India is a country of vast historical and cultural diversity, which is good for tourism because it exposes people to a whole different world within each state. These practices are spread far and wide and some of them are even crafted in stone while other places are just naturally beautiful. South India houses the most diversity within such a small land mass, and there are so many places to visit. But if you’re a tourist and you need help, fear not. Check out these 8 places you just can’t miss while in South India.
8. Nandi Hills
Nandi Hills or Nandidurg, as it is locally known, is a small hill fortress just off the city limits of Bangalore. It is approximately 60 kms from Bangalore and is located in the Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka. There are a set of 2-3 hills which make up the Nandi Hills and the climatic conditions almost always make it favorable to go for a nice, peaceful trek with your friends/family.
But one of the mistakes I made while trekking through them for the first time was wearing shorts and sandals…big mistake! While the rocky path takes you on a slightly inclined path without much difficulty, there’s an off-trail path which rummages the local flora and fauna, and all the plants have thorns jetting out from within. So take protective care, even a medical kit maybe, when hiking these roads. But overall it is a must see for one and all, if not a must do.
Coorg was originally an Independent state in the 1800’s until the British deposed the rulers of Coorg and made it part of the British India constituency. Coorg is a beautiful place filled with many tourist attractions. Of the top of my head, Abbi Falls comes to mind. It’s just a 5 km drive from the city and although it’s not a large waterfall, it’s easy to reach and peaceful all around.
The Cauvery Nisargadhama is a neat little island off of a state highway and mostly comprises of bamboo groves, sandalwood and teak trees. There’s also a deer park, children’s play area and a resort packaged neatly into the island so families can stay over night. The Byle Kuppe, Dubare Elephant Camp and Gaddige are some of the other famous tourist places in Coorg. Coorg is the perfect place for a 2-3 day stay.
Ooty is a hill station covered in lush greenery all the way up from the foothill. As one of the most popular tourist spots in India, Ooty has been developing its infrastructure mainly around tourism. The Botanical Gardens (22 hectares of flowering trees, wonderful shrubs and rare lilies), Rose Garden (center of Ooty, 10 acres of land, wide variety of roses and assorted flowers), Doddabetta Peak (2600 meters in height, aerial view of the entire hill station, cameras are allowed), Emerald lake and Pykara Boat House are some of the most popular places to visit.
The best time to visit Ooty would be during the winter season when the temperate can sometimes drop up to 8 degrees Celsius and thick blankets of fog cover the entire hill station.
One of the more culturally prolific areas in South India, Hampi is a tourist spot for those of you who want to visit finely crafted temples. Located in Karnataka, Hampi lies about 60 kms from Bellary and almost 350 kms from Bangalore.
The most famous places in Hampi are the Virupaksha Temple (built in 7th century A.D., one of the first places to witness Hindu religious functions), Vittala temple (Vishnu dedicated temple, known for its extraordinary pillars and giant stone chariot), the Royal Enclosure (fortified campus of the past kings, brilliant vantage point of Hampi) and the Riverside Ruins. The Krishna temple and Elephant stables are also places of interest to tourists.
Located in Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is a place filled with peace, beauty and tranquility. It is most famously knows as ‘Honeymooners Haven’ and nests comfortably along the Pali hills. Berijam Lake, which is about 19 kms from the city bus stand, has a wide variety of flora and fauna, most of which are harvested as medicinal herbs.
Apart from this the Shenbaganur Museum is almost always open and displays rare works of architecture, flowers and endangered bird species. The Boat Club is a hotspot for anyone who wants to take a boat out into the lake and enjoy the view all while mindlessly peddling away to glory. The Kurinji Andavar Temple, Coaker’s Walk and Kodaikanal lake are a few other places of interest in Kodai.
No Indian teenagers life is complete without a trip to either Goa or Pondicherry. Pondicherry is the hub of French architecture, visible in certain localities throughout Pondi. Many of the housing complexes and malls are designed by classic French architects and make for a wonderful sight to see. Besides the architecture, the 3-4 different beaches make for a pleasant night out. If Pondi is the place for you, book a hotel which has a private beach.
Trust me, it’ll be worth it. The Golden Globe and Aurobindo Ashram are the most famous places in Pondicherry and the food is just exquisite, ranging from mouthwatering vegetarian to ‘out of this world’ non-vegetarian food. Did I mention that the alcohol is only one-third the price here as any other place in India? True Story.
It’s rare not to have a place from Kerala in the ‘best tourist spots’ list. Cochin is known for its breath taking architecture. Some of the constructs, which date back over 300 + years, stand stoically in and around the city of Cochin. The Kochi Fort is a particularly fine piece of art, which has a traditional European swagger about it. The sunset from the Fort is always unforgettable. The Vasco House, where Vasco Da Gama is believed to have lived, is another famous tourist spot in Cochin.
If it’s an enjoyable stroll you seek, than Marine Drive is where you should head. Pillared by trees, the coastal pathway is set along the clear blue waters and coupled with the right climate, could make it a very memorable walk. Last but not least, the Jawaharalal Nehru Stadium is a must see for any sports enthusiasts. It has a seating capacity of over 60,000 people and is the home of the FC Kochi team as well as the Kerala Ranji team.
I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Munnar because I’d never heard of it as a tourist spot. But during the winter, the weather is absolutely frosty. You’ll need almost two blankets just to feel comfortable. Yet the days are lukewarm and just bright enough not to get in your face. The Mattupetty Dam, which is located about 13 kms from the city is the biggest tourist attraction of Munnar, which houses lakhs of litres of water.
The Top Station, about 40 kms from Munnar, is located almost 2000 meters above sea level and the view is just mind-blowing. Standing above the clouds with the wind in your hair, sunrise or sunset would be the best times to visit this place. Echo point, Rajamalai, Kundala Lake, Attukad Waterfalls, the Munnar Tea Plantations (only Darjeeling Tea plantations can beat this)…the list goes on and on. The wonderful thing about this place is the weather. It’s never too hot and it rains for almost half the year. Munnar knocked the others out of the park to take the No.1 spot on the list of Best Places to visit in South India.