Your guide to travelling South India
The allure of this awesome part of the world is undeniable, and I think it is fair to say few will miss its charms. Mile after mile of pristine beaches fringe its deeply tropical interior. While you are Travelling South India, you are sure to encounter a little of the Unique and bountiful wildlife that thrive in one of the worlds most biologically diverse environments. The forests here can feel primordial as they fade into rolling tea plantations that stretch as far as the eye can see.
It is a place where timeless traditions are still practised despite the country hurtling headfirst into the 21st century. What’s more the people of southern India are some of the kindest and most hospitable people you could ever hope to meet.
It is a place that is steeped in history. Where the ruins of empires past pocket its breath-taking landscapes, creating a jaw-dropping sensation for any visitor to these shores. If that is not enough, the food down south is undoubtedly some of the best to be had on the whole subcontinent. Thinking of heading this way? Voila, here is my in-depth guide to Travelling South India.
In this post, I will be talking about what you can find where. How to get around this whimsical corner of the universe and I will touch on some of the best food that is not to be missed. You are sure to be blown away by the majesty of the fertile Western Ghats and left speechless by some of the extraordinary customs you may encounter. So without further ado lets jump straight into the good stuff so we can see why south India should most definitely be on your bucket list.
In this section, I will be offering an overview of the geography and culture of these states. I think this is important to consider and gain an understanding off. These two factors have very much shaped what you will see and will shape your experience. Besides, I am a bit of a nerd and find joy in the details.
Firstly let us look at the lay of the land in south India. When India broke away from Africa about one hundred and eighty million years ago, the whole subcontinent drifted over a geothermal hotspot causing blisters in the soft rocks to form. That intense heat gives you the magnificent Western Ghats that you see today. They are incredibly dramatic as they are in contrast to the otherwise flat land. These areas are incredibly rich in biodiversity and provide respite from the baking plains below. A trip here is a must for any nature lover, and you are unlikely to be disappointed by what you find.
Now we will briefly look at the history of this part of the country. One of the first things you will notice is the empires that have taken root here are predominantly Hindu. In contrast, many of the epic architectural masterpieces of the north are Muslim in origin. So the historical wonders of the south are vastly different. You will also find incredible colonial architecture that is the remanence of the British, French and the Portuguese. History enthusiasts will find it hard to know where to start here as there is an overwhelming number of places to try and include in your itinerary.
Top 10 highlights of southern India.
Between the four states that makeup south India, there is a multitude of attractions and more than enough to keep you busy for months on end. However, you cant see it all as much as you would like too. We have to prioritise our time, and in this section, I will be looking at the big hitters at a glance. Of course, there is no definitive list, and this is just in my humble opinion.
However, it is based entirely on experience, and I have not just copied and pasted a load of information and passed it off as my own. That means if any of this appeals to you and you want more honest and detailed information on these places, I can give it to you.
As I said, this list is only based on what I think, but at the end of the day, it does not matter about that. It only matters what my readers think, and these are the places that you will probably be considering to put on to your itinerary anyway. So let us look at them, and I will give an honest review of my experience there. I am not trying to sell you anything. I just want you to have a good time and get the most out of your money.
- I suppose` if I had to lead with anything it would Hampi. Most tourists go to visit the epic ruins left behind from the Vijayanagara Empire. The whole area is now a Unesco world heritage site and for an excellent reason. They are grand in every sense of the word. The boulder-strewn landscapes surrounding Hampi are also simply breath-taking. They seem to lend themselves to one photo opportunity after another effortlessly. The whole area is rich in biodiversity, and there is a multitude of outdoor pursuits to get involved with. To find out more check out my backpackers guide to Hampi.
- Number two would be catching a canoe through the Keralan backwaters. You can get boats of a whole multitude of sizes here but to get a real feel of what it is like to live here, you will have to get a smaller boat through the narrow channels. Here you will see the local people going about there normal lives fishing and farming. It is another way of life entirely different from our own and one that is sure to stay in your mind for the rest of your life.
- Number three would be Puducherry in Tamil Nadu. The old town here has several stunning French colonial buildings that are quite unlike anything else you will find in the country. There is a distinctly bohemian feel to the whole town. There are upmarket restaurants and yoga retreats everywhere. You can’t help but be impressed at how different it is here. If the hustle and bustle of India have become overwhelming, then the spotlessly clean chic looking streets are sure to be a respite from it all.
- Number four on my personal hit list is the tea estates of Mannur. Don’t be fooled it is so much more than just a few tea trees to draw your attention. The scenery is stunning, and the whole area is positively dripping in biodiversity. There are national parks in pretty much every direction from the town centre. You can easily spend a week here trekking in the foothills of the Western Ghats, and you are very unlikely to find yourself bored.
- At number five has to be the beaches of northern Kerala. Most people only make it as far as Varkala on their beach odyssey in the state. It is nice enough there but to get your own little slice of paradise to yourself head further north. Here the pace of life slows down, and you can almost feel the steam coming out of your ears as you soak in the tropical ambience. There is mile after mile of palm-fringed tropical heaven for you to enjoy and as long as you are here, it is not to be overlooked.
- At number six on my list of big hitters is Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka. These forests are home to some of the countries most iconic wildlife such as the Indian elephant and the ubiquitous Tiger. You will also have a chance at spotting other wildlife such as dole, golden jackals, sloth bears, striped hyena or India leopard, to name a few. The park is also home to two hundred and seventy species of bird. Making this an ornithologist dream come true.
- Number seven has to be the beaches around Gorkana. It is considerably busier than the beaches of northern Kerala, but they are busy for a reason. There is a laid back hippy vibe here, and people tend to come and stay for as long as possible. Many people compare the beaches of Goa to the beaches of Gorkana. I find it to be way more laid back in the latter. There is a well-developed tourist industry along these shores, so there is the chance to catch some serious rays in relative comfort.
- The Coorg region in Karnataka is definitely worth a mention on my list so at number eight would be this completely unique place. Again there are no distinct attractions as the whole district is impressive. This area of the state is dedicated to coffee and spice plantations, and there are endless opportunities to walk in the hills. Stay at one of the isolated coffee plantations for the ultimate break from away from it all. For me waking up to the freshest tastiest brew in the world was a highlight unto itself.
- As my list comes to a close, it is hard to decide what to choose when there is so much to take in. After some consideration, I have decided number nine has to be the epic temple at Madurai. The Meenakshi Amman Temple lays in the heart of the chaotic city, and if you dont get lost finding your way here, you will certainly get lost when you get inside. The intricately carved seventeenth-century temple is a whopping six achers! You certainly get value for money with the entrance ticket into this massive work of art.
- The last place on my list of the best things to do while you are here goes to Hyderabad. Getting lost in the cities old town is a delight, and there are countless historical sights to take in. The ultimate being a Golconda just outside the cities limits. This place looks like it could be from a game of thrones movie set. Make an effort to come here, and then you can thank me later.
In summary of your guide to travelling South India.
There you have it. My top ten best things to do while you are in the area. I have travelled extensively throughout the area and these are my honest and sincere findings. I hope you found them useful. A useful tip for you is to get the lonely planet guide to South India and not to the whole country. If you are staying exclusively down there it is a good idea as it has way more information in it.
Remember not to try and cram to much into your program as this will greatly reduce the quality of your experiance. There is so much to do here so read through my post and see what parts appeal to your needs. Visit them all if you have the time and in no way is that list exhaustive. This post was mearly designed to plant the seeds of inspiration and i hope i have managed to do that.
So here ends my post so all i can say is thankyou for reading and please let me know what you think of my work. I want to deliver the information my readers actually want. Tell me anything you can think of you would like me to write about or anything i can be doing better. So with that said, until the next time my fellow intrepid traveller, happy trails.Follow me on social media 🙂