South India really has a distinct culture that sets it apart from the rest of the country. Not only that, each state in south India has managed to retain its own distinct identity. Intricate temple architecture, historical ruins, palm fringed canals, hills, and beach will provide you with a varied and interesting trip to south India. Don't miss these five must see south India tourist places.
One of India's top historical destinations, the laid back village of Hampi in Karnataka was once the last capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu empires in India's history. It has some extremely captivating ruins, intriguingly intermingled with large boulders that rear up all over the landscape. The ruins, which date back to the 14th century, stretch for just over 25 kilometers (10 miles) and comprise more than 500 monuments. An incredible energy can be felt at this ancient place. Hampi is a popular side trip from Goa.
One of the most tranquil and relaxing things you can do in Kerala is take a trip in a houseboat along the palm-fringed Kerala canals, known as the backwaters. Time truly seems to stand still. Indian food cooked by a chef and chilled beer on board the boat make the experience even more enjoyable. You can even spend the night on the boat, out in the middle of the water, surrounded by serenity. Bliss! And while you're in the area, why not stay a night or two at one of India's best homestays such as Vembanad House, on the banks of Vembanad Lake. You'll be able to feast on freshly caught and prepared seafood, according to traditional recipes.
The setting of Varkala beach in Kerala is striking enough to take your breath away, with a long winding stretch of cliff and views that extend over the Arabian Sea. A paved footpath runs along the length of the cliff, bordered by coconut palms, quaint shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guest houses. Nestled at the bottom of the cliff is a long stretch of sparkling beach, reached by steps leading down from the cliff top. It's not surprising that Varkala is one of India's best beaches. If you're there during late March/early April, try and catch the temple festival.
Established in the early 19th century by the British as the summer headquarters of the Chennai government, Ooty is now one of the top 10 hill stations in India and an appealing place to escape the summer heat in Tamil Nadu. If you travel there during the peak season in April and May, do be prepared for it to be crowded though!
Ooty's most popular attractions include the 22 hectare Government Botanical Gardens (a flower show is held there every May as part of the Summer Festival), boating on Ooty Lake, and climbing Dodabetta Peak for an excellent view of the Nilgiri hills. Getting to Ooty is half the fun if you take the scenic toy train from Metupalaiyam. Kids will love it!
Ancient Madurai in Tamil Nadu is home to the most impressive and important temple in south India, the Meenakshi Temple. If you only see one south Indian temple, the Meenakshi Temple should be it. The city of Madurai is more than 4,000 years old, and has remained a major center for Tamil culture and learning. During the heyday of its history, when the Nayak dynasty ruled, many magnificant temples and buildings with superb architecture were constructed. These days, Madurai attracts pilgrims and tourists in equal numbers. The older part of the town, with its narrow winding lanes, is fascinating to walk though. The 12 day Chithirai Festival, featuring a re-enacted celestial wedding of God and Goddess, is held in Madurai during April each year.