BEYOND India’s Golden Triangle that includes Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, Goa’s beaches and the meditation hubs such as Varanasi and Rishikesh all spring to mind as the usual tourist haunts listed in India.
But the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh is proof that just because a city is off the tourist radar, it shouldn’t be written off. Here are a few reasons you should plan a visit.
A modern metropolis
I hadn’t been to Hyderabad before and I was expecting just another big Indian city with dust, pollution, crowds and rubbish – something you expect when going to an Indian city of some seven million people.
But while Hyderabad is one of India’s burgeoning modern metropolises, there are places in the city where you don’t really feel like you’re in India. For example, you can wander the central business district and visit air-conditioned shopping centers.
Hanging out in coffee shops is also a popular trend with the increasingly ubiquitous Cafe Coffee Day chain around the city. There are also good bookshops, an inner city lake to enjoy complete with park and gardens and excellent dining around the city.
Markets and food
One thing to remind you of being in India is its vibrant markets where chatty men and women in saris sell colorful cloth and rows of spices at every corner.
There are city markets in every district and these represent wonderful opportunities to taste local produce, meet some interesting people and really experience local life.
The Hyderabad biryani is one of the classic dishes of Andra Pradesh and famed around India. Most social occasions you attend here will include a biryani so you’ll have plenty of chances to get used to it.
The dish blends Mughlai and Andhra Pradesh cuisine and features basmati rice, mutton meat (although chicken or goat may be used), yogurt, onions, spices, lemon, saffron, coriander and fried onions. As far as Indian dishes go it’s pretty sedate on the senses if you’re a bit wary of chilly and spices.
There’s also plenty of history to enjoy in Hyderabad for those attune to the ancient world. Highlights include the wonders of the 16th Century Golconda fort or the mighty towers of Charminar that date back to 1591. Both are open to visitors and well worth the time to explore.
Go later in the afternoon to Golconda and enjoy the sunset and then a sound and light show on the grounds. While Charminar is indeed fascinating from a distance, and the markets around are worth a look, the bird’s eye view of Hyderabad from the top of the towers is well worth the admission fee.
While these are the most famous of Hyderabad’s sights, they aren’t the only monuments worth a look. There’s also the Mecca Masjid, Salar Jung Museum, Nizam’s museum and Falaknuma Palace.
Hussain Sagar Lake
The other highlight of Hyderabad is the Hussain Sagar Lake. The “lake” is actually manmade – built in 1562 on a tributary of the River Musi to help with the city’s water needs.
It’s a pleasant space in the bustling roads of Hyderabad and lovely to walk around with gardens and fountains in the Lumbini Park. Boats can also be taken out to the Buddha Statue in the middle of the lake; a peaceful and restful place away from the movement of the city, and somewhat surprising given 90 percent of the state is Hindu.
Buddhism is simply listed as the “other” religions for Andra Pradesh which measure 0.17% of the population according to Wikipedia.
The beauties of Hyderabad don’t stop at ancient sights. The Nehru Zoological Park is truly one of the best I’ve seen in Asia with a wide array of animals from lions, to monkeys, reptiles and birds.
It’s an easy way to spend the day, with plenty of food inside, and entertainment for children. We had a teenager with us and some younger kids and all of us found something of interest – the toy train, the lion safari in a clapped out old vehicle past said felines and an anaconda snake.