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If you find yourself with nothing to do over the weekend in Hyderabad, why not try one of these great day-trips out of the city? Just a few hours by road, and you can experience ancient forts, places of worship, serene hills and peaceful lakes. All you need to do is decide which of these things you feel like seeing, and get going.
1. Anantagiri Hills
Distance: 80 km | Things to see and do: Dense shrub forests, peaceful lake, trekking trails, birdwatching opportunities, Vishnu and Hanuman temples, spooky old hospital
Anantagiri hills lies about 80 kilometers south of Hyderabad, next to the town of Vikarabad. Though there’s just a single main road running along the top of the hills, and no real settlement, you can still do quite a few things in and around the place. For starters, there are a few viewpoints from which you can admire the surrounding plains. And the dense scrub forests that the hills are covered in are great for trekking and bird-watching. The Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple is also quite popular. If you’re the kind who likes shivers down the spine, you could explore the run-down government TB hospital, with its abandoned quarantine blocks slowly being reclaimed by the forest. If you’re tired of the hills, you can drive a few kilometers into the plains to the Sarpanpally lake, where—if you’re lucky—you could get yourself a boat ride.
And if you’re planning to stay a little longer, there’s a sprawling government resort with decent rooms and a basic restaurant. Rooms need to be booked online beforehand, though.
Getting to Anantagiri Hills
To get there, turn off the Outer Ring Road (ORR) at the Himayathsagar exit and follow the Vikarabad highway. When you enter Vikarabad, keep going until you hit a ‘T’ junction, and then turn left. About two kilometers later, there’s a fork in the road. Stay on the right, because the road on the left is one-way in the opposite direction (to right is one-way up the hill, and to the left is one-way back down). Use this location if you’re using GPS.
Distance: 90 km | Things to see and do: Large cathedral, hill-top fort, rock temple at a river confluence, lake with crumbling colonial buildings, a wildlife sanctuary.
About 90 kilometers to the north of Hyderabad is Medak town, the headquarters of the state’s Medak district. The town’s century-old cathedral—one of the largest in India, with beautiful stained glass windows—is definitely worth a visit, and you might want to take a look at its fort too. If you’re in the mood for a quiet picnic, the Pocharam lake and wildlife sanctuary is about 15 kilometers further out of town (the last part of the approach road is a little difficult to navigate, though). The small lake is peaceful, and is a good place for a bit of bird-watching. The top of the lake’s little dam makes for a pleasant stroll, and the crumbling colonial-era inspection bungalow on the lake’s shore is very interesting. There’s even a nice view from its roof.
Also near Medak is the famous Edupayala (‘seven streams’) temple dedicated to the goddess Durga. The temple is said to be situated at the confluence of seven streams that feed into the Manjeera river, and that the river rises to touch the feet of the idol during the rains. Though you can approach the temple by road, you can also—if you’re feeling adventurous—get to it on foot by crossing the Ghanapur dam and wading through the water that sometimes flows over the top.
A word to the wise: If you’re planning on visiting all three places—the cathedral, sanctuary and temple—get up really early in the morning!
Getting to Medak
To get to Medak, turn off the ORR at the Dundigal exit and follow the Medak road (also called the Bodhan highway) for another 80 kilometers. To get to the Edupayala temple, you will need to turn left off the highway about 10 kilometers before Medak (about three kilometres past the turn-off to Jogipet). Though there’s a prominent gateway on the highway, it would probably be a good idea to ask for directions (especially if you want to walk over the dam). To get to Pocharam, drive through and out of Medak town until you get to a large crossroad (you should see a stadium on your right). Turn left at the crossroad, and keep going for about 15 kilometers, after which you’ll see the lake on your right.
Distance: 140 km | Things to see and do: Hill-top fort, tombs and monuments to ancient kings, underground aqueduct, watching Bidri artisans
The hill-top town of Bidar is about 140 kilometers to the northwest of Hyderabad, just across the border into Karnataka. The town is famous for its impressive fort (and for having been a popular watering hole for Hyderabadis during the prohibition a few decades ago), but Bidar’s history and heritage run deeper than that, going back over 2,000 years to the time of the great Mauryan empire. Over the centuries, Bidar changed hands as empires rose and fell, and finally became the seat of the Bahmani kings (who were the first to construct fortifications on Hyderabad’s Golconda hill). Finally, Bidar was conquered by the Mughals, and—when their governor in Hyderabad declared independence—became part of the kingdom of Hyderabad.
You can see this long and chequered history reflected in its various historical remnants scattered across this ‘City of Whispering Monuments’. Besides the Bidar Fort and its various palaces, the ornate tombs of the various dynasties of rulers and the impressive mosques they built are also sights to behold. The city is also famous for its ancient and recently rediscovered karez system of underground aqueducts, as well as for its intricate silver-on-black decorative Bidri metalwork. If you’re lucky, some metalworkers might even let you watch them work.
Getting to Bidar
To get to Bidar, turn off the ORR at the Patancheru exit and take the Mumbai highway. Keep going for about 70 kilometers, until you reach Zaheerabad. Follow the highway as it bypasses Zaheerabad, and—after the town—turn right onto state highway 14 towards Bidar, and keep going for about 30 kilometers until you reach the town. If you’re using GPS, use this location.
Distance: 140 km | Things to see and do: Fort ruins, ancient temples, lakes
The city of Warangal—the second largest in Telangana, after Hyderabad—is about 140 kilometers to the east of the city. This city also has a long history, having been established in the 8th century and becoming the capital of the Kakatiya kingdom around the 12th century. The city was later captured by the Delhi sultanate and then the Musunuri Nayaks, after whose rule it became part of the Bahmani kingdom centered on Bidar. Later, it was taken over by the Qutb Shahs of Golconda, finally becoming part of the kingdom of Hyderabad under the Nizams. They say that the Koh-i-Noor diamond was mined here, and later surrendered to the Delhi sultans as tribute.
Many of the historical monuments in Warangal were built during the time of the Kakatiyas. Because of this, they’re very different architecturally from those in and around Hyderabad. One of the most popular sights in the city, the ruins of the Warangal fort are still an impressive sight, especially the intricately carved pillars of the ruined Shiva temple, and its four massive stone gates (which the government of Telangana has adopted as its emblem). Another sight to see is the famous 13th-century Thousand Pillar Temple, whose pillars—though not a thousand in number—are still numerous and intricate enough to leave you impressed.
If you have the time and energy, you could head about 70 kilometers further out of town to see the impressive 11th century Ramappa temple, with its interesting architecture and peaceful lake. You could also take in the peaceful Laknavaram lake and stroll along the suspension bridge connecting its islands. Given the distances, you might not be able to do everything in one day, though.
Getting to Warangal
To get to Warangal, turn off the ORR at the Ghatkesar exit onto the Warangal highway, and keep going for about 120 kilometers until you reach the city. Or use these locations for Warangal, Ramappa and Laknavaram.
5. Nagarjuna Sagar
Distance: 150 km | Things to see and do: Large lake, one of the world’s tallest masonry dams, island with Buddhist remains, coracle boating, waterfalls
Nagarjuna Sagar is a man-made lake about 150 kilometers to the southeast of Hyderabad. The dam across the Krishna river was the first of India’s ‘modern temple’ infrastructure projects built in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The lake takes its name from Nagarjunakonda, a Buddhist settlement dating back to 300 CE, which was almost completely submerged when the lake was formed. You can still visit the resulting island by boat, and marvel at the 1,500 year-old stupas and other remains. These were actually moved to the top of the hill to preserve them. The nearby town of Anupu also has lots of rescued remains.
The lake itself is vast and the dam is massive. The sight of the water thundering out of the open sluice gates during the rains will almost certainly impress you. You can also go trekking in the surrounding hills, and take in the nice views from the top. If you feel like some quiet time, you can take a ride in one of the many round coracle boats on offer. You’ll probably wonder at how such flimsy-looking things manage to stay afloat, though.
A little further out of town are the small but charming Ethipothala waterfalls, with a little tourism complex attached. These falls are at their best during and after the rains, so you can give them a miss in summer. They can get very crowded, though, which tends to attract lots of hungry monkeys. A word to the wise: if you spot monkeys there, stow away any food and drink.
Getting to Nagarjuna Sagar
Turn off the ORR at the Bonglur exit, and keep going for about 110 kilometers until your reach Peddavura. At the fork, take the road to the right and keep going for about 25 kilometers until the dam. To get to Ethipothala, keep going past the dam for another 12 kilometers. Then turn left off the road at the forest check post. The falls and their tourist complex are about three kilometres further.
6. Nizam Sagar
Distance: 150 km | Things to see and do: Large lake, century-old dam, colonial-era inspection bungalow, boating
Nizam Sagar lies about 150 kilometers to the north of Hyderabad, and is a large reservoir on the Manjeera river. The long masonry dam is said to have been built in the 1920s by the Nizams of Hyderabad. Because the dam isn’t close to any major towns, chances are you won’t come across crowds of visitors. The peaceful lake and accessible dam are popular hang-out spots for the locals, though.
There isn’t too much to do here except relax a bit. You could picnic in the garden of the crumbling old inspection bungalow on the shore. Or you could stroll along the dam, and climb down near the sluice gates. There’s boating available too, if want to get a real close look, or you could just watch the local anglers wade into the water and try their luck at casting for fish. Overall, it’s a peaceful spot, and the fact that there’s nothing much to do is actually a good thing.
Getting to Nizam Sagar
Follow the route to Pocharam as described in the Medak section of this post. Continue past Pocharam for about 20 kilometers until Yellareddy. Follow the highway through and past Yellareddy for about 10 kilometers, until the highway turns right. At the turn, keep going straight until you cross a canal. After the canal, turn left and keep going for about two kilometers to get to the dam. Use this location if you’re using GPS.
Know any other great day trips from Hyderabad? Leave a comment and let me know!