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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 19.31% 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. South India has a lot more to offer than mere beaches and spice plantations. It’s a melting pot of cultures, cuisines, traditions, and languages. From honeymooning couples to families, the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu welcome tourists with warmth and love. There’s something to do for everyone here – water sports for the adventurous, backwaters for the romantics, trekking trails for hikers, and panoramic vistas for nature lovers.
Surrounded by imposing mountains and covered by mist, Coorg is a nature lover’s paradise. This small town in Karnataka is best known for its diverse flora and fauna and aromatic spices and coffee plantations. From waterfalls and trekking routes to forts and temples, there’s plenty to explore in Coorg. It is also home to one of the few Tibetan settlements in Southern India. Apart from sightseeing, there’s plenty of culture, retail therapy, and delicious food to be indulged in.
Gokarna, a Hindu pilgrimage site in Karnataka, is best known for its beautiful beaches with white sand and swaying coconut palms. Apart from the beaches, Gokarna has a number of old and new temples. It is considered one of the popular tourist places for solo travelers in South India. Since the town has religious significance, there are a number of vegetarian-only restaurants but seafood places and a bar to relax in are not very hard to find.
Hampi is one of the top places to visit in South India. The world heritage site takes visitors back in time to the 15th and 16th century with its magnificent ruins. It makes everyone’s imagination come alive with remnants of temples, monuments, and havelis. Quaint cafes set up on rooftops offer a variety of cuisines and are the ideal places to spend the evening.
Associated with adventure tales of smuggling from the olden days, Chikmagalur is now best known for its scenic beauty and historic places. There’s also the coffee to look forward to. Amidst the lush green plantations, are a number of picnic spots designed to make you forget the city you came from. The mountain circuits of Sheethalagiri-Baba Budan Giri-Mullayanagiri is something adventure seekers look forward to. The Hebbe and Kalhatti Falls are also close by.
Known for its royal lifestyle, Mysore is an enchanting city. It is dotted with architecturally spectacular monuments and heritage buildings. The Mysore Palace, the seat of the erstwhile Wodeyar Maharajas, is believed to be the second most popular tourist site in India. Mysore’s rich traditions and spice bazaars attract tourists from across India and the world. Another popular reason to visit this city is to practice and learn the art of Ashtanga yoga. Mysore Dasara is a grand celebration and a great time to plan your trip.
Bangalore, the city of lakes, gardens, IT giants, and startups offers plenty to explore and discover. During the day, there are palaces to visit, gardens to take a stroll, and street markets to shop at. Mansions from the Victorian era stand beside mega-malls with glass facades. By night, the city has craft-beer pubs and quirky cafes that call out to weary souls. Known for its safety, this is often featured in lists of tourist places for solo travelers in South India.
Wayanad, one of the most visited hill stations in Kerala, beckons trekking enthusiasts and nature lovers. Its rolling hills and lush green forests are home to a number of animals and birds. After the monsoons, the waterfalls too come alive with a renewed spirit. The dams and lakes in Wayanad are ideal for an afternoon picnic. And then there are the temples and caves waiting to be explored.
Varkala, a small town in Kerala, also boasts of one of the top beaches in South India. The pristine white sandy Varkala beach is offset by majestic cliffs that make it a popular site with photographers. The town caters to backpackers as well as families. It’s an ideal place to escape city life. Apart from the beach, there are shacks with their fresh catch of the day and flea markets that make this place special. At its essence though, Varkala is a temple town with religious significance for Hindus.
With misty clouds and rolling green hills, Munnar has often been named one of the most picturesque hill stations of South India. It almost seems as though the place is carpeted with tea plantations. A visit here is all the encouragement one needs to sample the different aromas and flavors of tea. For nature lovers, there are elephants to watch, waterfalls to bathe in and trekking trails to walk along. This is also a popular weekend destination in South India.
There’s nothing like the backwaters of Alleppey. This popular honeymoon destination in South India, also known as Alappuzha, offers an idyllic setting for couples to fall deeper in love with each other. Floating along the backwaters in a houseboat is the best way to experience this city. If you time your visit right, you could even catch a glimpse of the famous Kerala boat races. But, that’s not all; Alleppey also has a bustling industry of coir.
With its beautiful blue lake, picturesque villages and bird sanctuary, Kumarakom is a nature lover’s delight and one of the top weekend destinations in South India. Whether you’re here for the weekend or the whole week, there’s plenty to do here such as an overnight stay on a houseboat, night fishing, cruising down the backwaters in a shikara, and birdwatching. If you’re craving a simple life, Kumarakom the place you need to be.
Kochi is an amalgam of centuries-old synagogues, palaces, Chinese fishing nets that dip in and out of the water, majestic bungalows dating back to the Dutch era and quirky cafes. The city is listed amongst tourist places for solo travelers in South India as well as a popular family destination in South India. Apart from historic places, Kochi also has a large antique and reproduction market where you can indulge in retail therapy. And then, there’s the lip-smacking appams and other Kerala delicacies waiting to be relished.
The rustic lifestyle of Thekkady is a great break from city life. This hill station in South India has everything from lush green rolling hills with elephants walking by to spice plantations, ashram and paddy fields. The Periyar National Park is home to tigers, wild bison, and many other wildlife species. When you’re done trekking through the hills and taking in the aromas of the spice plantations, you can attend cooking classes and tours of the bazaars.
Kerala’s capital city, Trivandrum is a small city with a glorious heritage. Spread across low hills, this is the gateway to the beaches of Kovalam and Varkala. The temples here are visited by pilgrims and tourists alike. Trivandrum also boasts of a number of palaces and museums that pay tribute to its history through beautifully preserved architecture. The Trivandrum Zoo is another popular tourist spot. And, while you’re here, don’t forget to taste the meal served on plantain leaves.
Thrissur is the cultural capital of Kerala. The city goes from celebrating one festival to another so much so that no matter when you visit, you’ll probably be able to see the city in full festive gear. It was once home to the Cochin royal family and today boasts of a number of buildings from that time. There’s also a Nestorian Christian community that dates back to the 3rd century. While you’re here, don’t forget to enjoy a classic Kerala meal at one of the city’s many restaurants.
The cool breeze of Kodaikanal, a hill town in Tamil Nadu, is a welcome respite from the humidity typically associated with southern India. Nestled amidst the misty clouds, this hill station is rightly called the Princess of Hill Stations. There are rambling paths for trekkers, lakes to spend an afternoon by, waterfalls to bathe in and plenty more. Even the trees and plants here are unique. If you time your visit right, you may be able to see the Kurunji shrubs in bloom. At night, a trip to the observatory takes you to a whole new world.
Ooty, the Queen of Hill Stations, balances the hustle and bustle of city life with expansive tea gardens. The charming bungalows from the British-Raj era add a romantic flavor to Ooty, making it one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in South India. Its famous miniature toy train is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a delight for people of all ages. One can take a toy train ride to Coonoor from Ooty another nearby hill station. Covering a distance of 19 km, the rail route offers a revitalizing travel experience. There are also museums, churches and a tea factory in Ooty that should find a place in your itinerary.
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is a blend of the old and the new. It is often described as the keeper of South Indian traditions. While on one hand, it flaunts spectacular architecture from the city’s past, on the other, it is known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, quirky cafes and boutique stores. The city also boasts of the second-longest urban beach in the world. If you’re an adventure enthusiast, there’s plenty to do here. With something to offer to everyone, Chennai is one of the most visited family destinations in South India.
Mahabalipuram, once a major seaport, is now a must-visit World Heritage Site on every history buff’s bucket list. From carved relief work on stone to cave temples, Mahabalipuram overflows with architectural wonders. Sunsets are extra special here as the soft glow of the setting sun adds to the allure of these monuments. And then there’s the mystery of Krishna’s Butterball. The city’s proximity to Chennai makes it one of the popular long weekend destinations in South India.
The first thing to come to mind when you hear about Tanjore is the beautiful gold relief paintings that take their name from this town. Tanjore has a history that dates back to many centuries and it once served as the bedrock for art in South India. Today, its cosmopolitan vibes blend easily with the palaces and temples bearing witness to erstwhile kingdoms. Tanjore is also a great place to find antiques and reproduction pieces to take back home with you.
Madurai is often described as the soul of Tamil Nadu. As one of India’s oldest cities, Madurai is a celebration of Tamil culture and heritage. The temples here have religious significance as well as architectural beauty. However, this is not the only reason Madurai is listed amongst the top tourist attractions in South India. It is a vibrant city that offers a variety of South Indian foods as well. From roadside dhabas to fine dining restaurants, there’s a world of food waiting for you here.
Best known for the glamorous Kanchipuram sarees, Kanchipuram is also a magnificent temple town. These temples are equally beautiful in the day and at night owing to which Kanchipuram is a popular weekend destination in South India. Apart from the weather, many people also time their visit to coincide with festivals. What not many tourists know is that apart from the saree, the city also has idli named after it!
The southernmost tip of the Indian mainland, Kanyakumari is famed for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Kanyakumari is a small town that makes a big impact. During the day between these glorious moments, there are forts, churches, and temples to be visited and paddy fields to be photographed. A few minutes at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial can transport you to a whole new world.
Rameswaram is one of the best-known religious places in South India. According to mythology, this is where Lord Rama led his army to Lanka and rescued Sita from the demon king Ravana. Apart from its religious significance, Rameswaram is a quiet fishing town with scenic beauty and beaches to enjoy water sports.
Fondly called the Manchester of South India, Coimbatore is best-known for its textile industry. This cool hill station in South India is also a pit stop on the way to Ooty and Kerala. Coimbatore is where people come to relax, put their feet up, and live the slow life. While you’re here, visit temples and museums that take you back in time and enjoy a picnic by the waterfalls.
Pondicherry is one of the few places in India that reflects the contribution French culture made to our heritage. On one hand, Pondicherry boasts of villas with teak columned courtyards and vibrant yellow walls and on the other is the peaceful aura of Auroville. Its respectful and safe culture and bohemian vibe have made this city one of the top tourist places for solo travelers in South India. There are also a number of beaches here where you can easily watch the day go by.
Tirupati is one of the most significant religious places in South India. This temple town is visited by thousands of pilgrims every day and yet manages to maintain an air of tranquility and serenity. Even the prasad served here is special as the Tirupati laddu has been awarded a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Apart from the temples, there are forts, beautiful hillsides, and museums that welcome tourists. Tirupati is also a great place to sample flavors in a South Indian thali.
A few hours’ drive from Vishakhapatnam, Araku Valley is a popular weekend destination in South India. You could also take the Vistadome train for a panoramic view of the route. The valley is known for its spectacular natural beauty, isolated tribes, and organic coffee plantations. For adventure seekers, Araku Valley offers a number of trekking routes that wrap themselves around the hills.
Visakhapatnam is a port city and industrial center in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, on the Bay of Bengal. It's known for its many beaches, including Ramakrishna Beach, home to a preserved submarine at the Kursura Submarine Museum. Nearby are the elaborate Kali Temple and the Visakha Museum, an old Dutch bungalow housing local maritime and historical exhibits.
Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana, balances the rich history and regality of Nizams with a vibrant cityscape. On one hand, the city boasts of palaces, forts, and museums on the other it has a string of cafes by the beautiful Hussain Sagar Lake. Hyderabad is also home to the fascinating Ramoji Film City. It’s a city that’s simultaneously young and old, traditional and cosmopolitan.
A city dotted with temples, forts and ancient monuments, Warangal is one of the most popular places to visit in South India. Its temples are not only visited by pilgrims but admired by tourists for their architectural magnificence. There are also a number of lakes and gardens ideal for an afternoon picnic and sparkling emerald fields that make a beautiful backdrop for photography enthusiasts.