Deccan is a region which gave the Koh-I-Noor diamond to the world (Deccan is an anglicized form of dakkhin, a term derived from the Sanskrit word dakshina, meaning south). Deccan has had a prestigious history and culture, which has produced some of the finest architecture of the sub-continent, an inventive regional cuisine and a creative literature. For all the travelers who know and love India and who have travelled through it, the Deccan Plateau relishes a particular fascination. Great fortresses, palaces and religious edifices dot its landscape. Yet, with all that it has to offer, the Deccan Plateau is little known and hardly visited.
Hyderabad is a city located towards the eastern part of the Deccan Plateau in South India and it is the 5th largest city in India extended in an area of 620 sq kms with a population of approximately 8 million. It is the capital of Andhra Pradesh state, which is one of the 28 states of India, with Telugu as the official language and Urdu is the 2nd official language, mostly spoken by Muslim the community. Hindi is the National language and English is widely spoken across the state.
Hyderabad is a bustling 420-year old metropolis that is richly endowed with a variety of cultures. The city presents an attractive amalgam of old world charm together with the ebullience of growth and enterprise. Beautiful old edifices built in the medieval, moghul, colonial and Indo-Saracenic styles abound, rubbing shoulders with large glass and chrome temples of commerce. The history of Hyderabad begins with the establishment of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. Sultan Quli Qutb Ul-Mulk seized the reins of power from the Bahamani kingdom in 1518 and established the fortress city of Golconda. Inadequacy of water and frequent epidemics of plague and cholera persuaded Mohammad Quli Qutb, the fourth Qutb Shahi ruler, to venture outward to establish the new city with the Charminar at its centre and with four great roads fanning out in the four cardinal directions. Hyderabad’s fame, strategic location and Golconda’s legendary wealth attracted Aurangzeb who captured Golconda after a long siege in 1687. After this defeat the importance of Hyderabad declined and the city fell into partial ruin.
As the Moghul Empire decayed and began to disintegrate, the viceroy, Asaf Jah I, proclaimed himself the Nizam (King) and established independent rule of the Deccan. Hyderabad once again became a major capital city, ruled by successive Nizams of the Asaf Jahi dynasty until the state was merged into the Indian Union in 1948. In 1798, a subsidiary alliance for military and political cooperation was signed between the Nizam and the British East India Company.
Thereafter, an area north of what is now the Hussain Sagar Lake was established as a cantonment. The area was named Secunderabad after the then Nizam, Sikander Jah. Both Hyderabad and Secunderabad grew together and have now merged. An imaginary line drawn across the Tank Bund is still used to distinguish the two cities.
The city of Hyderabad is famous for its minarets and its pearl bazaars. Pearls from all over the world are said to come to Hyderabad because the artisans here are skilled in piercing and stringing pearls without damaging them. This city is known as The City of Pearls, as once it was the only global centre of large diamonds and natural pearls trade. Many traditional and historical bazaars are located around the city. The city’s gypsy tribes called ‘Lambadas’ and ‘Banjaras’ are known throughout the country for their colourful costumes and Hyderabadi cuisine is much sought after.
The city of Hyderabad is noted for its monuments which include the masterpiece of Charminar and the legendary fort of Golconda. There are multitude of masjids, temples, churches and bazaars in the city. The tourism industry forms an important role in the economy of Hyderabad and the tourism related fairs are held frequently in the city. In the year 2010, the city was listed among the Gamma+ World City by the global city index produced by GaWC, and in the year 2011 the city was rated 19th in the world by The New York Times in The list of 41 Places to go in 2011. As of 2011, the tourism promotion budget for the city was increased to 520 million. Andhra Pradesh, which is India’s top domestic tourist destination, receives up to 157 million visits, and reached 1.5 million international tourists, which generated US $23 million in revenue. The city houses famous historical sites including Charminar, UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage site of the Chowmahalla Palace, Salarjung Museum (among the world’s largest museums of private collections) as well as art galleries, libraries, sports complexes, museums and theatres.
Hyderabad is located at an altitude of 536 metres with the mean summer temperature going up to a maximum of 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and the minimum average temperature being around 22 degrees (71.6 degrees). The maximum winter temperature is around 22 with the minimum going down to around 10 degrees (50 degrees). Light woollens are required during early mornings and late evenings.
There are so many places which can be covered by staying in Hyderabad.
- Tour #1: Heritage of Hyderabad: Impregnable Golkonda Fort and Necropolis of Qutb Shahi Kings of 16th and 17th Centuries can be covered in this tour for four hours. The fascinating feature of Golconda Fort is its acoustic system. It was a place where Ramadas was imprisoned who was a great devotee of Lord Rama. Pointed arches, Bazaars, clay and burnt pipelines, religious and royal structures are important features of Golconda Fort. About 10 minutes drive from Golconda fort is the Qutb Shahi Tombs. It is a funerary complex of Qutb Shahi kings and nobles. The tombs are domed structures built on a square base surrounded by pointed arches. The tombs are finest examples of Persian architecture, Turkish Hammam and mosaic work. The most important thing about these tombs is that these tombs were built by the kings when they were alive. It was a great achievement in their life and shown their power and art to the world.
- Tour #2: Splendour of Hyderabad: Towering minarets of Charminar, Lofty Mecca Mosque and magnificent Chowmahalla Palace would be covered for four hours. The Charminar is a massive arch built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, in 1591-92 to commemorate the eradication of plague disease in the city. The symbol of the city, the Charminar, is an impressive square monument with four minarets and the tourists can appreciate the elegant architecture of the Qutb Shahi kings in this monument. They can also explore the life of the people and colorful bazaars around charminar. Next to Charminat there is Mecca Masjid completed in 1694 which is the second biggest mosque in India.
Once regarded as the centre of Hyderabad, the magnificent Chowmahalla Palace was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty where the Nizams entertained their official guests and royal visitors. Built over 200 years ago, Chowmahalla is renowned for its unique style and elegance. This is the place where one can see the portraits of the Nizams family and also highlight of this palace is 100 years old Rolls Roy’s Silver ghost throne car which is under display.
- Tour #3: Museums of Hyderabad: This tour covers three great museums of Hyderabad viz. The Salarjung Museum, Nizams Museum and AP State Museum for four hours and each one has its own importance. It is amazing to see various collections relating to different subjects and interests.
1. Salarjung Museum: It is a largest one man collection in the world. The highlight of this museum is Veiled Rebecca statue and finest collection of Indian Miniature paintings. There are also collections from different parts of India, Far Eastern Collection, Middle Eastern Collection and European collection from different media and subjects.
2. Nizams Museum: Nizams museum housing the gifts received on the occasion of silver jubilee of Mir Osman Ali Khan in the year 1937. The highlight of this museum is longest wardrobe in the world and located in 250 years old Purani Havali Palace of the Nizams.
3. AP State Museum: This museum has a collection of Buddhist Sculptures, Bronzes, Arms & Armory, copies of Ajanta Murals, Manuscripts, Textiles, coins, modern paintings etc.,
- Tour #4: Colonial and Necropolis: Two centuries old British Residency and Paigah Tombs would be covered in this tour for four hours. In 1798, a subsidiary alliance for military and political cooperation was signed between the Nizam and the British East India Company. British Residency was built by James Achiles Kirkpatrick who was resident of Hyderabad in between 1795 – 1806 by East India Company. Now it has become women’s college by Osmania University. This is a finest example for colonial architecture and built for his wife whose name is Khairunnisa Begum. There is a popular book titled “White Mughals” written by William Darlymple, connected to this building.
This tour also covers the funerary complex of Paigah family who used to work under the Nizams. The tombs are magnificent structures, decorated in stucco work, and represent the Moghal, Greek, Persian, Asaf Jahi, Rajasthani and Deccani style of architecture. The geometrical designs in the Paigah Tombs are unique and are perforated with screens with great craftsmanship.
- Tour #5: Ramoji Film City Tour: Ramoji Film City is the World’s Biggest Film Studios Complex located in the outskirts of Hyderabad as certified by Guinness World Records. It provides comprehensive and advanced film production facilities with dedicated professionalism. A filmmaker can walk in with a script and walk out with a canned film. (Duration approximately 10 hours)
- Tour #6: Shopping Tour: Andhra Pradesh is not only rich in heritage but also birth place for so many arts and crafts. There are few things which without the tour cannot be completed. This tour covers only reputed places where one can buy the genuine arts and crafts which includes Mangatrai for Pearls, Kalanjali for Arts, Crafts and Textiles, Pulla Reddy for Andhra Sweets, Karachi Bakery for Hyderabadi Fruit Biscuits, Fabindia for upholstery, Lepakshi Government owned crafts centre and Shilparamam for crafts.
- Tour #7: Sound & Light Show Tour: The glorious past of Golconda Fort is narrated effectively with matchless Sound and Light effects. The unique Sound & Light Show takes you right back in time, when Golconda Fort was full of life, glory and grandeur. The show starts at 7 pm and duration is one hour.
- Tour #8: Heritage Walks in Old Hyderabad: There are 4 important Heritage Walks which are identified in Old Hyderabad (i) Charminar to Chowmahalla Palace (ii) Charminar to Badshahi Ashurkhana (iii) Charminar to Purani Havili Palace (iv) Asafia Library to City College. Each walk will take approximately 2 hours from starting point to ending point. One can do these Heritage Walks in the morning from 7.30 am to 09.30 am through the traffic free roads.
- Tour #9: Culinary Tour: Hyderabad Biryani Preparation (3 hours): Hyderabadi biryani is one of the most popular biryani dishes which has its origin in the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad in India. We understand that biryani culture started only in Nizams royal kitchens. Mumtaz Khan belongs to Jagirdhar’s family and she has passion for cooking and shares her knowledge with over 70 years.
Mumtaz’s house located near old airport in Hyderabad and her house itself is like museum having so many antique pieces. It has a sitting hall and kitchen in ground floor where she will demonstrate the biryani cooking. She prepares the meat and spices before reaching the client including the marinating the chicken. After that she will serve the same food which would be cooked by her in front of the guest. The guests will enjoy eating biryani on chowki (low wooden seat or stool).
- Tour #10: Textile Tour: Suraiya Hasans house / Pochampally Village: This tour describes the technique of weaving and revival of fabric culture. Suraiya Hasans house where she set up a modest workshop decades ago which specializes in the nearly extinct techniques of Himroo, Mushroom and Paithani weaves alongside Ikkat and Kalamkari. Suraiya has a love and respect for the Indian textile tradition, and is putting a great effort into preserving the more endangered skills that are being lost. She also set up a store within the same premises where one can buy the fabric and saris at unbelievable rates (Duration 3 hours).
Pochampally is a village about 50 kms outskirts of Hyderabad which has an interesting tradition, history, heritage, modernity and widely known for Pochampally saree. This village is the place where threads and colours find their way into the hands of skillful weavers and meander into the market as beautiful sarees and dress material and it is the most typical weaving village. Pochampally weave is popularly known as ikkat or tie and dye weave. The uniqueness lies in the transfer of design and colouring onto warp and weft threads first and then weaves them together. The fabric is cotton, silk and sico – a mix of silk and cotton. Interestingly, the colours themselves are from natural sources and their blends (Duration 6 to 8 hours).
- Tour #11: Markets of Hyderabad: Flower Market and Vegetable Market: This tour covers two different varieties of things which are flowers and vegetables. Jam Bagh Market for flowers and Mir-Alam Mandi for vegetables would be chosen. Both markets are very colourful at their best where one can see the life and tradition (Duration 4 hours).
- Tour #12: Tribal Tour: The Banjaras are a class of nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, North-West Gujarat, and Western Madhya Pradesh and Eastern Sindh province of pre-independence Pakistan. They claim to belong to the clan of Agnivanshi Rajputs, and are also known as Banjari. After the fall of the Rajputs, they started spreading across the country and also spread to Andhra Pradesh and other states of India. About half of their number speak Lambadi, one of the Rajasthani dialects, while others are native speakers of Hindi, Telugu and other languages dominant in their respective areas of settlement. Banjara tribe is still can be seen in and around Hyderabad and have their own exclusive lifestyle with colourful costumes.
Burugadda Thanda is a village about 70 Kms and one hour drive from Hyderabad and it has become tourist friendly after so many visits where tourists can experience the unique life style and culture of these tribes (Duration 5 hours).
- Tour #13: Evening tour to local theatres: Surabhi is a rare institution of family groups dedicated their lives for stage dramas for more than 100 years and a brand image in Andhra Pradesh for performing traditional stage dramas in the villages. Most of the Surabhi plays are the compendiums from the Indian epics and mythologies Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavatha. Sri Venkateswara Natyamandali (Surabhi) which is well known as the Surabhi Babji troupe is one of the survived groups to till date.
Sri Venkateswara Natyamandali (Surabhi) is an institution of family theatre with more than 65 family members that has unbroken record of 75 years. It is famous for its Padya Natakam (The classical Telugu verse play) performances adorned with colourful illusionary backgrounds, sets and trick scenes. The interesting thing about this troupe is that all artists/technicians of this troupe are from one family, dedicated their lives to Rangastal (Rangmanch/Stage). There are no age limitations or retirements for the artists of this family.
The important stage plays of Surabhi are Srikrishna Leelalu, Jai Pathala Bhairavi, Balanagamma, Sri Veerabhrahmam gari jeevitha charithra, Mayabazar, Lavakusa, Bhaktha Prahlada and Chandipriya. If someone is in the city with some two hours time on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, they can witness the Surabhi stage plays at 6.30 in the evening.
- Tour #14: Bidar Fort Excursion: Bidar Fort is situated in North Karnataka in Bidar district of South India at a distance of 140 Kms from Hyderabad which takes 3 hours drive. Sultan Alla-Ud-Din Bahman of the Bahmanid Dynasty shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1427 and built this fort along with a number of Islamic monuments since Bidar had better climatic conditions and was also a fertile and fruit bearing land. Bidriware is a very popular handicraft, an art form with 800 years history with linkage to the Persian art which was evolved during the rule of the Bahamani Sultans. The town and the fort are located on the edge of an oblong shaped plateau, which measures 35 kms in length and 19 kms in width at its broadest, encompassing a total area of 31 square kilometers. In this tour Bidar Fort, Madarasa of Mohammed Gawan, Chaukandi, Chaubara, Bahamani Tombs at Asthur and Baridi Shahi Tombs would be covered with early start from Hyderabad and late arrival (Duration 14 hours).
- Tour #15: Nagarjuna Sagar Tour: Nagarjuna Sagar Dam is the world’s largest masonry dam built across Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh, India, between 1955 and 1967 which is located about 160 Kms from Hyderabad that takes 3 hours drive. The dam contains the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir with a capacity of up to 11,472 million cubic meters which was the earliest multi-purpose irrigation and hydro-electric projects in India. The Reservoir provides irrigation water to 5 districts and hydro-electricity to the national grid. The construction of the dam submerged an ancient Buddhist settlement, Nagarjunakonda, which was the capital of the Ikshvaku dynasty in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Excavations in 24 sq kms in the valley have unearthed 130 sites of brahminical, Buddhist and secular as well as art works and inscriptions of great historical importance. In advance of the reservoir’s flooding, monuments were dug up and relocated. Some were moved to Nagarjuna’s Hill, now an island in the middle of the reservoir and others were moved to the mainland. The feat of reconstruction of remains using original raw material following similar ecosystem and alignment is first of its kind in India and emulates the world renowned preservation scheme of Abu Simbel (Aswan Dam Project) in Egypt. In this tour Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, Island Museum and reconstructed monuments on Nagarjunakonda and Anupu would be covered (Duration 14 hours).
- Tour #16: Warangal and Palampet: Warangal Fort, now in ruins, was once an impregnable fort in South India, located about 145 Kms from Hyderabad which takes 3 ½ hour’s drive. The construction of Warangal Fort began in 1199 AD at the time of the Kakatiyan king Ganapati Deva, and his daughter Queen Rudrama Devi supervised the process till its completion in 1261 AD. Warangal Fort is reputed for its architectural magnificence besides its history. The remnants of the fort comprise imposing 4 gateways and tall, elegant towers, each almost 50 feet tall.
The Thousand Pillar Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the city of Hanamakonda, Andhra Pradesh, India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Surya. It is one of the very old temples of South India that was built by the Kakatiyas of Warangal. It stands out to be a masterpiece and achieved major heights in terms of architectural skills by the ancient Kakatiya vishwakarma sthapathis. It is believed that the Thousand Pillar Temple was built by King Rudra Deva in 1163 AD and it is a specimen of the Kakatiyan style of architecture of the 12th century.
Ramappa Temple is located 77 km from Warangal and it lies in a valley at Palampet village of Warangal district. An inscription in the temple dates it to the year 1213 and said to have been built by a General Recherla Rudra, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva and named after the sculptor Ramappa. The history says that it took 40 years to build this temple. This beautiful temple, an example of brilliant Kakatiya dynasty art, planned and sculpted by great architects of bygone era was built on the classical pattern of being lifted above the world on a high star-shaped platform. In this tour Warangal Fort, Thousand Pillar Temple and Ramappa Temple at Palampet would be covered (Duration 14 hours).
- Tour # 17: Srisailam Tour: Srisailam is a holy place for Hindus and located in dense forested areas of Nallamala Hills on right back of the Krishna River in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It is located about 230 Kms south of Hyderabad which takes around 6 ½ hour’s drive. Though the present temple structures belong to mostly 12th and 13th Centuries, this temple is more than 2000 years old as per the available records and rock edicts. The main deity of the temple is Mallikarjuna Swamy (a form of Shiva) and his consort Bhramaramba Devi (a form of Parvathi). Mallikharjuna Swamy shiva lingam comes under one of the 12 Jyothirlingas and Bramaramba temple comes under one of the 18 shakthi peethas dedicated to goddess Parvathi in the Indian sub continent. Srisailam Dam is a multipurpose dam built across River Krishna and caters to the irrigation and power needs of the state. Besides the temple and dam one can also visit the numerous temples and sites of both religious as well as historical importance in the surrounding hills and dense forest areas. In this tour Srisailam Temple, Dam, Pathalaganga, Ropeway, Sakshi Ganapathi, Paladhara and Panchadarla, Atikeswaram and Sikhareswaram temples would be covered (Duration 2 days).
Hyderabad and surroundings areas are having diversified architecture styles, amalgamation of cultures mingled with one another and this city will never disappoint a tourist from any part of the world. In addition to the above, we are here to take care of guiding needs of the guests.
See more about Naga Subrahmanyam‘s services and check out other things to do. . . .
- Contributed by Naga Subrahmanyam, Hyderabad tour guide
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s India tours and things to do, India attractions, and India travel recommendations, or book a private tour guide in Hyderabad with Naga Subrahmanyam!