Ages old architecture, beaches, culture, enchanting hill stations, food, green forests, majestic temples, exotic animals and birds! That for you is South India in a nutshell.
South India is a vast territory to explore hence making it difficult for all to decide on a particular course of travel. Therefore, we at HKYantoYan decided to, well, layout The Ultimate South India Tour, a helpful guide. First Stop:
Chennai, the fourth largest city in India, formally named as Madras houses popularly appealing attractions. Being rich in cultural heritage yet striving with a modern lifestyle, Chennai is a good starting point for your tour.
Fort St. George – Built-in 1640 and founded in 1644, St. George was the first fortress built by the British in India which enhanced trading activity in a then considered “no man’s land”. Here, in-house you will find an ancient Anglican Church, a museum and paintings of the Fort Governor.
Government Museum – Functioning from 1851, the Government Museum also called the Madras Museum is home to the biggest collection of Roman antiquities and has a lump sum of archaeological and numismatic collections.
Kapaleeshwarar Temple – This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and, a form of Parvati called Karpagambal (“Goddess of the Wish-Yielding Tree”).
Marina Beach – A beach where swimming and bathing are legally prohibited due to the waters rough undercurrent. Yet, Marina Beach is one of the most crowded beaches in Chennai.
St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica – Also known as the San Thome Church, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. It was to mark the land of death and burial of St. Thomas Mount the Apostle.
The Chennai Lighthouse – The only lighthouse in India within the city limits and, a lift that exists only in a few lighthouses world over!
Post Chennai, travel to Kanchipuram, the holy city of South India. Here you will find architecture that has been persistent since the art-loving Kings of the Dravidian era! It is religious, cultural and entertaining.
Ekambaranathar Temple – Believed to have been existing since 600 AD, the Ekambaranathar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. And due to its long-lived existence, you will find unique contributions made to this temple by the Chola, Pallava and, Vijayanagar dynasties during their times.
Kailasanathar Temple – Yet another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This one consists of fifty-eight small shrines surrounding the main one depicting the different forms of Lord Shiva. Based by Rajasimha, a Pallava ruler; it was completed by his son Mahendra Varma Pallava. One look at the temple would confirm that the kings of Pallava truly loved architecture.
Kamakshi Amman Temple – Dedicated to goddess Parvati, the Kamakshi Amman Temple is based in Kanchipuram, which is one of the major cities she’s worshipped in! Unlike the traditional upright pose, the idol here is seated in a beautiful yoga pose – Padmasana.
Kanchi Kudil – A heritage museum that is actually in a century-old house (Kudil). This will surely take you into the history of Kanchipuram and, you will enjoy every turn of it.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary – Dedicated with seventy-four acres of land, this is listed as one of the oldest in India. Forty-eight kilometres away from the city, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is Arcadia to a bird watcher!
After enjoying the ancient architectures of Kanchipuram, head to Mahabalipuram, that was once home to demon-ous King Mahabali. Also known as Mamallapuram, this city has ample of UNESCO world heritage sites that you shouldn’t miss out on!
Arjuna’s Penance – Honestly, the story carved on the magnificent two huge adjoining boulders cannot be identified between ‘Arjuna’s Penance’ and ‘Descent of Ganges’. Created in the mid-seventh century, the ninety-six by forty-three monument is worth a visit!
Pancha Rathas Temple – Also known as the Pandava (Mahabharat’s Famous Five) Rathas (chariots), this monument complex is often mistaken for temples. Each chariot carved out of a single humongous stone back in King Narasimhavarman I’s rule (630–668 AD).
Krishna Mandapam – Located next to Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna Mandapam has carvings describing the story of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhana Hill to protect the gopis and cowherds from the heavy rains and, many other stories of him.
Krishna Butterball – Well, this is a two-fifty ton boulder which is seated on a short incline for about one thousand two hundred years. There were two attempts made by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman and, the governor of the city in 1908 to move the boulder from it’s plcae, but in vain! Adding to the epicness of the boulder.
Mahishasuramardhini Cave – Also named as the Yampuri, this Indian rock-cut cave of the seventh century depicts goddess Durga in her Mahishasuramardhini form.
Shore Temple – It is named as the Shore Temple as it overlooks the Bay of Bengal shore. Constructed with blocks of granite, this actually forms a complex of shrines and temples with astounding architecture.
Officially named as Puducherry, the city of Pondicherry is just a couple of hours from Kanchipuram. Pondy is one of the seven Union Territories of India and is a perfect blend of Indian culture and French architecture. Well, all I can say here is: Experience the best of both worlds!
Auroville Beach – Though the waters are dangerous to dip in, the beach stands as a nesting home to Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Plus point being, it is one of the lesser known beaches of Pondicherry. Recommended time for visiting this beach is the sunrise and the sunset.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – In recent years, this church has become one of the famous pilgrimage locations for Christians. Also, it is constructed in the eye-catching Gothic architectural style.
Matrimandir – This is a meditation amphitheatre built right in the centre of Auroville. Sadly, this gold plated monument is only accessible by the Aurovillians. But, you will be permitted to go to the viewing point nearby to observe its beauty from outside. Make sure to register a day in advance.
Pondicherry Museum – The Pondicherry museum is rich in artefacts from the French rule in Pondicherry. It also beholds exhibits dating two thousand years ago from the Arikamedu settlement, Chola and Pallava dynasties.
Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple – The only Hindu temple present in White Town, Pondicherry, beholds various forms of Lord Ganesha. And Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple also predates the French rule in Pondicherry.
Once you are done with the best of both worlds, head to Madurai, the soul city of Tamil Nadu. I say so because the existence of this city is way before the time of Chennai.
Gandhi Memorial Museum – One of the five museums dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi stands in Madhurai since the year 1959. It also exhibits part of the garment Gandhiji wore when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse.
Meenakshi Amman Temple – Meenakshi Temple makes the centre of the temple city Madhurai. Dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati) and Lord Sundareshwar (Shiva), this temple is a significant pilgrimage spot for the Shaivism tradition.
Samanar Hills – At a ten kilometres distance from the Meenakshi Amman Temple you will find the Samanar Hills, beholding Jain carvings and sculptures. It is believed to be there since the very first century. Additionally, the hilltop can be accessed to enjoy the eye-pleasing view of Madurai.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace – This is a palace from the 17th century and, its architecture is a mix of the classic Rajput and Dravidian styles. As the name states, this palace belonged to Thirumalai Nayak, the then king of Madurai.
Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple – Said to be one of God Murugan’s home. Stories also say that it is this temple where he killed Surapadman and got married Deivayanai.
This beautiful lusciously green town of Kerala state lies in the Western Ghats mountain range. Munnar, used as a resort by the elite Britishers back in the days of their rule, is exceedingly famous for its tea estates.
Attukad Waterfalls – Somewhere in between Munnar and Pallivasal are the Attukad Waterfalls. Famous for its photogenic qualities and, hiking trails people from all over are lured towards it. Its panoramic views are absolutely enchanting.
Blossom International Park – While you are at admiring the exotic and rare flowers in the Blossom International Park, you can also indulge in activities like bird watching and boating. Being expansively lush, it has jaw-dropping nature trails to watch out for.
Eco Point – Fascinating at all ages, the Eco-Point is a site you should include to your Ultimate South India Tour. Fifteen kilometres away from Munnar, this natural phenomenon will have you intrigued.
Eravikulam National Park – Fifteen kilometres away from Munnar, you will find the Eravikulam National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Encompassing the Anamudi Peak, highest in South India, this park is abodes exotic and endangered species like NilgiriTahrs, Nilgiri Langurs, Tigers etc.
Kundala Lake – Here you can enjoy paddling while admiring the beauty of the surrounding hills. Though artificial, this lake bears a flower ‘NeelaKurunji’ that blooms once in twelve years.
Mattupetty Dam – A primary source of hydroelectricity, this damn site also serves as a survival spot for Asiatic Elephants thanks to the surrounding flora and fauna. If lucky, you will be able to get a glace of them sipping some water or chewing on some delish fruits.
Pothamedu View Point – As close as three kilometres from the heart of Munnar, you can unwind the beauty of Munnar from Pothamedu View Point. A view that you would kill for if you are somebody who likes nature as much as I do.
Tea Museum – This is the place that educates its visitors on how the tea culture thrived in South India. By the time you leave from here, you will be well versed from plucking to the packaging of tea!
Thekkady, known for its savannah grasslands and deciduous forests is home to the largest tiger reserve in the country. Now, this is your chance to enjoy a jaw-dropping jungle vacay!
Murikkady – Yes, being in Kerala this ground is known for its more than twelve different spice plantations. But, Murikkady is also known for its cardamom and coffee plantations. Well, the greenery is going to mesmerise you!
Periyar Lake – Yet another place to spot the lovely lovey elephants. Yes, if you choose to take a boat ride in the waters of Periyar Lake and you turn out to be lucky, you will surely spot a herd of elephants enjoying their time in the bath :p
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – The best way to enjoy the world of the wildlife here is to go bamboo rafting. Located on the banks of river Periyar, I bet you will take along with you a bunch full of awe-worthy photographs.
Spice Garden – While there are many gardens to visit on this particular strip, you will find them cultivating spices like the cardamom, clove, cinnamon, etcetera. Here, you can also learn about the importance of Kerala’s agriculture. It sure is interesting!
Kadathanadan Kalari Centre – This centre is where you can treat yourself with a few self-defence skills, Kerala style. If you are not up for that, you can always sit back and watch this skilful art.
After you’ve enjoyed with the greens, head to Kumarakom to indulge in some blues! This is a village on Lake Vembanad that necklaces canals with houseboats plying the waters!
Bay Island Driftwood Museum – The Bay Island Driftwood Museum beholds for you sculptures made from Driftwood that were deposited on the shores of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Some of the article’s shapes resembling birds, fishes and animals are highly valued as they are made with modern art techniques.
Juma Masjid – Almost a thousand years old, the Juma Masjid is said to be built by Habib Dinar whose father, Malik Dinar, introduced Ismal in Kerala. Also called the Thazhathangadi Mosque, here you will get to witness some stunning wood carvings which make the mosque look nothing less than royal!
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary – Serving as one of the favourite stopover for migratory birds world over, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on the banks of Vembanad Lake is paradise on Earth. From the birds that migrate you can spot the Wood Beetle, Siberian Cranes, etcetera and the few that reside here include Kingfishers, Egrets, Cuckoo, etcetera.
Kumarakom Beach – Well, if you opt to take the Ultimate South India Tour, you are bound to require some time to relax. And to do so, there is no better place than a beach! To add to your relaxation, the resorts around here offer splendid spa treatments and Ayurvedic massages.
Kumarakom Backwaters – Hire a houseboat and spend the rest of the day sailing across plenty of lakes, rivers and, canals to enjoy the wide scenic rage of, plants and animals. And if you dig water sports, you must try wind sailing and skiing!
Pathiramanal Island – This ten acres island in the Vembanad Lake abodes a zoo and an aquarium. Only accessible by boat, you can stop over while sailing on the Kumarakom Backwaters.
Famous for its boat races, beaches, coir, marine products, etcetera, Alleppey or Alappuzha has come to associate as the ‘Venice of the East’.
Alleppey Lighthouse – the Alleppey Lighthouse built to mark one of the busiest trade centres of Kerala, now is an essential historical monument. The best part being, you can climb to the top and enjoy the luscious green lands of Alleppey!
Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple – The Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple known for its offering ‘palpayasam’, a sweet pudding made of rice and milk. This temple was constructed in the year 790 AD for worshipping Lord Krishna.
Andhakaranazhi Beach – If you are a fan of natural phenomenon’s, you have got to visit Andhakaranazhi Beach. Thirty-one kilometres away from Alleppey, this is where you will witness the Backwaters merging with the Arabian Sea. The scenic views at sunrises and sunsets are definitely worth the trip!
Backwaters of Alleppey – The beauty of the Alleppey Backwaters is beyond words. You ought to experience it either by staying overnight in a houseboat or take the classic Kayaks or Shikara (for larger occupancies) and cruise away!
Kuttanad – Aha! This is one village that you must visit for the curries here are spicy yet finger-licking. Also, known as the rice bowl of Kerala, the number of activities like fishing, duck farming, toddy tapping will keep you hooked on to this village that farms below sea level.
Krishnapuram Palace – It is a palace that will reveal to you the architectural style of Kerala simultaneously with a museum and one of the biggest wall-paintings present in Kerala.
St. Mary Forane Church – Count this in as one of the most beautiful Churches in Alleppey that stands adjacent to the flowing backwaters. The modelling of St. Mary Forane Church is utterly magnificent.
Formerly known as Cochin, this city on the south-west coast of India is named as the ‘Queen of the Arabian sea’. Having a vast background of influences from the Arabs, British, Chera Dynasty, Chinese, Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese; Kochi will surely keep you exploring!
Cherai Beach – Like Dolphins? This is one of the beaches in India where you can spot them! Additionally, the sea around here seems to be calmer, making it ideal for taking a dip for the kids as well!
Mattancherry Dutch Palace – Yet another Palace that beholds a museum with some great rare art and some gorgeous Hindu murals. Well, let me notify, in comparison palaces, the Mattancherry Dutch Palace is rated a bit lower, but that just works as a compliment in this case! It was built by the Portuguese for the Raja of Kochi in 1555 and was also renovated by the Dutch in 1663.
Paradesi Synagogue – So this is a Jew Synagogue which is the oldest and active amongst Commonwealth countries. Built in 1567, it lists under one of the seven synagogues of the Yehudan Mappila.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica – Been considered as one of the most beautiful churches in the whole of India, Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, should be on your Ultimate South India Tour list. The architecture is known for its astounding features.
St. Francis Church – Famously known for being a burial site for Vasco de Gama, the St. Francis Church in Kochi is said to be the oldest church built by the Europeans in India.
After your Kochi exploration, head to the ‘Queen of Hills’, Ooty. Earlier been regarded as the East India Company’s summer headquarters, also acknowledged as Udhagamandalam is among Nilgiri hills due to which the climate stays pleasant all around the year!
Botanical Garden – The fifty-five acres dedicated to this Botanical Garden is split into sections like Fountain Terrace, Italian Garden, Lower Garden, etcetera. This also houses the only existing species of Cork Tree in India.
Doddabetta Peak– The highest Nilgiri peak clearly serves views of Ooty as if in a postcard. On top, you will also find a telescope house which you can access to get closer to the surrounding breathtaking views.
Ooty Lake – Although manmade, the beauty of it is spectacular!
Enjoy the pictorial views of Nilgiri while you take a row, pedal or motorboat spin on the waters of Ooty Lake.
Rose Garden – Awarded the ‘Garden of Excellence’ by World Federation of Rose Societies (WFRS), spread across ten acres, this lists under one of the many magnificent rose gardens in India. You will surely relish the view of over three thousand six hundred different roses.
Tata Tea Museum & Factory – Trust me… Sipping on some aromatic tea while viewing the Nilgiri landscapes at the Tata Tea Museum will mark one of your most peaceful moments in life!
After you have been charmed by the city of Ooty, head to Mysore and revel into the city of palaces. Mapped on the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, Mysuru will dazzle you with everything it has to offer!
Jaganmohan Palace – Constructed in 1861 in the princely city of Mysore, Jaganmohan Palace, once home to kings, today, houses an Art Gallery displaying the works of Indian artists like Raja Ravi and S.G.Heldnkr.
Krishnarajasagar Dam – There is a garden at this dam that is built over the Kaveri river. Every evening, Brindavan Gardens, the garden adjoining the dam is lit up along with its dancing musical fountains!
Melody World Wax Museum – A must visit if you are with Kids and, of course, if you are a music lover. The Melody World Wax Museum, houses more than a hundred statues and, over three hundred music instruments, paying tribute to famous music artists world over!
Mysore Palace – A palace that was home to the Mysore rulers of the Wodeyar dynasty for seven centuries is now one of India’s biggest palace. This architectural masterpiece takes you through the time of the past, especially during the Dasara festival.
Railway Museum – This railway museum in Mysore is the second biggest one in India after the one in Delhi. On display are the initially used steam engines and locomotives. You will be taken around the museum on a mini train, which is fascinating for kids as well as adults.
St. Philomena’s Church – Here we have one of the largest Cathedrals of South Asia. The Gothic architecture and thoughtful construction layout do just to the rest of Mysore’s majestic architecture.
Bangaluru, famously known as Bangalore, happens to be the hub of the country’s high-tech industry! Also, other than the mesmerising sites, make the most of the nightlife culture of this city as it is worth exploring.
Bangalore Fort – Back in 1537, Banglore Fort was simply a mud Fort built by the founder of Bangalore, Kempe Gowda I. Later Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan added their modifications to it. Being the first of constructions that marked the development of Banglore a trip to this little fort is a must!
ISKCON Temple – The ISKCON temple in Bangalore is one of the world’s largest and is a must visit. Top attractions here are the 17-meter gold-plated flag post and 9-meter gold-plated Kalash shikara.
Venkatappa Art Gallery – Standing in the vicinity of Cubbon Park, the Venkatappa Art Gallery attracts art lovers as well as artists from all over Karnataka. This is one of the museum structures that also has a dedicated space for artists to come in and practice their art!
The Nandi Temple – The Nandi Temple in Bangalore is the biggest temple in the whole world that is dedicated to the bull, Nandi a Hindu demi-god. This temple also called the Dodda Basavana Gudi, was built by Kempe Gowda in 1537.
Bangalore Palace – The architecture of Bangalore Palace is inspired by the Windsor Castle of England. It was built in 1887 by Chamaraja Wodeyar and continues to house the royal family keeping its gates open for the public to visit.
Lalbagh Botanical Garden – Beholding the most diverse plant species in the world, spread over 240 acres and named after the red roses that bloom here year round, the Lalbagh Botanical Garden is Mughal styled. The main attraction being the glasshouse that was built in 1889.
Cubbon Park – This is a three hundred acre park named after Sir Mark Cubbon, the erstwhile Commissioner of Bangalore. Inside you can visit the aquarium and, in the evening, on the outside, you can steal a look of the Vidhan Soudha, a landmark of Bangalore that lights up stunningly!
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace – Built with pure teakwood, the summer palace of Tipu Sultan has become a must visit in recent decades. Converted into a museum, here you will find magnificent old artwork, figures and paintings.
And now, this marks the end of our Ultimate South India Tour. I agree it is a lot to take in but, if you have the time to spare for a lengthened trip, then this one will surely not disappoint you or your pocket! On the other hand, if you do not have the luxury of extended leaves, you can always pick and choose to make your own mini itinerary.
P.S. If you have been to any of these lovely places, do share your experience in the comments down below 🙂