Road Trip to Odisha
The below travelogue is an itinerary of Road Trip to Odisha from Pune. It follows Pune – Hyderabad – Vishakhapatnam (Anakapalle) – Araku – Chilika – Puri – Konark – Bhubaneshwar – Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad – Pune. The trip was done during December 2019 and we covered 3500 km in the span of 11 days.
Odisha, once known as Orissa, is sometimes referred as “Goa of the East” due to its beautiful, un-spoilt and serene beaches. Though, it does not make into the list of top tourist destinations in India, it is well known for Sun Temple in Konark and Jagannath Temple in Puri. The Jagannath temple is one of the four ‘dhams’ of Hindus and attracts devotees from all over the world. Another famous attraction of the state is – Chilika Lake which is the biggest salt water lake in Asia. A road trip to explore this beautiful state was scheduled for the last week of December in 2019.
Road Trip to Prerequisites
There are certain things to keep in mind before planning a road trip in India. You can read my below blog for a few tips.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had announced that from 15-Dec-19, toll payments on National Highways would be accepted through FASTags only. Vehicles without them will have to pay twice the normal rate at toll gates. To ensure compliance, I ordered one from PayTM for ₹ 500 before the trip. Though the rollout date was later pushed to Jan 2020, the FASTag saved us lot of time and hassle during this trip. I strongly recommend to get one, if you are planning to travel through National Highways.
We identified 3 cities of interest – Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar in Odisha. The 3 cities are close to each other and form the famous “Golden Triangle”. Odisha is about 1600 km from Pune and therefore going as per our standard target limit of driving 500-600 km per day, we identified 2 break points for this trip – first one at Hyderabad (550 km from Pune) and the second at Vishakhapatnam (650 further). Having explored Hyderabad already in June 2014 (https://travel-memoirs.com/hyderabad/), we kept the city only for night halt. Since it was our first visit to Vishakhapatnam, we kept 2 separate days to explore it – one for Araku Valley (100 km from Vishakhapatnam in the Eastern Mountain Range) while going to Odisha and the second one for exploring the main city on return journey.
1) Point of Interests (POIs): After reviewing several online blogs and travel portals, we zeroed down to the below points of interest for this trip.
- Vishakhapatnam (Araku Valley): Padmapuram Gardens, Coffee museum, Tribal Museum, Borra caves.
- Chilika & Puri: Chilika Lake, Puri Beach, Jagannath Temple
- Konark: Sun Temple
- Bhubaneshwar: Dhauli, Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves, Lingraj temple, Rajarani Temple, Mukteshwar Temple, State Museum
- Vishakhapatnam (City): R.K. Beach, INS Kurusura Submarine and Airplane Museum, Kailasagiri Park, Indira Gandhi Zoological Park
There are 2 routes to drive to Odisha from Pune. The first one passes through Aurangabad – Nagpur – Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and the second one via Solapur – Hyderabad – Vijaywada – Vishakhapatnam.
Note: While planning for trips, I take inputs for road conditions from Team BHP and most of my online hotel bookings are done via MakeMyTrip and Yatra
The first route (via Nagpur) is about 100 km shorter than the second one (via Hyderabad-Vishakhapatnam) but it passes though some Naxal / Maoist insurgency impacted areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Though the situation has improved significantly post 2017, we do sometimes get to hear of occasional instances in the news. I also did not read very good reviews of the road conditions on this route from various forums. Based on both of factors, we opted for the second route – Hyderabad – Vijayawada – Vishakhapatnam.
The final itinerary was finalized as – Pune – Hyderabad – Vishakhapatnam (Anakapalle) – Araku – Chilika – Puri – Konark – Bhubaneshwar – Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad – Pune
|Day||From||To||Distance (Km)||Est. Time (hh:mm)|
|6||Puri - Konark||Bhubaneshwar||102||2:40|
- Book Hotels: The below hotels were booked based on the criteria mentioned in the Prerequisites.
|Hyderabad||Sunshine Castle||Plot no 11, Swarna Sai Sannidhi, White Fields, Kondapur, Hyderabad 500084, 7416544456 ,9000091308 , 9000091308||1|
|Anakapalle||S R Residency, (Sathvika Multi Cuisine Restaurant)||12-5-48 New Colony, Annakapalle, ANAKAPALLE 534001. PHONE: 91-08924-222999,||1|
|Araku||Mountain View Resorts||Shivalingapuram, Araku Road, Tyda Valley, Ananthagiri Mandal, Visakhapatnam 535145. ph: 8333031000 ,9490133107 ,7013870234 , 9490133107||1|
|Chilika Lake||OTDC Panthanivas Rambha||Rambha, Ganjam. 0680-2343931 / 7008152752 / 7504155517||1|
|Puri||Gajapati Hotel||New Marine Drive Road, Baliapanda Sea Beach, Puri, Orissa. Ph: 06752-231668 ,9040085441 ,231324 ,6752-231324 , 9040085441||1|
|Bhubaneshwar||Hotel Arvind Inn||Plot No.-9, Janpath, Bapuji Nagar, 3rd Floor,Bhubaneswar. Ph: 8260420307 ,0674-2598441 , 8917663083||2|
|Vishakhapatnam||New Blue Homes||Kirlampudi, Beach Road 2nd back lane of YMCA Visakhapatnam-530017. PH: 9441335999 ,9441335999||2|
|Hyderabad||Nova Pride||Plot No. H4, Abhyudaya Nagar, Near Vishnu Theatre, Chintalkunta, Vanastalipuram, Hyderabad. Ph: 7036663276 ,7036663108 , 7036663108||1|
Our ride was petrol variant – Maruti Swift Dezire with 1197 cc engine. My fellow passengers were 2 kids and my wife – who was to take turns to drive. The entire trip was to be travelled through NH65 and NH16. NH65 starts from Pune and passes through Solapur – Hyderabad – Suryapet till Vijayawada. From Vijaywada we were to take NH16, which is a part of the NHAI’s Golden Quadrilateral project and runs along East coast starting from Chennai and passes through Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and ends at Kolkata (West Bengal).
Day 1: Drive from Pune to Hyderabad (536 km, 10 Hrs)
Day 1 was for driving to our first transit city – Hyderabad. We had booked Hotel Sunshine Castle located in Whitefield area of Kondapur. We were to cover 536 km and the GPS showed 10 hours as estimated time..
To beat the early morning traffic, we left Pune early at 7 am and took NH65 (Solapur highway) to travel for Hyderabad. The first stop was Vitthal Kamath at Yavat for breakfast. It is 45 km from Pune and takes about 40 minutes to reach. Below is our review of this restaurant.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Restaurant Review: Vitthal Kamath - Yavat|
|Items Ordered||NA||Idli, Masala Dosa, Uttapam, Upma and Cheeze sandwich, coffee|
|Location||5||Located on the main highway|
|Taste||5||All the Items tasted good|
|Ambience||5||Parking available, clean washrooms, hygienic restaurant, well maintained garden|
|Service||5||South Indian dishes are served quickly. The rest might take time.|
|Value for Money||4||The portions of the dishes are small. 2 small pieces for sandwich cost ₹100, which was not worth.|
After a quick breakfast break of 30 minutes, we were back again on NH65. It’s a 4 lane drive from Pune to Solapur and the road conditions are excellent and passes like a breeze. As soon as you bypass Solapur, you pass several patches on the highway where flyovers are been constructed and you get diversions till Talmod. Further at Naldurg, about 2 km of road is broken which slows down the speed considerably.
You come across Naldurg Fort on the way. Since we had a target to reach Hyderabad before sunset, we skipped it but if you have time, you can spend some time exploring the fort. From Talmod, you briefly enter Karnataka and come across – ‘Punjabi Dhami’ hotel at Sastapur, where we stopped for lunch. The restaurant has got lodging facilities and has a good restaurant.
Below is our review of restaurant Punjabi Dhami:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Restaurant Punjabi Dhami – Sastapur|
|Items Ordered||NA||Butter mutton, Chicken Biryani, Yellow Daal, Roties and Kheer|
|Location||3||It is located on the right side of highway on the way to Hyderabad and the diversion for a ‘U’ turn is about a kilometer away. The entry to the hotel is via a narrow passage which is a bit off way. We had to ask directions to get to the parking.|
|Taste||4.5||Mutton was well cooked. The rice used in biryani was a bit sticky and spicy but made out of fresh and juicy chicken. Yellow daal was good (you hardly go wrong with this dish anywhere in India). Kheer made out from rice and vermicelli is the restaurants USP and is a must try|
|Ambience||5||Parking space available. Washrooms are clean and restaurant hygienic.|
|Service||4||It’s good but a bit slow|
|Value for Money||4||Most of the non-veg dishes are within ₹ 200-250. Served portions are adequate for a family of 4.|
Lunch took us an hour and we continued our journey and entered Telangana. The road condition after Talmod is excellent and is a smooth drive till Hyderabad.
FASTag rollout was in its initial phase but its benefits were clearly visible. Cash lanes in almost all the tolls had long queues as compared to FASTag lanes. This saves us a lot of time in the entire journey.
By the time we touched Hyderabad, it was 7 pm. We had to go through the evening rush hour and by the time we reached our hotel – Sunshine Castle, it was already dark. Since, we had a target to cover 650 km the next day, we had our dinner at the hotel and retired early to our beds.
Below is our review of Sunshine Castle.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Sunshine Castle – (Hyderabad)|
|Location||3||The hotel is in Kondapur area which is on the Western periphery of Hyderabad and is close to ORR (Outer Ring Road). If you are travelling from Pune, you don’t require to travel through the main City. It a service apartment and is located in narrow by lanes of a residential colony. It is not marked correctly in Google, and we had a bit of a challenge in locating the hotel as our GPS pointed us to an incorrect location within the vicinity. We ultimately had to call the hotel reception who sent one of their staff’s to fetch us.|
|Parking||3||Parking space is limited. We had to park our car outside the apartment.|
|Room Facilities||4||The hotel is actually a service apartment. We were allotted a room in a 3 BHK flat. Rooms are spacious. Basic amenities are in place|
|Additional bedding:||5||We were provided an additional bedding without any extra charge|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||1||It is chargeable.|
|In-house Restaurant:||3||Not much options are available. It offered a fixed vegetarian ‘thali’ costing ₹200. Food was simple.|
|Value for money:||4||We booked it for ₹1000 for a night which was worth it.|
Day 2: Drive from Hyderabad to Anakapalle (638 km, 11:15 Hrs)
Day 2 was the biggest stretch of our journey. We were to drive 638 km to reach – Anakapalle, which is a small town before Vishakhapatnam and was identified to serve as a break point for onward journey to Araku Valley. Being a long journey we left Hyderabad at 6:30 am while it was still dark.
While planning for the trip, we had identified ‘7-Food court’ for breakfast. The food court is 170 km from Hyderabad and it was going to take 3 hours to reach there. We had hardly driven for an hour when the kids started to feel hungry. Luckily, we found several food vendors on both the sides of the NH65 selling freshly prepared South Indian dishes from their mini trucks. We stopped at one of them and ordered idli, poori bhaaji and dosa. All the dishes costed us ₹160 and gave the kids sought after relief from their hunger pangs.
We continued with our journey and in couple of hours reached “7 food court” which we decided to check out.
The food court is spread in a huge area with ample parking space and clean restrooms. Apart from the main restaurant, it offers various food joints like KFC, CCD and Subway. The restaurant has an extensive menu ranging from Continental, North Indian and South Indian dishes. The staff is courteous and their USP is filter coffee, which tastes strong and comes topped up with a huge froth and is a must try. The prices of dishes are on a bit higher side. A cup of their famous coffee costs ₹60.
After a quick coffee break, we continued our journey further on NH65, which is a 4 lane highway and is a driving pleasure. You do get diversions frequently where flyovers are been constructed but none of them slows down your speed significantly. By noon, we touched Vijayawada. The moment we entered the city, we found the roads lined with banners wishing Andhra’s CM – Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy’s birthday (21-Dec).
The flyover leading to the main city was blocked by cops as the roads were clogged by his supporters and the traffic was being diverted to alternate routes. I tried to convince the cops to let us pass through, but our requests fell through deaf ears. My satellite based navigation system was also not suggesting any alternate routes. Left with no other option, I spoke with a couple of locals to get directions but my limitation with the local language – Telugu, led me to struggled a bit to get exact directions.
With inputs from several helpful people, we were finally able to steer our way out of Vijaywada. The city costed us an additional 1 hour to our already stretched target to reach Anakapalle before sunset. From Vijaywada, we switched from NH65 to NH16. The plan was to break for lunch at “One food court” at Avasare. The GPS showed it to be 250 km with an ETA of 5 hours – which would have been too late for lunch, so we started looking for options. As soon as we bypassed Eluru, we saw several signboards of “Garuda Food Court”. While passing by, we found its ambience quite impressive with ample parking space, so we decided to give it a try. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good decision.
Below is our review of the Garuda Food court:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Garuda Food court - Yavat|
|Items Ordered||NA||Nilgiri (Chicken) Dum biryani|
|Location||5||Located on the main highway|
|Taste||5||Excellent. Served with delicious and rich vegetable dalma and ‘raita’. This is the best dalma which we had in this entire trip.|
|Ambience||5||Ample parking space, clean washrooms, hygienic restaurant, well maintained garden|
|Service||5||Courteous waiters. Quick Service.|
|Value for Money||4||One plate of Biryani was less for 2 adults. We had to order an additional plate. Though a bit expensive, it was value for money.|
|Overall||4.5||Highly recommended, if you are travelling on this highway and looking for food break.|
By the time we finished our lunch, it was 4 PM. Our hotel – S.R. Residency in Anakapalle was 250 km and was to take about 5 hours to reach. We continued our journey on NH16 and soon crossed river Godavari before entering Rajahmudry. We soon passed by ‘One Food Court’ which seemed to have a nice ambience to break for lunch or dinner. It would definitely have been too late if we had targeted it for lunch.
We checked in to our hotel S. R. Residency at 9:30 pm. Since we had a late lunch, we ordered a light dinner at the hotel’s in-house restaurant. Anakapalle, being a relatively smaller place does not have much eating out options.
Below is our review of Hotel – S.R. Residency:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||S.R. Residency|
|Location||3||Located in heart of city, close to railway station. It is not marked in Google maps, it can instead be searched by its restaurant - Sathvika Multi Cuisine.|
|Parking||3||No dedicated parking space. We had to park our car outside the hotel.|
|Room Facilities||4||Rooms are spacious. Basic amenities are in place|
|Additional bedding||5||We were provided an additional bedding without any extra charge|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||5||Yes. Variety of options available.|
|In-house Restaurant:||4||Closed ambience. Good taste. Average prices.|
|Value for money:||4||We booked it for ₹2000 for a day. Keeping in view complimentary breakfast, it was a bit costly.|
Day 3: Drive to Araku Valley (115 km, 3:15 hrs)
On day 3, we were scheduled to visit Araku valley, which is located in the Eastern Ghats. Araku’s beauty is often compared with Ooty due to the lush greenery that covers the entire valley. It boasts of beautiful viewpoints, coffee plantations and tribal culture. It is the journey to Araku which is more mesmerizing than the destination itself.
After complimentary breakfast at the hotel we left for Araku at 9 am. Google gives 3 options to reach there from Anakapalle. The first one, recommended by Google, passes through Paderu and is the shortest. We had planned to take this route and visit Caparai falls on the way. However; when I inquired about this route at the hotel reception, we were suggested to take the route via Sabbavaram as the road conditions via Paderu were not good. We went with the suggestion and took the Sabbavaram route. There are several stretches on this route where road widening work is ongoing which delayed our destination by several minutes. This route later joins the Araku-Vishakhapatnam road which is relatively in a much better condition.
Note: Indian Railways operates a daily glass top coach train from Vishakhapatnam till Araku. Train No. 58501 departs from Visakhapatnam at 06:50 AM and reaches Araku at 10:45 AM. The same train (No. 58502) in the return direction, leaves Araku at 3:40 PM to arrive Visakhapatnam at 8:10 PM. I had read several good reviews about the scenic beauty of the route and wanted to do Araku trip via train. But due to odd timings of the return journey and hassle of leaving our car behind, we gave this option a miss. However, if the timings suits your itinerary and you are not driving on your own, you can book the train tickets for Executive Class from IRCTC portal.
After driving for 2 hours we reached our temporary abode for the day – Mountain View resorts.
The resort is in Tyda valley in the Anantagiri region. The resort is located amid green and peaceful environment and consists of independent cottages.
Borra caves and Araku Valley are respectively 20 km and 45 km from here.
Below is our review of Mountain View Resort:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Mountain View Resorts|
|Location||4||The resort is in Tyda valley in the Anantagiri region. From here, Araku is 45 km and Borra caves are 20 km. The resort is located amid green and peaceful environment and consists of independent cottages.|
|Parking||5||Sufficient parking is available inside the resort|
|Room Facilities:||3||Every cottage has spacious rooms which are equipped with basic amenities. Biggest challenge is Mobile signals and Wi-Fi. The only network which works is Jio. You are cut from the outside World for whatever duration you are here.|
|Additional bedding||5||We were provided an additional bedding without any extra charge|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||4||Yes but limited options available.|
|In-house Restaurant:||3||Available. Limited options. Moderately priced. A plate of Chicken Fry Biryani costed ₹200|
|Value for money:||4||We booked it for ₹1800 for a day. Keeping in view complimentary breakfast, it was worth it.|
Soon after checking-in, we left for our first destination of the day – Borra Caves. Set amidst the Ananthagiri Hills in Araku Valley, it is considered to be one of the largest caves in the country. Discovered in 1807, the natural caves consists of stalagmites and stalactites made of limestone and reminds you of geography classes back in school. There are lots of natural formations here that are a result of constant erosion and the rocks being carved and shaped by the river. The multi-colored lights installed inside the caves make these even better and intriguing to look at. The cave opens from (10:00 am – 5:00 pm). Entry fee is ₹70 for adults, ₹50 for children and ₹100 for Video Camera.
The road leading to the Borra caves is lined with shacks serving ‘Bamboo Chicken’, which is a local delicacy. It is prepared by tribals by marinating small raw chicken pieces with salt, chilly, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste, coriander leaves and then stuffing it inside the bamboo piece that is open from one side. No oil or water is used in the preparation. The open end is then sealed by stuffing it with leaves and then it is put on coal fire. The heat passing through the burning bamboo cooks the chicken inside. It is served hot with sliced onions and lemon. 500 gms of chicken costs ₹250. This is one dish which has to be tried if you are in Araku (and you are a non vegetarian 🙂 )
By the time we finished savoring the bamboo chicken, it was 2:30 in the noon and we were still left with exploring the Araku valley which was 40 km further from Bora caves. After driving through mountainous range for another 1.5 hours, we finally entered the Araku Valley.
The first point in the list at Araku was Padmapuram Gardens which is a major tourist destination where one can find wide varieties of exotic and rare species of flowers and trees. It is said that, during World War II, the soldiers got their vegetable supplies from here. It also has a Toy train for children and a small rose garden. It is a nice place to walk around in a serene environment. It opens from 7 AM -7 PM. Entry fee is ₹40 for adults and ₹20 for children.
From Padmapuram gardens we drove to Coffee Museum. The museum walks you through the history of coffee over the world and particularly India. One can learn how the coffee came to India and how is it cultivated. In museum, there are shops for coffee and chocolates. Eating stalls selling various items are also available within the museum premises. It opens from 8 am till 8 pm and has a nominal entry fee of ₹10.
By the time we finished exploring the Coffee museum, it was 6 pm and we were still left with the last destination in our list – Tribal Museum, which is walking distance from Coffee Museum.
Araku Valley has got 19 tribes that live in the vicinity of the town. The purpose of the museum is to create awareness about tribal culture and lifestyle and showcase tribal lifestyle. The Museum is spread over two levels, and displays several clay monuments that depict their day-to-day activities. Various artifacts of the tribal people like jewelry, hunting tools and kitchen utensils have been exhibited here. The museum opens from 8 AM to 8 PM. Entry Fee: ₹10 for Adults & ₹5 for Children
Day 4: Drive from Araku to Chilika (308 km, 6:40 Hrs)
On the fourth day of our journey, we were to travel to Odisha. Our itinerary included Chilika Lake followed by Puri, Konark (Sun Temple), Dhauli (Shanti Stupa/Ashoka Pillar), Bhubaneshwar and then return journey to Vishakhapatnam.
Chilika Lake can be reached primarily through 3 entry point towns – Barkul, Rambha and Satapada (highlighted in purple on the map) and take boats to ride through the lake and the many islands around it. Tourists coming from Bhubaneshwar prefer Barkul. From Puri – Sarapada is close and Rambha is convenient if you are traveling from South (Andra Pradesh). Among all the entry points, Rambha is preferred because it is close to most of the attractions near the Lake.
As we were driving from Andra, we had identified Rambha as our point of visit to the Lake and booked OTDC Panthanivas for our stay at Chilika via the Orissa Tourism portal – https://www.panthanivas.com/
Chilika is about 300 km from Araku (Mountain View Resort) and requires 7 hours of drive. After a quick South Indian breakfast buffet, we checked out from our hotel at 8:30 am. We took the Araku-Vishakhapatnam road and from Vizianagaram joined NH-16 to drive till Chilika. This route passes through Srikakulam and Brahmapur.
The entire NH16 highway is in a perfect condition with scenic Eastern Ghats on your left and green fields on right. An interesting observation was presence of huge statues of lord Hanuman on the entire stretch at every few kilometers.
We saw that in the coastal region of Andra, paddy (rice) was been cultivated around the year (In most of other parts of country, it is done once a year). We came across fields where paddy was been harvested and sown as the same time.
The biggest challenge on this stretch of NH16 is – absence of good restaurants. We did not find any decent family restaurant to stop for lunch. As soon as we entered Odisha, we came across “BPCL Ghar” which is next to a BPCL petrol pump. Though, its ambience did not look much promising, in dearth of other options, we decided to give it a try.
Below is our review of BPCL Ghar restaurant:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||BPCL Ghar Dhaba|
|Items Ordered||NA||Chana masala, mix-vegetables & Chapatis|
|Location||5||Located on the main highway – NH16 (Coordinates - 19.181208, 84.725263)|
|Taste||3||The food was served on a “pattal” (plate made of leaves) and along with roti’s made of ‘maida’ (refined flour)|
|Ambience||2||Just Ok. Separate seating arrangement for families. Truck drivers use this place to have drinks and take rest.|
|Service||3||Long waiting even during lunch hours with not many customers.|
|Value for Money||4||Yes|
|Overall||3||Average. Not much options are available on this stretch of NH-16.|
After lunch, we carried on with our journey and by 4 PM we reached our hotel – OTDC Panthanivas in Rambha. It is designed very beautifully on the bank of Chilika lake with nice and spacious rooms with two gardens – one in front and second backside offering beautiful view of the lake.
Since we had evening with us, we inquired at the reception for a motor boat ride at the lake in the evening. We were updated that the last boating trip is scheduled for 3 PM because in evening, the local fishermen cast their nets in the lake and motor boats are prohibited during this time. Having no other option we spent the rest of the evening at the Lake View Point. A separate gate is available for the guests to reach the Lake View Point from the hotel. The narrow passage till the view point is lined by shacks selling various artifacts and decorative items. A song from some Bengali film was been shot at the lake view point and was crowded with the film crew and onlookers.
After spending the evening at the View Point, we returned to our hotel and inquired for next days booking for motor-boat ride. The reception had the below rate-chart displayed for boat ride.
The rate card offered 3 packages. All 3 of them could be done with 2 type of boats – 5 seater and 10 seater . Though we found the packages a bit costly but there were no other alternatives. Probably; this is what you get when you are travelling during peak tourist season.
We booked ₹2730 package for a 5 seater boat for the next morning.
We ordered dinner at the Hotels in-house restaurant and called it a day.
Below is our review of OTDC Panthanivas.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||OTDC Panthanivas - Chilika|
|Location||5||It is located on the banks of the Lake and is a 5 minute (1.5 km) drive from the highway NH16|
|Parking||5||Ample parking available inside the resort|
|Room Facilities||2||Rooms are spacious. Basic amenities are in place. Being a government run hotel, services are very slow. While paying for the boat ride and food, the reception had challenges with the card swipe machine and we were asked to pay in cash (which I believe is deliberately done to get their ‘cut’). We had to ‘hunt’ for an ATM and ended up wasting 15-20 minutes at the time of check-out.|
|Additional bedding||5||We were provided an additional bedding without any extra charge|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||4||Yes. Aloo poori, boiled eggs, bread with jam and butter, bananas. Warm and fresh. Tasted better than what we had in dinner.|
|In-house Restaurant:||3||Available. It also has an in-house bar. Veg and non-veg both are available. For dinner, we had ordered Fried Fish (₹100), Daal (₹35), Chilly Chicken (₹180) and Veg. Fried Rice (₹75). Chicken was too sweet and fried rice had a bland taste. Saving grace was Daal (you hardly go wrong with this dish anywhere in India). Service is a bit too slow. It’s advised to place your order much in advance to get a timely service.|
|Value for money:||5||We booked it for ₹2000 for a day. Keeping in view the ambience of the hotel and complimentary breakfast, it was worth it.|
|Overall||4||Good. Recommended purely because of its location and ambience.|
Day 5: Explore Chilika and Drive to Puri (135 km, 3:15)
Day 5 was Christmas and we had plans to visit the Chilika lake in the morning and then drive to Puri later in the day.
Chilika Lake is the largest internal salt water lagoon (a combination of sea and freshwater) in Asia, and covers 3 districts of Odisha. It attracts a wide range of birds like white-bellied sea eagles, flamingos and ducks during winters. Our motor boat ride included 1 hour ride, covering the following points in the lake – Breakfast Island, Ghantashila Hill, Birds Island, Honeymoon and Sanakuda.
We started our trip to the lake at 7:30 am. Our ride was a 4 seated boat powered by a “Yamaha” engine and the lake looked mesmerizing in the backdrop of rising sun.
The boat ride started with the visit to the first point – Breakfast Island which hosts a conical pillar and a rectangular room. The pillar had has a provision to put a beacon on its top, because of which it is also called as Beacon Island. In a dilapidated state now, it was built during the British era and was used by them and other local kings for leisure activities (like having breakfast :-)).
Next we passed by the Ghantashila Hill which has a legend of fisherman hearing ringing bells from the hills. The hill has a Shiva Temple hidden in the caves.
Birds Island was the next destination. It is a small hillock with huge exposed hanging rocks which appear painted white because of bird droppings. During winter season, migratory birds like Flamingoes and Grey Pelican are sighted here in large numbers. An interesting attraction of this island is a clay model of Dinasaur with a broken tail (probably because of frequent cyclones from Bay of Bengal).
Honeymoon Island was the last point of the Chilika trip. Our boatman explained that this island had a rest house which was used by local chiefs for recreational purposes but during course of time it worn down and is not been used any more.
By 9 am, we were back to our hotel. After refreshing ourselves, we had breakfast and were soon ready to check out. We wasted about half an hour while making payments as card swipe machines were not working at the Hotel reception. After hunting for an ATM and making cash payment were finally driving on our way to Puri via NH-16. Puri is about 135 km from Chilika and takes 3.5 hours to reach by road.
After driving for about 80 km, we took a right diversion at Rameshwar for ‘New Jagannath road’ which later joins NH316 till Puri.
By the time, we checked-in to our hotel – Hotel Gajapati, it was 3 pm. We had planned to visit the Puri beach and spend the rest of the evening there. We had scheduled for darshan at Jagannath temple early morning next day as we had read several reviews suggesting darshan before 7 a.m. or post 9 p.m. to avoid the crowd.
After having lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, we came across a ‘hotel appointed panda’ (priest), who updated that the temple will be closed from midnight in wake of solar eclipse next day. Unaware of this celestial phenomenon, we had to prepone our plans to visit the temple later in the same day.
The Puri Beach is walking distance from the hotel. It is often visited by devotees who come to visit Jagannath temple. The beach also known as – Golden Beach because of the fine golden colored sand which lines the shore of sea.
The shore of the beach is a bit elevated than the sea level and strong waves makes it unfavourable for swimming.
While walking across the beach, we came across several carcasses of sea turtles with dogs and crows feasting on them. My daughter found this to be a bit disturbing and left us wondering if they died naturally or due to any accident.
A quick search on Google gave the answers we were looking for…. The turtles are actually Olive Ridley turtles and have been listed under ‘endangered’ species. The marine turtles begin arriving for mass mating within 5 km of the coast to the Odisha from November. They mate from December onwards following which the male turtles turn back and females remain in the sea for nesting on the beach. During mating season, they end up getting ploughed down by the fishing trawlers or getting entangled by fishing nets that suffocate them to death. Odisha government has banned fishing between November and May within 20 km of the coast but illegal trawlers are still causing the deaths of this beautiful creature.
The beach is also renowned for the sand sculptures made by internationally known sand artist- Sudarshan Patnaik. His creations are displayed in a makeshift enclosure on the beach and there is a nominal entry fee to see some of his best creations. Since it was Christmas, most of his art work was based on the Christmas theme.
The beach is lined with stalls selling various sea food items. You can choose from a wide variety of options ranging from fresh catch of – prawns, crabs, pomfret and different other varieties of fish. All the items are priced moderately (pomfret – ₹60/piece, prawn – ₹50/piece etc) and your selected option is freshly marinated and deep fried. It is served with mustard sauce and tamarind chatni.
After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we returned back to our hotel and thoroughly washed ourselves of beach sand. We then hired an auto for Jagannath Temple.
The temple is about 2 km from the hotel and you have to pass through narrow by-lanes to reach there. Vising the temple by your own conveyance is not recommended, hire an auto instead. You’re not permitted to carry any belongings inside the temple, including cell phones, shoes, socks and cameras. All leather items are banned as well. There are several facilities near the main entrance where you can deposit your items for safekeeping.
The ambiance of the temple is evocative at night, when lamps are lit and the temple is illuminated. You will be approached by pandas for getting puja done. It’s strongly recommended that you ignore them. The temple is home to three deities – Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra. Lord Jagannath is a form of Lord Vishnu. The temple was built in the 11th century by King Indradyumna. It is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus and is one of the shrines of “Char Dham Yatra” (Other 3 being – Badrinath, Dwarka and Rameshwaram). Built in Oriya style of architecture, the four gates (one in each direction – East, West, North and South) are beautifully designed with intricate carvings.
After paying our tributes to Lord Jagannath we made our way to the courtyard within the temple premises where you can have Mahaprasad. Every day, 56 varieties (Chappan Bhog) of dishes are prepared and offered to the Deities at the Temple. These consist of preparation of rice, dal and vegetables. The food is cooked in a ‘satvik’ fashion (without garlic and onions), and is offered to Lord Jagannath after which it is believed to turn into Mahaprasad. The Mahaprasad is then kept in mud pots and sold by different vendors, where they serve all items in a ‘thali’ in small quantities for ₹ 100. All the 56 items may not be available with a single vendor, so you may have to go around to different vendors to taste everything.
After having the Mahaprasada, we collected our belongings and decided to explore the ‘khaja street’. The Street is near the South Gate of the temple and is lined with sweet shops selling delicacies like – Khaja and Chhena poda. Khaja is one of the items of Chappan Bhoj (Mahaprasada) and is made by dipping refined floor patties in sugar syrup while Chena poda is a cheese cake. It is made by mixing fresh cheese (chhena) with sugar and baking it until it turns brown.
The road leading to the main gate of the temple has street vendors selling various unique local street food items. We tried our hands on the “Dalma” which is a preparation made by cooking lentils and vegetables together. It is served along with freshly prepared wheat rotis. Dalma was a bit subtle in taste but was rich and filling.
Another interesting street food was ‘matar ka pani’. Which is the broth of boiled white-pea, sprinkled with chilly, spices and coriander leaves.
By the time we finished exploring the temple area, it was 10 pm. We hired an auto and returned back to our hotel.
Below is our review of Hotel Gajapati at Puri
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Hotel Gajapati (Puri)|
|Location||4||The hotel is walking distance from Puri beach and 2 km from Jagannath temple. It is well known and landmark in itself. Every auto driver knew this place.|
|Parking||3||Limited parking space which is just enough for 3-4 cars.|
|Room Facilities:||2||We had booked an Economy AC room. The room was small but basic amenities were in place.|
|Additional bedding:||5||We were provided an additional bedding without any extra charge|
|In-house Restaurant:||2||The hotel has an in-house restaurant but the service is very slow. We ordered Kadaai Chicken (₹210) with chapaties which tasted good. Breakfast was not available in the morning.|
|Value for money:||3||We booked it for ₹2500 for a day. Keeping in view the services, we found it to be expensive.|
Day 6: Explore Konark (40 km, 1 Hr) and drive to Bhubaneshwar (63 km, 1:45 Hr)
The famous Konark Sun Temple was on cards on the 6th day of the trip. From Konark we were to drive to Bhubaneshwar and stop on-way at Dhauli to visit the Ashoka Pillar and Shanti Stupa. Konark is 40 km from Puri. Dhauli is 55 km from Konark and drive of another 10 km further was to get us to capital city of Odisha – Bhubaneshwar.
We left our hotel at 9 am. 26-Dec-19 morning was a Sun eclipse in India (Complete in Kerala/Tamil Nadu and partial in rest of India) and it was cloudy at Puri so the eclipse was hardly visible. We stopped at Kamath at the Puri beach road for a quick South Indian breakfast and then left for Konark.
Below is our review of Kamath restaurant at Puri
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Kamath (Puri)|
|Items Ordered||NA||Masala Dosa (₹99), Chola Bhatura (₹99), Milkshake (₹99), coffee (₹35)|
|Location||5||Located on the Puri beach|
|Taste||5||Kamath has done an excellent job in maintaining taste and ambience across all of their restaurants in Southern part of India. I don’t remember going wrong with anyone of them till date.|
|Ambience||4||Finding space for parking can be a challenge as it is located on the busy Puri beach road. Clean washrooms, Hygienic restaurant|
|Service||5||Quick and prompt Service|
|Value for Money||4||Dishes are a bit on the higher side of pricing but they are worth it.|
The route till Konark takes you through the Puri-Konark Marine Drive road and passes though some beautiful landscape. We stopped at a small market near Chandrabhaga beach which had several shops selling cashew nuts. The rates were comparatively cheaper than what we generally get in open market so we bought a few packets. From Chandrabhaga, the road takes a sharp left turn for the Sun Temple. Within a few minutes we reached the Sun Temple and got into a queue to buy entry tokens. Entry tokens cost ₹40 per adult and entry for children till 15 years is free.
Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the prime tourist attractions of Odisha. Built during 1250 by King Narasimhadeva-I, it is conceived as a giant stone chariot with 12 pairs of lavishly ornamented wheels carved on the temple wall and pulled by 7 stone horses. The temple follows the Kalinga or Orissa style of architecture, which is a subset of the ‘Nagara’ style of temple architecture. Despite much of the temple in ruin, it still reflects the artistic genius of architects and sculptures of the time.
The Temple complex consist of two main parts – a dance pavilion (natya mandapa), and audience hall (jagamohana). The main entrance leads to the dance pavilion, guarded by two stone lions. The roof of dance pavilion has caved in during the course of time.
The audience hall is the most well-preserved structure, and it dominates the temple complex. Its entrance has been sealed and the interior filled with sand to prevent it from collapsing. Massive restoration work was ongoing by ASI to preserve whatever is left of this beautiful temple.
The audience hall is in form the chariot, with the wheels and horses carved on either side of its platform. The wheels are all the same size but each has different motifs on it. The chariot wheel has been featured on the new ₹ 10 denomination currency notes. The walls of the temple have been carved with beautiful carvings and several of them depict couples in erotic poses.
After spending an hour at the temple, it was time for lunch. We had read good reviews of Food Court which is just opposite to the temple entry. It is run by Kamath Chain of Restaurants and below are our ‘two cents’ on the food court.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Kamath - Konark|
|Items Ordered||NA||We ordered Dal (₹85), Kadai Paneer (₹220), Laccha Paratha (₹60 each) and Fried Rice (₹125).|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||578|
|Location||5||Located just opposite the Temple Entry inside the ASI museum complex.|
|Taste||5||All of the dishes tasted good. The restaurant did not serve rotis – which is a bit let down for our North Indian taste buds|
|Ambience||4||It has a live-kitchen and also serves non-vegetarian food which is contrary to Kamath mostly serving vegetarian menu. Seating options are limited, so you might have to wait during peak hours. Washrooms are available in the premises of the museum.|
|Service||5||Quick and prompt service and courteous staff|
|Value for Money||4||Prices are on a bit the higher side, but they are worth it.|
We finished our lunch by 2 pm and then started our journey to the next destination – Bhubaneshwar. We were to stop on the way at Dhauli which was 55 km on the way and was to take about 1.5 hours.
During 260 BC, ruler of Maura Empire – King Ashoka, had waged a war to conquer Kalinga (present day Odisha). Dhauli is the site, on whose plains Kalinga War was fought. It is located on the banks of the Daya River, which had turned red by the blood of Kalingan martyrs. The bloodshed led Ashoka to change his mind and he renounced war and embraced Buddhism.
There are 3 major tourist attractions in Dhauli – Shanti Stupa, Ashoka Pillar and Rock Edicts. On the top of Dhauli Hills lies the white ‘Shanti Stupa’ or the Peace Pagoda. The circular structure has stone statues of Buddha in different poses along with particularly eye-catching golden yellow lion figurines. The Pagoda has been built with collaboration of the Japanese (Buddhism is the primary religion of Japan). Finding parking space could be a bit of challenge during peak tourist season.
After spending some time at the Shanti Stupa, we drove down from the Dhauli hill to the Ashoka Pillar, which is similar to the Lion Capital of Ashoka (India’s national emblem). It stands in a secluded spot near the famous Rock Edicts of Dhauli.
Ashoka repented of the violence which he had done and he expressed his intention to govern the kingdom according to the principles of his new faith. He inscribed a series of rock-cut edicts throughout his vast kingdom. One of such inscriptions can be found at Dhauli. To protect the edicts, it has been secured by building an enclosure around it. In absence of sufficient light, I could not get good quality picture though the glass enclosure. Below is the image from Wikipedia.
By the time we finished exploring the edicts, it was 6 in the evening. We were to travel another 10 km to reach our hotel in Bhubaneshwar. Without much delay, we had a quick cup of tea and were soon driving towards our destination. We crossed the Daya River (which had turned red by the blood of Kalingan martyrs) and soon entered Bhubaneshwar. Drive of another 30 minutes got us to our hotel– Arvind Inn, which is in Bapuji Nagar.
We went for a stroll at the Janpath in the evening. An interesting fact about the Bhubaneshwar is that it was one of India’s first planned cities designed by a German architect along with Jamshedpur and Chandigarh. The city has been planned with wide roads and well managed traffic will ample parking space on both sides of roads in most parts of the City. Below is evening view of Janpath opposite to our hotel.
We tried a popular local street food – Ghugni Chaat which is made of boiled chick-peas (matar) and potatoes. If your taste buds are used to North Indian street food, you might need some time to adjust to Oria taste as it is not very spicy or oily. We also tried the local delicacy – Chenapoda which was sweeter than what we had in Puri.
After gorging on street food, we returned back to our hotel and retired for the day.
Below is the review of hotel – Arvind Inn
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Hotel Arvind Inn - Bhubaneshwar|
|Location||5||Located on Janpath Road in Bapuji Nagar. The hotel is on the 3rd floor of Arvind Complex.|
|Parking||2||The hotel does not have a dedicated parking. We had to park our car on the road opposite to the hotel.|
|Room Facilities:||5||Room was spacious with additional bedding|
|Additional bedding:||NA||Room already had an additional bed.|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||1||The hotel did not offer complimentary breakfast|
|In-house Restaurant:||1||The hotel does not have an in-house restaurant|
|Value for money:||2||We had booked the hotel in ₹3874 for 2 days. During check-in, we were told by the reception desk that the Standard AC room we had booked was not available and we were asked to pay an additional ₹ 700. The reason made no sense as we had made the bookings 3 months in advance but multiple attempts of reasoning with the hotel’s staff didn’t help. We finally paid ₹500 additional.|
|Overall||2||We would not recommend this hotel. Though the Hotel location was good and room was very spacious, it was not worth the money. Additional money charged by the hotel was indecorous and unacceptable.|
Day 7: Explore Bhubaneshwar
Bhubaneshwar is Odisha’s capital and is renowned for being a city of temples as there are more than 700 in the city and majority of them are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name – Bhubaneshwar actually comes from Shiva’s Sanskrit name, Tribhubaneswar, meaning “Lord of Three Worlds”. Many of the temples in Bhubaneshwar were built between 8th-12th centuries when Saivism (worship of Lord Shiva) was been practiced widely. Most of the temples have been built in Nagara (North Indian) style of architecture – which is a combination of pidha (square front porch with pyramidal roof) and rekha (a sanctum with curvilinear top).
We had identified the following places to visit in Bhubaneshwar – Lingaraj Temple, Raja Rani Temple, Mukhteshwar Temple, State Museum, Udaigiri & Kanhagiri Caves. We generally prefer taking an auto or taxi to travel within city to avoid traffic and parking issues, but Bhubaneshwar being a well-planned city, can be explored by your own conveyence.
We woke to a bit chilly and foggy December morning and after getting fresh, we were on our way to try the famous staple snack of Odisha -Vadas with Ghuguni (curry made of chick peas). One such place is Rabi Bhai’s stall about which we had heard some very good reviews on YouTube and decided to give it a try when we were in Bubaneshwar.
Below is our review of this place.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Rabi Bhai's Food Stall|
|Items Ordered||NA||Vada-Ghugni. Chenna Poda, Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||₹250|
|Location||3||Unit 6 in middle of nowhere. It can be located and reached through Google maps.|
|Taste||4||Rabi bhai and his staff makes one of the crispiest Vadas and serve it hot with steaming hot ghuguni. Chenna Poda was a bit burnt but tasted fine. Biggest USP of this place was jumbo sized Rasgulla and Gulab Jamun which were excellent.|
|Ambience||2||It is actually a shabby looking hut and doesn’t have any seating arrangements. Be ready to stand and eat.|
|Service||3||Self Service. The place is crowded most of the time but you don’t have to wait too much.|
|Value for Money||5||A family of 4 had a stomach full of freshly prepared breakfast in ₹250.|
|Overall||3.5||If you are in Bhubaneshwar, ensure that you don’t miss this place.|
After breakfast we drove to the next destination – Lingaraja Temple which is 4 km from Unit 6 and takes about 15 minutes by car. Paid parking is available at walking distance from the Temple.
Lingraj temple: The splendid Lingraj Temple (the king of lingas – symbol of Lord Shiva) represents the height of the evolution of temple architecture in Odisha. Believe to be built during the late 11th century, the main temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneshwar. There are more than 64 smaller shrines in the sprawling temple complex as well. They’re magnificently decorated with sculptures of gods and goddesses, kings and queens, dancing girls, hunters, and musicians. You might be hassled by priests for a pooja or donation, so avoid them unless you are visiting for religious purposes. Entry is for Hindus (or who look like Hindus) only and photography is not allowed.
It was 10:45 am by the time we finished Lingaraj group of temples. The next point in the list was Rajarani temple.
Rajarani Temple: At a walking distance of 1.5 km from Lingaraj is Rajarani temple. You can park your vehicle on the road outside the entry gate. Built in 10th Century, the temple is unique because it is without a deity but the sculptures on the temple walls strongly indicate that it was once associated with Lord Shiva. As per the information engraved outside the temple, it got its name from the variety of sandstone (rajarani) used to make it. The carvings on the temple are ornate with numerous sculptures. The spacious and immaculately kept garden next to the temple is peaceful place to relax. There’s an entry fee of Rs. 15. Children under 15 are free.
Mukteshwar Temple: At a distance of 600 meters is Mukteswara Temple which is again dedicated to Lord Shiva. The term ‘Mukteswara’ suggests “Lord who gives freedom through Yoga” and this fact is further empowered by the sculptural images embraced in the temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of Muketeswara, the entire temple is imprinted with figures in different poses of meditation. Inside the complex, there are several small shrines that comprise numerous lingams of Lord Shiva.
2 km from Mukteshwar temple is Odisha State Museum which showcases sculptural exhibits ranging from third century BC to the late medieval period, coins from pre – Mauryan days, palm leaf manuscripts and many other artefacts that highlight the rich historical and cultural legacy of Odisha. It opens on all days except Mondays and government holidays. Galleries include archaeology, art and craft, anthropology, armoury, manuscripts, coins, etc. There is an entry fee of ₹20 and ₹10 for camera. The museum has a paid parking inside its premises. One can easily spend 1.5-2 hours for visiting all the galleries.
A model showing expedition of king of Kalinga – Kharavela. Also visible is Jagannath temple and Udaigiri caves in the background.
Some other artifacts displayed in the Museum
By the time we finished exploring all the sections of the museum, it was 2:30 pm and we were hungry. Destination for Lunch was – Dalma restaurant which gets its name from the traditional Odia dish of daal (pulses) and vegetables. The restaurant is 4 km from the museum and takes 10 minutes. Below is our review of the restaurant
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Dalma – Unit 4, Bhubaneshwar|
|Items Ordered||NA||We ordered a Chicken and Mutton Thali which comes with Chicken/Mutton gravy, Aloo bharta, Dalma, salad and roties.|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||Mutton Thali costs ₹325 and Chicken ₹230. We ordered a plate of extra mutton (Mansa Tarka) costing ₹230. Overall lunch costed us ₹970|
|Location||4||Unit 4 – Madhusudan Nagar. On main road. Ample parking space in front of the restaurant.|
|Taste||3||If your taste buds are used to North Indian food, you might need some time to adjust to Oria taste which is a bit bland. We found only the Mutton to be the best of all the dishes. Dalma was just ok.|
|Service||3||Service is a bit slow probably because of high foot fall|
|Value for Money||3||2 thalis were not sufficient for a family of 4. We had to order an extra mutton dish and 2 bowls of rice. We did not find the lunch worth 1000 bucks.|
|Overall||3||The restaurant is more popular among locals. We probably needed a couple of more visits to develop a taste for it.|
Tip: We had read very good reviews of Lingaraj Lassi which is in Shaheed Nagar and is about 1.5 km from Dalma. This place offers delicious lassi which is loaded with 'khoa' , 'rabdi', coconut and dry fruits. Since we were visiting during winters, we did not feel like having lassi. However, if you are in Bhubaneshwar during summers, do give it a try.
After lunch, we drove to the last destination of the day – Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves which is southwest on NH5 at the outskirts of the city. The caves are spread over two adjacent hills – Udayagiri (Sunrise Hill) holding 18 caves and Khandagiri having 15 caves.
Apparently, most of the caves were carved for Jain monks to lived in during the reign of Emperor Kharavela (the best-known king of Kalinga), during the 1st and 2nd century BC. Cave number 14 (Hathi Gumpha, the elephant cave) has a 17 line inscriptions which gives details about him.
In addition to the caves, there’s a Jain temple atop Khandagiri. If you climb up the hill, you’ll be rewarded with a fine view over Bhubaneshwar. The caves are open from sunrise until sunset. The entry fee is ₹15.
By the time we finished exploring both the caves, it was 5:30 in the evening. We drove back to our hotel and enjoyed evening tea and snacks at ‘Cream & Spice’, which is a popular bakery close to the hotel and serves fresh cakes, pastries and other items.
For dinner, we gorged upon chicken rolls at a street food vendor and called it a day.
Day 8: Drive from Bhubaneshwar to Vishakhapatnam (432 km, 9:00 hrs)
Bhubaneshwar was the last city of our road trip. From here, we were to travel back to Pune with 2 stops on the way – first at Vizag (Vishakhapatnam) and second at Hyderabad. We had given an additional day to Vizag to explore the city and a night’s halt at Hyderabad to break the journey to Pune. Our hotel in Vizag was 430 km and required 9 hours drive.
We checked out of our hotel at 6:30 am and were soon driving down South back on NH16. The challenge of finding a good restaurant on this stretch again haunted us. We decided to break at the known place – OTDC Panthanivas at Chilika which is 130 km from Bhubaneshwar and was going to take 2.5 hours.
We reached at the resort at 9 am and had a buffet breakfast spread across chola-puri, eggs and fruits which was similar to what we had when we were here on Day 5. After breakfast, we continued to drive further down south and soon entered Andra Pradesh. By 3:30 pm, we came across, Hotel Kamath at Peddipalem where we stopped to have lunch.
Below is our review of the restaurant
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Kamath – Peddipalem|
|Items Ordered||NA||We ordered Chicken Dum biryani, dal fry, rotees and rice.|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||Chicken Dum biryani - ₹180. Daal fry - ₹100, rotees - ₹15 each. Total = ₹410|
|Location||5||Located on the NH16|
|Taste||3||Average. Daal was the saving grace.|
|Ambience||4||Clean and hygienic. Ample parking space|
|Service||2||A bit slow. The waiters ask you to pay for ‘tip’|
|Value for Money||4||Prices were reasonable.|
|Overall||3||Average. This is one of the better options available on this route to stop and have food.|
Drive of another 1 hour got us to our hotel – New Blue Homes, which is very close to the famous R. K. Beach. After checking-in, we refreshed ourselves and then headed towards the R.K. Beach.
At the beach, we learnt that it was all set for ‘Vishaka Utsav’, which is a two day fest organized by the tourism department to promote the culture of Andhra Pradesh in December every year. The entire beach is closed for vehicular movement for 2 days in the evening and children from different schools take out processions showcasing different cultural activities.
The R.K. Beach road is pretty wide and well managed as compared to Puri’s Golden beach. It looks beautiful during evenings and is a pleasure to stroll on it.
An iconic site you cannot miss on the beach is the ‘Victory at Sea’ memorial. It is dedicated to the Indian Navy martyrs of the India-Pakistan war of 1971. The Visakhapatnam port was targeted by Pakistan, but the Indian Navy foiled the plan. Remember the Bollywood flick – ‘The Ghazi Attack’?
The beach road has two major attractions – Naval Aircraft Museum and Submarine Museum.
INS Kurusura Submarine Museum: One of the best places to visit on R. K. Beach, INS Kursura is a decommissioned Russian-built submarine which has now been converted into a museum. It takes you on a tour of how the submarines work with special focus on the life of submariners, who take on the daunting task of being inside during a war. The timings of the museum are 2:00 pm – 8:30 pm (Tuesday to Saturday). 10:00 am – 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm – 8:30 pm (Sundays). Entry Fees: ₹20 (children); ₹40 (adults); ₹50 (camera).
Naval Aircraft museum showcases the TU 142 Naval Aircraft which had served the Indian Navy for 29 years, it was converted into a museum after it was decommissioned in 2017. The museum exhibits equipment such as survival kit, aircraft engine, data recorder, propeller and anti-submarine missiles. All these equipment and parts of the aircraft are displayed in detail so that you can get enough information about the aircraft. Entry Fee ₹70/adult and ₹40/Child.
The RK Beach is lined up with several street food vendors. Two unique local food items caught our attention – ‘Kobbari Muvva’ and ‘Junnu’ (Telugu names). Kobbari Muvva is the inner soft part of the upper trunk of coconut tree. Outer hard layers are removed and then thin round slices of inner soft trunk are cut and eaten raw. It tastes a bit sweet and tangy and can be eaten after sprinkling with salt and lemon. 3-4 slices cost you ₹10 and are worth a try.
Junnu is kind of pudding which is prepared from colostrum milk (milk produced by cow/buffalo for the first few days after it delivers a calf). This milk is mixed with regular milk, jaggery, cardamom and other spices and then boiled to form a pudding. It tastes creamy and is very nutritious.
Another interesting fact about the city is the initiative to develop Vizag as “Smart City”. Under it, Smart Poles have been setup across the city, which in addition to holding street lights also add up as Wi-Fi hotspots and Telecom boosters. CCTV cameras, pollution measuring meters and public address speakers are also installed on them.
We tried a couple of other popular street food items and returned to our hotel and called it a day.
Below is our review of the hotel – New Blue Homes
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||New Blue Homes - Vishakhapatnam|
|Location||4||The hotel is walking distance from the famous RK Beach|
|Parking||3||Parking space is limited. We had to park our car outside the hotel|
|Room Facilities:||3||Room was small and congested but basic amenities were in place|
|Additional bedding:||1||We were not provided any additional bedding. The hotel provided it with an additional cost|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||4||Yes. Served at the room. Dosa and coffee|
|In-house Restaurant:||3||Does not have a restaurant. The hotel serves you food on demand|
|Value for money:||3||We booked it for ₹3296 for two night which was ok|
|Overall||3||Average. The only USP of the hotel was its proximity to the RK Beach.|
Day 9: Explore Vishakhapatnam
The next day started a bit late with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. After getting fresh, we headed out to explore the other point of attractions in the City – Kailasagiri and Zoological Park.
Located at a distance of approximately 8 km from R.K. Beach, Kailasagiri is on a top of a small hill which offers some breath-taking views of the Vizag city and the East coast. We drove though the curved roads of the hill and reached the entry gate of the Kailasagiri in a few minutes. It can be reached via a cable car which starts from the base of the hill.
This park is open seven days a week from 10 am to 8 pm and the entry fee depends on your mode of commute – (₹5 for Pedestrians, ₹ 20 for 2 wheelers, ₹50 for 4 wheelers)
Day 9 being a Sunday had a high influx of tourists and we got stuck in a jam on the steep hill incline before the entry gate of Kailasagiri. In order to balance the car, I used the clutch and accelerator a bit too excessively which lead to overheating of the clutch plates. It started giving out smoke which smelt like burnt rubber. I immediately took the car off the road and turned off the engine. I lifted the bonnet to let the clutch box cool off and after 10 minutes when the road was cleared with traffic, I drove the car inside the parking lot, hoping that by the time we finish exploring Kailasagiri, the clutch box will return to normal temperature.
Though I claim to be an experienced driver and have driven in most of the terrains, this was my first time experience with overheated clutch box. I learnt an important lesson of driving that day – not to use too much of clutch and accelerator to hold the car on an inclined road. It is better to use (leg) brakes or hand-brakes. Too much stress on the clutch box overheats it and risks it getting jammed, leaving you with no other option but to tow the car to the service center and get the whole clutch box replaced.
The car’s clutch-box incident wasted about 40 minutes. After parking our car, we walked in to the park and the first thing we saw was a tall white statue of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Kailasagiri is an outstanding tourist spots consisting rich flora and tropical trees and gives a fascinating views of beaches on one side and the lush green forests on the other side. The Park offers panoramic view of the city and the sea.
The hill offers several viewpoints and a small food court offering different food items. The toy train also runs within the park in frequent intervals.
After strolling through the park for about 1.5 hours it was time for lunch. We did not find a good options in the food court so we Googled for nearby options and came across with good reviews for ‘Reboot Dine In’. The restaurant was about 5 km from Kailasagiri and close to our next destination – The Zoological Park so we decided to give it a try.
We all boarded the car which still smelt of burnt rubber. With a silent prayer on my lips, turned on the cars engine, pressed the clutch, changed gear and hit the accelerator. The car moved smoothly without any hickups. I was a bit too cautious with the clutch this time and trying to use it to minimum. We drove down to the base of the hill and in next 15 minutes were at the restaurant.
The restaurant was crowded due to weekend rush and after waiting for a few minutes we got a table. Below is our review of this restaurant.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Reboot Dine In – Vishakhapatnam|
|Items Ordered||NA||Veg. Keema Masala, Chicken Muglai Biryani, Chilly Chicken, Roti|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||Total ₹750. Veg. Keema Masala - ₹130, Chicken Muglai Biryani - ₹240, Chilly Chicken - ₹220, Roti – ₹20/each|
|Location||5||Located on the beach road facing the sea.|
|Taste||4||Biryani tasted good. Chilly Chicken had crispy and spicy chicken. Rotis were made of maida|
|Ambience||3||Rustic hut like ambience. Well maintained garden in the front. No dedicated parking space. Car needs to be parked on the road side.|
|Service||2||A bit slow. The waiter asked us to pay for ‘tip’. This was our second such experience in Vizag. Not sure if this is a ‘practice’ at all the restaurants. May be they try this will patrons who do not look or sound local.|
|Value for Money||4||Prices were a bit on higher side but keeping in view the location and ambience, it was worth it.|
After lunch we drove to Indira Gandhi Zoological Park which is set in lapse of Kambalakonda Forest Reserve amid the hills of the Eastern Ghats. It is home to different species of wildlife, making it one of the largest zoological parks in Andhra Pradesh. The park has got 2 entry points – Sagar (Sea) Entrance and Main Entrance. The sea entrance is closer, if you are driving from Kailasagiri. Since the park is spread across 625 acres, you are allowed to drive your car inside the park at a charge of ₹500, which is something unique about this zoo.
It was already 3:30 pm when we arrived at the park. I checked with a couple of visitors for the best way to explore the park and some of them suggested to go with the battery operated car as the park is spread on a huge area and locating animal enclosures becomes a challenge. The park closes at 5 PM, which meant that we only had 1.5 hours to explore it. In the interest of time, we left our car at the parking and hired a battery operated car for ₹350. Entry ticket of the zoo costs you ₹50 for adults and ₹10 for children and it is closed on Mondays.
The park has been divided into separate sections like carnivores, primates, mammals, and birds. This division makes it easier for visitors to visit each section according to their preferences.
The wildlife in the park includes a large number of birds, herbivores, primates, and reptiles.
By 5 pm, our electric car dropped us back to where we had started and in a few minutes we were on our way to our hotel. We took some rest at our room and then we went to the RK Beach for a walk and have dinner.
Tip: If you have time, you should visit the - Rushikonda Beach, which is a very scenic and popular beache in Visakhapatnam. At Rushikonda, it is recommended to try – ‘Sea Inn - Raju Ka Dhaba’ which is famous for sea food and non-vegetarian fries and curries. APTDC Haritha is another good resort whose in-house restaurant offers delicious Andhra Food. Another beach- Yarada is again one of the beautiful beaches and is surrounded by hills on three sides. It is a bit away from the City, but if you have time, pay it a visit (especially during sunset or sunrise). We had given a skip to both of the beaches. It is a challenge to club beaches in the itinerary with other attractions as they come with an hassle of managing sand soiled shoes and cloths. We prefer beaches only when we are staying close by, else we avoid it.
Day 10: Drive from Vishakhapatnam to Hyderabad (627 km, 12 Hrs)
Vizag city was the last city in our itinerary. We had to travel back to Pune via Hyderabad during the next 2 days. Target for Day 10 was to drive 627 km to Hyderabad for night halt and it was going to take 12 hours. It was again the longest leg of the journey and with experience of getting stuck in Vijaywada (Day 3) still fresh in our minds, we left Vizag early at 6:30 am. We were soon driving our way through NH16
Early morning traffic was thin so we zoomed out of Vizag in no time. After driving for about 2.5 hours, we came cross restaurant – Athidi Vindu, which looked pretty decent. We stopped here to have breakfast.
Below is our review of the restaurant:
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Athidi Vindu - Tegagunta|
|Items Ordered||NA||We ordered Mendu vada, Idly, Poori sabji and tea|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||₹180. Mendu vada (35), Idly (30), Poori sabji (50) and tea (20).|
|Location||5||The restaurant is located on the highway in village – Tegagunta (It’s not marked on Google. Use Coordinates: 17.30861111, 82.44777778).|
|Taste||3||The preparations were fresh and tasted ok.|
|Ambience||3||Small setup with limited seating arrangement. Clean washroom available nearby.|
|Value for Money||4||Yes|
|Overall||3.5||Good place to stop by.|
The popular – One Food court is just 3 km further from Athidi Vindu. The food court can be tried if you are looking for range in food options.
We drove further and soon bypassed Rajamundry. While driving to Anakapalle we had a good experience at Garuda Food court so we halted here again for lunch. We reached here by 1 pm and repeated our order of – Nilgiri (Chicken) Dum biryani and topped it with ‘fried ice-cream’ (Check Day 3 for reviews of this restaurant).
We continued to drive further and by 3 PM we entered Vijaywada. We had missed the city on Day 3 of our trip as the highway was closed in wake of CM’s birthday (check Day 3). The city is beautifully set in the backdrop of mountains. One of my colleague from Vijaywada had told about the famous Durga Temple in the city and suggested to visit it. Unfortunately, we were running on a tight schedule and had to give it a miss.
We soon crossed Prakasam Barrage. The barrage is built across the Krishna River and serves as a road bridge. The barrage is the primary source of irrigation in this region and gets its name from Mr. Tanguturi Prakasam, who was the first Chief Minister of Andhra.
From Vijayawada, we switched to NH65 and headed towards Hyderabad. Our GPS showed an ETA of 5 hours to travel 270 kms.
We had a quick break at ‘7 Food court’ (check review under Day 2). While I had their popular ‘foam’ coffee, the kids went for KFC. We carried on our journey further and by the time we touched the Hyderabad city, it was dark. We passed by the entry gate of the famous ‘Ramoji Film City’ amusement park and crossed the flyover underpass of ORR (Outer Ring Road). By 9:30 pm we were in front of our hotel – Nova Pride.
We had light dinner at the Hotel’s restaurant and retired for the day. The plan was to leave early next day to beat the morning Hyderabad traffic.
Below is our review of Nova Pride hotel.
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Hotel Nova Pride - Hyderabad|
|Location||5||Located on the highway NH65 in the outskirts of the City. We had booked it purposely for avoiding busy evening hour’s city traffic.|
|Parking||3||Parking space is limited. We had to park our car outside the hotel|
|Room Facilities:||4||All the basic amenities were in place|
|Additional bedding:||5||We were provided additional bedding without any additional cost.|
|Complimentary Breakfast:||1||Our booking did not include complimentary breakfast.|
|In-house Restaurant:||4||Yes. Good variety of options. Good food.|
|Value for money:||4||We booked it for ₹1216 for a day which was worth for money|
|Overall||3.5||Good. If you are coming from Andra, this hotel is an ideal location for night halt to avoid City traffic.|
Day 11: Drive from Hyderabad to Pune (572 km, 11 Hrs)
Last day of the trip was for driving back home city – Pune. We checked out of the hotel at 5:30 am to beat the early morning traffic. Unfortunately, Hyderabad, like any other big city wakes up pretty early. The city roads were already buzzing with traffic before the sunrise. We had to stop almost at every traffic signal. It would probably have been a better if we had taken the ORR (red arrows on the below map). Though it would have been an additional 35 km but it could have easily saved us 25 – 30 minutes.
After driving though the city for about an hour we were finally able to steer our way out of the city. Our first stop was Kohinoor Family Dhaba, where we stopped to have breakfast. The dhaba is about 90 km from Hyderabad and takes 2 hours to reach. It is spread across a large area and has clean toilets. Several bus operators stop here for refreshments. We ordered regular South Indian dishes comprising of dosa, idli and tea. All the items tasted average and costed us ₹200.
A drive of 223 km further on NH65 got us to Solapur and we stopped at hotel – Khan Chacha for Lunch. Though it was 12 PM and a bit early for lunch but having heard excellent reviews of this place, we had to give it a try. Below is our review of restaurant Khan Chacha
|Parameter||Rating (1-5)||Restaurant Khan Chacha - Solapur|
|Items Ordered||NA||We ordered their specialty ‘Kheema Unde’ and Mutton Biryani.|
|Cost (family of 4)||NA||Total - ₹440. Kheema Unde - ₹160. Mutton Biryani - ₹160. Chapatis - ₹10/each|
|Location||5||The hotel is located on the highway and is easily accessible. Car parking on the side of the road opposite to the hotel.|
|Taste||4||Kheema Unde are meat balls cooked in thick gravy and resembles famous Kashmiri dish – Gushtaba. Mutton Biryani was a bit subtle in taste|
|Ambience||3||Sufficient seating arrangement. Basic setup. Nothing too fancy|
|Value for Money||4||Portions served is very less. A plate of Kheema Unde was just sufficient for 2 and a plate of Biryani for 1 person. We had to order additional rice and gravy. Since the prices of most of the dishes is reasonable so its value for money.|
|Overall||3.5||Good place to stop by for Non Vegetarian dishes.|
Lunch took 35 minutes and soon after we were back on NH65, driving towards Pune. Drive of another 4:30 hours made us enter Pune and by 5:30 pm, we reached our home at Kharadi.
Summary of Petrol Expense
|Day||Place||Rate (Dec '19)||Litres||Cost|
Summary of Toll Paid
|1||Pune||Hyderabad||70 (Patas) + 75 (Sardewadi) + 120 (Varwade) + 60 (Sawaleshwar) + 85 (Mangalgi) + 90 (Kamkole)||₹500|
|2||Hyderabad||Vizag||110 (Pedda) + 75 (Pantangi) + 100 (Koralaphad) + 85 (Chillakallu) + 55 (Keesara Plaza) + 40 (Pottipadu) + 40 (Kalaparru) + 90 (Unguturu) + 95 (Eethakota)||₹690|
|3||Vizag||Araku||85 (Krishnavaram) + 110 (Vempadu)||₹195|
|4||Araku||Chilika||₹45 (Chilakpelam) + 30 (Madapam) + 115 (Laxmipuram) + 90 (Bellupada)||₹280|
|5||Chilika||Puri||₹80 (Gurapali) + ₹70 (Gudipada||₹150|
|8||Bhubaneshwar||Vizag||70 (Gudipada) + 80 (Gurapali) +90 (Bellupada) + 115 (Laxmipuram) + 30 (Madapam) + 45 (Chilakpelam) + 50 (Nathavalasa)||₹480|
|10||Vizag||Hyderabad||50 (Agnampadi) + 85 (Krishnavaram) + 110 (Vempadu) + 95 (Eethakota) + 90 (Unguturu) + 40 (Pottipadu) + 55 (Keesara Plaza) + 85 (Chillakallu) + 100 (Koralaphad) + 75 (Pantangi)||₹785|
|11||Hyderabad||Pune||90 (Kamkole) + 85 (Mangalgi) + 60 (Sawaleshwar) + 60 (Varwade) + 75 (Sardewadi)||₹370|