Rolling hills rife with the ever-comforting fragrance of coffee – Andhra Pradesh is home to one of the most picturesque hill towns. We’re exploring all that Araku Valley has to offer through this travel guide. By Eshita Srinivas
Couched in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, Araku Valley sits about 2,990 feet above sea level. The Eastern Ghats watch over its numerous tunnels, waterfalls, orchards, valleys, and gardens. The Anantagiri and Sunkrimetta reserved forests as well as expansive coffee plantations, meanwhile, adding to its lush green cover and being farmed by local aboriginal tribes.
From adventurous trekking opportunities to leisurely spots for a stroll – Araku offers tourists a whole range of experiences. These factors combined with breezy, pleasant weather make the quaint hill town the perfect destination for a getaway this summer. If that doesn’t convince you, this travel guide to Araku Valley might just do the trick.
Also known as Dumbriguda Falls, this spot features prominently in most Araku Valley itineraries. In part, this could be attributed to its picturesque landscape, complete with lush forest, glistening waterways, and rocky pools. It’s no surprise then, that the spot has starred in numerous Tollywood movies.
While here you could enjoy a quiet picnic by the water, take long walks as the sun sets, or get a bunch of pictures in for the ‘gram. You could also swim and camp overnight to watch the stars sparkle against the night sky. You might also spot food vendors offering snacks and desserts. To get here, hail an auto or taxi from Araku and enjoy the quick 15-minute scenic ride to the spot.
Believed to have been formed due to the flow of river Gosthani on limestone deposits, Borra caves house jaw-dropping stalactite and stalagmite formations and is believed to be one of the largest caves in India. According to official records, these were discovered by William King George of the Geological Survey of India in 1807.
However, locals insist that it was a cowherd who chanced upon the caves years ago and decided to build a temple here. This temple is now frequented by many pilgrims. If you’d like a guided tour, be sure to book one ahead of time. And if you’ve got a hankering for adrenaline-fuelled activities while at Araku, trek to the nearby Katiki waterfalls, where glistening waterfalls from a height of about 50 feet.
A part of the Eastern Ghats, this garden was reportedly built during World War II, with the aim of growing vegetables for soldiers and was referred to, simply, as Botanical Garden. Fast forward to several years later and the space is now an important tourist destination, with a host of exotic species of flowers and trees that are a delight to witness.
Eucalyptus and pine trees are often spotted here as well. A toy train will take you on a journey through the garden, while exclusive spaces like rose gardens and tree huts (hanging cottages) will keep you entertained. For the best experience, head here post monsoons.
Whether you’re a history buff or would like to get to know the culture of Araku, this museum is a must-visit. Featured here are traditional art, handicrafts, and textiles that represent the region’s age-old traditions.
Interestingly, even the structure of the museum itself is inspired by native culture, from the architecture to the colours of the walls and the painted-on motifs. Here, you’ll get acquainted with the day in the life of a tribe member, important festivals, and motifs like musical instruments, pottery, and painting that are deeply embedded in the culture.
Araku is known for its numerous coffee plantations, each of which lends the air a certain distinctive, comforting aroma. The coffee museum was reportedly set up in 2006 but has roots in 1954 when a migrant set up a catering service to spotlight arabica coffee. The museum is manned by local tribal staff who will guide you through the exhibits that explain the history and origin of coffee as well as the varieties of coffees and coffee chocolates that the region produces.
Here, coffee is grown in the shade using environmentally sustainable methods. Colourful murals adorn the walls at the entrance and bright art showcases the process of coffee going from the farm to your cup. There’s also an audio-visual show to give you a glimpse of the coffee culture in Araku. Besides this, there are shops to buy sandwiches, souvenirs, and coffee. The views here are stunning as well!
Besides the coffee museum, most locals recommend heading to Vasundhara Restaurant for vegetarian fare that’s inexpensive and delicious. While here, you could sample Andhra food, biryani, and fish creations. Other popular restaurants include Royal Darbar Restaurant, where the dragon chicken is quite popular and the hotel Star Annapurna, which is a multi-cuisine restaurant.
While here, what’s absolutely essential is to sample bamboo chicken (bongulo chicken), a local creation that involves cooking the chicken in a bamboo stalk over coals without oil. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also quite healthy! Besides this, try the Chapala pulusu, which features freshly caught sea fish and is served with a tamarind sauce and steamed rice. Both are found across street food stalls and restaurants in the region.
Araku Haritha Resorts is recommended by the government and comes with spacious rooms and stunning views. For a camping experience, try Nature’s Nest Araku, which offers well-equipped tents and the quintessential campfire experience. The Casa Holiday Resort is quite popular as well and offers dragon chicken and other local delicacies in the in-house restaurant. Sometimes, the property hosts bonfire nights on the rooftop.
Araku Valley is a three-hour train ride away from Visakhapatnam. It’s also accessible via road, car or bus, which will take you about four hours. The best time to visit this region is between September and February.
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