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South India Tourism And Travel Guide
26° C / 78.8° F
October to April
10 to 15 Days
Chennai International Airport
South India is the quintessential peninsular region of the Indian subcontinent. Nestled in the midst of Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean, this piece of land is very rich with an interlacing network of rivers, rolls of paddy fields and palm trees, mountains, tea estates as well as temples, ruins and caves. When you come to India, you would want to explore the North as well as South India, both of which are as different as cheese and chalk. While we will link a North India Travel Guide below for your reference, this is essentially your South India Travel Guide, taking you through the various facets of this region as well as how to get by and what to do when here.
There is no two way in how wonderfully tourism thrives in South India. You just need to be equipped with the right information to get around, which, you will find here.
How to Reach
There are many ways to reach South India, all quite easy now with such a well-developed network of infrastructure. You can take a flight down to any of the International Airports in here and then travel by trains, buses, cars or flights domestically. Some backwaters and streams ply boats and jetties as well.
For Foreign travellers, there are four International Airports in South India, namely, Cochin International Airport (Cochi) in Kerala, Chennai and Coimbatore International Airports in Tamil Nadu and Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore) in Karnataka. Most big cities and metros in the South have domestic airports, like Kozhikode, Mangalore, Madurai, Calicut, Hyderabad, Pondicherry etc. Dabolim Airport is an International Airport in Goa.
Some airways catering to South India are Air India, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Indigo, Alliance Air and Air Deccan (low cost airline).
The Indian Railways operates a wing of Southern Railway which is headquartered in Chennai. This line runs connections all over the South and Deccan states including Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Maharashtra. Major railway junctions in South India are Kozhikode, Alleppey (Kerala), Bangalore and Mysore (Karnataka), Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Some other major railway stations are Madurai, Goa, Pondicherry, Hampi, Badami, Kanyakumari and Rameswaram.
The Golden Chariot’s Southern Splendour (Bangalore, Mysore, Goa) is a royal lavish journey of the south on a spacious train, for those who wish to splurge.
National Highways connect all the major states and cities, with well paved state and district highways. NH32, 42, 44 and 66 are some of these highways interlacing between Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa. The KSRTC (Kerala), BMTC (Bangalore and surrounding areas) and TNSTC (all over Tamil Nadu) run state buses across most tourist routes. You can hire a private cab, book a seat in a luxurious Volvo bus or book Ola Outstation Taxi using their app.
Goa, Kerala and West Bengal have a few waterways that operate smoothly. You can take jetties in Goa and use boats, rafts or houseboats in the backwaters of Kerala. Most are state-run but a few private boats also ply.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
The South Indian states are prone to maritime climate due it being a peninsular landmass. Hence the summers are hot and humid and winters pleasant. Monsoons are heavy in most states, expect Tamil Nadu, that also receives rainfall in winter. Otherwise, the winter months and early summer (October-April) make for the best time to visit South India.
South India, being closest to the equator, should really be hotter than the rest of the country. But the three surrounding water bodies (Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean) mostly give relief and supply a maritime climate. Hence summer temperatures are brought down, to an average of 35°C on coastal places like Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and 40°C in the interiors, like major block of Karnataka.
Hill stations like Munnar, Coorg and Ooty are pleasant through summers and become the most coveted tourist destinations through this season to escape the lowland heat. You can visit most South Indian destinations up until April while May is the hottest month.
South India receives heavy rainfall through the South West Monsoon Winds from June to September. The state of Tamil Nadu also receives rainfall in winters from the North East Trade Winds. Though temperatures go down, the beaches may not be enjoyed as the water becomes choppy. In many areas flooding and water logging can upset plans as well. But Ayurvedic massages and treatments yield the best results during monsoon, hence making this time a good time to visit if you are coming for some me-time and relaxation.
Hill stations of Ooty, Coorg, Munnar etc become cold and misty, very very picturesque, with a temperature range of 5-20°C. Warm clothes must be carried if travelling to these places. The plains and coasts experience a maritime winter, with 12-30°C range. Goa is infused with cool air and the tourist season opens up with a flourish. Tattoo artists, indie bands, backpackers, hippies, all come down to take part in Goa’s winter revelry. Water sports are now open.
Tourism in all of South India swells and Diwali is celebrated with much fanfare by October-November.
Things to Do
Backwaters and Massages in Kerala:
Visit Kozhikode, Alleppey, Wayanad, Kumarakom and Kochi in Kerala for some of the best experiences in the tranquil backwaters as well as quiet beaches. Float in a houseboat down the stream of backwaters, witness fishermen at work and lounge back with sunset. Enjoy the ages old Ayurvedic massages as well while in Kerala.
Goa is known for its beaches, while Pondicherry for its cute French charm exuded by its villas and cafes. Anjuna is the best area to hop beaches, get tattoos and eat at shacks in Goa. Tour old Goa, Donna Paula and Vasco da Game towns for a history lesson on Portuguese culture that got beautifully amalgamated into the Indian fabric. Also visit Arambol for some quiet, meditative experience on the beach. While in Pondicherry, try the Shore Beach and French Cafes like Cafe des Arts, Baker Street and Satsang. Take a day tour of Auroville, an experimental township that is haven to people of many nationalities.
Temples of Madurai and Mahabalipuram:
Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India, the city of poets and rivers, temples and relics. Visit the world renowned Meenakshi Temple, with its intricate and beautiful carvings that make your head spin. Pay respects at the St. Mary’s Cathedral which is a solid foundation of Christianity in India.
Explore Varaha Cave, Somaskanda sculpture, Arjuna’s Penance and Shore Temple when in Mahabalipuram.
Pilgrimage at historical Rameswaram:
This is the city from where Lord Ram built the epic Ram Setu (Adam’s Bridge) that connected India to Sri Lanka via the Indian Ocean. Here is also where he built a Shiv Lingam and worshipped Lord Shiva, thus giving the place its name - Rameswaram (he who is the Lord of Ram).
Visit Ramanathaswamy Temple, which is one of Char Dhams (4 Pilgrims). There is also Jada Tirtham, a sacred pond where Lord Ram bathed before worshipping the Shiva Lingam. Also visit Dhanushkodi temple and the Five Faced Hanuman Temple and the Ram Setu (Adam’s Bridge).
Ruins and Caves:
Explore the many ruins of Hampi and Badami, including the famous Virupaksha Temple, Achyutaraya temple and Vijaya Vitthala in Hampi, that date back to the Vijayanagar Empire. There is also the Anjaneya Hill and the Monkey Temple, considered the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Ride a boat in River Tungabhadra, known for its redness due to the bedrock.
In Badami, tour through the Badami Cave Temples, Bhuthanatha, Banashankari, Mahakuteshwara Temple. Also a great adventure is a trek up the Ravan Pahad.
While in the plateau city of Mysore (Karnataka), visit the Chamundeshwari Temple and Brindavan Gardens. Picnic by the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam is quite relaxing, as is a tour of Mysore Palace for its Indo-Saracenic structure.
Go for coffee berry picking in Coorg (Karnataka), sit by Abbey and Iruppu Falls for some leisurely time. Animal lovers can get a kick by exploring the various fauna of Nagarhole National Park and Dubare Elephant Camp.
While in Ooty (Tamil Nadu), take a tour of the numerous tea estates, go for special tea-tasting, take a joy ride in the Nilgiri Toy Train, go boating in Pykara Lake and visit the Government Botanical Garden, all of which leave you with a chill, hill station vibe.
Idli, dosa, appam (savoury rice discs and pancakes) are the staple vegetarian fare of South India, now even famous in International breakfast bars and restaurants as an ideal, health meal. These are traditionally eaten with coconut chutney and sambhar (lentil soup). Accompaniments include masala (spiced potatoes), chutneys, ghee and gun powder. The Murugan Idli Shop in Madurai is one of the most famous places serving Authentic Idlis and dosas, with their chains in other south Indian states as well as Singapore.
The sea food is another staple in South India because of its rich bounty of waterbodies. Fishes like Pomfret, Tuna, Mackerel, Prawns etc are cooked in various styles of curries depending on the region - from Kerala style to Chettinad.
Other famous delicacies here include rasam (tangy watery lentil soup), bissibela (South Indian Paella), lemon rice, curd and rice, pepper rice etc. Very heavy use of tamarind, shallots, mustard seeds, curry leaves and coconut is seen in South Indian cooking, making it very health for the body.