The Hill of Nagarjuna, 150km southeast of Hyderabad, is a peaceful island peppered with ancient Buddhist structures. From the 3rd century BC until the 4th century AD, the Krishna River valley was home to powerful empires that supported the sangha, including the Ikshvakus, whose capital was Nagarjunakonda. This area alone had some 30 monasteries.
The remains here were actually discovered in 1926 in the adjacent valley. In 1953, in anticipation of the new dam, which would flood the area with the Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir, an excavation was launched to unearth the area’s many ruins: stupas, viharas (monasteries), chaitya-grihas (assembly halls with stupas) and mandapas (pillared pavilions), as well as some outstanding white-marble depictions of the Buddha’s life. The finds were reassembled on Nagarjunakonda.
The thoughtfully laid-out Nagarjunakonda Museum has Buddha statues and beautifully carved limestone slabs that once adorned stupas. The reassembled monuments are arranged around the hilltop outside.
Boats (₹90, one hour) depart for the island from Vijayapuri at 9.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm, and stay for one hour. You'll want to take the morning launch out and the afternoon one back.
Keeping Buddha's teachings alive in the region, Dhamma Nagajjuna meditation centre offers free 10-day courses in charming flower-filled grounds overlooking Nagarjuna Sagar. Apply in advance. If you take a bus from Hyderabad, get down at Buddha Park.
At the convenient Nagarjuna Resort, across the road from the boat launch, slightly shabby rooms have geysers and balconies with good views. Two kilometres up the hill from the bus stand is the government Vijaya Vihar Haritha, with rooms overlooking the lake and APTDC on-site. Both hotels have restaurants.
The easiest way to visit Nagarjunakonda, other than with a private vehicle, is to go with APTDC (₹500) from Hyderabad; however, tours only run on weekends, when the site can be crowded.
To make your own way there from Hyderabad, take a bus to Hill Station/Nagarjuna Sagar (₹144, four hours, hourly); get down at Pylon and catch a ₹20 shared autorickshaw to Vijayapuri.