South India comprises Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Each state has its own unique traditions, culture, history and art, and for a traveller, the region is a repository of unique, memorable and enriching experiences. Here we touch upon some of the best places to visit.
We couldn’t possibly choose just one place in Kerala to visit, given that each and every place that make this south Indian state hold their own beautiful and unique appeal, worthy of a visit. The state is a beautiful natural marvel, fit with blissful backwaters; tea, spice and coffee plantations, gorgeous beaches, diverse wildlife and memorable golden sunsets. It also has a well-preserved cultural, art and historical heritage, which beckons art aficionados and history buffs. Plus, it’s also a gem for outdoor sports, with wildlife safari, backwater cruising, trekking, bamboo rafting and water sports as the most popular ventures. The must-visit places in Kerala include Munnar, Wayanad, Fort Kochi, Varkala and Alleppey.
Dubbed the ‘Scotland of India’, Coorg is a popular hill station among locals and travellers, and with good reason. The picturesque landscape encompassing acres of spice and coffee plantations, scenic waterfalls, mountains, lakes and enthralling trekking trails make it a haven for nature lovers and trekkers, while the lush forests harbor diverse flora and fauna, which beckons wildlife explorers from across the country.
UNESCO designated Hampi a World Heritage Site owing to its magnificent architectural and historical significance. It is the place where the visitors can explore the remnants of one of the greatest empires of the past, the Vijaynagara empire. There are ancient temples, dilapidated forts, huge boulders and monoliths that continue to enthral wandering visitors.
Gandikota is one of the beautiful villages in Andhra Pradesh and is arguably the one that has a unique appeal. Sure, each place in South India has something special to offer, but how many of them have a Grand Canyon? Labelled as ‘India’s Hidden Grand Canyon’, Gandikota is carved by the Penna River that flows through Erramala hills in Andhra. The best way to explore this scenic spot is via a hike, which isn’t an easy one, but the unbeatable views and scenery that await top are worth the effort. It is surely one place that you’ll never forget.
Nestled at the foothills of Chamundi hills in Karnataka, Mysore is famous for its majestic Mysore Palace, which is among the grandest palaces in the country. It is a beautiful compendium that opens up the pages of Mysore’s grand history. Be there until the evening time as the entire palace is illuminated with nearly 100,000 lamps – truly a sight to behold! You can also check out the stunning Jagmohan Palace, where you can see South India’s exquisite artwork and artefacts. For nature lovers, a visit to Brindavan Gardens (botanical garden) and Karanaji Lake (largest lake in the state) is a must.
Known as the hub of Tamil culture and learning, Madurai is an ancient city that is over 4,000 years old. It is worth visiting this place for one reason, and one reason alone – the Meenakshi temple that is as old as the city. Dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi (an incarnation of Parvati), the temple stands out with its stunning Dravidian architecture, complete with intricately designed 14 gopurams (gateway towers), sculpted pillared halls and colourful sculptures depicting the mythological tales and scenes from Hindu texts. The 17th-century Tirumalai Nayak Palace, the 19th-century Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Vilachery Pottery Village and Gandhi Memorial Museum are other highlights.
Brimming with tea plantations, scenic lakes, gushing waterfalls and lush forests, Kodaikanal is a delight for photographers and nature lovers alike. Throw in a plenty of recreational activities, such as forest walks, rock climbing, trekking and boating, and Kodaikanal is a perfect place for adventure enthusiasts, as well. The Kodai lake, Guna Caves, Berijam lake, the Silver Cascades Waterfall and Kodaikanal Solar Observatory are particular highlights.
A tiny coastal town in Karnataka, Gokarna is often overshadowed by its neighbour Goa, but has plenty to offer in its own right. There are pristine beaches, such as Gokarna beach, Om beach, Paradise beach and Half Moon beach, where visitors can relax and stroll in peace and quiet, or get active with water sports, such as snorkelling, parasailing and banana boat rides. The town will appeal to spiritual seekers to boot; it is home to many ancient temples, such as the Mahabaleshwar temple and the Maha Ganpati temple.
The Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore (Bengaluru) is booming with life, complete with cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, gardens, amusement parks, shops, museums and temples. Sights worth visiting include the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, ISKCON temple, Bannerghatta National Park, Lal Bagh (botanical garden), the Bangalore Palace, Wonderla (amusement park), Cubbon Park, Government Museum and Commercial street (shopping).
Ooty commonly referred to as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, is one of the most popular places in South India, and it’s easy to see why. There are sprawling tea plantations, misty mountains, scenic lakes, verdant gardens and colonial structures, thus offering something for every type of visitor, from adventurers to nature lovers, history buffs and architecture aficionados. Be sure to head to the Tea Museum to gain an insight on tea processing; get in touch with nature at the Botanical Garden, take part in activities like trekking and boating, marvel at the 19th-century St. Stephen’s Church that is a typical example of Gothic architecture and, don’t miss the town’s famous toy train that takes you through the picture-perfect hamlets nearby.
The capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is a treat for history buffs and culture travellers, with churches, colonial-era buildings, such as the 17th-century Fort St. George, Ripon Building and High Court Complex; and a collection of museums that are a depository of history. December and January is reserved for the Madras Music Season, which is perhaps the world’s largest cultural festival. For the outdoorsy, there are beaches, and the Marina beach, Kovalam beach and Besant Nagar Beach are the popular ones.
Located between the Great Salt Lake and the Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram is a charming town that is equal parts picturesque and spiritual. Hordes of locals and tourists alike flock to Mahabalipuram to soak in the mesmerizing views of the sunrise and sunset at the serene beaches, as well as visit the ancient temples dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries. Of all the temples, the seafront Shore temple is particularly noteworthy. Another unmissable sight is the Krishna’s Butter Ball, which is a 250-tonne gigantic rock – resting on a hill. It may look like it will fall down the hill, but it remains stable.
Colonized by the English, the Dutch and the French, the latter left the biggest influence in Pondicherry, and therefore it was named the ‘French Capital of India’. History buffs and architecture lovers alike can find much to interest them, as several museums, churches and historic structures are located here. Plus, its cobbled streets are flanked by colourful houses and cottages built in the colonial architecture that will transport you back in time. Food lovers will be surrounded by temptation as there are a plenty of fine-dining restaurants and beachfront cafes specializing in local and international cuisines. And, if you’re looking for some time to yourself, there are many unblemished, serene beaches where you can relax in peace and quiet.
These are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites with plenty of draws for all types of travellers. History and architecture fans flock here to explore the ruins of the ancient edifices that dates back to the Chalukya dynasty (6th to 12th centuries) and marvel at the intricately carved stone temples, forts and caves, all in scarlet; while the spiritual seekers and nature lovers adore the tranquil vibe and picturesque landscape.
The culturally and historically lush Hyderabad has some of the most splendid architecture in the country. We recommend taking your camera and getting lost among the historic streets that always lead you to an architectural spectacle. Some of the noteworthy ones include the 16th-century Charminar, Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs, Chowmahalla Palace and Mecca Masjid. And, the trip to the City of Pearls is incomplete without sampling the local Awadhi cuisine.
Just off the coast of Kerala lies a group of 36 coral islands, known as Lakshadweep. With unparalleled natural beauty, pristine beaches and modern infrastructure, this place have everything that puts the conventional tourist places to shame. Scuba divers take note, because Lakshadweep is blessed with deep turquoise water and fantastic marine life, thus making it one of the best diving destinations in the country.