sorts. An outdoor swimming pool, a spa, and a well-equipped gym add to the list of creature comforts.
If you venture outside the hotel premises, you find yourself at a private section of RK Beach exclusive to hotel guests. Walk a little more, and the top attractions of the city come into close proximity. Further out, the spellbinding Dolphin Hill or the famous Lepakshi Temple are short drives away. A two-day stay at the Andhra Art and Craft Hotel is perfect to soak in the aesthetic essence of the state—at your own pace.