Araku valley

February 25, 2012 By:

Table of contents for Tribal Terrain

  1. Araku valley

Some of India’s most stunningly beautiful places are on tribal terrain. It is home to stunningly beautiful waterfalls, caves, water bodies and lush forests teeming with flora and fauna. There is a reason for this. These places are in remote, inaccessible places far away from the onslaught of civilisation, the main cause of environmental degradation.  They are the habitat of India’s tribals, the Adivasis or first inhabitants, who were driven away from the plains by wave upon wave of invaders. Their eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle has ensured that the pristine natural beauty of their environs has been well preserved and protected. In recent times, Maoists have infiltrated into the tribal areas and are wreaking havoc in that paradise. This could be the probable reason why these amazing places do not get the volume of tourism they deserve. Come to think of it, maybe it is a blessing in disguise.

The road to Araku takes you though clouds and amazing landscapes

Araku is a picturesque tribal settlement in the Eastern Ghats, about 120 km to the north of the port city of Visakhapatnam a.k.a. Vizag, which also happens to be my hometown. For me, the drive is an end in itself, a mind-blowing experience as one navigates through umpteen hair-pin bends on a steep mountain road which snakes its way up the Eastern Ghats to an altitude of some 1200 metres above sea level.  This is one of those road trips on which one does not feel like driving fast but prefer to gently cruise along the serpentine path, inhaling the pristine air and feasting on the visual candy being proffered so generously by Mother Nature.

A screenshot of the GPS during the drive to Araku

For those who suffer from motion-sickness, one can go by rail too. Built for exporting Iron ore to Japan, the railway track is an engineering marvel involving the construction of hundred of bridges across massive gorges and lengthy tunnels. There is a train which leaves Vizag Railway Station daily at 06:00 Hours and goes to Chhattisgarh via Araku. En route, there is Shimliguda, which till recently, hosted the highest broad guage railway station in the world. The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation  (APTDC) runs attractively priced rail-cum-road tour packages from Vizag.

As we leave the plains behind us and start ascending the Ghats, the change in the landscape and the climate, not to mention the demography, is dramatic. Suddenly there are no people to be seen around, and the road becomes steep and curvy, flanked by tall trees and there is silence all around but for the chirping  of birds. Occasionally, one can spot a group of langurs scampering alongside. One can also spot terraced farms and coffee plants growing under the shade of mango and jackfruit trees. At several places, one feels like stopping and enjoying the bracing climate and spectacular visuals.

The funky looking entrance to the Padmapuram Gardens

The Padmapuram Botanical Gardens is a great place to relax in a green ambience. It  has lovely,  landscaped gardens and beautiful statues of Gods, tribals and mermaids, even a couple of dinosaurs. There are the quirkily named hanging cottages, which are actually tree houses with running water. For a unique experience, one cant rent a cottage for just Rs.500.  One can also go around the gardens on a toy train.

The images of Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, are a huge attraction

"Hanging cottages" which are tree houses made of wood can be rented for just |Rs.500 per day

Next, we went to the Tribal Museum which has a lovely compund wall tastefully decorated with tribal art. The building is shaped like a tribal hut and houses a number of tableaux depicting the tribal lifestyle which has not changed much over the centuries. Araku is home to as many as 19 tribes, such as the Valmikis, the Kondadora, the Nookadora, the Porja and the Jatapu.

The Tribal Museum in Araku

Bamboo Chicken is a popular ethnic delicacy of the Araku tribals. Chicken marinated in spices is wrappen in leaf and stuffed inside the hollow of green bamboo trunks is cooked on a slow wood fire. My dietary inhibitions came in the way of tasting it, but the unanimous view of the tourists enjoying it was that it was “superb”.

The Araku Valley Coffee house is bang opposite the Museum

The valley has a climate that is conducive for growing coffee and it accounts for 15 % of India’s coffee output. Belonging to the Arabica family of coffees, it is organically cultivated by Tribals. Marketed as Araku Emerald coffee, its aroma and taste has won for it  the Fine Cup award from the Coffee Board of India for seven straight years since 2004. Most of it is exported to the US and Europe. The Araku Valley Coffee house is located opposite the Tribal Museum where you can relax with a Mocha or a Capuccino or whatever you suits your taste. You can also buy freshly ground Araku coffee and  coffee flavoured chocolates, which are simply scrumptious.

A detailed description of the Borra caves

About 40 kms to the south lies the Anantagiri range in which are located the 150 million year old Borra caves. Discovered in 1807 by the British geologist, William King, they are about  330 metres  in length and 80 metres deep and have some amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. For those who find it difficult to remember the difference, here’s a tip. Think of  ants in the pants; the mites go up and the tites come down. Easy, isn’t it?

The caves are well-lit and have stairs and paved walkways making the caves easily accessible.

There are some amazing stalactite formations within the cave. They have been given fanciful names like Rishi’s beard, etc.
Water seeps through the limestone rock. The ugly graffiti left behind by callous vandals is highly upsetting.
The caves are well lit and have stairs and paved walkways but more effort should have been put in by the APTDC to improve the ambience for the tourists. The entrance fee is a steep Rs. 40 per head and one has to pay an additional Rs.100 for the privilege of using a camera. It is mandatory to hire guides and their services are not included in the price of an entry ticket. The approach road is narrow and given the amount of tourist traffic, the parking space is highly inadequate. One has to park one’s car as far away as 500 metres.  As usual, littering and vandalism by tourists goes unchecked.  The nauseating stink of the toilets assail the nostrils as we pass through the gates of the cave complex.

A visual delight we were treated  to on our return drive

On the drive back to Vizag, we halted at several places to enjoy once again the amazing vistas of snow white clouds drifting idly over verdant hillsides. Those pleasant memories come flooding into my mind as I recall a poem called “Leisure”  by William Henry Davies, the original ghumakkar (his autobigraphy is called “The Adventures of a Super-Tramp).  Though it was written over a century ago, its sounds much more relevant in the frantic and frenetic times we live in.

What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare

No time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can, enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.

About D.L.Narayan

D L Narayan has written 18 posts at Ghumakkar.

Love reading, travelling and photography, proud father of two highly accomplished daughters and trying hard to be the greatest grandfather in the world to my precocious and precious Aishwarya

46 Responses to “Araku valley”


  1. Mahesh Semwal says:

    Let me take the opportunity to comment first on your post.

    Thanks for sharing the unexplored place “Araku”, I never heard this name. Tariff of Hanging garden is very much affordable. Araku is a hidden Gems of India.

    After seeing caves pictures felt very bad , when we learn to respect our historical monuments, some of the people has written names & love marks on the walls of the cave.

    Once again thanx for sharing this wonderful post.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thank you, Maheshji, for your kind words of appreciation.
      Wish you bon voyage and hoping to read about your experiences in South Africa here on Ghumakkar.

  2. Neeraj Jat says:

    There is also a railway line via Araku valley. It is broad gauge and electrified, built by Japan. It goes to Kirandul in Chhattisgarh beyond Jagdalpur. It has a junction station Koraput in Orissa.
    Narayan ji, once tell about that railway line with pics.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      हाँ नीरज जी,

      There is a railway line which was built for exporting iron ore to Japan from Kirandul (Chhattisgarh) to Vizag.

      It is nearly 500 kms long spread over 3 states (Andhra, Odisha and Chattisgarh)and the highest elevation is slightly above 1000 metres above MSL at Shimiliguda, which, till recently, held the distinction of being the highest broad gauge railway station in the world. Major halts on this line are at Araku, Koraput, Jeypore and Jagdalpur.

      It is an engineering marvel and required the construction of many bridges and tunnels, the longest of which is more than 500 metres long. A section of it actually goes directly above the Borra caves.

      A daily passenger train runs on this track and covers the distance in about 15 hours.

      I have travelled on this route by train way back in 1970 and have not had the opportunity to travel again on this route.

      It is an amazing railway journey and I shall try to experience it once again.

  3. Vibha says:

    Stunning Pictures, DL.

    I agree with Mahesh’s and your sentiments about the scratchings in the caves. The callousness is very unfortunate indeed. There’s evidence of it everywhere.

    The place is indeed beautiful as is your poetic narration. Thank God for these tucked away places not yet ravaged by thoughless tourism. You are right, it is a blessing in disguise.

    Looking forward to the next post.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks Vibha,

      I guess that stringent punitive action must be initiated against the culprits. As the saying goes, लाथों का भूत बातों से नहीं मानती. In the long term, however, it is education alone which will make people learn to respect our priceless heritage.

  4. SilentSoul says:

    नारायण…ऩारायण

    Thanks narayan ji for this beautiful post. I had never heard about this place. The photos are very colorful and eye catching… some places reminded me of Patal Bhuvaneshwar caves.

  5. SilentSoul says:

    बस एक कमी रह गयी… बड़ी जल्दी खत्म हो गयी… कुछ और बातें व अधिक चित्रों के साथ और आनन्द आता

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      SS jee,

      As the saying goes, short and sweet. On this particular trip, there was heavy rain and I was not able to visit all the places in the vicinity of Araku. However, आप का सुझाव मन में रखूंगा

  6. Ritesh Gupta says:

    D.L. ji….Namskar.

    Very Nice & detailed post about Arku velly……..Pictures are very beautiful & Awesome.

    I think, Arku velly comes in Neelgiri Mountain Range.

    Thanks for informative post of Arku Velly.

    • Neeraj Jat says:

      No Ritesh, Araku valley isn’t in Nilgiri mountains. Nilgiri is situated in north-western part of Tamilnadu and northern part of Kerala. Ooty is the main point in Nilgiri.
      Araku is in north-eastern part of Andhra Pradesh. Eastern ghat range is spread in this area, where Andhra Pradesh, Orrissa and Chhattisgarh borders meet, that is a tribal area. There is Araku valley in AP side.

      • D.L.Narayan says:

        Thanks for your kind words, Ritesh ji.

        Neerah bhai is right, Araku is located on the Eastern Ghats, about 100 kms north west of Vizag.

  7. Mukesh Bhalse says:

    D.L. Ji,

    Very interesting and informative article. The pics were awesome. Never heard about this place, enjoyed the virtual tour through your post.

    The images of entrance to the Padmapuram Gardens and Lord Shiva & Parvati were really interesting. And last but not the least, the poem at the end was really touching.

    Thanks.

  8. Kavita Bhalse says:

    डी.एल. जी,
    पोस्ट बड़े सुन्दर तरीके से लिखी गई है तथा चित्र भी मनमोहक हैं.
    राष्ट्रीय धरोहरों पर अपने नाम लिखना भारत में एक बहुत आम प्रथा है, जो की बेहद शर्मनाक है. खासकर युवा वर्ग को हमारे पुरातात्विक महत्व के स्मारकों का महत्व समझना चाहिए तथा इस तरह की हरकतों से बाज आना चाहिए.

  9. D.L.Narayan says:

    मुखेश्जी और कविताजी,
    मैं बहुत ही खुश हूँ की आप को मेरा लेखन पसंद आया
    मेरे ख़याल में जो ऐसे असभ्य काम करते हैं उन्हें सख्त सज़ा मिलनी चाहिए

  10. बनारायण जी , वाकई में सुन्दर और कम शब्दो में वर्णन किया आपने एक अनछुई जगह का । आपकी पोस्ट पढकर उत्कंठा हो गई है कभी मौका मिला तो बहुत काम आयेगी आपकी पोस्ट

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      बहुत धन्यवाद मनु जी
      हैदराबाद से विशाखापट्नम बहुत दूर नहीं है
      मौका तो मिल ही जायेगा
      However, I would advise you against visiting it in summer, when the temperature and humidity is quite high, in spite of the altitude.

      The best time would be between the months of August and March.

  11. OH! DL………………………………..
    This is the third time I am reading the post and commenting …………………..
    Everytime when i was trying to comment some urgent work was coming on the way that is why i am late today……………………
    This was an amazing post with best pics i have ever seen. first of tell me what camera are you using . Its is excellent…………………
    Although the place is ultimate , but there is no doubt about your skills and camera specs and its brand, please let me know ????????
    The caves are really beautiful and amazing and description is a classy and precise ………………….
    For me this how a post should be …………………..
    Thanks for posting and giving a view about this beautiful place……………………………

  12. यहाँ जब भी जाये रेल में जाना चाहिए तब देखे असली कुदरत व रोमांच कैसा होता है।

  13. D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Vishal: Thanks for your effusive praise, Vishal. The camera is Nikon D3100. It is an excellent entry level DSLR. It has a 14 megapixel CMOS sensor and while it gives the user a lot of creative control, novices too can use it with ease. It is a great camera for enthusiasts who want to graduate to SLR photography from POS(point and shoot cameras). CMOS sensors are also available now in the higher end of the POS range and the Nikon Coolpix S9200 (16 megapixels)and Sony Cybershot DSC-TX200V (18 megapixels) are capable of giving excellent results.

    @ जाट देवता संदीप: मेरा लेख पढने के लिए मैं आप का आभारी हूँ।
    बिलकुल सही फ़रमाया आप ने, लेकिन, अगर हम सड़क मार्ग को चुन लेते हैं तब भी नज़ारें कुछ कम नहीं हैं, बस फर्क येही है की रेल मार्ग में सुरंगें हैं जो सड़क मार्ग में नहीं है।
    जाते वक़्त रेल से जाएँ और वापस सड़क से आयें एक विकल्प है।

  14. It is so nice to read about so beautiful but lesser known place. Nice pictures specially the very first capture of road.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Yupp the first snap is excellent. This time DL has chosen to give many photos in cinemascope and this has enhanced the beauty of pictures. I also also try to put 16:9 photos for natural scenery.

  15. D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks Deependraji for your appreciation.

  16. Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    D.L Narayan saab ………………
    The post was ultimate with good insight ……….. there is also a railway station for Borra Caves named “Borra Guhalu” as they say it in Telugu … right !!!

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Spot on, Giriraj ji. Have you been there? The geologist in you will be pleased with the speleothems there. It is indeed one of the geological wonders of India.

      • Giriraj Shekhawat says:

        Sorry for replying late D.L Sahab

        I was born and brought up in hyderabad snd spent a major chunk of my early teenage over there …………. i have been there in my childhood

        and can very well converse in telugu.

        ella unnava sir …… manchi unnava …… nee post naaku chala ishtam …….. “Namaskaram”

  17. venkatt says:

    Congrats Narayanji on a wonderfully written post. Your words transported us into Arakku valley. The first snap on your post was superb. Vizag and Arakku have long been on my mind. Hope I can visit it soon.

  18. Nandan says:

    A lot of us were waiting for your next post DL.

    Sorry for my delayed comment. As Mahesh said, thank you for introducing ‘Aarku’ to Ghumakkar. I think this is a FOG though I am not sure whether Roopesh has covered it since he did one long one on this belt.

    What are those bars in the GPS snapshot, the ones below the Long/Lat ?

    Manish Khamesra has another suggestion for remember the G and C. To quote from his Patal story.
    ……………..Stalactite formations suspend from the cave ceilings and are created as water flows down the formation and evaporates leaving layers of calcite. Stalagmite formation rise upward from the cave floor and are formed by water dripping from ceiling formation. Are you finding it difficult to remember? My colleague Vibhor found an interesting way to remember the difference between the two. The C in stalactite refers to ceiling and the G in stalagmite means ground……….

    Story is here – http://www.ghumakkar.com/2012/02/17/patal-bhuvaneshar-caves-treasure-trove-of-indian-mythology

    I am gonna stand and stare more. :-)

  19. D.L.Narayan says:

    @ Venkatt: Thanks Mr. Venkat. You sure must visit these places but please avoid visiting during summer when the weather is hot and humid.

    @ Nandan: No, its not an FOG; I did a quick search here and found that while Roopesh had not covered it, Reema had been there in 2008 (http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/11/04/visakhapatnam-trip-%e2%80%93-part-2/)

    The bars in the GPS screenshot indicate the strength of the signal coming from various satellites. The green bars are the active signals and the red ones are the inactive ones. Usually a minimum of 4 are needed for accurately pinpointing one’s location but they can work with data from just 2 sattelites.

    Yes, I had gone through Manish’s Patal Bhuvaneshwar post and his C & G is also a useful thumb rule.

    Happy standing and staring :-)

  20. Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    Sorry for replying late D.L Sahab

    Nice Limestone caves ……………..

    I was born and brought up in hyderabad snd spent a major chunk of my early teenage over there …………. i have been there in my childhood

    and can very well converse in telugu.

    ella unnava sir …… manchi unnava …… nee post naaku chala ishtam …….. “Namaskaram”

  21. Giriraj Shekhawat says:

    aaunu D.L garu ……… nenu kuda nee mata vini okka sari vizag paryatana tapakunda chestanu …
    Chala dhanyavadulu

  22. santosh says:

    Hi D.L. Garu, Thanks for the information on Araku. Whom to contact for accommodation in hanging cottages? Actually in some other website it is written that they cost Rs.3500/ per day. I also heard about tribal cottages? Are these cottages maintained by APTDC? If you know some information, please inform me.

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Accommodation in the hanging cottages costs Rs.500 per day according to the notice at the ticketing booth at the entrance of the Padmapuram gardens. To the best of my knowledge, it is run by the tribal welfare department and not by APTDC. For reservations, you may try contacting the manager of the Padmapuram gardens (Phone no is 0893649615 but not sure if the number still works).

      Regarding tribal huts, I have no idea. The best thing to do is to go to Araku and enquire locally. There is plenty of accommodation available here so it is not really important to book in advance. Wish you a pleasant stay and write about your experiences here.

  23. ashok sharma says:

    great post.had never heard of this great ARAKU.Its worth visiting.very rarely we find nature in such vivid colors in our country.
    Great photographs,especially the first and the last.You are a master having an eye to catch heavenly beauty. This D3100 is a beautiful camera befitting your taste .The vibrant colors in these pics are commendable.
    one small doubt-is it safe to visit that area swarmed with MAOISTS?

  24. D.L.Narayan says:

    Thanks, Ashok. Glad that you liked the post and the pictures.

    Araku is just about a 100 kilometres from Vizag and it is perfectly safe. Naxalites usually stick to remote inaccessible villages deep in the forests and rarely venture into populated areas. Araku is on a highway and is perfectly safe. There are plenty of visitors here all the year round. However, the best time to visit Araku is from September to March.

  25. Surinder Sharma says:

    DL,
    Very good writing, photos o good. Lord Shiv and Maa Parvati so beautiful, South Artist has own style. GPS photo, I never turned on my GPS this way, here As I punch address it shows road to me.
    Thanks and regards

  26. Surinder Sharma says:

    Photos so good

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      Thanks a lot for your kind comments, Surinder.

      My GPS unit does many things, it can even play music ;-)

  27. prerna says:

    out of all the reviews so far this has bn the best..I’m planning for a visit on 1st of Oct 2012 n have been trying to contact padmapuram hanging cottage but unfortunately I’m not bn able to do so..The no. given in d website doesnt work so would be really kind if you could provide the no.. Hope to get a reply soon..regards :)

  28. Jayanthi Sankaran says:

    Dear Mr Narayan,

    Fantastic travelogue on the Araku valley – never knew that an idyllic heaven like this existed in India! Your pictures bring out the true essence of this dreamlike place – I loved the serpentine roads and the flora encapsulating it. Further, the tree houses reminded me of an extremely wealthy version of the Stilted houses in Cambodia.

    The stalactite and stalagmite calcium deposit formations remind me of some such places in New Zealand. It is rather unfortunate that a bunch of hooligans have desecrated what mother earth was proferring. There must be a system where they are put to task.

    Finally, I loved the poem quoted which was so apt – as it neatly rounded off your travelogue. Can I quote the poem of Davies in my FB page? You certaintly have the gift of the gab, and a style and flair for writing.

    Kind regards
    Jayanthi

  29. D.L.Narayan says:

    Thank you, Jayanthi, for your kind words of appreciation. Araku is indeed a beautiful place to do nothing other than revel in the beauty of the Eastern ghats. Yes, of course, feel free to use Davies’ poem, “Leisure” on your FB page. I don’t own the copyright, anyway, lol. Jokes apart, this poem was penned over a century ago so I don’t think that there are copyright issues as far as this work is concerned.

    A request; please call me DL. All my fellow ghumakkars call me that. If you don’t, I might have to address you as Dr. Jayanthi. :-)

  30. Priyanka says:

    Hello… We are palnning for araku trip with family for this pongal. I wanted to know where can i get the bamboo chicken served… can u pls help me out?

  31. D.L.Narayan says:

    Hi, thanks for stopping by and reading this blog. Bamboo chicken is available at a lot of places in Araku and elsewhere in the Tribal areas. However, the most popular one is located in the campus of the Tribal Museum. You can find it with ease as the area is filled with the aroma.

    Wishing you and your family a pleasant and enjoyable visit.

  32. Vipin says:

    Wow, what a lovely place this seems to be! Superb & informative narration…the pics are mind blowing especially the first one, just like a picture postcard! It’s such a pleasure to see such eco-sensitive places coming into light…

    The closing poem is a marvel directly conveying the purpose of a happy living…Thanks for sharing all this with us, DL Ji…

    • D.L.Narayan says:

      I am glad you liked this post, Vipin bhai. I shall be going to Araku again in a couple of days in the company of a famous ghumakkar :-)



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