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Things To Do In South India
South India is one major tourist attraction in the diverse land of India. With its blessed bounty of seaside beaches, interlacing rivers, ranges of mountains and forests, the South is also home to ruins and temples that date back centuries at a time. While we have linked an article for you to explore North India, this is an out and out description for the south. When in South India, you will find yourself filled with loads of things to do, especially if you are a history buff. From the ruins of Hampi and Badami to temples and forts of Madurai, Mahabalipuram and Rameswaram, the relaxing vibe of Kerala backwaters to the chic French charm of the lanes of Pondicherry, there is no dearth of beautiful activities. Here is our little list compiled for one and sundry, detailing some exceptional things you must do when in South India.
Backwaters and Massages in Kerala
Kerala is affectionately called ‘God’s own land.’ No wonder, with its blessed landscapes, backwaters, palm trees, bounty of natural resources and flora-fauna that Kerala is so referred. While in this land of Ayurveda, some of the must-dos include a ride in the houseboat down the backwater channels. Sunrises and sunsets will never be more beautiful after you see them through your houseboat, floating on an idyllic current. Go for a tour of Kochi and see the colonial marvel of Fort Kochi, check out the wildlife sanctuaries of Wayanad, spend a quiet weekend at Kumarakom and explore the many beaches of Kozhikode.
When worn out from all that traveling, just lie down and relax under one of the many Ayurvedic massages done with special concoction of oils and methods that date back tens of centuries.
Slay the Goa Beaches
After the Jason Bourne flicks, most foreign visitors think Goa when they think India. Of course, India is much more than Goan beaches but one cannot deny the fact that these beaches are pretty spectacular. Spend all your time exploring the various beaches here and you would still have many left on your list. Anjuna is one of the best and most coveted areas for beach hopping. There are also quite a few water sports on offer here, including jet skiing, paragliding and swimming. You can chill on the beach with a book and beer or stuff yourself with mouthwatering food at one of the shacks. There are numerous tattoo studios and indie tattoo artists that make for some awesome designers if you want to get a permanent or temporary tattoo. If you are not sure what to get, they also have sessions where they help you design your fit.
Visit the flea markets for cutesy items and souvenirs, go to chapels, the most famous being St. Anthony’s Chapel. If you are looking for some peace and yoga then head to Arambol. Stroll though Old Goa for its Portuguese architecture and the town of Vasco Da Game for its rich stories. Dona Paula is a romantic getaway for couples. Don’t forget to gorge on seafood and the famous Goan curries made with a generous helping of coconut milk and exotic Indian spices.
Temples of Madurai and Mahabalipuram
Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India, some of its relics and structures dating back 3,500 years. While Mahabalipuram was a centre of the Pallava Dynasty between 6th and 8th Century. Both these cities today hold a major chunk of South India’s rich history in their temples, shrines and monuments. Pilgrims and tourists throng these places for a lot of things, including darshan at the ancient Meenakshi Temple. This temple is somewhat a symbol of South India in the Western World, renowned so for its intricate carvings all throughout its tall structure. Also explore the Tirumalai Nayak Palace, the residence of King Thirumalai Nayak of Madurai, built in 1636. There is also St. Mary’s Cathedral, the banana wholesale market and the iconic Murugan Idli Shop (to eat some yummy idlis and dosas). Shop for fabrics, traditional clothes and jewels at the Puthu Mandapam in Madurai.
While in Mahabalipuram, take a trip to the Varaha Cave for its four-panelled carving and a soft, lyrical expression of the Pallava way of life. Also go see the Somaskanda sculpture, signifying Lord Vishnu in omniscient repose. There is Arjuna’s Penance which is a bas-relief, probably the world’s largest of its kind, depicting the story of King Bhagirath who brought River Ganga to Earth. Also don’t miss the Shore Temple and Panch Rathas.
History and Pilgrimage at Rameswaram
Rameswaram is the fabled city of South where Lord Ram (the 7th avatar of Vishnu) stopped on his way back home after defeating Demon King Ravan of Sri Lanka. He is supposed to have built a Shiv Lingam (idol of Lord Shiv) and worshipped it here, hence giving the place its name - Rameswaram (He who is the Lord of Ram). Rameswaram is a small district in Tamil Nadu today, famous for its pilgrimage sights and temples. Make sure to pay your respects at Ramanathaswamy Temple, one of Char Dhams (4 Pilgrims of Hindus). Explore the Jada Tirtham which is the sacred pond where Lord Ram washed his hair before worshipping the Shiva Lingam. There is also Dhanushkodi temple and the Five Faced Hanuman Temple. The best of all these attractions is the fabled Ram Setu (Adam’s Bridge), said to be built by Lord Ram and his monkey army to connect this Indian shore of Rameswaram to Sri Lanka.
Touch the tip of India at Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari is the tip of India, where the subcontinent ends and the Indian Ocean begins. One of the many great things to do here is to just stand on the shore of Kanyakumari Beach and see the end of the Indian World as we know it. The sunsets and sunrises at this beach are especially famed, as if telling a tale of a new begging and new end in India. You must take a tour of the Bhagavathi Amman Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva’s consort, as well as visit Our Lady of Ransom Church. It is the hub of Indian Catholicism. The Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Vavathurai is another place to visit along with the Thirparappu Falls, a statue of the great Tamil author Thiruvalluvar. Don’t miss the Kumari Amman Temple, dedicated to Goddess Bhagvati in a small girl-child form. This temple is the reason of this town’s nomenclature as Kanyakumari or the ‘virgin girl.’
Ruins of Hampi and Badami
Hampi and Badami of Karnataka are two epicentres of many old ruins. Known for their dots of Dravidian temples, Archaeological sites and numerous structures dating back centuries, Hampi and Badami are usually explored together, in a day or two-day tour. They each form a crucial part of the ancient Vijayanagar Empire. While in Hampi, explore the famous Virupaksha Temple, dating back to the 7th Century. The Achyutaraya temple and Vijaya Vitthala Temple double up as places of worship, as well as a peep into the rich heritage of Vijayanagar. Spend half a day touring these temples and the other half exploring Anjaneya Hill and the Monkey Temple on it, the place of Lord Hanuman’s birth. Also a great attraction is the boat ride in River Tungabhadra, known for its red bedrock.
The ruins of North Karnataka rest in Badami. Its cave temples cut out of sandstone are very famous. They make a periphery around Lake Agasthya. Tour the Badami Cave Temples, some dedicated to Hindu gods Vishnu and Natraj while one of them a Jain Shrine. Visit the Bhuthanatha group of Temples, pay your respects at Banashankari, Mahakuteshwara Temple and trek up Ravan Pahad. Each of these has a unique story to tell, as all temples and ruins do.
Hill-station Life in Mysore, Coorg and Ooty
Mysore is a gorgeous settlement built on top of a plateau, known for its palaces, temples and lush landscapes. Visit the Chamundeshwari Temple, Brindavan Gardens and Krishna Raja Sagara Dam. Tour the great Mysore Palace for its Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Lalitha Mahal, Mysore Zoo, Chamundi Hills and Jagmohan Palace for its museum containing artefacts and paintings.
Pick coffee berries from endlessly green plantations in Coorg, or explore Abbey and Iruppu Falls for a quiet picnic. Nagarhole National Park And Dubare Elephant Camp are great places to unwind with animal safari and majestic herds of elephants. Go to Raja’s seat for a spectacular view of Coorg’s mountains and glens. While in Ooty, tour the numerous tea estates and taste strong and weak teas. Ride the Nilgiri Toy Train, boat in Pykara Lake and visit the Government Botanical Garden, all of which give you the chill hill station vibe.
A Chic Weekend in Pondicherry
With its cutesy French cafes, mustard coloured villas and ancient little churches, Pondicherry is a relaxed destination nestled on the south eastern coast of India, kissing the Bay of Bengal. Aside from exploring its French-charmed villas, tree-lined streets and chic boutiques, you could also visit the Auroville Town for meditation and some relaxed time, spend an evening on the Rock Beach, visit churches like Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Zion Methodist and Hallelujah Assembly of God Church. Promenade Beach is another lonely stretch of sandy shore to spend some time at. Wear your best summer dresses, pick up your hats and wind your way through the many French and Italian cafes of Pondicherry; some of the most famous being Cafes des Arts, Satsang and Baker Street.