South India is the area encompassing the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry, occupying 19% of India's area (635,780 km2 or 245,480 sq mi). Covering the southern part of the peninsular Deccan Plateau, South India is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. The geography of the region is diverse with two mountain ranges - the Western and Eastern Ghats, bordering the plateau heartland. Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra and Vaigai rivers are important non-perennial sources of water. Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kochi and Madurai are the largest urban areas.
The traditional music of South India is known as Carnatic music, which includes rhythmic and structured music by composers like Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Tyagayya, Annamacharya, Bhakta Ramadasu, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Shastri, Kshetrayya, Mysore Vasudevachar and Swathi Thirunal. The main instrument that is used in South Indian Hindu temples is the nadaswaram, a reed instrument played along with thavil, a type of drum instrument to create an ensemble. Rice is the staple diet, while fish is an integral component of coastal South Indian meals. Coconut and spices are used extensively in South Indian cuisine. The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes comprising rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater. South India has two distinct styles of rock architecture, the Dravidian style of Tamil Nadu and the Vesara style of Karnataka. The temples considered of porches or mantapas preceding the door leading to the sanctum, gate-pyramids or gopurams, which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples and pillared halls used for many purposes and are the invariable accompaniments of these temples. Besides these, a South Indian temple typically has a tank called the Kalyani or Pushkarni.
Places to Visit
The Blue Mountains have always been shrouded in mysticism, and Ooty is no exception to that. For every mountain lover, the very idea of travelling to the city known as the Queen of the Hills holds an allure like no other. Once regarded as the summer headquarters of the East India Company (and for a very good reason), Ooty, also known as Udagamandalam, is a hill station in Tamil Nadu which serves as a very popular tourist destination for anyone looking for a picturesque place to relax and unwind. Ooty is nestled amidst the Nilgiri hills at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level and enjoys a favourable climate all year round.
Ooty oozes simplicity, devoid of any boundaries, so anyone who visits the place can feel at one with the local culture. The journey to Ooty itself is dotted with magnificent sights of the awe-inspiring Nilgiri hills, tea gardens, and serene waterfalls. The cool, peaceful landscape of Ooty is almost movie-like ? winding country lanes that you can spend hours simply walking on, and the charm of old-world colonial architecture infuses fresh air into the souls of travellers. For anyone looking for a respite from the mind-boggling humidity and the scorching Indian sun, Ooty is the place to be.
Ooty is a very popular destination for couples and honeymooners, and there's no better way to fully take in all that this city has to offer than to take a trip on the Toy Train, which lets you enjoy panoramic views of this beautiful hill station right from your seat. The whole city is tinged with beautiful hues of green, with oases of sparkling blue waterfalls popping up here and there. The Nilgiri Mountain Railways has the steepest track in all of Asia, and it is one of the best train rides you will ever have the chance of experiencing. Remember the hit song 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' where Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora were seen matching steps on top of a train? Remember the breathtaking locales as the train chugged its way across lush greenery? Yes, that was the Nilgiri Mountain Railways, and the Nilgiri Mountains all along.
As every traveller who has ever gone to Ooty knows, once you're in the city, a visit to the famous Doddabetta Peak is a must. Standing tall at 8,606 feet as the highest point of South India, the Dodabetta Peak trail is flanked by towering Eucaplytus trees, offering you uninterrupted views of the luxuriant valley.
The idyllic hill station Munnar - famous for its tea estates, exotic lush greenery and craggy peaks, is located in the Western Ghats, in the state of Kerala. It serves as the commercial centre for some of the world?s largest tea estates. In addition, Munnar has many protected areas which are home to endemic and highly endangered species like the Nilgiri Thar and the Neelakurinji.
One of the biggest tea-plantation area of South India, Munnar is one of the most beautiful and popular hill-stations of Kerala. Situated on the banks of three rivers- Madupetti, Nallathanni and Periavaru, Munnar is also blessed with natural view-points apart from the tea-plantations. Munnar is divided into Old Munnar, where the tourist information office is, and Munnar, where the bus station and most guest houses are located. The Eravikulam National Park, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and tea plantations are its major attractions.
Located amidst imposing mountains in Karnataka with a perpetually misty landscape, Coorg is the place to be for all nature lovers. This popular coffee producing hill station is not only popular for its beautiful green hills and the streams cutting right through them. It also stands as a popular destination because of its culture and people. The Kodavas, a local clan specialising in martial arts, are especially notable for their keen hospitality.
Coorg, officially known as Kodagu, is the most affluent hill station in Karnataka. It is well known for its breathtakingly exotic scenery and lush greenery. Forest covered hills, spice and coffee plantations only add to the landscape. Madikeri is the region's centre point with all transportation for getting around starting from here. On a visit to Coorg, cover the beautiful towns like Virajpet, Kushalnagar, Gonikoppal, Pollibetta, and Somwarpet, and experience the beautiful concept of "homestays" to make your experience more memorable!
Located at the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, Kanyakumari is a coastal town in the state of Tamil Nadu. Earlier known as Cape Comorin, Kanyakumari is surrounded by mountains and bordered by vibrant sea shores, lined with paddy fields and coconut trees, and also boasts of aesthetic elevated patches of hills with undulating valleys and plains in between the sea and the mountainous terrain. Ever since ancient times, Kanyakumari has been one of the major centres of religion, art and culture. Famous for being the only place in India where you can observe the sunrise and sunset at the same beach, Kanyakumari is a very popular tourist destination, not just because of this unique geographical phenomenon, but also because of its pristine beaches as well as its temples and churches which attract a huge number of tourists to this city all year round.
The Kanyakumari temple, also known as the Bhagvaty Amman Temple or the Kumari Amman temple is one of the major Hindu temples all across India. Built in dedication to Goddess Kumari Amman, the temple finds mention in almost all ancient Hindu scriptures and is frequented by pilgrims looking to pay their respects to the virgin goddess Kanya Devi.
One of the most iconic monuments in the city, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a gigantic structure surrounded on all sides by the Laccadive Sea, so the only way you can reach the monument is by taking a boat/ferry ride. Built by the Ramakrishna Mission, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial is dedicated to the great philosopher Swami Vivekananda who used to meditate here. The memorial comprises of two main structures ? the Shripada Mandapam and the Vivekananda Mandapam, with an attached meditation hall for visitors to sit and meditate in.
Kanyakumari is also home to the Statue of the Saint Poet Thiruvalluvar, one of the greatest Tamil poets in India. Standing at a massive height of 133 feet, the statue is one of the biggest in the entire Asian subcontinent and is the result of the hard work of over 500 sculptors. Other historic sights that you can visit in Kanyakumari include the Padmanabhapuram Palace, the Vattakottai Fort, and the Gandhi Memorial.
Apart from historic monuments and buildings, Kanmjyamurai is also famed for its beaches and waterfalls. The Kanyakumari beach is the perfect place where you can spend a lazy afternoon sitting on the white sand and sipping a cool drink. Unlike the beaches in Goa which tend to be a little overpopulated, the Kanyakumari beach is a lot less crowded and is the best place to enjoy a gorgeous sunset. Waterfalls in Kanyakumari that you should not miss out on include the Thirparappu falls, the Courtallam Falls, and the Olakaruvi falls.
Kanyakumari has an authentic South Indian cuisine, with seafood and coconuts being an integral part of almost all dishes. Starting from light snacks to full course gourmet menus, Kanyakumari delights tourists with the numerous options it offers for eating out. While Kanyakumari is not a traditional shopping destination, you can buy plenty of souvenirs and curios from the numerous stalls and boutiques dotting the beachfront, with decorative seashell trinkets being a must-buy.
The very name Tirupati is enough to evoke strong spiritual feelings, and while the name ?God?s Abode? indeed does justice to the place, Tirupati has quite a few other tourist attractions as well that make it a city worth visiting. Situated in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati is one of the most popular pilgrimage centres in the country. Home to many heritage sites, and a plethora of ancient temples and monuments, Tirupati is one of the oldest cities of India, and finds mention in plenty of ancient texts.
The primary attraction of Tirupati is, of course, the Sri Venkateshwara Temple, which is the highlight of the town. The non-stop chanting of ?Om Namo Venkatesaya?, the mad pilgrim rush, the heavy security surrounding the entire area, and the awe-inspiring 8-feet tall idol of Lord Venkateshwara ? everything about the Sri Venkateshwara Temple is majestic and overwhelming. Spread over an area of 26 kilometres, the temple is also commonly referred to as the Temple of Seven Hills, as it is located in Tirumala, a little hill town home to the Tirumala Hills, which comprise of seven peaks. The Sri Venkateshwara Temple is situated on the seventh hill and is a religious landmark where thousands of people come to pay their respects every day. This temple is the wealthiest temple in the entire Indian subcontinent, owing mainly due to the fact that it receives a staggering number of donations each day. Standing under a gilded dome and looking up at the gigantic idol of Lord Venkateshwara adorned with flowers, gold and diamonds is a marvellous spiritual experience in itself ? it is much like chancing upon serenity amidst a lot of chaos, and it is a feeling you won?t forget anytime soon.
There are other temples in Tirupati too that you can visit, including the Sri Kalahasti temple, Sri Govindarajaswami Temple, the Kondandarama Temple, the Parashurameshwara Temple, and the ISKCON temple.
Tirupati is home to a unique geological wonder that you shouldn?t miss out on. The Silathoranam is a natural arch formed out of rocks and is located at the Tirumala Hills. This natural rock formation is one of the only three of its kind in the entire world and is an important archaeological landmark.
Tirupati celebrates all its festivals with great pomp and show, so try and visit the place during one of their celebrations to get a feel of the vibrant culture and tradition of the city.
Be it the laddu prasadam from the Tirupati Balaji Temple, some authentic South Indian fare from a local restaurant, or a steaming cup of delicious filter coffee, Tirupati is a food lover's paradise. The local cuisine of the city is a blend of Telegu and Tamil cuisine, owing to the fact that Tirupati was earlier a part of Tamil Nadu before it was incorporated into Andhra Pradesh.
Being a city of religious significance, Tirupati has plenty to offer by way of shopping when it comes to pictures, idols, pendants, and other religion-related souvenirs.
Madurai is one of the oldest cities of India located in Tamil Nadu. It was ruled by Pandya kings for the longest time in its history and is constructed in the form of a lotus.
Madurai is considered to be the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu. The place has a great cultural heritage and strong mythological history to be passed on to the coming generations. The reason most people visit the city is the Meenakshi Temple, dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi with a sanctum for her consort, Sundareshwarar. Thiruparankundram is one of the important old temples dedicated to Lord Muruga(Karthikeya) and is located on a hillock approximately 8 km from the city. Gandhi Museum houses Gandhi's bloodstained dhoti and some other artefacts. The city is known for its lively and bustling markets. Shopping here is fun and affordable. Another thing Madurai is popular for its amazing street food. Heritage walks are conducted throughout the day. Those who wish to know more about the freedom struggle, though, will be interested in the extensive text housed here. Tamil speakers and long-term visitors may be interested in the classes and workshops offered in subjects as diverse as t'ai chi and local herbs.
Rameshwaram is one of the holiest places in India and is located on a beautiful island. It is separated by a small Pamban channel from Sri Lanka. According to the Hindu mythology, this is the place where Lord Rama created a bridge across the sea to Sri Lanka.
Rameshwaram is located on a beautiful island in the lower side of India. Lord Shiva too is worshipped in this place. Renowned for its magnificent prakaras with massive sculptured pillars on either side, The Ramanathaswamy Temple houses the longest corridor in the world. Agniteertham is famous for its sacred waters and Pilgrims perform poojas in honour of their ancestors at this seashore. The Five-faced Hanuman Temple holds the floating stone which was used to build the bridge between India and Sri Lanka.
When you think of Goa, you think of sandy beaches, amazing parties, beautiful little villages, delicious food, and a magical holiday experience. Yes, Goa is rightfully known as the most popular tourist destination on the West Coast of India, and not just because of its scenic beaches, but also because of its tropical climate and its rich Portuguese heritage, which you can still find lingering on in some parts of the town. Nestled in the Konkan Coast Belt, Goa has a coastline stretching for over a 100 kilometres, and attracts millions of visitors both from within and outside the country all year round.
Goa is one such holiday destination which has something to offer to every traveller, regardless of budget and travel tastes, which is a reason why Goa is as much of a family retreat as it is a very popular honeymoon destination. The multitude of beaches in Goa ensures that you can take your pick depending on whether you want to experience the posh beach life from balconies of luxury resorts or get in touch with nature in makeshift huts. Some of the best beaches in Goa include Agonda beach, Baga Beach and Candolim Beach. Calangute Beach is the busiest beach in Goa, while Baga Beach is comparatively a lot less crowded.
Famous for its intricately carved temples and rock-cut caves, Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram as it is famously known, is a historically important and well-loved tourist location situated on the Coromandel Coast along the Bay of Bengal, in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Once the abode of the famous demon king Mahabali, Mahabalipuram was later renamed Mamallapuram. The serenity, the alluring atmosphere and the impressive setting with many beautiful white sandy beaches dotted with casuarina trees are all reasons as to why one would want to visit this wonderful town.
Some famous tourist spots include the UNESCO world heritage site Group of Monuments like the Shore Temple and the Five Rathas, the Crocodile Bank which is home to some exquisite species of crocodiles and alligators, and the beach resorts in Kovalam and Sadras.
Hampi, the city of ruins, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in the shadowed depth of hills and valleys in the state of Karnataka, this place is a historical delight for travellers. Surrounded by 500 ancient monuments, beautiful temples, bustling street markets, bastions, treasury building and captivating remains of Vijayanagar Empire, Hampi is a backpacker's delight. Hampi is an open museum with 100+ locations to explore and a favourite way to see the city from the perspective of its history.
Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagar empire around 1500 AD, and by some accounts, the second largest city in the world at that time. Over the next centuries it fell out of importance, and now you can explore the ruins of a lot of temples and other structures spread out over a vast area. The terrain around Hampi is as mysterious as the ruins itself - the city is surrounded by boulders of different sizes, and you can climb to the top of them with a little effort to get a stunning view of the entire city and the geography. It is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Famous for its massive, beautifully carved temples, especially the Virupaksha Temple, dedicated to the patron deity of the empire. You can also find remains of the old aqueducts, canals and military barracks and stables here. Hampi was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 and many efforts have been taken to restore the lost glory of the place - very limited (if any) modern establishments are allowed in the main area, which gives an authentic feel to the ruins.
A veritable melting pot of the old and the new, Hyderabad, also known as the City of the Nawabs, is a city that exudes an old-world charm of its own while still coexisting with the rapidly growing onslaught of commercialization in perfect harmony. Steeped in history, Hyderabad is home to old mosques and bazaars lined parallelly alongside swanky new office buildings and malls, and it is these very contrasts ? these glimpses into the city?s rich past with inherent promises of an even better future ? this is what exactly makes Hyderabad a city worth visiting. Maybe even more than once.
The most iconic landmark of Hyderabad is the Charminar, which is a distinguished monument that clearly exhibits the Indo-Islamic architecture of its times. Charminar, which literally translates to four minarets, is built entirely out of limestone and granite, with four minarets on four sides, each of them facing a different street. The Charminar is the oldest mosque in Hyderabad, and it has stairs leading to the second level, which is open for devotees to come and pray in. The entire stretch outside the monument is lined with little stalls selling pearls, bangles, and other jewellery, and this bazaar is bustling with both tourists and locals at any given hour of the day.
Another impressive tourist attraction in Hyderabad is the Golconda Fort, which was considered as nothing less than an architectural marvel during its times. The entire fort is bordered by a 10-kilometre long wall, and with over 80 bastions, four drawbridges, and several mosques, halls and royal residences, the fort is nothing short of imperial. Today, while most of the fort is in ruins, hints of its regal ambience and its past grandiose still linger on.
Hyderabad is very famous for being home to the Ramoji Film City, which is the largest film studio complex in the entire world. Built across a sprawling 2000 acres, the Ramoji Film City has seen a huge number of regional language, Hindi, and even some international films being shot here. Apart from offering studio tours, it even provides options for quite a number of sports and adventure activities, making it a very popular hangout for the younger generation. Who knows, you might even get to meet an actor there!
An oasis in the midst of an otherwise landlocked city, Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad is an entirely manmade lake which boasts of a 450-tonne statue of Buddha in the middle of the lake. Carved entirely out of white granite, the monolith shines brightly under the moonlight and is a beautiful place to sit and spend an evening under the stars.
Hyderabad is famous for its food, and be it street food to casual dining to high-class fancy dining ? you name it, and Hyderabad has it. Old City is teeming with dozens of roadside eateries where you can have your fill of lip-smacking biryani and kebabs. The most popular local dishes you should try out include the famous Hyderabadi biryani and Haleem.