I see Novotel first from the air as my flight banks over the Bay of Bengal and prepares to land — a hulking X-shaped building looming over the sea, a few kilometres from the city’s famed natural harbour. It is one of the newest hotels in the city, and it is also the largest.
Visakhapatnam looks very different from the sleepy naval town I remember from nine years ago. These days, the city seems to be growing further into the hinterlands, and business is booming. Just outside town, beyond Rushikonda beach, new IT offices and management institutes sit cheek by jowl with ancient Buddhist ruins. In the past decade, Vizag seems to be looking beyond the shipyard to landbound business. So when Novotel opened in December 2011, it was at the right place at the right time.
The hotel itself is a behemoth straddling one end of the RK Beach — at over 3,500 sq m, the largest hotel in the city. Angular shapes — all marble and tasteful wood panelling and pretty chandeliers and a glass front overlooking the Bay of Bengal — give the hotel its character. In fact, the sea defines the hotel. All of its 225 rooms and three restaurants face east, with a generous view of the sea. My room, in the southern tower, is no different. Done up in tasteful lines with thrown back chairs, and a leather sofa, and a deep, comfortable king-sized bed, its crowning glory is the sea view. A member of the staff who showed me in joked that I could see the sea even from the privy, and well, that’s true.
My room is one of the Superior Rooms of the hotel, of which some can be upgraded to Executive Rooms, with added mod cons like an iPod dock, a coffee machine and complimentary internet access, local calls and drinking water. Superior still are the ten suites, large rooms with a kitchenette and complimentary access to the fitness club.
The hotel’s trinity of restaurants is a delight. It’s evident from the clientele that spots like Infinity — the rooftop restaurant specializing in grills and sizzlers — have become the dining venue of choice for Vizag natives as much as tourists and other visitors. The ambience here is relaxed and informal, with none of the stuffiness you see in business hotels. The biggest of these is the Square near the lobby. A multi-cuisine restaurant, it serves excellent Continental food. And the buffets are wonderful. Looking out at the bay is Zaffran, which serves Indian cuisine. Vue, the lounge bar, makes some great cocktails.
However, Novotel Varun Beach is first and foremost a business hotel. Though the hotel is also quite invested in keeping its patrons healthy as well as happy. To this end, the massive gym area complements the full-fledged spa next door. I tried the excellent full body massage, followed by a steam bath and a swim in the infinity pool overlooking the sea. As I’d spent the day haring around the countryside in the humid heat, I almost fell asleep at the pool, lulled by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach just ahead. There’s also an open-air jogging track on the terrace, with great sunrise views.
Despite the corporate sheen, Novotel is beautifully located for non-business travellers as well. As it’s situated right in the middle of Visakhapatnam’s coastline, your beachside promenade is a five-minute walk away. You can hire a taxi and visit Kailasagiri for spectacular views of the bay, or wander further afield to the pretty beach of Rushikonda, or the ancient Buddhist monastic ruins atop Thotlakonda by the sea and further inland at Sankaram. The 13th-century Simhachalam temple is a short distance away, and is worth a visit. But the best thing to do — and some of the locals agreed when I asked them — is to sit around and look at the lights twinkling from the many ships out at sea, savour the breeze and fall asleep.
Where: Beach Road, Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
Accommodation: 225 rooms including 10 suites, 1 accessible room. Free for upto 2 children under 16 sharing their parents’ room
Tariff: Rs 5,925 (superior rooms), Rs 7,325 (executive rooms), Rs 9,775 (executive suite), including complimentary buffet breakfast.Tariffs include VAT but exclude city and local taxes
Contact: 089-12822222 (for reservations), novotel.com