When you're visiting Andhra Pradesh, taking a day-long boat cruise on the Godavari River should definitely be on your itinerary. The boats leave from polavaram in the West Godavari district and cover a distance of 130km (65km upstream and 65km downstream). The second pick up point is Anguluru, in the East Godavari district.
En route, you will see the Shiva Temple at Pattiseema. There is also the Mahanandiswara Swamy Temple, which is located on an island and houses a crystal Shivalinga. It is said that this island has a secret underground route that connects it with Varanasi.
The boat also passes through the point where the Polavaram dam is being constructed. The Polavaram project, when completed, will result in Asia's second largest dam with 140 gates.
There is much uproar over the displacement of local tribes, and the adverse effects on tourism due to the construction of this dam. However, the guide on the boat will assure you that tourism activities will not be hampered by its construction, but the views might be compromised.
While travelling upstream, the East Godavari district falls to your right and the West Godavari district to your left. The scenery will keep changing on the journey from huts and fishing boats to small islands and hills.
The first stop is at Gandipochamma Temple, which is an ancient tribal temple dedicated to the eponymous goddess. You will have to ascend many steps to reach the temple, which is situated at the top of one of the hillocks. There are small shops selling chips and cold drinks here. You will also pass Devipatnam village, near Rampachodavaram. It is the place where the famous freedom fighter Alluri Sitaramaraju raided a police station in his fight against the British. Note that the boat does not stop here. After a couple of hours, you will be able to see the scenic gorge of Papikondalu (meaning papi hills), As the Godavari joyously dances, Mother earth transforms into an emerald with paddy field breathing to life; the elegant river adorns the brown land like a sky-blue silk sari The river goddess washes away miseries. "These words written by Telugu lyricist poet Veturi Sundararama Murthy succinctly encapsulate the beauty of the Godavari and the significance it holds for the people of the region.
The Godavari, one of the longest rivers in the country, is also known as Dakshina Ganga (Ganga of south India). Although the river and its tributaries flow through Maharashtra. Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Komatoka, Telangana as well as Madhya pradesh, it is not revered in these states as it is in Andhra Pradesh. Every 12 years, the Pushkar fair is held in towns and temples along its banks, and a dip in the river is believed to absolve you of your sins.
When the Godavari River enters the West Godavari and East Godavari districts, it splits into two (before entering the Bag of Bengal) forming the third-largest delta in India and turning the land extremely fertile. Hence, the Godavari districts are the rice bowls of Andhra Pradesh. The river delta also provides fertile land for the growth of coconut trees, which are a major source of income in these districts. The river assumes high cultural and spiritual significance in this part of the state because it is the provider of all the wealth these two districts have been blessed with. When a river supplies food, drinking water and is associated with mythological stories and still manages to look so awe-inspiring, it is only expected that it would feature in every other poem. The Godavari has inspired artists for centuries and once you sit by its banks at Rajahmundry, you will understand why with the hills almost parallel to each other and jutting out into the river. This part of your journey will offer you the most rewarding views, so keep your camera handy. The final destination is the Papikondalu National park, where there is a waterfall. After this point the boats head back to polavaram.
On the way back, thu boats stop at a small village called Perantalapalli, where you can camp at night and catch another boat the next afternoon (you will have to pay in advance for this package). Although the entire journey is a mesmerising experience, the entertainment activities organised onboard these boats can become unbearable for an outsider ; the music is too loud and the dances crass.
Rajahmundry is well connected to other major cities of the country via regular flights.
Rajahmundry has one of the biggest railway stations in the whole state.
There are regular buses from other major cities of the country to Rajahmundry.
The best time to visit Papikondalu is from October to January while the Peak Season is from November to December.
Coringa wildlife sanctuary: The Fishing cat, jackal, estuarine crocodile (found in the creeks) and sea turtle can also be found here.
Draksharamam: Constructed by king Bhima of the Eastern Chalukyan Dynasty between 802 CE and 902 CE, the temple is one of the pancharama kshetras.
Biccavolu: Lord Shiva's temple, which is a temple complex built in the Dravidian style by the Eastern Chalukyas between the 9th and 10th centuries CE.
Annavaram: Annavaram is quite a picturesque destination with the Pampa River flowing languidly next to the hills.
Rajahmundry: Grammar and script of the Telugu language evolved in Rajahmundry, and so the city is colloquially referred to as the birthplace of Telugu.
Rayali: A picturesque village filled within coconut trees and banana plantations, situated in the middle of the Vashista and Gautami tributaries of the Godavari River.
Uppada Beach: Kakinada Beach is also known as Uppada Beach. The beach has an inclined continental shelf and is one of the longest on the Coromandel coast.
Pithapuram Temple: The famous 10th-century temple complex at Pithapuram is considered a tripuranthakam (abode of three gods), for it houses the shrines of Puruhoothika Devi, Kukkuteswara Swamy and Sripada Vallabha Dattatreya Swamy.