7 best places to visit in SOUTH INDIA
India, a country so vast that it actually could be an entire continent!
And because of the large size of the country, planning a trip to India is not an easy task. For most people, it will be impossible to visit all the places they have wanted to visit in one go. Especially, if you are going to India only for a week or two.
That’s why we suggest you explore one region, or even a state, at a time.
To make the task of planning the trip easier, in this article we will focus on South India only.
Here is a list of some of the best places to visit in South India.
7 best places to visit in South India
Goa, India’s smallest and at the same time richest state (with the highest GDP per capita), has long been known as the party state of India.
Goa has been attracting tourists since the 1970s, and back then it was known for its hippie culture and parties.
Nowadays hippies still do love Goa, and parties are frequent in the north of the state. But now Goa is also attracting luxury travelers, families and newlyweds. There is a place for every type of traveler in Goa.
Not only Goa has amazing parties, but also beautiful beaches! In fact, a few of them are among the best beaches in Asia (according to TripAdvisor).
While beaches in the North Goa can get very crowded, South Goa has a more relaxed atmosphere. Some of the beaches in the south, like Carmona and Galgibag, are quite empty even during the high season.
When you are tired of beach life, visit Goa’s spice plantations, waterfalls and explore colonial buildings in the state’s cities such as Panaji, Margao and Vasco da Gama.
2. Kerala backwaters
Backwaters – this is what Kerala is famous for.
In fact, Kerala backwaters are one of the best places to visit in South India.
Kerala backwater is a system of canals, lagoons, and lakes laying parallel to the sea.
There are several ways to explore Kerala’s amazing backwaters.
Many tourists go for a houseboat. Just like the name implies, it indeed is a floating house – a barge with rooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, and a dining area. Taking a houseboat is more like a cruise. You will dine on it, as well as stay the night.
If you are traveling on a budget, take a government-run boat (Government of Kerala State Water Transport Department) from Allapuzha to Kovalam. Yes, some will say that it’s only a boat ride. But it’s an eight-hour boat ride, and it’s an unforgettable experience.
3. Beaches of Kerala
Not only home to its canal, lake and lagoon system, Kerala also has a few great beaches. The most popular are Varkala and Kovalam.
These beaches are situated 40 and 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram, respectively. As they are relatively close to the city, it’s very easy to get there using public transport.
Just like most of the beaches in North Goa, Varkala and Kovalam can get crowded during the high season, but they are definitely worth a visit.
If you want to spend some time on a less crowded beach, head to Marari – a beach some 15 km south of Allapuzha.
Hampi is an ancient town in Karnataka, home to old temple complexes and ruins.
Scattered around the entire town of Hampi, its temples and ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site. A must-visit for everyone interested in history and culture.
Hampi is surrounded by huge boulders which make this ancient town look even more magical and special.
Murudeshwar, a town in Karnataka, is known for its large Shiva statue (2nd tallest in the world) and the tall, 20-storied Gopura, or entrance tower, of Murdeshwar Temple.
Both the statue and the entrance tower dominate the temple grounds and are really impressive.
While Murudeshwar temple is still not too popular among foreign tourists, it is very loved by Indian tourists.
If you want to see beautiful rice terraces and enjoy pleasant climate after countless days spent in the hot sun, head to Munnar, a town and hill station in the Western Ghats in Kerala state.
Because of its pleasant weather, Munnar once used to be a summer resort for the British during the British Raj.
Now Munnar attracts tourists from all around the world with its natural beauty – rolling hills and lush green tea plantations.
By the way, India is the second largest tea producer in the world!
Pondicherry (or Puducherry) used to be a French colonial settlement until 1954.
Now the city is known for its French Quarter with beautiful tree-lined streets and well preserved colonial architecture.
Pondicherry is also a gateway to Auroville, an experimental community located 10 km north of Pondicherry.
However, Auroville is not a regular tourist destination, but guests are allowed to visit Auroville’s visitors center where it is possible to learn more about its concept and history.
If you want to relax, meditate and just spend time with yourself, and at the same time you are ready to contribute to the community, you are welcome to stay in one of Auroville’s guesthouses.
If you are traveling during the peak season (November – March), book accommodation well in advance!
Applying for an Indian visa
If you plan to travel in India for less than 60 days, apply for an e-Visa. Even though the online application form is quite lengthy, the process itself is not difficult.
When applying for an e-visa, you must use Official e-visa application system. All the other sites offering this service are the third party, and they charge extra. The official e-visa fee is 25 USD, 80 USD or 100 USD, depending on nationality.
All you have to do is fill in the online application form, upload a digital copy of your passport, upload a photo, and pay a visa fee. You have to write down the address of your (first) hotel, and write down the date of arrival and departure.
Even though the e-Visa is granted in a few days’ time, we recommend you to apply at least a couple of weeks in advance, just in case.
With an e-Visa, you can arrive at 28 international airports and 5 seaports.
If you plan to stay in India longer than 60 days, visit the embassy and apply for a 6-month tourist visa.
South India travel tips
- India is a vast country. Consider flying (where it’s possible) to save time.
- If you plan to travel by train, book train tickets at least a few days in advance. The train is a very popular method of transport (especially long-haul), and tickets sell out quickly. Luckily, there’s a tourist quota for trains in India. Book train tickets at the train booking offices for foreign tourists (International Tourist Bureau), or at reputable travel agencies. You can also book train tickets online.
- Buses are the most popular mode of transport in Goa and Kerala. They are very cheap, but traveling by local bus might be a little bit tricky as there are no schedules, and most of the buses can’t be pre-booked.
- Dress modestly, especially in the places of worship! Pack clothes that cover your knees and shoulders. Lightweight loose-fitting trousers and shirts are the best, both for male and female travelers. Goa is more relaxed, though. You can wear shorts and tank tops on the beach (swimsuit when swimming), but in the cities wear something that is less revealing.
- People in India are warm and welcoming, but still, there are a few scams you should know about when traveling to India. Majority of them are just a nuisance but some of them can be scary and serious enough to get you into trouble. Do research before your trip and you’ll be fine.
- If you are traveling during the high season (especially – to Goa), book accommodation well in advance.