When it comes to India, tourists are mostly aware of the popular places in the north such as Agra, Rajasthan etc. Not many explore the south. Being from South India myself, I know there’s a quiet beauty here that is under advertised and underrated.
In an effort to highlight the beauty of the South, I’ve created this collaboration with travel bloggers to show you some of the best tourist places in South India and the surrounding states. See for yourself and judge where you want to go next.
Before the British occupation, India had a number of royal families who presided over different parts of the country. In Mysore or Mysuru, there was the Wodeyar, also spelled Wadiyar or Odeyer, family. Mysore Palace was the palace where the royal family resided.
Mysore Palace, to this day, has maintained its grandeur and elegance. The intricately decorated halls speak of history and the wealth of its rich residents in their finest days. If you plan to visit Mysore Palace, visit during the Dasara festival when the royal throne is open to public viewing. Also, a viewing of the Mysore Palace at night is a must, when the entire palace is brightly lit up.
The Kerala Backwaters are a network of natural and manmade canals stretching more than 1500 kilometers and extending from one end of Kerala to another. The backwaters also include 5 lakes and 38 rivers.
Traveling through the backwaters is an easy way to relax and see some of the Keralan countryside. You can take a public ferry through the backwaters, or take a tourist transit boat or to completely relax enjoy your own houseboat adventure in Kerala.
We did all 3 but my favorite was the houseboat, where we spent just one night, in a boat without an engine and were punted to the coast and back. Our meals were cooked on the boat by the crew and while this was far from a luxury experience, the peace and quiet of the backwaters was well worth it.
Content submitted by: Sarah Carter from asocialnomad.com
Thanjavur was once the capital of the powerful Chola empire and is now known as the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu. Today it is a busy and chaotic modern city, but there are plenty of reminders of the city’s heyday from the 11th to the 14th century, including temples, a palace and a fort.
The most impressive of these sites is the Brahadeeswarar Temple, built in 1010 AD. It is one of the largest Hindu temples in India and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, which is why you’ll see hundreds of lingams (phallic symbols) carved out of stone in the pillared cloister.
Brahadeeswarar Temple remains an active place of worship for Hindus, and foreign visitors are also welcome to enter free of charge. The small garden in the back of the temple offers quiet and respite from the noisy city.
Hampi is known for its unique landscape, glorious history, and breathtaking temple architecture. Hampi’s architectural wonders rightly find their place in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites but that’s not its only claim to fame.
The land has been associated with Hindu mythology for thousands of years even before the Vijayanagara kingdom. The overall safety in the region, and chilled out ambiance make it a backpacker’s paradise.
The stone chariot of the Vittala temple is the most iconic landmark of Hampi. A Hampi itinerary should also include the beautiful Tungabhadra river, Virupaksha temple, Anjaneya hills and the ruins of Hampi Bazaar. Wildlife lovers can also head to Daroji Bear Sanctuary and adventure lovers can enjoy bouldering, diving into lakes and coracle rides.
Image and content submitted by: Sinjana Ghosh from Backpack & Explore.
Did you know that Rudyard Kipling based his famous Jungle Book on Kanha National Park, but he actually never visited there himself? I have to say that his imagination did a pretty good job describing the stunning landscape and diverse wildlife. Most tourists come to Kanha to see Sher Khan, I mean tigers, but the park is home for lots of other species as well. From Axis deer to Indian Buffalos, Jackals, Gaur, and the infamous Barasingha, Kanha is a nature lover’s paradise.
To explore Kanha, you have to use an official safari guide. I highly recommend Pugdundee Safaris, because they not only have extremely knowledgeable guides and naturalists, but also do an amazing job with conservation and sustainability efforts to protect this stunning area.
Image and content submitted by: Maria Haase from Europeupclose.com
Please Note: Technically, Kanha National Park is not in South India but Central India.
Munroe island is a place that is not well known, but one of the most beautiful places in South India to see Kerala’s backwaters. The small island in Asthamudi lake near Kollam offers a maze of intricate and narrow water canals. It is a peaceful and tranquil spot that will take your breath away.
Munroe island has several homestays that are the perfect place to get a sense of daily life at the beautiful island. The palm fringed canals are never far away and a canoe tour is the best way to explore them. If you go early morning you can see the sun rise and see the birds come to life. Your guide will point out the kingfishers, egrets and Brahmany kites.
Munroe island feels like paradise on earth and it will be hard to leave. If you want to escape India’s chaos and are looking for a quiet spot and some nature. Look no further. Munroe island is the place to be.
The Golconda Fort near Hyderabad was built in the 1600s and was once the capital of an old dynasty. This fort is a vast archaeological site to explore, with a variety of buildings such as temples and halls within its walls.
There are many great engineering feats within the fort, including unique gateways, drawbridges and domes. You can spend an afternoon wandering around the fort and trying to picture what it must have been like to live inside. From this fort, you have a beautiful view overlooking Hyderabad. Definitely find a tour guide if you can visit, to have all of the unique rooms pointed out to you.
Content submitted by: Michelle Maraj from Travel after Five
To balance the chaos and confrontation you will have likely experienced traveling through India, a visit to the palm-fringed beaches of Goa is a must.
The beaches of this region offer an eclectic mix catering to the raver, the yogi, the package sun-seeker and everything in between. So it can be a bit tricky finding the best beach to suit you. But if you’re looking for something quiet, away from the crowds, and especially if you’re visiting Goa with kids, I recommend Agonda.
Just make sure you visit between November and Februrary, as outside of this season almost everything bar the larger resorts shut down. A day exploring the Portuguese churches of Old Goa are also recommended.
Image and content submitted by: Jenny from TraveLynn Family.
Varkala is a beautiful little backpacker heaven in the south of Kerala. There’s one little street on the top of a vertical cliffside with plenty of restaurants and bars with a good variety of food and smoothies. Also, the animated street is packed with small souvenir and clothes shops to enjoy.
The cliffs have stunning views to Varkala beach beneath where you can only get to by walking down some steep steps.
One part of the beach is frequently visited by Hindus for religious reasons. The water is said to wash your sins away and therefore Hindus come here for a swim or to spread the ashes of the deceased to purify the soul of the dead. The other part of the beach is for tourists.
Mangalore or Mangaluru is a coastal city in South Canara district of Karnataka. While there’s not a single attraction that stands out as a must-visit, there are several things to experience and explore here.
For example, Mangalore beaches can be a quiet reprieve for people who want to get away from the crowds. The local cuisine, which is heavily influenced by the coconut and sea-food, is a delight for your taste buds. Mangalore also has some nice-looking temples such as the Kudroli temple, shown above, and Kadri temple.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an incredible feat of engineering that crosses 250 bridges and goes through 16 tunnels on its 29-mile route from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam. It was built by the British in 1908 because they wanted to escape the unbearable heat of an Indian summer!! It has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33%.
We had a special reason for wanting to ride on this unique train. My father-in-law was born in Wellington, one of the stops on this railway. At the age of just six, he was sent to boarding school up the line in Lovedale. He would make the journey alone. The carriages used today are original – we could easily be sitting in the same seat he did in the 1930s!
As we set off from Mettupalayam, the steam engine was at the back to push the carriages uphill. The track became steeper as we climbed and progress was slow, but the lush verdant scenery was stunning. We were the only foreigners on the train and our fellow passengers whooped and hollered as we went through every tunnel. There was a real party atmosphere.
We stopped at every station along the way – Kallar, Adderly, Highgrove, Runnymede, Kateri Road, Coonoor, Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketti, Lovedale, Fernhill; names familiar to us from stories my father-in-law told. We were able to get off at most of them, to take photos, buy refreshments and use the facilities. We were impressed at how well-kept the stations were, reminiscent of a bygone era.
The journey lasted for five and a half hours and cost the princely sum of 37 pence for the two of us! It is undoubtedly the best train trip we’ve ever been on!
Munnar is situated in the Western Ghats of Kerala near the Tamil Nadu border in South India. The town is the epicenter of the South Indian Tea leaf production and this is why you need to travel there to experience one of the greenest places you will ever experience in India.
Just driving around and taking in the beauty is a thing by itself. The plantations are all situated on a height, however, if you take one of those dirt roads downwards, past massive waterfalls and more green tea gardens, you will discover hidden villages.
Enjoy a freshly brewed tea to experience the real light flavor of tea leaves and watch how the mysterious fog takes over the landscape. You can visit the Munnar tea museum if you like to learn how your morning tea is prepared. We also went for a drive to the nearby marayur sandalwood forest, which is one of the last well preserved and watched sandalwood forests run by the government of Tamil Nadu. Acquire some rare pure sandalwood oil and almost impossible organic tea leaves from Munnar, to take back as a memory from your travels.
Image and content submitted by: Helene from masalaherb.com