Hyderabad is famous for many things – pearls, biryani and the many IT companies. But what many don’t know is the city’s potential as a great vacation spot. The old world charm of the centuries old bazaars and monuments, recreational gardens like the Lumbini Park and modern marvels like the Birla Temple and the Ramoji Film City make it a great place to spend the holidays. I spent the last Christmas holidays in Hyderabad with my family.

We decided to go by car as the highway connecting Bangalore to Hyderabad is really good. After a 10-hour drive, we reached our hotel – The Vivanta by Taj at Begumpet. We chose to stay in Begumpet as it away from the hustle and bustle of the old city and yet is close to the shopping districts and restaurants. We visited the Birla Temple the evening we reached. We drove around the Hussain Sagar Lake. It was a full moon and the statue of Buddha was gleaming in the moonlight. The Birla Temple itself was quite surprising, I have seen Jain Temples built in marble but this temple is built in the South Indian style with marble though the carvings aren’t very intricate. We spent that night indulging in the Christmas Eve spread at our hotel.

The next day we set off bright and early to Warangal, once the stronghold of the Kakatiya Dynasty. The recent film on the warrior queen Rudrammadevi has created quite a buzz about the Kakatiya Dynasty. In Warangal, we first went to the Thousand Pillared Temple at Hanumakonda. The temple is undergoing renovation and we couldn’t really appreciate the architecture. Then, the locals directed us to an ancient Durga temple on the shores of a lake. Not of architectural importance, the views of the lake and the rocks around are refreshing. We then had lunch and proceeded towards the ruins of the famous seven-walled fort of the Kakatiyas. What remain today are just a few metres of the inner-most wall, ruins of a Shiva temple, the iconic Kakatiya Kala Thoranam and a rudimentary palace known as the Kush Mahal. The four Kakatiya Kala Thoranams are huge arches carved intricately and are breath-takingingly beautiful.

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We started the next day by visiting the world-famous Salar Jung Museum. It is impossible to view and appreciate all the exhibits in a single day. What is noteworthy is that most of the items were collected by a single person, Nawab Mir Yusuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, the former Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad. There are collections of miniature paintings, clocks, swords, ivory articles, porcelain figurines, walking sticks, marble busts and the lists goes on!  After seeing the exhibits in the ground floor we were so tired that we decided to visit the museum another time to see the rest of the items. After a sumptuous lunch of Hyderabadi Biryani and Kubani ka Meeta, we set out to conquer the Golconda Fort.

The Golconda Fort is an architectural delight. The most famous occupants of the fort were the Qutb Shahi Rulers. The world-famous Koh-i-noor and the Hope diamond were housed in the vaults of Golconda. The engineering is so marvellous that a clap at the entrance gateway can be heard at the topmost bastion near the Durbar Hall. From the highest point of the fort we watched the sun set over the hazy city of the Nizams. We returned to the city and spent the evening shopping for pearls and handlooms. Without fail we picked up boxes of the famous Karachi Bakery biscuits for all our friends and relatives.

Finally, on the last day of our stay, we went the most visited place in Hyderabad – the Charminar! One of the towers is under repair right now but still the monument is magnificent. We spent some time marvelling at it and taking the customary family photographs. We caught a glimpse of Makkah Masjid, one of the oldest and biggest mosques in Hyderabad which is a stone’s throw away from Charminar. We then walked through the narrow lanes of the old bazaar to Chowmahalla Palace. On the way we picked up some Unani potions and spice mixes.

The Chowmahalla Palace, though close to Charminar is seldom visited by tourists. It was the official residence of the Nizams. The Durbar Hall is the grandest part and has countless chandeliers hanging from a golden roof. There is a small hall adjacent to the Durbar Hall where there is a Quran collection. There are gold gilded ones, miniature ones and hand written ones. Various other rooms and halls house the collections of the Nizams – porcelain, cutlery, old photographs, silverware and furniture and vintage cars. The palace has two courtyards and is airy and calm. It is like an oasis in the midst of the chaotic old city and a must visit. It was a great place to end our holiday in Hyderabad.

I’m definitely going back to Hyderabad again sometime to chill out in the many parks, enjoy myself in Ramoji Film City and get treated like royalty in Falaknuma Palace. And of course go on a biryani eating spree.


Offbeat places in and around Hyderabad

  • Chowmahalla Palace
  • Qutb Shahi Tombs
  • Warangal

What to eat?

  • The world famous Hyderabadi Dum Biryani
  • Double ka Meetha or Shahi Tukda
  • Kubani ka Meetha
  • Chaats (in the old city)
  • Karachi bakery biscuits (don’t forget to buy a few boxes to bring back home)

What to buy?

  • Pearls, pearls and more pearls
  • Dastakar Handlooms
  • Cotton towels and bedsheets
  • Karachi Bakery Biscuits
  • Bangles (near Charminar)

 

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