One of India’s most historic and culturally rich cities, Hyderabad, needs plenty of time to discover its multiple destinations. Given the punishing heat of an Indian summer, it’s the winter months which are ideal for delving deep into its multiple charms at a leisurely pace. Returning home with loads of richly rewarding experiences in the city, you are sure to always remember Hyderabad as an epic winter destination in India.
The city of the Nizam’s offers an introduction to one of richest erstwhile princely states in India which lasted for 224 years. Asaf Jah Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur was the seventh Nizam whose reign ended in 1948 when Hyderabad was forced to become part of the Indian Union. The Nizams of Hyderabad, cultured, forward looking and immensely powerful withstood the trials and tribulations of their times thanks to their inextricable links with the Mughals. It was Nizam-ul-Mulk who founded the princely state of Hyderabad when he was serving as the Viceroy of the Deccan for the Mughals. With his death after a reign of 24 years, the baton passed on to a string of to his decedents.
Long recognized for their ostentatious lifestyle pursuits Hyderabad’s Nizams, or the Asaf Jahi’s as they were also known, have left us a rich legacy to explore as a holiday destination for travellers. From their architecture, arts and crafts and culinary delights there is much to hold your attention.
Since the hot Indian summer curtails, your wanderings in this pleasing city winter days are excellent for discovering many exciting things to dwell on in this holiday destination.
Get ready to be blown away by the extravagant visions envisaged for their beautiful residences by the Nizams. On a grand tour of their home, the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, don’t be deceived by the simple butter-toned exteriors. Chowmahalla was built by Nizam Salabat Jung in 1750 CE. This elegant structure originally spread across 45 acres starting from Lad Bazaar is said to mirror the splendour of the Shah’s palace in Tehran. It comprises a set of four palaces with beautiful lawns and an enormous fountain on its frontage. The Darbar Hall, with its Takht-e-Nishan was the star attraction as a more public space for important meetings, as the private royal chambers were strictly private. The Belgian chandeliers shone down on beautifully orchestrated ceremonies here such as the coronation of the seventh Nizam. Of note, here is the superb vintage car collection and a host of galleries featuring paintings, weaponry, costumes, etc.
This visual feast of a residential space fit for a king was originally built for himself by the prime minister of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad in the late 19th century. A man of a highly acquired taste, Viqar-ul-Umara sourced all kinds of fittings, furnishings and artefacts of the highest quality from many a destination around the world to create this beautiful home, a melange of Tudor and Italian architecture, designed by an Italian architect.
Set upon a hillock the palace had several unmissable points of interest: the ballroom, the royal library with its splendid carved walnut wood ceiling and a king’s ransom of a jade collection. Blown away by this superb residence, the Nizam, who was visiting, could not contain himself and bought off the palace from his prime minister. He was, however, unable to enjoy his new acquisition for long, as he died shortly after living in it. Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, opted to use it as a residence for his special guests instead. Part of this exquisite palace is now run as a hotel by the Taj group. Booking a meal or staying here is the best way to enjoy a tour.
This immense structure played a pivotal role in protecting the city. Golconda Fort’s acoustic system was so superb even provided the Qutub Shahi rulers of Hyderabad early warnings of an impending attack from an enemy. In 1687, it was only through a betrayal that the army of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb could breach and capture the fort through the Fateh Darwaza. The Heera Mandi at the Fort is where the wealth of the legendary Golconda diamonds were processed and distributed worldwide. Don’t miss out on thrilling nightly Sound and Light Show which spotlights the high points of the historic episodes of this is impressive fort. Earlier in the day, do visit the Qutub Shahi Tombs complex near its Banjara Darwaza. Of note, amongst the 30 tombs located here are those of the seven Qutub Shahi rulers and that of Hayath Bakshi Begum. The Paigah Tombs are noteworthy for their fine stucco work and Asaf Jahi and Rajasthani styles of architecture. The Paigahs were powerful nobles in the court of the Nizams.
Salar Jung Museum
Visiting this amazing museum in this lovely winter destination should definitely be on your bucket list, just for the sheer variety of its collection of over 40,000 artefacts in its many galleries. Porcelain, Persian carpets, Japanese lacquerware, manuscripts and books, Indian miniature paintings, sculptures, textiles, jewellery et al. all serve up a wondrous window to the lavish flavours of the lifestyle of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Unmissable exhibits include the superb sculpture of the Veiled Rebecca carved by Italian sculptor GB Benzoni from the 19th century, Raja Ravi Verma paintings such as ‘Kerala Beauty’ and ‘Stolen Interview’, the famous Double Statue and the musical clock.
The iconic Charminar in the Old City of Hyderabad is your perfect landmark from where to explore its bustling surrounds which include sundry bazaars where you can pick up clothes, bangles and jewellery and souvenirs. Lad Bazaar is where you will get lost in the colour and clamour of the mingling locals and visitors buying, haggling, and browsing many tempting items. Check out the pearl collections at Mangatrai Jewellery Basheer Bagh.
Great Eats and Treats
Indulge your taste buds in this most exciting culinary destination in India. From exquisite biryanis to kebabs to haleem to desserts like qubani ka meetha, double ka meetha, from dosas to idlis to vadas and rasams… there are many wondrous signposts on this epic sensory journey across town.
These pleasant winter days are perfect for some fun- filled rock climbing adventures on the city outskirts in the rocky terrain of the Fakhruddin Gutta. Join the locals out for the day picnicking and climbing the famous rocks that are part of the oldest rock formations of granite in India in the Deccan Plateau. Of interest here also are the Khajaguda caves of deep antiquity. These rock formations date back to about 2,500 million years or the Proterozoic Age.
Ikat Textile Stories
Gentle breezes and a benevolent sun mark your trip to the twin villages in the countryside near Hyderabad. The twin villages of Pochampalli and Koyyalgudem have, for ages been involved in the fine textile tradition of ikat. The tour offers an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with the Padamshali and Devangas community weavers who do ikat weaves and dyes.
These are just some precious gleanings of the allurements of an alluring winter destination in India. There are a bunch of other fantastic experiences that await you on this epic journey of adventure in Hyderabad, the city of the Nizams.