I felt so lucky because this tour only run on Sunday, and we only had one day to explore Hyderabad, that happened to be a Sunday. So with the spotty hotel internet, we tried to read up a bit about the tour before hand. I couldn't tell if the tour was still running, because there was no recent information, and the official website by Telengana tourism department ran on Flash which I couldn't read on mobile. Anyway, we decided to trust the internet and started the day with this tour. It was the best decision and it all turned out very well!
On Sunday we woke up at 6am, skipped the hotel breakfast and took auto rickshaw to Charminar. The street was empty, and the fresh crisp morning air was such a refreshing change from the punishing April heat. I was happy that we started the day so early.
We arrived at 7.00am. We spoke to a few police officers before someone knew about the tour and pointed us to the main entrance of Charminar. However it was locked. There was a security guard inside Charminar. We gestured to ask and he only gestured back that it was closed. We walked around one more time and couldn't find any other entrance. Feeling a bit disappointed, we went to a coffee shop nearby (Iqbal) to have breakfast and decided on plan B, which was to explore the area on our own.
After breakfast, we walked back to Charminar again and surprisingly, someone on a motorbike called out to us "Heritage walk?" - he must be an official with the tourism department. Oh, the joy when things are back on track again! The man parked his bike, unlocked the gate and we were let into Charminar this time and met another official, and Raeez, she was going to be the tour guide.
The tour started at around 8.00, with only Raeez and two of us. But Raeez mentioned that sometimes the tour could have 30 or 200 people. Big groups are advised to contact them before hand to arrange.
If you have difficulty finding the meeting point, my advise is to wait around the main entrance of Charminar, or call Raeez (her number is mentioned in other reviews). Be patient because the tour could start late. Take pictures and enjoy Charminar and the morning while waiting.
There are 4 walks, in 4 different directions. Each Sunday a different walk is conducted. We happened to take walk #2 from Charminar towards the river (ended at the mourning place Badshahi Ashurkhana). Ticket price was 50Rs, which included a breakfast in the end.
A special mention must be made for Raeez; she is such a knowledgable guide; and you can clearly see the passion in her work. Not only she told us many interesting stories about Charminar and all the heritage points along the way, but she also shared the history of Hyderabad and its important heritage sites like Fort Golconda. History indeed came alive through our walk. Raeez also gave us many tips about visiting other attractions, which greatly helped us in planning the day.
Another interesting point about this tour is that it didn't feel commercial, because it was organised by the state tourism department in order to spread awareness about heritage. With the blessing of the government, you will get to access places that the public usually don't get to access. For example we went into Badshahi Ashurkhana before its opening hours and there was only our group there.
I didn't check the time when the tour ended, but perhaps 9.30 or 10.00. We went back to the hotel to check out, and afterwards headed to a restaurant that Raeez recommended and it was an excellent choice! So grateful to have met her on the morning of our only day there!
All in all it was a very pleasant experience and I think this is a very good initiative by the Telangana tourism department. Adding some signage in front of Charminar to indicate the meeting points and timing will be great. Otherwise: 5 stars, highly recommended!
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