South India is the Indian subcontinent’s typical peninsular region. This stretch of territory is exceedingly rich with an interlacing network of rivers, rolls of rice fields and palm trees, mountains, tea estates, temples, ruins, and caves, and is nestled in the middle of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean.
When visiting India, you should see both the North and South, which are as diverse as cheese and chalk. While we have included a link to a North India Travel Guide for your convenience, this is essentially your South India Travel Guide, guiding you through the various aspects of the region as well as how to get around and what to do while you’re here.
Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam are the four primary Dravidian languages spoken by the majority of people in South India. A minority language is recognized in several states and union territories, such as Urdu in Telangana and French in Puducherry. Apart from these languages, English is used for official communications by both the federal and state governments, as well as on all public signs.
Several dynastic kingdoms ruled over parts of South India throughout its history, and Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent across southern and southeastern Asia influenced the history and culture of those areas.
The Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Bahmani, Deccan Sultanates, Kakatiyas, Kadambas, Hoysalas, Zamorin, Vijayanagara, Maratha, Travancore, Arakkal, and Mysore were among the major dynasties formed in South India. Kerala was the gateway to India for Europeans. Portuguese India and the British Raj both colonized South India. The Nizams ruled Hyderabad State, which was India’s last princely state.
South India has seen steady increases in per capita income and population, as well as economic structural changes and a faster pace of technical innovation. Following a period of instability in the decades following Indian independence, the economies of South Indian states have grown at a faster rate than the national average over the last three decades.
While several socioeconomic indicators in South Indian states have improved, poverty continues to afflict the region, as it does the rest of the country, albeit to a lesser extent. Southern states have a high HDI, and their economies have grown at a quicker rate than most northern states. The literacy rate in the southern states is greater than the national average, with 81 percent of the population able to read and write. South India has the lowest fertility rate of any Indian region, at 1.9.
Ash mounds connected with Neolithic societies in South India date back to 8000 BCE, according to carbon dating. In the Odisha region, artifacts like as ground stone axes and tiny copper artefacts have been discovered. Iron technology extended throughout the region around 1000 BCE, but there does not appear to have been a fully established Bronze Age in South India prior to the Iron Age.
The location was in the midst of a commercial route that connected the Mediterranean and East Asia, stretching from Muziris to Arikamedu. During the Sangam period, trade with Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Jews, and Chinese began (c. 3rd century BCE to c. 4th century CE). The location was once a component of the ancient Silk Road, which connected East and West.
Several dynasties – including the Cheras of Karuvur, the Pandyas of Madurai, the Cholas of Thanjavur, the Zamorins of Kozhikode, the Travancore royal family of Thiruvananthapuram, the Kingdom of Cochin, the Mushikas of Kannur, the Satavahanas of Amaravati, the Pallavas of Kanchi, the Kadambas of Banavasi, The Vijayanagara Empire, which ruled the region until the 14th century CE, was the last Indian dynasty to do so.
The region was ruled by Deccan Sultanates, the Maratha Empire, and polygars and Nayak governors of the Vijayanagara empire who declared their independence after successive attacks from the Sultanate of Delhi and the fall of the Vijayanagara empire in 1646.
South India is an inverted triangle bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea, on the east by the Bay of Bengal, and on the north by the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. In the valley between the Vindhya and Satpura hills, which constitute the northern spur of the Deccan plateau, the Narmada river flows westwards.
The Western Ghats run parallel to the Arabian Sea on the western shore, and the Konkan region is the small strip of land between the mountains and the sea. Until Kanyakumari, the Western Ghats extend south. The Eastern Ghats run parallel to the Bay of Bengal on the eastern coast, and the Coromandel region is the land between them.
The Nilgiri mountains are the meeting point of both mountain ranges. The Nilgiris form a crescent along the Tamil Nadu–Kerala–Karnataka border, encompassing the Palakkad and Wayanad hills and the Sathyamangalam ranges, and extending to the relatively low-lying Eastern Ghats hills on the western portion of the Tamil Nadu–Andhra Pradesh border, forming the Tirupati and Annamalai hills.
Lakshadweep is a group of low-lying coral islands off India’s southwestern coast. The islands of Andaman and Nicobar are located far off the eastern coast of India. The Palk Strait and the Rama’s Bridge chain of low sandbars and islands separate the region from Sri Lanka, which is located off the southeast coast.
Kanyakumari is India’s southernmost point, where the Indian Ocean meets the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The Deccan plateau is a highland area surrounded by mountain ranges. The plateau rises to a height of 100 meters (330 feet) in the north and more than one kilometer (0.62 miles) in the south, forming an elevated triangle within the downward-pointing triangle of the Indian subcontinent’s shoreline.
It also has a gentle west-to-east slope, resulting in large rivers originating in the Western Ghats and flowing east into the Bay of Bengal. The huge Deccan Traps eruption, which occurred near the end of the Cretaceous period, between 67 and 66 million years ago, lay down the volcanic basalt beds of the Deccan.
Volcanic activity lasted 30,000 years, forming layer after layer, and as the volcanoes died out, they produced a region of highlands with typical large expanses of flat plains on top. The east-flowing Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, and Vaigai rivers provide water to the plateau. The Pennar, Tungabhadra, Bhavani, and Thamirabarani rivers are among the principal tributaries.
The region has a tropical climate and receives its rain from the monsoons. It has a non-arid climate with minimum mean temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F) according to the Köppen climatic classification. The tropical monsoon climate is the most humid, with moderate to high year-round temperatures and seasonal rainfall exceeding 2,000 mm (79 in) each year. The tropical climate is found in a strip of south-western lowlands abutting the Malabar Coast, known as the Western Ghats; it also affects the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar.
Except for a semi-arid rain shadow east of the Western Ghats, the inland peninsular region has a tropical wet and dry climate, which is drier than locations with a tropical monsoon climate. The rainy season lasts from June to September, with annual rainfall averaging between 750 and 1,500 mm (30 and 59 in) across the region.
Winter and early summer are long dry periods with temperatures averaging above 18 °C (64 °F); summer is extremely hot, with temperatures in low-lying areas exceeding 50 °C (122 °F); and the rainy season lasts from June to September, with annual rainfall averaging between 750 and 1,500 mm (30 and 59 When the dry northeast monsoon arrives in September, Tamil Nadu receives the majority of India’s rainfall, leaving neighboring states comparably dry.
The territory east of the Western Ghats and the Cardamom Hills has a hot semi-arid climate. Karnataka, inland Tamil Nadu, and western Andhra Pradesh receive between 400 and 750 millimetres (15.7 and 29.5 in) of rainfall per year, with hot summers and dry winters with temperatures about 20–24 °C (68–75 °F).
The months of March through May are hot and dry, with average monthly temperatures hovering around 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) and 320 millimetres (13 inches) of precipitation. This region is unsuitable for agriculture without artificial irrigation.
The southwest monsoon, which occurs from June to September, is responsible for the majority of the rainfall in the region. The Arabian Sea branch of the southwest monsoon makes landfall on the Western Ghats in Kerala’s coastal state and continues northward along the Konkan coast, bringing rain to coastal areas west of the Western Ghats.
The tall Western Ghats block the winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau, resulting in very little rainfall in the leeward (wind-free) zone. The Bay of Bengal branch of the southwest monsoon travels from the Bay of Bengal to northeast India, gathering up moisture. Because of the land’s form, the southwest monsoon does not bring much rain to the Coramandel coast. The northeast monsoon brings rain to Tamil Nadu and southeast Andhra Pradesh.
When the surface high-pressure system is at its strongest, the northeast monsoon occurs from November to early March. Tropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean form in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea throughout the year, bringing catastrophic winds and torrential rainfall.
The different weather and terrain of South India have resulted in a broad variety of plants and animals. The Western Ghats have deciduous woods, while the inner Deccan plateau has tropical dry forests and scrub areas. The South Western Ghats montane rain forests are found at high altitudes in the Southern Western Ghats, and the Malabar Coast moist forests are found on the coastal plains of the Malabar Coast. The Western Ghats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s eight hottest biodiversity hotspots.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, located at the confluence of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in the Nilgiri Hills, and the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve, located at the confluence of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the Agastya Mala hills, as well as the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats, are important ecological regions of South India.
Many migratory and local birds may be found in bird sanctuaries such as Thattekad, Kadalundi, Vedanthangal, Ranganathittu, Kumarakom, Neelapattu, and Pulicat. The Wildlife Institute of India has designated Lakshadweep as a bird sanctuary.
The mangrove forests of Pichavaram and the backwaters of Pulicat Lake in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Vembanad, Ashtamudi, Paravur, and Kayamkulam lakes in Kerala, are all protected ecological sites. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve includes coral reefs, salt marshes, and mangroves and covers an area of 10,500 km2 of water, islands, and adjacent shoreline. Dolphins, dugongs, whales, and sea cucumbers are among the endangered aquatic species that call it home.
With 14 Project Tiger reserves and 11 Project Elephant reserves, South India is home to one of the greatest populations of endangered Bengal tigers and Indian elephants in India, accounting for one-third of the tiger population and more than half of the elephant population.
In northern Karnataka, along the Western Ghats, in Bhadra–Malnad, in Brahmagiri–Nilgiris–Eastern Ghats, in Nilambur–Silent Valley–Coimbatore, in Anamalai–Parambikulam, in Periyar–Srivilliputhur, and in Agasthyamalai, elephant populations are located in eight fragmented sites. The grizzled giant squirrel, grey slender loris, sloth bear, Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque, and Indian leopard are among the region’s threatened and endangered species.
How To Reach South India
South India is the peninsular portion of the Indian subcontinent that is surrounded on three sides by waterbodies rather than landmasses. Despite the abundance of water surrounding it, the best way to get to South India is by plane. From there, you can utilize Indian Railways’ extensive train network, private cabs, Ola/Ubers, buses, or domestic aircraft to get from one point to another.
Except for a few backwater channels in Kerala and the jetties that operate in Goa, these places do not yet have well-developed waterways. However, the excellent connectivity and regularity of the other three lines more than compensate for this flaw. Here’s a more in-depth look at each.
1. By Air
In the middle of various hills and plains, South India is defined by a web of rivers. Today, however, getting to this part of the world is rather simple. Air travel in the South is a breeze, thanks to a slew of airports and even a slew of airlines specialized to the region. There are numerous airports in South India that serve as landing points for international visitors.
In Kerala, there is Cochin International Airport (Cochi), in Karnataka, there is Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore), and in Tamil Nadu, there are Chennai and Coimbatore International Airports. With domestic airports in places like Kozhikode, Mangalore, Madurai, Calicut, and Pondicherry, these three major states cover the majority of South Indian tourist destinations.
Goa visitors can fly through Dabolim Airport, which is a military base that also serves as a civil domestic and international airport. Air India, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Indigo, Alliance Air, and Air Deccan are some of the regular aircraft carriers in the south (low cost airline).
2. By Rail
The Indian Railways’ Southern wing is headquartered in Chennai and provides seamless service to all South Indian and Deccan states, including Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and Maharashtra. In India, train travel is the lifeline of connectivity for the majority of the rural and semi-urban population, hence it is made relatively affordable and accessible to all. Railway stations can be found in almost all cities, towns, and villages.
In the south, major intersections include Kerala’s Kozhikode and Alleppey, Karnataka’s Bangalore and Mysore, and Tamil Nadu’s Chennai. Madurai, Goa, Pondicherry, Hampi, Badami, Kanyakumari, and Rameswaram are some of the other tourist locations with their own railway station.
The Golden Chariot’s Southern Splendour trip is one of the most opulent train rides made by international visitors in South India (Bangalore, Mysore, Goa). This is a week-long vacation that includes an onboard train ride and stops at each of the tourist attractions along the way, all done in true South Indian royal flair.
3. By Road
Most locations are served by a variety of state-run buses. Some of the most well-known public buses include the KSRTC (Kerala), BMTC (Bangalore and nearby districts), and TNSTC (all of Tamil Nadu). Private buses with air conditioning and stronger suspensions, such as the Volvo, are also available. However, they are a little pricey. You may also use their app to rent a cab or book an outstation Ola.
4. By Water
South India’s interior waterways, thanks to its network of rivers, streams, and backwaters, should ideally be well developed. However, this is not the case right now. Some routes, such as Goa, Kerala, and West Bengal, perform well. Many boats, jetties, and rafts are run for locals as the Kerala backwaters become navigable. These are also a beautiful sight to behold.
Weather In South India And The Best Time To Visit
South India is a stunning landscape of forests, rivers, temples, and ruins. This peninsular landmass is surrounded by seas and backwaters. Most of the coastal states of South India, such as Kerala, Karnataka, and Goa, have marine tropical climes due to their unique position and three huge water bodies around them.
While Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh’s interiors are more continental. South India experiences the three seasons of Summer, Monsoon, and Winter throughout the year due to the obvious demarcation of three seasons in the Indian subcontinent.
Although there are numerous things to do in any season, the best time to visit South India is during the winter. South India is a tourist hotspot in the winter and early summer, thanks to its agreeable temperatures and weather.
1. The season of summer (March-May)
The Great Indian Summer is the kind of season that most ice-bound places long for. Long, hot days, thick, humid air, and a lot of salt in the water. From March to May, South India experiences exactly that kind of summer. Because it is nearest to the equator, this area of India should theoretically be hotter than the rest.
However, because it is surrounded on three sides by water bodies (the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean), it is mostly influenced by the sea, with typical summer temperatures of 35°C on the coastlines of Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and 40°C in the interiors of Karnataka.
Summers in hill station destinations like Munnar, Coorg, and Ooty are still lovely and bearable, providing a welcome break from the heat. May is the hottest month of the year and the start of the monsoon season. Hill stations can be visited in the summer, but most plains and lowland/seaside areas should not be visited after April.
2. Monsoon season (June-September)
If you enjoy rain, mist, and dirt, monsoon may be the best time to explore South India. The hill stations grow hazy, lush, and gorgeous as the monsoon season approaches, while the interiors chill down. The beaches may be crazy as the waters become choppy, and flooding may sabotage any outdoor plans.
The South West Monsoon Winds bring heavy rain to most South Indian towns, while the North East Trade Winds bring rain to Tamil Nadu in the winter, averaging 945 mm in this region. However, certain major festivals, such as Kerala’s Onam (September), Rath Yatra (July), and others, take place during the rainy season. This season is also considered to yield greater benefits for Ayurvedic massages and therapies. As a result, you have some monsoon incentives in South India.
3. The season of winter (October-February)
Except in Tamil Nadu, where the North East Trade Winds bring another round of showers, winter in the South is marked by cool climates and clear sky. Hill stations like as Ooty, Coorg, Munnar, and others have substantially cooler temperatures, ranging from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius.
The plains and coasts get a much more marine winter, with temperatures ranging from 12 to 30 degrees Celsius. Tropical winters are experienced in Karnataka and Kerala, whereas Goa is infused with cool air and a large number of people strolling the beaches. During the winter, water sports, outdoor activities, and unrestricted sightseeing are all allowed.
The tourist season begins in practically all South Indian sites during this time, and the crowds continue to grow until the end of February. Diwali, India’s most important festival, falls in this season, from October to November, and is widely celebrated in the south. For all of these reasons, winter is the best time to travel to South India.
Tourist Attractions in South India
India is a land with numerous rivers and diverse landscapes. When it comes to experiencing this ages-old civilization, its different mountains, plains, highlands, and seascapes make for one heck of a journey. For most travelers planning a trip to India, there are two major divisions to consider: North India and South India.
While the Northern section of India is covered in a separate article linked below, South India deserves special recognition for its abundance of backwaters, beaches, temples, rivers, ruins, and a climate that is suitable for all. We take you on a tour of some of the most popular tourist destinations in South India, including some hidden treasures like Kerala, Pondicherry, Hampi, Goa, Mysore, and hill stations like Coorg and Ooty.
Kerala, a tranquil paradise in India’s south-west, is a coastal state bordering the Arabian Sea. This state, known for its backwaters and Ayurvedic therapies, has become a popular tourist destination for both Indian and foreign visitors. Backwater sites such as Alapuzha, picturesque beach destinations like as Kozhikode and Kollam, and leisure escapes such as Wayanad, Periyar National Park, and Bandipur National Park are all worth visiting.
Kochi is one of Kerala’s major cities and a popular tourist destination thanks to its colonial splendor and centuries-old forts. Thiruvananthapuram’s temples, palaces, and museums, as well as Kumarakom’s tranquil village life and bird sanctuaries, are must-sees. Kerala is truly God’s own nation in every way. Kerala is best visited between October and April.
Goa, a Union Territory in India, is a former Portuguese colony that became a renowned beach resort after its colonisers abandoned it in the mid-nineteenth century. Most international visitors still associate India with Goa, which is such a popular destination for beach bums.
Panaji, Goa’s capital, is known for its colonial architecture and heritage trails, while Anjuna is known for its beaches, flea markets, and chapels such as St. Anthony’s Chapel. With its legendary paragliding sport, Arambol becomes a mecca for yogis and adrenaline enthusiasts. Old Goa, Calangute, Palolem Beach, Morjim, Vasco Da Gama, and the romantic hideaway of Dona Paula are among the other sites to visit.
3. Badami & Hampi
Hampi is a historic village in Karnataka that is littered with the remnants of Vijayanagar Empire temples and forts. This village, located on the banks of the River Tungabhadra, is now a sought-after tourist destination, not just for the ruins of ancient temples but also for the sheer history that pervades the air. Visit the Virupaksha Temple, which was built in the 7th century.
The Achyutaraya temple and Vijaya Vitthala, both sites of worship with remnants from another century, are also worth visiting. Anjaneya Hill is another well-known tourist destination since it is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. You may also take a boat ride on the red-river Tungabhadra, which gets its name from the reddish bedrock that runs through it.
Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, is another ancient ruins site. Badami, in North Karnataka, is known for its cave temples carved out of sandstone rocks on the Agastya Lake’s side. These temples are dedicated to Hindu gods such as Natraj and Vishnu, as well as Jains in one of them. Visit the Badami Cave Temples, the Bhuthanatha Temples, Banashankari Temple, Mahakuteshwara Temple, and Ravan Pahad while in Badami (named after the mythological demon king Ravan). Badami was recently designated as a heritage city by the Indian government.
Pondicherry is a hippie’s dream come true, as well as a relaxing vacation place for those seeking an out-of-this-world experience. Pondicherry is a tranquil location for wonderful food, beautiful walks, and sea-side hijinks, with its French elegance preserved since its days as a French colony, little Indian gullies, mural-painted walls, and cute pastel-colored cafes.
You should go to Auroville, an experimental village near Pondicherry where people of many nationalities live together in an attempt to develop a global society.
Visit Hallelujah Assembly of God Church, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Zion Methodist, among many more. Relax at Rock Beach or Promenade Beach, and eat at Baker Street, Cafe des Arts, or Satsang, some of the cutest quiet eateries in town. The French cuisine, as well as Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, is excellent.
Mysore is a lovely city perched atop a plateau, with regal palaces and lush greenery. The Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, with its own lake, botanic park with gardens, boat rides, and fountains, as well as the Chamundeshwari Temple, Brindavan Gardens with terraced greens and great fountain shows, and the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam with its own lake, botanic park with gardens, boat rides, and fountains, become popular tourist attractions.
Mysore is also known for its palaces, such as the magnificent Mysore Palace, which was erected in the Indo-Saracenic style by 1912. Another well-known palace is the Lalitha Mahal, which was erected for the Viceroy of India and is the second largest in Mysore. It now serves as a Royal Guest House. The Mysore Zoo, Chamundi Hills, and Jagmohan Palace’s collection of antiquities and artworks are well worth seeing.