For a very long time, we heard how beautiful Araku Valley is, and how it is a must see gem in the Eastern Ghats of India. Frankly, we had no time – just one day. But, we were in Vishakapatnam (aka Vizag) and could not pass up the opportunity of visiting Araku – even if it was a day trip for us. After being there, I can say this — it is a place definitely worth visiting. If you can spend two to three days minimum, you won’t regret it at all!
There are two ways to travel to Araku – by road or by train. We had heard that one of the best ways to go to Araku was via train … the 58501 passenger train from Vizag. It is a slow train. Pretty much stops at every village along the way. It does have a very special coach dedicated to tourists – large windows that allow you to enjoy the scenery outside. It is extremely difficult to get tickets in this coach…but, if you do, you will not regret it at all! Side note: try to get tickets in any compartment if you can’t get into the special tourist coach. Traveling with the villagers in no frills compartments might be just as interesting!
The train ride was very cool. As you leave Vizag, you get an opportunity to see the industrial side of Vizag followed by beautiful fields before finally entering the Eastern Ghats. As you travel through the mountains, you pass through many tunnels… the views and the feeling never gets old :). It is absolutely fascinating seeing the villagers get on and off at different stations … the things they carry, the conversations they have, the food sold at the different stations – beautiful. We actually witnessed a sight where the train waited for a woman for 5 minutes while she ran through the village roads hoping not to miss the train. It was a beautiful and heart warming sight and proved that the train was indeed a lifeline for the villagers. Our train was delayed and we reached Araku about an hour later (apparently this is quite normal).
We were in a bit of a rush. We needed to get back to Vizag by 5pm and so we had very limited time to explore Araku. But, let me say this – it is a beautiful place! I truly wish we had an opportunity to spend at least one night in that area.… two would have been better. From the Araku train station we started our journey back towards Vizag by road (we asked our taxi driver to meet us at the train station in Araku). Our first stop was the Sunkar Metta Baptist Church. Unfortunately, we could not go inside.. apparently it is opened only during service times. After spending some time soaking in the views, we continued on our journey. Along the way, we spent some time exploring the Ananthagiri Coffee Plantation. After walking around and drinking the amazing coffee, we headed towards Galikonda View Point. The view point was bustling with tourists and the views amazing! After spending some time there, we continued on our journey, stopping by different waterfalls along the way. We managed to reach Vizag by 5 pm… just in time to attend our evening engagements.
An Ideal itinerary
If we had some time to spare (for example 3 days), here is what we would have done.
Take the 58501 train to Araku. Honestly, no matter how many trains I have been on, I would not miss this one. What I found fascinating about the Eastern Ghats is this: the villages are close to the railroad — not the road. So, if you want to see how people live in these mountains, taking the train gives you much better insight. Once you reach Araku, settle in and have a good lunch. In the afternoon, explore the area. From the Tribal museum to Chaparai Waterfalls and coffee museum, there are a lot of things to do to spend a nice afternoon exploring and enjoying the area before calling it a day.
We really wish we visited the Duduma Waterfalls near the Orissa border. About 2 hours from Araku, they look so promising! If we ever go back to the Araku Valley, then we will definitely head out here before coming back to Araku to call it a day.
Head back towards Vizag. Along the way, check out the things we were able to on our path as mentioned above. Additional places you can include are: Katika Waterfalls and Borra Caves.
All said and done
Araku is definitely a place worth visiting. The mountains and valleys are beautiful in their own special way. If you choose to travel by road the whole way, then another option would be to reach Araku via Paderu where you will have an opportunity to see some other interesting waterfalls along the way and then return to Vizag via Borra Caves. This circuit will enable you to pack in a lot within a short time.
A final note: The Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh are not as touristy as other hill stations in India. The road connectivity is very good. However, don’t expect to see many places to eat or rest along the way. If you are looking for adventure (hiking, walking, water) or just plain relaxation, then I would strongly recommend you consider the Araku Valley area. It is indeed a gem tucked in the Eastern Ghats of India!