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Reasons to Travel to Southern India

By Noah Shaberman

“A melting pot of colour and culture, India's exoticism is unrivalled in the world today. But while traveler's have flocked to see its northern wonders for decades, the South has been somewhat overlooked. From ancient hill-top forts to secluded sun-kissed shores, India's south boasts some of the most stunning scenery the country has to offer—minus the maddening crowds.”

Gingee, Tamil Nadu

“Though known to few, the town of Gingee is home to an architectural marvel—a centuries-old citadel perched high atop a rocky hill. The admission fee is a little over $1 USD."

 

Gingee India

A Maratha king regarded it as "the most impregnable fortress in India"; the British called it the "Troy of the East".

 

"Give yourself at least half a day to explore the sprawling fortress complex. The climb gets steep and the sun can be intense, so having a good supply of water is a must."

 

India

A sturdy testament to stonemasons of old.

 

"Gingee’s ruins draw a surprisingly small crowd, and it’ll often feel like you’re the only one there—the only human, that is—a troop of mischievous monkeys has laid claim to the fort.”

 

Kovalam, Kerala

“Way down the west coast lies the sleepy beach hangout of Kovalam. Made popular in the early 70s as a stopover destination along the Hippy Trail, Kovalam has retained its laidback charm to this day."

 

Kovalam

The aptly named Lighthouse Beach.

 

"Kickback beneath a beach umbrella or take to the waves—the 2010 installation of an artificial reef has made Kovalam India’s premier surfing destination. Kovalam Surf Club offers well-priced lessons and uses its proceeds to support local kids with their education."

 

Southern India

A view from the lighthouse.

 

"Ascending the lighthouse affords stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. The ticket up costs less than $1 USD.”

The Western Ghats in Southern India

“Stretching across the Southern states of India for over a thousand kilometers is the Western Ghats mountain range. Quaint hill stations dot this scenic landscape, and the crisp alpine climes offer a welcome relief from the heat of the plains."

 

Western Ghats

The Western Ghats.

 

"Chief among the hill stations are Kodaikanal and Ooty. Featuring immaculate gardens and forest-fringed lakes, these two towns hint at India’s not so distant colonial past."

 

Western Ghats in India

Government Rose Garden, Ooty.

 

"Much of Ooty’s appeal comes not so much from the town itself, but from the quaint steam train journey there. Hop on at Mettupalayam and enjoy the hillside vistas of a World Heritage Listed mountain range. Tickets are just under $3 USD."

 

South of India

A Periyar Sunset.

 

"Periyar National Park gives visitors a chance to experience the unique biodiversity of the Western Ghats. Feed your inner Attenborough and take to the Tiger Trail, an overnight guided trek through the heart of the jungle—the all-inclusive package costs about $85 USD.”

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

“Spiritual Tiruvannamalai is defined by the towering Mount Arunachala and the Arunachalesvara Temple that lies at its foot. Millions of Hindu pilgrims flock to the town each year between November and December to celebrate Karthikai Deepam, a festival of lights."

 

Tiruvannamalai

Mount Arunachala’s peak is lit up each year during Karthikai Deepam.

 

"Climbing Mount Arunachala yields impressive views of the town and temple below. Make the climb early in the day to avoid the heat—temperatures can exceed 40°C."

 

Tiruvannamalai in India

The Descent.

 

"If you’re seeking spirituality, check out Sri Ramana Ashram. Devotees flock from all corners of the globe to this religious sanctuary in India, and visitors can take part in daily meditation rituals.”

Hampi, Karnataka

“Surreal and spectacular, Hampi is defined by an other-worldly terrain and the ruins of an ancient empire. Hire a scooter to take in all this stunning landscape has to offer."

 

Hampi

An Indiana Jones-esque landscape if ever there was one.

 

"The town itself is split in two by a small river that, at the time of writing, is crossable by nervous leap. Visit at 8 am to catch the bathing of Lakshmi the temple elephant."

 

Hampi in India

Hampi's reflections.

 

"A network of subterranean streams flow beneath Hampi’s rocky surface, forming small lakes and pools that are perfect for a quick dip. Ask a local and you’ll have yourself a guide—a small tip for their services is usually expected.”

Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu

“At the tip of a long and narrow spit of land sits the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. The small seaside village was inhabited until the infamous cyclone of 1964, which washed away many of its buildings and townsfolk."

 

Southern India

No country does colour quite like India.

 

"Regular tourist jeeps run from nearby Rameswaram out to Dhanushkodi, but walking offers a far more pleasant experience. Stroll down golden shores and mingle with friendly fisherman along the way. The surrounding sea is ideal for swimming."

 

Dhanushkodi

The blue seas and warm waters of Dhanushkodi.

 

"The ruins of an old church and train station are among the standout features of Dhanushkodi, along with a curious photographer—for a small price, he’ll take your picture and print it right then and there. Shacks selling water and snacks make for a good pit stop before the return journey.

While icons of India like the Taj Mahal and the Ganges River will forever dominate traveller’s itineraries, the nation’s southern sights should not be missed. Because it’s down south where you’ll find a slice of India that has flown beneath the radar of the mainstream tourist agenda. And it’s fared all the better for it.”

Written by Noah Shaberman:

Noah is a Sydney-sider and soon to be University Graduate, with an addiction to the Asian continent. From Denpasar to Delhi, Noah is forever hunting for the cheapest, tastiest street food that Asia has to offer.

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