Southern India: Towering Temples and Tropical Forests

Southern India: Towering Temples and Tropical Forests

In Part 1 of our two part series on India, we talked about Northern India. Now it’s time to head to Southern India. Southern India is surrounded by water on 3 sides: the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west and the Laccadive Sea, Sri Lanka and Indian Ocean to the south. Considered the most traditional border between the north and south, the Mahandi and Narmada Rivers separate the two regions.

Southern or Northern India (if you must choose)

Let’s touch on a few of the differences between the north and south of India. If you must choose between the two regions, as many travelers do because of limited time or budget, these differences might give you a better idea of which region to choose to suit your personal interests.

There are many geographical differences to be found between the northern and southern regions. Northern India is more mountainous with the desert region to the northwest and the further south you travel it gets a bit more tropical.

Southern India tropical forest

The north is home to the 29,000 feet high Himalayas, but the south still has some decent mountain ranges, like Anamudi around 8000 feet. Plenty of rivers run through Southern India such as the Kaveri, Periyar, Netravati and many more, all of which help sustain the wide variety of lush tropical plant life that thrives in the country.

Indian sariLike other large countries, when you journey to different areas of India, you’ll find the people, culture and food vary from place to place. Many people in Southern India are known as Dravidians because of the languages they speak, while those in the north are termed Aryans. Dravidian women commonly wear saris, a local term for the beautiful silk wrapped dresses that have come to represent traditional Indian fashion. The men are often seen wearing dhotis which are long, button-up vests found in a range of bright colors. While these dressing styles are common, you will also see people dressed in t-shirts and pants and even shorts on the beaches of Goa. The Dravidian people are typically humble and caring of visitors to their country and although they are soft spoken, they are happy to help a stranger in need.

If you ever searched for the top things to do in India, you probably found many of the suggestions were in the northern part of the country. But don’t let that deter you from all that Southern India has to offer its visitors, like vast temples, beautiful palaces, ancient tombs, as well as museums full of artifacts and antiquities.

Southern India’s Gateway: Mumbai

A remarkable place to visit in Southern India is the city of Mumbai. Home to over 18 million people, it is by far the largest city in all of India. As capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra, it is home to the wealthiest people in the country and covers an area of over 233 square miles. While there, you will see a range of beautiful architecture including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus which is one of the most widely used railway stations in the country.

Mumbai, India

Another spectacular sight in Mumbai is the Taj Mahal Palace. Not to be confused with the world-famous Taj Mahal up north in Agra, the Taj Mahal Palace is a five-star hotel with over 600 rooms. Built in 1903, the Palace has a Victorian-style architecture fitting to the era. If you want to see a few more of the most iconic buildings in Mumbai, be sure to visit the Bombay High Court Building, snap a picture by the Gateway of India and take a look at Antilia, the most expensive private home in the world and a unique piece of art in itself.

Southern India Food

Southern India breakfastAny conversation about Southern India must include mention of the delicious food. Most people’s minds will instantly go to curry, but it’s not as mainstream there as you might think. Instead, one of the most common things you’ll find are dosas, a thin and crispy crepe that is usually eaten with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Though curry isn’t super popular, natives do often enjoy a spicy lentil and veggie stew known as sambar. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, try a steamed rice cake that locals mostly eat for breakfast. Called idlis, it’s a break from the spicier cuisine eaten during the day. And when your sweet tooth is calling, you can try payasam, a milk pudding, and Mysore Pak, the Indian alternative to fudge.

Suggested Itinerary for Southern India

Tamil Nadu, Brihadisvara, UNESCOAbove all, Southern India is a spiritual sanctuary where many people go on a pilgrimage. A wonderful itinerary might begin in Chennai, traveling south to Puducherry along the east coast where you can stay in an ashram (faith-based) guest house and have all your meals, meditation teachings and guided spiritual ceremonies included in your stay. Continue southward, visiting many important temples and monuments in Tamil Nadu, such as the Great Living Chola Temples of Airavateshwarar, Brihadisvara and Gangaikonda Cholapuram which are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Then head over to the west side to finish your journey with a stay at a unique historic hotel in Cochin. It’s a bit more laid-back here and you’ll find time to unwind by relaxing in a funky café and browsing the art boutiques of this Kerala harbor town.

We could write all day about this region. If you’d like to talk about an authentic experience traveling to Southern India, please reach out to us. We can help you plan and put together the details and arrangements for the travel experience of a lifetime!

Kerala sunset