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Discovering Hyderabad's impressive fort, amazing street food & Charminar, the cities landmark mosque

boys in kurtas in from of tomb intricate pattern
A group of boys at Qutb Shahi Tombs

I hadn’t planned on visiting Hyderabad initially, but a change in my travels meant I had a few days to play with before heading onto Nepal. Hyderabad seemed like a fun city with lots of interesting architecture so I searched Airbnb and booked a cute room in an apartment owned by a young Hyderabadi couple. After travelling solo through Southern India for two months and meeting very few backpackers along the way, I was looking for some company and good conversation, which is the reason I chose a room in a shared apartment rather than a hotel. Sneha and Lokesh's apartment in Kondapur, a suburban part of the city, was easy enough to travel to using the metro or by taking an auto-rickshaw. As soon as I arrived they took me in like a long-lost friend, we drank whiskey at their kitchen table and discussed the intricacies of the Jain religion, yoga and the art of being comfortable alone.

Throughout my stay they drove me around Hyderabad, telling me facts about the city and introducing me to their family, I learnt so much through them, and got to see parts of the city I would have missed should I have stayed in a hotel.

On my first night they took me out to some of their favourite street food stalls, where we ate dosas, idlis (savoury rice & lentil cakes) and a popular rice dish known as pongal. For dessert we bought insanely sweet cakes from a brightly lit glass counter, hundreds of variations lined up ready for the upcoming holiday of Diwali. Later we cooled down with hand made ice pops from another street-side stall, each one made to order and covered with fluorescent, super-sweet syrups that left us high for the rest of the night.

The next day, while Sneha and Lokesh worked I hailed an Auto-rickshaw and headed to Qutb Shahi Tombs. Placed elegantly in gardens of flowering trees and perfect pathways, the beautiful dome topped tombs provided a peaceful few hours of people watching and site-seeing. The unusual shape of the tombs make them some of the most impressive I’ve seen.

white dumb tomb qutb shahi tomb pink flowers
One of the Qutb Shahi tombs

Not far from Qutb Shahi tombs is the equally impressive hand-built 16th century Golconda Fort and citadel. Built on what look like very precariously balanced boulders, the views from the top across the city are unrivalled. My rickshaw driver also wanted me to see a rare Banyon Tree, which he made me climb up to look inside, the trunk had been completely hollowed out leaving a secret hiding place. The legend surrounding the tree involves a king leaving his wife inside the hollow trunk to die after he found out she’d been having an affair, I never found out if this was a true story but I liked the rickshaw drivers storytelling all the same.

clouds and sunset over golconda fort
Golconda Fort

A few days later I took the metro to Hussain Sagar lake, here you can take a boat to the centre where one of the world's largest free-standing stone Buddha's stands. This colossal statue is particularly impressive at dusk when swallows come out to fly around it and the lights of the city reflecting in the lake give the place a magical feel.

buddha statue Hussain Sagar lake
Stone Buddha statue on Hussain Sagar Lake

On my last day, Lokesh and Sneha took me to see Charminar, one of the most beautiful temples in India. This iconic mosque with its four minarets and surrounding market is definitely worth visiting. 

charminar hyderabad mosque minarets
Elegant Charminar

It's in this area you'll also find Laad Bazaar where you can pick up colourful bangles and intricate jewellery as well as pretty much anything you're after. While here don't miss one of the best biscuits I've ever eaten, the cities famous Osmania biscuit, a type of shortbread named after the last ruler of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan. When I tried one at Nimrah CafĂ© and Bakery, they were straight out of the oven and still warm, I still think about them now and wish I could go back for more. 

My time in Hyderabad was made so much better by staying with people who knew the city so well, and so Hyderabad, which was never a fixture on my itinerary, ended up being an unexpected highlight of my two-months in India.

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