Araku Valley – A Picturesque Hill Station Rich in Biodiversity
Araku Valley is a hill station in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh in India bordering Odisha. Apart from scenic beauty, the valley is known for being inhabited by different indigenous tribes who have lived in the valley and surrounding jungles for thousands of years. The tribals of the area are most well-known for their attire, jewelry, and lifestyle. Nestled between the Eastern Ghats mountains; the valley comprises of the Anantagiri and Sunkarimetta reserved forests. The valley known for its greenery is home to the 5,000 feet high Galikonda hill, amongst the highest peaks in the state with Sunkarimetta, Raktakonda, and Chitamogondi being the other hills in the valley. The valley best known for its mild weather even in summer; the main draw for the tourist is also famous for its coffee plantations and bauxite mining.
The valley is rich in biodiversity with large varieties of flora and fauna, which attains full flourish during the monsoon; making September to March best period to visit the valley. However, those looking for quite time should try to avoid holiday weekends, as there is a mad rush of visitors during that time. The valley is well connected by rail and road to the city of Visakhapatnam. Travel by train from Visakhapatnam to Araku valley is the most exhilarating experience for tourists, as the train journey passes through 58 tunnels and 84 bridges. However, there is just one train running to and fro service in the morning and night. As such tourist can also plan the road trip, which is no less thrilling; drive on the ghat road surrounded by lush green forests on both sides gives a magnificent view to the motorist.
There are numerous hotels, guest houses, lodges and resorts in the area suitable for people from all walks of life as per their budget, but advance booking is must. There are also many tourist agencies with guides who regularly organize trekking and camping trips across various locations in the valley. Apart from the forests and coffee plantations that are a must visit, there are numerous other places that are worth a visit for a tourist. For a nature lover a visit to nearby places like Tyda Nature Park, Borra Caves, Tatipudi Reservoir, Tadimada Waterfalls, Thatiguda Waterfalls, Mastyagundam or fish pool, Duduma Waterfalls, and Shimliguda is a must. Other places of scenic beauty worth a visit are Gosthani River, Padmapuram Botanical Gardens, Ranajilleda Falls, Museum of Tribal Arts, Padwa Lake, Galikondalu viewpoint, Coffee Museum, Katiki Waterfalls, Dumbriguda Waterfalls, Anantagiri, Kothapally waterfall, and Chaparai Waterfalls. While Araku valley is a perfect weekend getaway for people in the state, tourist from other states on a longer vacation trip can also plan visits to Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Jagdalpur and Annavaram; as all are within 1 or 2-day travel distance from the valley. From Jagdalpur, tourist can visit the magnificent Tirathgarh waterfalls and Chitrakoot waterfalls, which is also known as the Niagara Falls of India.
Tourists interested in shopping can shop at numerous shops in the area that sell handlooms and hand-made wooden toys. The tourists can also enjoy and even take part in the tribal folk dances like Dhimsa and Mayuri, while interacting with tribals of Araku valley on a trekking trip. For the adrenaline junkies, there are options for a number of adventure sports, including cycling and swimming. For food lovers, there are numerous local dhaba or roadside restaurants that serve a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties of Chinese, Odiya, and South Indian dishes. A dish worth mention is the bamboo chicken, a special local delicacy that everyone must try. The tourists are also well advised to carry woolens, and umbrella as the weather changes quickly in the valley. During winter season, tourists can also visit the village of Lambasingi; also called the ‘Kashmir of Andhra’ when fog is immense and temperature drops to below zero; and if you are lucky enough you may witness snowfall J Jl!!! The state government to draw more tourists organizes annual Visakha Utsav in January. Recently the state government organized the Araku Hot Air Balloon festival in November 2017. Araku allows people to spend their weekend close to nature.