Andhra Pradesh is recognized for its artistic temples, rich literature, legendary dynasties and its natural beauty. Discovering nature in the state can be a series of surprises that can leave visitors yearning for more. As one travels through the state, what strikes is the diverse landscape, from the emerald green coast regions to the dry deciduous forests and the mangrove belt teeming with hidden life.
The state has the distinction of being home to the country’s largest tiger reserve, the Nallamai Forest. The Godavari River, besides being a holy river for the Hindus, also is the home of saltwater crocodiles, fishing cats and many other animals. The Kolleru Bird Sanctuary with its lush vegetation is a riot of colours because of the migrating birds that come from as far as Siberia and Australia.
Andhra Pradesh is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty. Its cascading waterfalls, misty hills, verdant forests, shimmering rivers and undulating mountains can be a treat for the eyes and soul.
The hills of Ananthagiri in Araku Valley have a hidden treasure that is spectacular. The Borra Caves is home to several stalactite and stalagmite formations. Each formation has a name. Besides these formations, there also are other interesting structures, such as a temple, crystal-white calcium stones and mushroom formation.
The caves are spread over an area of one square kilometres and are believed to have formed over a million years due to the underground river, the Gosthani River, that flows through the caves. While the caves are mesmerising, a trip to the caves is equally breathtaking. On the way, visitors will be able to the Ananthagiri Coffee Plantation, Padmapuram Gardens, Damuku Viewpoint and of course the beautiful Araku Valley. The area around the caves is mountainous and rich in flora and fauna.
Araku Valley is renowned for its natural beauty and biodiversity. It is about 114 kilometres from Visakhapatnam, close to the borders of Odisha. The valley is enveloped by mountains, with the Galikonda Hill rising to an elevation of 5,000 feet. The Ananthagiri and Sunkarimetta Reserve Forest are located in this valley. The Valley is home to 17 indigenous tribes that are untouched by modern civilisation.
It can be a treat to see the tribal people with their vibrant and colourful attire. Their songs and dance, in particular the Dhimsa dance, can make a person’s heart sing with joy. The government has opened the Tribal Museum in Araku to showcase the simple and traditional lifestyle and culture of the various tribes inhabiting the valley. The beautiful handicraft and fine art pieces are treasures that are still made by hand and natural resources.
The city of Visakhapatnam has many attractions and one of them undoubtedly is the Dolphin’s Nose. This natural rock formation gets its name from its shape. It is eye-catching and hard to miss. The rock juts out into the sea and is 174 metres tall and at an altitude of 358 metres. The rock stands as a lone sentinel at the Visakhapatnam Harbour and facilitates the entry of seawater into the harbour.
This helps the incoming ships to anchor. At the summit of Dolphin’s Nose is a lighthouse that guides the approaching ships in the night. The lighthouse is renowned for its powerful beam that can be seen from 65 kilometres in the sea. The light flashes every 10 seconds and has helped many ships find their way to the harbour and avoid the treacherous rocks near the Dolphin’s Nose.
If there is a name that best describes natural beauty, it has to be Bhavani Island. This stunning gorgeous estuary island in the Krishna River stretches over an area of 133 acres and is located near the Prakasam Barrage. It is about 4 kilometres upstream from Vijayawada. The island has mangroves, woodlands, meadows, gardens and soothing water bodies. It is a popular weekend haunt for people from Vijayawada and other neighbouring towns.
It is a piece of paradise on Earth with its bounty from Mother Nature. The soothing and tranquil ambience of the island can rejuvenate the body and mind. Many families visit the place to enjoy a fun-filled and relaxing picnic and/or enjoy the experience of boating in the might Krishna River. Fishing is another relaxing activity that visitors can enjoy at this picturesque island.
Anantagiri is paradise for coffee lovers and nature enthusiasts. The village is surrounded by coffee estates that emit the rich aroma of coffee and the surrounding hillocks are home to cascading waterfalls that feed the lush greenery. The salubrious climate is an open invitation to rest, relax and rejuvenate.
The surrounding hills are said to be the birthplace of Musi River, which is a tributary of the mighty Krishna. The hills are home to ancient cave-like structures and many ghats for bathing. The ancient Ananthaswamy Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Ananta Padhmanabha, is located here. Local legends claim that a Muslim king was instrumental in constructing this temple many centuries ago
This scenic village in East Godavari District is untouched by modern development. This adds to the charm and allure of Dindi, which is about 80 kilometres from Rajahmundry and 73 odd kilometres from the city of Kakinada. The tranquility of the village and the hospitality of the locals are a welcome respite for people, who yearn to spend time in solitude amidst natural beauty.
A stroll through Dindi will reveal many natural wonders – Fertile pastures where cattle graze, domesticated ducks waddling their way to water bodies, numerous waterways and canals teeming with aquatic plants and marine life, green paddy crop swaying in the gentle breeze and coconut palms dancing merrily to the tune that just they can hear. The earthy beauty of Dindi can be overwhelming for people, who are unprepared for it.
Horsley Hills is the perfect refuge for sun-scorched souls. It is located at an altitude of 1,269 metres, making this scenic hamlet cool even on the hottest of days. The lush vegetation that Horsley Hills is famous for begins from the moment people start their journey to get here.
The narrow, meandering roads leading to the hill station are lined with dense growth of gulmohar, eucalyptus, jacaranda and many other beautiful trees and plants. The verdure of the forests can be soothing to the eyes. These forests are inhabited by a diverse range of wildlife, including panthers, bears, sambar, jungle fowls and wild dogs. The fresh and clear air, the coffee plantations sending out a delicious aroma of freshly ground coffee pods, the Chenchu tribe with their Pungannur cows and the misty mountains offer a heavenly bliss that one cannot find in the concrete jungle.
Located in Belum village in Kurnool District, Belum Caves are nothing short of a wonder. Running 3.5 kilometres, these caves are the second longest in India, after the 21-kilometre long Krem Um Lawan Cave in the northeast state of Meghalaya. The caves have three entry points and just about 2 kilometres of the caves are open to public.
The lighting inside the caves is excellent and offers an awe-inspiring view of the chambers. There are indications that these caves were used Buddhist and Jain monks centuries ago. The relics found in the caves are housed in the Ananthapur museum.
One of the chambers is replete with stalactites and stalagmite formations and this chamber is known as Kotilingalu. There is even a musical chamber within the cave where the amazing limestone formations make give out metallic sounds. The deepest point of the cave is referred to as Pataalganga and is the location of a perennial stream.
In eastern philosophy, water element has always been important for soothing the mind. When people venture into Sri Venkataswara Park, which is about 49 kilometres from the temple town of Tirupati, they will be able to witness one of the most amazing water elements – Talakona Waterfalls. Cascading down from a height of 272 feet, the area around the waterfalls is a haven for many plant species, some extremely rare.
Locals claim that the waters of the cascade have healing properties and this attracts many people. There are scenic trekking routes that lead to the top of the hill, but it is the lush greenery and the rainbow created by the waterfalls that win over visitors. There is a temple, Siddeswara Swamy Temple, located close to the waterfalls.