The states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, located in the Southern tip of India, constitute the country’s Southern States. India is incredibly diverse, and there is more to her than the Taj Mahal in the North and the temples in the South.
South India is a unique blend of history, nature and culture. The region defines the ‘diversity’ tab, which is synonymous to India. Visitors to South India can build a mixed-bag of things to see and do, for their itinerary, to make their trip truly memorable.
These are some of the wonders that the Southern states have to offer
There is an abundance of flora and fauna in both the Eastern and the Western Ghats. The Ghats are densely forested mountain ranges that run parallel to each other, along with the country’s eastern and western coasts. They are home to indigenous wildlife, such as tigers, leopards, panthers, elephants, different types of deer, wild boar, bison, flying foxes, jackals, wolves and foxes, snakes and rabbits and other species of animals. Hundreds of rare and exotic bird species nest in these forests.
Each of the Southern states has wildlife sanctuaries, which need permits to enter. Government accommodation is available but needs to be pre-booked. Some have hotels outside the wildlife reserves.
Wildlife Sanctuaries & National Parks in the different southern states
Tamil Nadu has over 25 wildlife sanctuaries. Here are the top five
- Bandipur National Park
- Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary
- Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary
- Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
- Nagarhole National Park
- Kudremukh National Park
- Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary
- Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
- Attiveri Bird Sanctuary
- Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
- Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
- Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
- Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
- Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
- Pulicat Bird Sanctuary
- Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary
- Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary
- Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kinnerasani Wildlife Sanctuary
- Nagarjuna Sagar – Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary
- Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary
- Pakhal Wildlife Sanctuary
The southern belt of India has some breathtakingly beautiful hill stations most of which were colonized by the British. They are a major tourist hub but still retain their old-world charm. Quaint bungalows surrounded by lush green hills create a picturesque canvas. The chill fresh air is invigorating and the sights and sounds and the flora and fauna refresh the mind and soul.
Every hill station offers activities that tourists can indulge in. There is shopping to be done and lakes, waterfalls, viewpoints, museums, caves, tree fossils and trees dating back to hundreds of years and a lot more that makes a visit worthwhile.
The hill stations in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have huge tea and coffee plantations. A few plantations conduct guided tours and a visit to the factory is included. The process of plucking tea leaves to drying and packaging is explained.
Kerala is known for spices, Tamil Nadu for eucalyptus oil and homemade chocolates, Karnataka for its honey, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for Tribal handicrafts.
Read more about the Eco-Tourism destinations in India
India is a land of many religions. And this secular aspect of hers can be noticed in the southern states.
Chennai the capital of Tamil Nadu is where St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, was martyred. There are three Holy shrines dedicated to the saint, in the heart of the city. San Thome Basilica where the remains of the apostle rest, is one of the three Basilica’s in the world, built over an apostle’s tomb.
Tamil Nadu has some of the oldest Hindu temples in the world known for their architecture, carvings, and sculptures.
Kerala has the oldest Jewish synagogue in the Commonwealth Nations. The Cheraman Juma Mosque in Thrissur, constructed in 629 AD, is said to be the first mosque in India. Andhra Pradesh is replete with mosques and ancient Buddhist sites.
All the southern states, with the exception of Telangana, are blessed with a shoreline. Many beaches have resorts with access to the beach and the waters beyond.
India does not have a beach culture as such, that means lounging in swimwear, on public beaches, is not allowed. However, beaches adjoining resorts have relaxed rules and it is fine to frolic in the waters, have a swim and bask in the warm tropical sun, in a swimsuit.
Kovalam beach in Kerala has scuba diving and snorkeling facilities. But, for a really good snorkeling and scuba diving experience, travelers must go further south, to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.
And when you are on the beaches, don’t forget to climb up a lighthouse. Some of the world’s oldest lighthouses are located in Southern India.
Forts and Palaces
Indian history is not confined to the northern regions of the country. South India has an equally rich history to showcase. Forts, palaces and cenotaphs are among some of the architectural marvels on display that help reconstruct the history of ancient and medieval India.
Fort St. George, in Chennai, takes you back to the era of the British rule. Get in touch with India’s colonial past, here. A museum within the complex has a rich collection of artifacts from the British era and other rulers. Today, a big part of the fort houses the state’s Legislative Assembly. The Gingee Fort also in Tamil Nadu is another architectural wonder.
The palaces in Tamil Nadu provide an insight into its cultural heritage. The Thirumalai Palace, in Madurai, is a regal structure, with a massive courtyard, surrounded by ornate pillars and arches.
The Golconda Fort, in Hyderabad, is known for its acoustic effects. If you stand beneath the dome at the entrance and clap your hands, it resounds in the fort, located on a hillock, about half a mile away. Khammam Fort, Nedak Fort and Warangal Fort are Telangana’s pride. The Falaknuma Palace, also in Hyderabad was designed by an Italian architect, for the then Nawab of Hyderabad.
The forts in Karnataka are imposing structures, especially the Mirjan Fort, Gulbarga Fort and Bellary Fort. The Mysore Palace spells grandiose. The magnificent structure comes alive at night when the lights come on and the exhibits inside let you see how royalty in India lived.
The Bekal Fort and Chandragiri Fort in Kerala are erected on the shores, of the Arabian sea. The Mattancherry Palace in Kochi was constructed and presented to the Raja of Cochin, by the Portuguese settlers. It is also known as the Dutch Palace.
Andhra Pradesh’s Kondapalli Fort and Gooty Fort are reminders of the great Chalukya dynasty. The Vizianagaram Fort is a beautiful structure with two entrances.
Kerala has the backwaters, which none of the other states have. Tamil Nadu does have backwaters in Pichavaram, where short boating trips can be enjoyed through mangroves forests.
But, for those who want to experience the real backwaters, there is nothing like Kerala. The state has backwaters crisscrossing its coastal regions, and have developed into major tourist centers. Tourists can rent houseboats, which are like compact cottages, with a sleeping area, bathroom, dining area and a deck area. Meals and other amenities are provided on board. There is Wi-Fi, hot water, air conditioning, cooked meals (limited choice of food) and western-style bathrooms etc.
The houseboats sail during the day, offering scenic views, and anchor at night. The backwater holidays in Alleppey, Cherai Island, Kottayam and Kozhikode are highly recommended.