After completing a pilgrimage trip to Tirumala by walk in November 2015, we thought we must record the trip so that it might help someone plan the same. This post is divided into the following sections:
- Planning the trip itinerary – before even you start
- Planning the walk uphill
- Darshan and other details
Planning the trip itinerary
Tirupati is the town/city where the hill town of Tirumala is situated. Atop Tirumala is Sri Venkateshwara Temple. Your walk is from the foothills of Tirumala to the temple. Essentially your “base camp” is Tirupati and you must know the following:
- Book your stay at Tirupati: Book your accommodation at TTD’s (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) online http://www.ttdsevaonline.com/ (one can book up to 60 days in advance); look for places to stay in Tirupati; Recommended: Srivnivasam Pilgrim Amenities Complex.
- Book your Rs.300 ‘Seeghra Darshan’ online here. Choose the darshan time-slot 6 hours from the time you plan to start your walk to Tirumala.
- For pilgrims who come by foot to Tirumala, there is something known as ‘Divya Darshan’ entry – which is free and needs no booking.
- ‘Sheegra Darshan’ is slightly faster than ‘Divya Darshan’. Booking online is the best way to save time for Sheegra Darshan.
- Two routes to Tirumala, one from Alipiri and another from Sri Vari Mettu – which one should one take? This is always a confusion for many first timers and the pros and cons are equally matched adding to the confusion. Make your choice based what suits you the best, here are some details:
|Alipiri Route||Sri Vari Mettu Route|
|Distance from Tirupati Bus Station to the starting point of the climb/walk||4 km||21 km|
|Walking distance to Tirumala||9km (Google Maps recorded 11km)||(approx.) 3km|
|Duration of walk to Tirumala||3.5-5.5 hours||1.5 to 2.5 hours|
|Allowed timings to walk||24 hours||6am to 6pm|
|Surface of the walking trail||Steep incline + flat surfaces||Steep incline (considered a bit tougher to climb)|
|Free facility to carry luggage from starting point||Available||Available|
|Medical facility||Dispensary available en route||Nothing specific|
|Divya Darshan token counter||Present||Present|
- Fitness: If you are one who are not used to any physical activity – the walk will be tough. Some 30 minutes of walk or some sort of exercise for 10 days before the walk is recommended
(the rest of this post is for the walk starting from Alipiri only. For information on the route via Sri Vari Mettu, I found a good post here)
What you must know before you start the walk?
- Is food and water available along the foot trail? – Yes. There are numerous vendors selling soft drinks, water, (ginger) tea and cut fruits. There are a few makeshift eateries selling hot idlies and dosas. Recommended: Carry 500ml of fresh lime juice (nimbu paani – sweet and salt) per person as that is an effective energy drink and rehydration agent (this is something that is not available on the way)
- Toilets are available at regular intervals. Pilgrims do not use it like one would like to see them, so try to reduce your visits as much as you can.
- A dispensary is available after the most difficult part of the walk ends. It is strongly recommended to carry a few pain sprays (like Volini or Amrutanjan) as you will need them by the end of the darshan if not by the end of the walk.
- Can one walk with footwear on? Yes. Absolutely. The vendors at the base of the hill insist that you cannot and ask you to buy a plastic bag – do not listen to them if you have decided to climb with your foot wear on. It is perfectly fine – no one stops you.
- Protection from rain and sunlight: 80-85% of the route is completely covered – so you are well protected from sunlight but you need umbrella if it is raining lest you will get wet.
- Priority queue (Divya Darshan): A ticket is issued for pilgrims who climb by foot – issued at 2km into the walk and needs to be stamped towards the end of the walk for the ticket to be valid (you will not miss this on the walk route – so stay calm). This ticket is valid for 24 hours from the time of issue; you will have enough time to get to the darshan of the lord after you reach the hill top. No need for this ticket if you have booked any other darshan tickets like Seeghra Darshan.
- Luggage transportation: If you have luggage to carry, you do not have to carry it yourself all the way to the hill top. You can leave it at the luggage counter at the foot hill (close to where you start the walk) and they transport it for you to the hill top by the time you end the walk; all this at free of cost. The luggage must be locked for them to accept the same.
- Travelling to Alipiri: There are frequent APSRTC buses to Alipiri. You can also take an Ola Cab or an auto-rickshaw. If you are driving by yourself, you can park your vehicle at ‘Balaji Bus Stand’ – Alipiri.
- Mobile phones and cameras on the climbing route is fully allowed. Record your feat the way you like.
Planning your walk uphill
This is not a easy walk. It is more than 9 kilometers in length climbing an altitude of more than 700 meters – which is equivalent to climbing Qutub Minar 10 times or climbing till almost the tip of Dubai’s Bhurj Khalifa.
Going by Google’s My Tracks, which I used to record the above walk, the total distance of the walking trail is 11km and the stages here are based on that.
- Stage-1 [Alipiri Gate to GaaliGopuram]. The first 1/4th of the
distance (=~ 3km) from Alipiri gate to GaaliGopuram is the toughest as it covers almost 375 meters out of the total 700 meters altitude and comprises entirely of steps alone (2083 steps). Tips to get to complete this first phase:
- Do not talk or talk very little with your fellow pilgrims
- Do not keep looking up to gauge the gradient
- Do not stop for breaks exceeding 5 minutes (unless you feel unusually exhausted)
- Walk on the right side of the railing – as most of them tend to walk on the left side and hence right side is a lot more free from obstructions
- Have water/juice in moderation along with (dry) fruits – avoid major snacks in this phase
- Stage-2: [Gaali Gopuram to MokkalaParvatham]
This is approximately 5 kilometer walk and the easiest and the most enjoyable one. This is not steep and you will hardly notice that you are climbing. The deer park and numerous parks make this walk a pleasure. This phase also walks along the foot path of the road going down-hill to Tirupati and during monsoons you will walk along water-falls. This phase lacks the usual sign boards and goes down-hill for a while – confusing the pilgrims if they have lost the way.
Before you begin your stage-2:
- Make sure you get your Divya Darshan ticket (if you have Rs.300 Seeghra Darshan ticket – you can skip this one totally)
- Eat something from the small eateries if you wish to; if you
can manage with (dry) fruits – that is the best option
3. Stage-3 [MokkalaParvatham to Tirumala]:
This is just a 2 kilometer walk but again of high gradient steps – so will slow down the speed. The first indication that you are on Tirumala is when you see the luggage collection centre. Keep walking and you will soon see the crowd swelling and you will merge into the crowd. You have made it! Congratulate yourself and now prepare for the darshan.
Darshan after you reach
- Walking on the hill-top: Do not under-estimate the amount of walking you need to do on Tirumala to reach one place to another. So, clear planning is necessary – else you will end up walking 3km more as information by TTD is abundant but not consistent.
- Mobile phones and other electronic gadgets are not allowed. Stand in the darshan queue and you will find a counter where you can leave these items. If you want to save time, pack your footwear in a plastic cover and put them into a bag and give the bag at the counter in the darshan queue; this way you can collect your mobile, footwear and other items from a single collection counter instead of running around to different counters.
- Food: The best food available on Tirumala is the Annaprasadam lunch, available at the (new) Annadanam complex; very hygienic and filling – at free of cost. They do not serve the whole day – for lunch they close at 3pm (may be open from 11:30am) and dinner I am not sure (assume they close at 10pm).
- Laddu counter: A few things about the laddu prasadam:
- The laddu is available at a building called “Laddu Complex” with several counters in it. This building is outside the main temple – and again you will see sign boards directing you to the place – will not miss.
- You need to buy laddu receipts at a counter and laddus at another counter. Sheeghra Darshan pilgrims have complimentary two laddus per person and you need to not take another receipt for that – the darshan ticket will do.
- The counter where you are given the laddus in exchange for the receipt do not provide carry bags! If you need carry bags for your laddus – buy them from another (bag) counter before even you stand in the queue for the laddus. This is quite an irritant as the laddus are tossed out of the counter’s small hole and you have to grab them lest they fall on the floor.
- If you have the Rs.300 Seeghra Darshanam ticket, you are eligible for 2 laddus per person free – and for that you must go to the first floor of the laddu complex! Laddu gets very complicated, is it not?
Getting back to Tirupati and other details
- APSRTC runs buses from Tirumala to Tirupati. Sometimes it is a struggle to even get into the bus as people jump across and toss their bags and cloths inside to “reserve” the seat. It takes 60 minutes for the bus to reach Tirupati. If you do not mind shelling out, you can hire a private taxi – to just save the struggle to get into the bus
- Tirumala has a lot of things to see apart from the Darshan – so if you opt to stay a few more hours or a day more that would be worthwhile.
- TTD runs free buses to take pilgrims around the temple town. There are private jeeps which ply at some ridiculous costs – so hone your bargaining skills.