Araku Valley the “Queen of Hills” is a picturesque hill station located in Andhra Pradesh, better known for its natural beauty, lush green landscapes, coffee plantations, and pleasant climate. It is situated in the Eastern Ghats mountain range and is popular with tourists, especially people seeking a peaceful getaway from nearby coastal cities like Visakhapatnam which is hot and humid.
Scenic Paradise in the Eastern Ghats
The picturesque hill station, renowned for its lush greenery, tribal heritage, and coffee plantations, beckons travelers to experience a rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Araku Valley altitude from sea level
Situated at an altitude of approximately 910 meters (2985 feet) above sea level. This elevation contributes to its pleasant climate and picturesque landscapes.
Hills and mountains surrounding Araku Valley
A valley nestled amidst the Eastern Ghats mountain range in AP. Notable hills and mountains that encompass or border are:
- Ananthagiri Hills: known for their lush greenery, trekking trails, and panoramic viewpoints.
- Galikonda Hill: The highest peak in the Eastern Ghats and is located near Araku. You get breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and is a trekking destination for adventure enthusiasts.
- Chaparai Waterfall Hill: Known for the Chaparai Waterfalls and offers a serene environment preferred for picnics and relaxation.
- Sunkarimetta Reserve Forest: Surrounds the valley and is home to diverse flora and fauna.
- Borra Caves Hill: The famous Borra Caves are located within the surrounding hills.
Araku Valley Tourist Attractions
The valley offers you a chance to explore its scenic beauty, tribal culture, waterfalls, and local cuisine. The region is inhabited by various indigenous tribal communities, and there are opportunities to learn about their traditional way of life and handicrafts.
Overall, it is a wonderful destination for nature lovers, adventurers, and anyone looking to experience a serene and tranquil environment.
Araku Valley attractions catering to diverse interests:
- Borra Caves: These ancient limestone caves, adorned with stunning stalactites and stalagmites, provide an enchanting underground experience.
- Train Ride: Enjoy the scenic train journey from Visakhapatnam to the valley, as the train passes through tunnels, bridges, and picturesque landscapes, making it a unique experience in itself.
- Katiki Waterfalls: The cascade of Katiki Waterfalls by river Gosthani, surrounded by verdant forests is a sight to behold. A perfect spot for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
- Coffee Plantations: Renowned for its coffee cultivation. Tourists can visit coffee estates, learn about the coffee-making process, and savor the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
- Araku Coffee Museum: One of its kind museum located right opposite the Tribal Museum. Try and buy a variety of Coffee Chocolates.
- Tribal Museum: If you are interested in cultural exploration, the Tribal Museum offers insights into the traditional lifestyle, customs, and art of the indigenous tribes residing in the region.
- Padmapuram Gardens: Beautifully landscaped gardens are home to various rare and exotic plants. A spot for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic. Famous for Tree Top Cottages.
- Ananthagiri Hills: Situated just a stone’s throw away from Araku Valley, these hills offer panoramic vistas, trekking opportunities, and a serene environment.
- Ananthagiri Waterfalls: About 30 KM from Araku it is a beautiful waterfall passing through huge rocks with enchanting monsoon beauty. I did not visit it due to the seasonal factors.
- Chaparai: 15 KM from Araku it is a perennial stream gushing through the natural rocks. A beautiful sight and landscape.
- Matsyagundam: About 50 KM from Araku, here is a rivulet passing through rock boulders in the backdrop of a Shiva Temple.
- Honey Making: Learn how the locals have successfully adopted modern honey-making techniques.
- Shimliguda Railway Station: 15 KM from Araku, it is the highest broad gauge railway station in India at 996 meters above the mean sea level. It is en route the Train ride to Araku from Vizag.
- Spices: The region grows a few spices. You can visit the gardens, see/taste a final sample, and buy them there.
- Bamboo Chicken: A tribal delicacy and only they can legally prepare this dish. Taste it if you are a non-vegetarian.
- Dumbriguda Waterfall: One of the widely visited waterfalls in the valley. Located about 15 km away and falls right on the way to Paderu. An attraction owing to its endless streams that graciously cascade across big rock formations. It is also known as Chaparai Waterfall.
- Villages: Some villages better known for their skill are Madagada for Potteries (8 KM away), Chompi for Lac products (5 KM away), and Mushiriguda for Bamboo products (10 KM away from Araku).
- Modamamba Temple: About 46 KM from Araku in Hukumpet, a well-known worship place for the native tribes.
Borra Caves, Araku Valley
Borra Caves, a natural wonder formed from millions of years of geological activity, captivate visitors with their intricate formations. The caves are adorned with awe-inspiring stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique structures. Inside, visitors can explore various chambers and galleries that unveil the artistry of nature. The dimly lit interiors add an air of mystery and intrigue to the experience, making it an excellent spot for both scientific exploration and visual delight.
I have written a separate post about my visit to Borra Caves. Do read it Pre-historic Borra Caves in Araku Valley. The caves are about 25 KM from the Tribal Museum and 92 KM from Vizag, somewhere in between.
Train Ride to Araku Valley
Araku can be reached from Visakhapatnam by a morning train that takes you through a series of tunnels. You travel through the valley on one side and hillocks on the other. This East Coast rail link was built in 1958 by HCC through an Indo-Japan collaboration.
I have written a separate post about my Train Ride to Araku Valley. Do read it Train ride to Araku Valley in Eastern Ghats.
Katiki Waterfalls, Araku Valley
Katiki Waterfalls, hidden within a dense forest, is a serene spot that rejuvenates the senses. Cascading river Gosthani from a height amidst lush greenery, the falls create a soothing ambiance, offering a perfect setting for relaxation and contemplation. The approach to the waterfall involves a trek through the forest, adding an element of adventure to the visit. The natural beauty and tranquility of Katiki Waterfalls make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
Watch a video captured during my visit to Araku Valley Waterfalls – Katiki Waterfall & Dumbriguda Waterfall
Paderu Coffee Plantations
3000 ft above mean sea level Paderu is known for Coffe Plantations. Paderu is a bit far and in a different direction. Araku Valley’s coffee plantations are a treat for those with a penchant for aromatic beverages. You can have an opportunity to witness the entire coffee-making process, from cultivation to roasting. Guided tours take you through verdant coffee estates, where you can learn about the different varieties of coffee beans, the harvesting process, and the art of brewing. Sampling freshly brewed coffee in the midst of these plantations is an experience that tantalizes both the taste buds and the senses.
You will find Coffee Plantations all along the road trip in the valley. Paderu is about 45 KM from the Tribal Museum and 120 KM from Vizag, but not on the way to Araku.
Araku Coffee Museum
Bang opposite the Tribal Museum in Araku town a board atop a tribal wrought iron gate says ‘Araku Valley Coffee House’. The subtext says – Coffee Beverages, Powder, Chocolates, and accessories. Sampoorna gallery which is like a small museum. Showcasing the birth of Coffee in Ethiopia and its journey all the way to this valley.
I have written a separate post about my visit to the Coffee Shop and Museums. Do read it Cherish the Coffee Chocolates at Araku.
Araku Tribal Museum
The Tribal Museum here provides an insight into the rich culture, traditions, and artistry of the indigenous tribes that call the region home. The museum exhibits artifacts, clothing, tools, and artwork representative of the tribal way of life. It offers an opportunity to learn about their rituals, beliefs, and practices, fostering a deeper appreciation for the diverse cultural heritage of the area.
I have written a separate post about my visit to Araku Tribal Museum. Do read it. It is about 500 meters from Haritha Hill Resort (Mayuri) run by APTDC.
Padmapuram Gardens offer a serene escape into a world of vibrant flora and calming greenery. It features a variety of flowers, plants, and trees, including several rare species. The toy train ride in the gardens is fun, making it an enjoyable experience for children and families. Well-maintained pathways and chirping bird sounds create an atmosphere of tranquility.
Staying in the resorts/hotels on the hills provides pleasant weather, a breeze, beautiful landscape views, and calmness which you miss in our bustling cities. An opportunity for trekking enthusiasts to explore scenic landscapes and lush forests. They are dotted with viewpoints that offer breathtaking panoramic vistas of the surrounding valleys and hills. Peaceful ambiance and invigorating air make Ananthagiri Hills an ideal spot for nature walks, birdwatching, and meditation.
En route to the valley, you will find several blue boxes by the roadside fields. They are the Honey making mini biofactories. An income-generating side business for the local farmers. We purchased a bottle of the nectar that was on sale right there. I was happy to learn about another small business that can be done in a very eco-friendly way without much investment. I have written a separate post on Honey Making at Araku Valley – Small scale business.
You can see along the roadside Pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon being cultivated. These spices thrive in the area’s climatic conditions. Plan a visit to one of these farms if you are interested.
The Bamboo Chicken tribal delicacy of the valley is a traditional delicious chicken recipe hidden in its regional cuisine. Please note only the tribals can cut and use bamboo for their traditional cooking practices. You will find a few tribal carts live cooking and selling it. One may have to wait for a while as it is a slow cooking process. You may order beforehand while visiting a nearby tourist attraction and pick it up or savor it on the way back. I have written a separate post on Araku Valley Bamboo Chicken Unique Tribal Delicacy.
Dumbriguda Waterfall / Chaparai Waterfall
15 KM away from the town, one of the widely visited waterfalls is right on the way to Paderu. Water streams cascade across big rock formations. It is also known as Chaparai Waterfall. Downstream is a perennial stream gushing through the natural rocks. A beautiful sight and landscape. Be careful while approaching the flowing water, potentially slippery rocky surfaces can be dangerous.
Mode of Transportation: Accessible by various modes of transportation
- Road: The valley can be reached by road from cities like Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram. The journey by road offers scenic views of the Eastern Ghats.
- Train: The Araku Valley Express, known for its breathtaking journey, connects Visakhapatnam to Araku. The train passes through tunnels, bridges, and picturesque landscapes, offering an unforgettable experience.
- Air: The nearest airport is Visakhapatnam International Airport, from where visitors can take a road journey to Araku Valley.
While Araku Valley is a safe destination, it’s advisable to keep a few precautions in mind like
- Weather preparedness
- Local customs: When interacting with indigenous tribal communities, it’s important to respect their traditions and customs.
- Wildlife and Nature: Be cautious of local wildlife and maintain a safe distance.
- Healthcare: Carry basic medications and first aid essentials, as medical facilities might be limited.
You can indulge in a variety of dishes that reflect the local culture and ingredients. They are generally on the spicier side. Besides the Bamboo Chicken, Coffee, and coffee Chocolates already described above, here are some food choices for you:
- Pachi Pulusu: Tangy and flavorful dish made from tamarind, green chilies, and other spices. Typically enjoyed with steamed rice and is known for its refreshing taste.
- Ragi Sangati: Nutritious millet, is used to make a staple called “Sangati.” Often served with a variety of curries and chutneys. Healthy and a local favorite.
- Bongulo Chicken: Features chicken cooked with aromatic spices, onions, and tomatoes. A rich and flavorful curry that pairs well with both rice and Indian bread.
Some accommodations and local eateries might offer traditional tribal dishes prepared by the indigenous communities.
Best Time to Visit:
The climate in Araku Valley is pleasant throughout the year, making it a year-round destination. However, the ideal time to visit is during the months of October to March, when the weather is cool and comfortable.
The valley experiences a subtropical highland climate due to its elevation in the Eastern Ghats. The temperature remains moderate, and the air is crisp and refreshing.
Winter (October to February)
Best time to visit Araku Valley. The weather is cool and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). Comfortable atmosphere for sightseeing, outdoor activities, and exploring the attractions without the discomfort of heat.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is also a good time to visit, as the weather remains pleasant, although it gradually warms up. Temperatures range from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). Ideal for those who prefer slightly warmer weather and want to witness the blooming of flowers and foliage.
Monsoon (June to September)
The valley experiences moderate rainfall during the monsoon season. While the landscape becomes lush and green, heavy rainfall can sometimes disrupt travel plans and outdoor activities. The temperatures during this season range from 18°C to 28°C (64°F to 82°F).
Popular and budget-friendly accommodation options in Araku Valley
The valley has a range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets. From luxury resorts to budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses, travelers have ample choices for a comfortable stay. The options allow visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of the valley while enjoying modern amenities.
Check availability, prices, and quality of accommodation as they can change over time.
Haritha Valley Resort: This is a government-run resort that offers comfortable rooms and cottages amidst the natural beauty of the valley. The resort is known for its scenic views and proximity to attractions. They also organize tribal performances on the premises, enquire before you book. We stayed there.
Haritha Mayuri Hill Resort: Another option from the government-run Haritha series, this resort is located on a hill and offers panoramic views of the valley. The rooms are basic but comfortable.
Some other options include Rudra Farms, Ushodaya Resorts, Vedika Orchards, The Hidden Valley Resort, Sai Priya Resorts, Samanvi International Hotel, Coffee Vihar Resort, and, Hills and Valley Resort etc.
Do check and verify these accommodation options and any new ones beforehand.
Common modes of local transportation
Auto Rickshaws and Taxis: Convenient way to travel to nearby attractions. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey or ask the driver to use the meter. Taxis might be a bit more expensive, but they provide a more comfortable and private option.
Local Buses: Araku Valley has a network of local buses that connect various attractions. While they might not be frequent, they can be an affordable way to get around. Inquire about the bus routes and schedules at your accommodation or local information centers.
Local Guides: Consider hiring a local guide who knows the area well. They can provide insights into the attractions, local culture, and history.
Private Tours: These include transportation to various attractions. A convenient option if you want a comprehensive experience without worrying about logistics.
Tribal cultural events and programs
Known for its rich tribal culture visitors have the opportunity to experience various cultural events and programs that showcase the traditions, customs, and art forms of the indigenous tribes in the region.
- Tribal Dance Performances: Many tribal communities have distinctive dance forms that are an integral part of their culture. These dances often involve rhythmic movements, colorful costumes, and traditional music.
- Tribal Craft Exhibitions: Tribes in the region are skilled in various handicrafts, such as pottery, weaving, bamboo crafts, and more. You can see and purchase these unique handicrafts directly from the artisans.
- Local Markets and Fairs
- Festivals: Often include rituals, dances, music, and communal feasts that reflect the tribe’s cultural heritage.
Major tribes of Araku Valley
- Gond: The Gond tribe is one of the largest and most prominent communities in the region. Known for their artistic skills, like painting, music, and dance. Gond art is particularly famous for its intricate patterns and vibrant colors. They have a deep connection to nature.
- Kondadora: Another significant tribal group in the valley. Known for their agricultural practices, cultivating crops like millet, pulses, and vegetables. They have a strong bond with the land and are skilled in farming techniques that are adapted to the local terrain.
- Valmiki: Known for its expertise in handicrafts, including pottery, bamboo craft, and weaving. They often create intricate baskets, mats, and traditional clothing and textiles.
- Dora: Primarily engaged in agriculture, cultivating crops like rice, millet, and pulses. They have their own social structure and traditional governance system and maintain their cultural practices like distinctive attire and unique festivals.
- Bagata: Known for its traditional dance forms, an integral part of their cultural expression. Skilled in pottery, weaving, and other crafts. They have a strong connection to the forest and often rely on it for their livelihoods.
- Savara: Known for their distinct language and cultural practices. They have a close relationship with nature and practice a form of shifting cultivation.
Each tribe has its own unique identity and contributes to the cultural diversity of the region.
Special tribal celebrations and occasions
- Jatara or Tribal Festivals: Celebrate their unique culture, traditions, and connection with nature. Include vibrant dance performances, traditional music, rituals, and communal feasts.
- Seed Sowing and Harvest Celebrations: Occasions marked by traditional rituals and dances that pay homage to nature and seek blessings for a bountiful harvest.
- Kolatam Dance Festival: Involves rhythmic movements and clashing of sticks. Showcase dance skills and engage in friendly competitions.
- Tribal New Year Celebrations: Different tribes have their own New Year celebrations, often marked by rituals, dances, and festive gatherings.
Remember tribal celebrations often revolve around their own calendars and traditional practices, so it’s best to approach these occasions with respect, an open mind, and a willingness to learn and engage.
The primary urban center in the region serves as a gateway to the scenic beauty and cultural richness of the valley. The Araku Railway Station is an important stop on the Kothavalasa-Kirandul railway line, offering a scenic train journey through the Eastern Ghats. Starting point for visitors exploring Araku Valley. The town features local markets where you can find fresh produce, tribal handicrafts, and souvenirs. It’s a great place to experience local flavors and pick up traditional items.
Mountain peaks in the region for trekking
The valley and its surrounding areas offer some excellent opportunities for trekking enthusiasts. Trekking here allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty, explore the hills, and enjoy panoramic views. Some notable mountain peaks and hills in the vicinity that you might consider for trekking:
Galikonda is the highest peak in the Eastern Ghats and offers a challenging trekking experience. The trek takes you through dense forests and steep ascents, rewarding you with stunning vistas from the top.
Ananthagiri Hills provides various trekking trails suitable for beginners and experienced trekkers. The trails take you through coffee plantations, lush greenery, and viewpoints offering breathtaking views of the valley.
Chaparai Waterfall Hill
The Chaparai Waterfall area offers a relatively easy trek with picturesque surroundings. The trail leads to the waterfall, and the hike is rewarded with the serene ambiance of the falls and the opportunity to relax in the natural pool.
Borra Caves Hill
The Borra Caves area has trekking trails that wind through dense forests and rocky terrain. The trails offer a chance to explore the unique geological formations and the beauty of the surroundings.
Located about 50 km from Araku Valley, Matsyagundam is a pristine lake surrounded by hills. The trek to Matsyagundam takes you through forests and meadows, offering a serene and off-the-beaten-path experience.
Padmapuram Gardens Hill
This hill offers a moderate trek and leads to viewpoints that overlook the valley. The gardens themselves are also a pleasant place to explore before or after your trek.
When planning a trek, it’s important to consider factors such as your fitness level, the difficulty of the trail, weather conditions, and safety precautions. It’s advisable to check with local authorities, guides, or your accommodation for information on the best trekking routes, permits (if required), and any safety guidelines.
Remember to wear appropriate trekking gear, carry essentials like water, snacks, and a first aid kit, and be mindful of Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural environment. Trekking in the region can be a rewarding experience that allows you to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of the Eastern Ghats.
The best way to reach Araku Valley from major Indian cities
Reaching it involves a combination of road and rail travel, as there is no direct airport in Araku town itself. Here are some options from major Indian cities:
Visakhapatnam (also known as Vizag) is the nearest major city and serves as a common starting point for travelers. You can reach the valley from Visakhapatnam by train or road.
By Train: The Visakhapatnam to Araku train route is known for its scenic beauty. The Araku Express and the Kirandul Passenger are popular train options that connect Visakhapatnam to Araku. The train journey takes around 4 to 5 hours and offers stunning views of the Eastern Ghats.
By Road: You can also drive from Visakhapatnam, which is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) away. The journey takes around 3 to 4 hours by road, depending on traffic and road conditions.
The agricultural produce of Araku Valley
1. Coffee: Famous for its coffee plantations. The region’s unique climate and altitude are conducive to growing high-quality Arabica and Robusta coffee beans.
2. Tea: Tea cultivation is also prominent here. The cool and misty climate of the region is suitable for growing tea bushes, and the valley produces a range of tea varieties.
3. Spices: Various spices are grown including pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon. These spices thrive in the area’s climatic conditions.
Araku Valley Souvenirs to buy
If you’re looking to buy souvenirs to remember your visit to the valley, here are some options:
Coffee, Coffee Chocolates and Tea
Given its reputation for coffee and tea cultivation, you can purchase locally grown and processed coffee beans and tea leaves. These make for great souvenirs for coffee and tea enthusiasts.
Handicrafts and Tribal Art
Home to various tribal communities with rich artistic traditions. Look for tribal handicrafts such as traditional jewelry, pottery, woven baskets, and bamboo crafts.
Spices like cardamom, pepper, and cinnamon are commonly grown in the region. Buying locally sourced and processed spices can be a flavorful and aromatic souvenir.
You might find traditional tribal textiles and garments with unique designs and patterns. These can be great keepsakes and also support local artisans.
The valley is known for its natural honey. Locally produced honey can be a delicious and healthy souvenir to take back home.
Look for paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art created by local artists. These can offer a glimpse into the artistic expressions of the area.
Remember to check the authenticity and source of the products you’re buying to ensure they are indeed locally produced and support the local economy. Souvenirs are a wonderful way to bring back memories of your trip and support the community you’ve visited.
The Araku Valley Railway, a scenic train route that passes through the Eastern Ghats, is an engineering marvel and a tourist attraction.