Best Places to visit in South India
Kochi, the largest city in Kerala, has historically been an important port city right from the 14th century – colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch & British at different times in history, the city still preserves an intriguing mix of architecture from its varying colonial past. Ernakulam is the city’s cosmopolitan part where as Fort Kochi is the tourist hub.
Backwaters of God’s Own Country – Alleppey, Kerala
Kerala is home to serene backwaters, which over the years has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The backwaters, made up of intertwined, connected lakes, waterways and a number of small rivers, are definitely one of the most captivating natural attractions in Kerala. Alappuzha, also known as ‘Venice of the East’, is famous for its houseboat cruises.
Taking a tour on the quaint meandering backwaters in a traditional Kerala-style houseboat or a modern luxury houseboat is a must do and an exotic way to soak in the breath-taking beauty of nature. Watching the sun go down across the backwaters from the boat while it cruises across dense paddy fields, well-kept small villages lined with palm trees is truly once in a lifetime experience. While in Kerala, do not forget to witness the famous snake boat races that have been in existence for 400 years.
You also do not want to miss out on the ancient martial art sword fight shows, Kalaripayattu — considered to be one of the oldest surviving fighting systems still existing in the world — as well as the vibrant Kathakali dance performance.
Mystical Munnar, Kerala
The southern part of India is famous for its tea and coffee plantations, one such haven of peace, tranquility and breathtaking natural beauty mixed with vast expanses of tea plantations is Munnar in God’s own country. Munnar is a one of the biggest tea-plantations and one of the best hill stations in the South.
Apart from absorbing the beauty of Munnar wrapped in green carpets of tea gardens, also visit Eravikulam National Park and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary to spend some time in the wild.
Onam Festival: An Absolute Guide To Celebrate The Harvesting Season In Kerala
Marking the end of monsoons and welcoming the harvest season, Onam is a Hindu festival celebrated annually, all over India with its origin in the Kerala state. One of the biggest festivals of the state, Onam is celebrated for 10 days during the Malayalam month of Chingam which fills the heart of people with gaiety, and brings them together to be a part of this vibrant and cultural festival. The festivities of Onam reflects the traditions and culture of Kerala in the most unique way.
Glimpses of Kerala – Periyar (Thekkady)
Located in Thekkady, Periyar Tiger Reserve is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Kerala region. It is an example of nature’s bounty with rich bio – diversity and great scenic charm. People oriented and park centered community – based eco – tourism is the hallmark of this sanctuary. Sprawled over an area of 925 square km, Periyar Tiger Reserve is one of the seven tiger reserves in India. Its scenic beauty always attracts a countless number of tourists every year. It is a zealously guarded and efficiently managed tiger reserve. The overall elevation of this sanctuary ranges from 100 meters from Pambavalley to 2019 m at Kottamalai.
On the first places to visit in Tamil Nadu is the capital Chennai (formerly Madras) Chennai is a busy, sprawling city that holds on to its ancient Tamil culture and traditions and also has some interesting colonial architecture and history. Chennai is not packed with obvious tourist attractions like Delhi but is worth spending a few days to explore the temples, museums, galleries and the beach and to start getting an insight into Tamil culture and get to know the people of Chennai who are infectiously enthusiastic about their city and offer less hassle than in the other big Indian cities.
Chennai makes a great gateway to South India from South East Asia
After Chennai one of the most popular places to visit in Tamil Nadu for backpackers is Mahabalipuram, only about 2 hours south of Chennai. Mahabalipuram (Mamallapurma) is a chilled out seaside town home to many interesting temples including the UNESCO World Heritage listed Shore Temple, the Five Rathas (sculptured temples in the shape of chariots) and the huge rock carving of Arjuna’s Penance which depicts scenes from the Mahabharata epic. Mahabalipuram’s beach is more of a fisherman’s beach than one for sunbathing but it’s a good place for surfing and the town has a lively backpacker vibe and also some nice resorts to relax in.
Mount Arunachala in the holy Tamil town of Tiruvannamalai is believed to have very special spiritual energy as the mountain is considered to be the embodiment of Lord Shiva and has the ability to quieten the mind. Tiruvannamalai is the one of the best spiritual places to visit in Tamil Nadu and draws both Hindu pilgrims and Western backpackers looking for a more spiritual scene than in nearby Mahabalipuram to the Arunachaleswar Temple and Sri Ramana Ashram and the town is especially busy on full moon nights when pilgrims walk around the holy mountain.
Pondicherry is a surprising place to find on the coast of Tamil Nadu – Pondy is actually a tiny separate union territory as it was a former French colony in the 18th Century. Pondicherry is still India but the French influence can still be felt along the relaxed streets of yellow colonial buildings, along the sea front promenade at sunset and in the cafes and patisseries. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram also attracts spiritual seekers and the interesting Auroville community is nearby.
The French colony of India – Pondicherry
It is a dream to wish for a Utopian world where no religion, caste or creed exists. This dream is a reality in this tiny Indian territory, Pondicherry. Formerly a French colony, with a small part of it still prevalent with colonial French style buildings in vibrant pastel shades of yellow and green.
Pondicherry is a lazy coastal town with abundant lazy beaches, perfect to enjoy a relaxing time off. Of course, the French influence has left behind a culture of amazing French and European cuisine. Pondicherry, or Puducherry, is a very popular travel destination so it’s no surprise that it’s counted among the best places to visit in South India.
The heritage part of Pondicherry is definitely a contrast to the surrounding South Indian cities with way of lifestyle, food, and clothing seeming like an alternate world of French to the Indians.
As you head away from the Coast and into the real heart land of Tamil Nadu make time to marvel at the impressive Dravidian architecture at the Brihadeswara Temple in what was once the ancient capital of the great Chola empire. The city is also famous for its amazing golden inlaid Tanjore paintings and you can also check out the decaying Thanjavur Royal Palace.
As the geographical center of Tamil Nadu, Trichy makes a good base but also has enough attractions from it’s colorful history passed between the hands of warring dynasties to entertain you for a day or two. The highlights of Tiruchirappalli include the imposing Rock Fort Temple, the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (possibly the biggest temple in all India) along with a vibrant bazaar, some more interesting temples.
The ancient Tamil town of Madurai is over 4,000 years old and a vibrant center for Tamil culture, spirituality and learning. Madurai is home to the towering and colourful Meenakshi Temple, one of the most important and most impressive temples in all India and an absolute must see when traveling in South India making Madurai one of the most important places to visit in Tamil Nadu.
If the heat of South India is started to get to you escape to the hill station of Ooty, short for Ootacamund. This refreshing hill station in the Western Ghats close to the border with Karnataka was the British summer headquarters of the Madras government and nowadays, especially in Summer, the cool breezes and stunning vistas make it one of the most popular places to visit in Tamil Nadu. You can take the fun toy train from Metupalaiyam and enjoy the scenci views, once you reach Ooty enjoy the huge botanical gardens, boating on the Lake and trekking in the hills nearby.
Bengaluru (also called Bangalore) is the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state. The center of India’s high-tech industry, the city is also known for its parks and nightlife. By Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha is a Neo-Dravidian legislative building. Former royal residences include 19th-century Bangalore Palace, modeled after England’s Windsor Castle, and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an 18th-century teak structure.
Krishnarajendra Market is a vibrant, old-fashioned bazaar, with fruit and flower vendors. The Lalbagh Botanical Garden has a traditional glass house and tropical flora. Modern and contemporary Indian art is on view at National Gallery of Modern Art. Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, with 13 museums, is known for local traditional art. Dodda Basavana Gudi (“Bull Temple”) is an example of 16th-century Dravidian architecture. The 1995 Iskcon Krishna Temple combines modern and ancient architectural styles. Just outside the city is Bannerghatta Biological Park, home to tigers, lions and elephants.
Mysore Palace, Mysore
An incredibly breathtaking example of Indo – Saracenic style of architecture, the Mysore Palace is a magnificent edifice located in Mysore in the state of Karnataka. Also known as the Amba Vilas Palace, it is the former palace of the royal family of Mysore and is still their official residence. Referred to as the ‘City of Palaces’, Mysore houses seven other places, but none come close to awe – inspiring grandeur of this palace. Mysore Palace was built in the year 1912 for the 24th Ruler of the Wodeyar Dynasty and is counted amongst one of the biggest palaces in the country.
The construction of the Mysore Palace was orchestrated by the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV referred as “Rajarishi” (saintly king) by Mahatma Gandhi. It was then further expanded by his son and the last Maharaja of Mysore, Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. The facade of the palace is a harmonious blend of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and Gothic styles which imparts it a regal quality. With the Chamundi Hills towards its eastern side, the spectacle of the Mysore Palace is an enchanting sight to behold. Needless to say, it is the second most visited historical monument visited by both local and foreign tourists after the Taj Mahal. Presently located inside the Old Fort, Mysore Palace is renowned for its light & sound show and vibrant Dussehra celebrations.
The Forgotten Empire – Hampi, Karnataka
For fans of history and ancient civilizations, Hampi is one of the best places to visit in South India. A UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi was also known as ‘The Forgotten Empire’. It was also one of the richest and largest cities in the world during its prime.
You will need a good couple of days to explore the city thoroughly. Hampi is lined with heaps of boulders lying all around the city of various sizes. Beautifully carved temples, ruins of palaces and ancient market streets makes this place a mysterious destination. The place is sure to transport your mind to a pre-ancient age. Owing to its old world charm, Hampi has over time turned out to be a backpacker’s paradise and pilgrim’s delight.