Hyderabad, India: Top Tourist Attractions

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Hyderabad is a city located in the State of Andhra Pradesh in India and is also the State’s capital. One of the biggest and most populous cities in India, this metropolis also carries immense cultural and historical importance. The city has a plethora of attractions for tourists ranging from museums and planetariums to well maintained zoos and historical monuments. The place is also famous for its cuisine and the ubiquitous shopping malls that are scattered across it. There is heavy influence of Mughal architecture as the city was home to many Islamic rulers in the past. Ruins of some of the famous historical monuments are mute witnesses to the grandeur of this city in the past which is also called the city of Nawabs.

Reaching Hyderabad Hyderabad is well connected to almost all major cities in India by railroads, road networks, and by air. The airport is located about 22 kilometers from the city center and some of the international companies that operate here are Air India, Emirates, Gulf Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines and Thai Airways. There are three major railway stations in the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad. The first is Nampally Station, the second one is Kacheguda and the third and the smallest one is Begumpet. Although the city is well connected by road to many Indian cities it is best to avoid traveling by road as it may be a very uncomfortable experience.

Explore The city is made up of two parts; the old city and the new Hyderabad and the old city offers much more in terms of sightseeing and tourism compared to the newer version. However the new city has seen many modern developments in the recent past and now the city is also called Cyberbad and is worth exploring.

Getting around As the city is very big and is connected to Secunderabad which together are called the twin cities, there are many options available for roaming and exploring this concrete jungle. The best traveling options are buses, rickshaws and taxis; the taxi service in Hyderabad provides more choices and is the best way to get around. Many types of cabs are available from the budget- Non-A/C types to the air-conditioned ones that are comparatively expensive. Another thing to keep in mind if you want a cab is prior booking; the city is thickly populated and the demand for cabs is greater than the supply.

Places of interest Hyderabad is a city that offers so many places of interest that it takes almost a week to visit and explore all of them. The city is home to many museums, temples, gardens, parks and historical places which are unique and mesmerizing.

Charminar The Charminar is an imposing structure near the old city of Hyderabad and literally translates to four minarets. This structure was built by Quli Qutub Shah, thanking Allah for stopping the plague from rampaging the city. There is a mosque inside the structure; however in light of recent terrorist attacks, the place may be closed. On the other hand, tourists still flock the place for taking home a picture of the Charminar which is considered an icon of Hyderabad.

The Golconda Fort The Golconda Fort saw the beginning of the era of Qutub Shah Wali and was built by the ancient empire of Golconda for protection against invading Mughals. This place is also renowned for its diamond mines and diamond cutting industry. The famous Kohinoor diamond and many other world renowned diamonds were mined here. The fort itself is in partial ruins but offers a glimpse into the history of the region and unique architecture. The fort is made so that it is one of the unique places where acoustics were given prime importance; a clap from a distant chamber is directly heard higher up in the fort. This phenomenon still exists and it is said that it was made for security as well as entertainment purposes.

Falaknuma Palace The Falaknuma palace is just three miles from Charminar and was built by a Nawab named Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra. This is one of the finest palaces in the country and was designed by an Italian architect. Built using Italian marble, this scorpion shaped structure has more than 220 rooms and twenty two halls. Adorned with frescoes and gilded relief, the palace also has some impressive Jade collection that is not only beautiful but is also unique in nature. The place was privy to the Nizam family but is going to be renovated into a 7 star hotel by the Taj group. Some other attractions in the palace are the chandeliers and one of the largest electrical switchboards in India that was installed in 1883.

Hussain Sagar This is a lake that was built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in 1562 to meet the irrigation and water needs of the city. The lake was further beautified by the installation of an 18 meter high statue of Buddha which is settled on top of a Gibraltar rock. The lake also connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad by the Tank road on which there are 33 statues of prominent personalities of Andhra Pradesh. Tank-Bund is also decorated using dancing water fountains and light shows which make it a sight to behold at night. This lake is also a popular spot for sailing and a sailing competition was recently conducted in the month of August 2009.

Salar Jung Museum. This is arguably one of the biggest and best museums in India and it takes a complete day to absorb the beauty of the place. Many artifacts in the museum date back to the first century and were collected by the seventh prime minister of Hyderabad, Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III (1889-1949). It took him almost 35 years to build the museum and many people believe that the museum only displays half the collection that was originally accumulated by Salar Jung III. The collection include stone sculptures, bronze images, jade and wood carvings, painted textiles, miniature paintings, modern art, ivory carvings, textiles, metal-ware, manuscript, arms and armor. There are many other Middle Eastern artifacts as well as western items on display which Salar Jung III collected over his lifetime.

Birla Planetarium This planetarium located near the Birla Mandir is one among the three planetariums in India. The planetarium has a huge dome that makes it a prefect place to project the night sky with dramatic light and sound effect. There is a nominal entry fee and the show lasts for about thirty minutes. The show includes knowledge and fascinating facts about the cosmos, Milky Way, various planets, and some information about UFO’s. The illustration is facilitated in many languages including Hindi, Telegu, and English.

Birla Mandir The Birla Mandir is located near the planetarium and is one of its kinds; constructed by the Birla foundation, this temple is completely made up of white marble. The temple is built for worshipping Lord Venkateshwara; however it also houses other deities such as Hanuman, Shiva, Sai Baba, Brahma, Saraswati, and Ganesh. The temple is built on a small hill called Naubat Pahad which is 85 meters in height and offers a stunning view of Hussain Sagar which is located near the hill.

Lumbini Park The Lumbini Park is located near the Hussain Sagar Lake and is a modern affair, with a Laser auditorium. The park itself is sprawled over seven acres and is strategically situated in the center of the city. The park also has boating facilities to give tourists a closer glimpse of the statue of Buddha located at the center of the Hussain Sagar Lake. It also has some musical fountains but the main attraction is the Laser auditorium that attracts many people from all over India since it is first of its kinds in the country.

Mecca Masjid The Mecca Masjid is one of the oldest in Hyderabad and the biggest one in India; the name Mecca Masjid was given to it because of the bricks that were used in making it. These bricks were made from earth that was imported from Mecca and used in constructing the central arch of the structure. It is believed that the shrine also has a hair of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. The Masjid is a fine example of Qutub Shahi architecture and is elaborately designed with floral motifs and friezes. Inscriptions from the Quran decorate several of the arches and doors. The core structure of the Masjid is located between two huge octagonal columns made out of a single piece of granite.

Chowmahalla Palace This palace was created by the Nizams of Hyderabad and literally translates to four palaces. The construction of this palace was completed in the late 1800’s and it is believed that it was modeled on the palace of the Shah of Iran. Originally the palace occupied 45 acres but now only 14 acres of it remains standing. Some of the attractions in the palace include the Khilwat Mubarak, which lies in the central part of the structure. This is the place that housed the royal seat of Nizams who held their religious ceremonies here. The clock tower above the main gate of Chowmahalla is another piece of attraction since the clock has been ticking away for the last 250 years. Expert clock repairers appointed for the job rewind the clock mechanism every week.

Lotus Pond The Lotus Pond situated near the Banjara hills is a small water body that is surrounded by a 1.3 kilometer path. The place is home to many species of birds and some of them are rare; the pied kingfisher, Common coot, little egret, and the White wagtail being the most common. The pond is open to visitors from six in the morning till ten and four in the evening till eight o’ clock at night.

Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy Botanical Gardens This botanical garden is an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and has many species of flora; some of them very rare. The garden is still under construction but a part of it is open to tourists. The park is designed so that it comprises not only of different flora but also large water bodies and hillocks. This place can be a paradise for eco-tourism and nature lovers as many species of trees and plants bloom in this garden. Some species include various types of Bamboo trees, Eucalyptus trees, aquatic plants, timber, and medicinal plants. There is a nominal fee for entering the garden and a whole day can be spent relaxing and admiring the various exotic plants in the garden.

Ramoji Film City Ramoji Film City is the world’s largest integrated film studio and attracts many visitors and tourists. This studio was opened in 1996 and is sprawled over 2000 acres of land. There are special buses that take tourists on a trip in the studio which has many delighting attractions such as Mughal gardens, movie sets, and shopping plazas. The major tourist attractions include the Japanese garden, fake waterfalls, an airport, hospital set, railway station, churches, mosques, temples, shopping plazas, palace interiors, chateaus, rural complexes, urban dwellings, and a winding highway. The studio is located twenty five kilometers or ten miles from Hyderabad and is close to the National Highway number 9.

Stay Hyderabad is a big city and finding good hotels is not a problem; hotels ranging from budget variety to luxurious ones are scattered across the city. Some of the best hotels in Hyderabad include Hyderabad Marriott Hotel [Ph: +91 40 27522999], Taj Krishna [Ph: +91 40 23392323], Taj Banjara [Ph: (91-40) 66669999], Taj Deccan [Ph: +91 40 6652 3939], and Hotel Viceroy [Ph: +91 40 27535893]. Other budget hotels are also available in the city and the best places to find good hotels are in the new city since the old city of Hyderabad is comparatively unclean.