Welcome to South India
Like a giant wedge plunging into the ocean, South India is the subcontinent's steamy heartland – a lush contrast to the peaks and plains up north.
A Fabulous Heritage
Wherever you go in the south you'll uncover splendid relics of the many civilisations that have inhabited this land over two millennia. The spectacular rock-cut shrines carved out by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains at Ajanta and Ellora; the palaces, tombs, forts and mosques of Muslim dynasties on the Deccan; Tamil Nadu's inspired Pallava sculptures and towering Chola temples; the magical ruins of the Vijayanagar capital at Hampi…and so much more that you'd need a multitude of incarnations to see it all. It's a diverse cultural treasure trove with few parallels, in the land that also gave birth to yoga.
Thousands of kilometres of cascading coastline frame fertile plains, glinting backwaters and rolling hills in South India – a constantly changing landscape kept glisteningly green by the double-barrelled monsoon. The palm-strung strands and inland waterways of the west give way to spice gardens, emerald tea plantations, tropical forests and cool hill-station retreats in the Western Ghats. The drier Deccan 'plateau' is far from flat, crisscrossed by numerous craggy ranges and often spattered with dramatic, fort-topped outcrops. Across the region, protected wild forests shelter a world of wildlife, from elephants and tigers to monkeys, deer and sloth bears.
South India's glorious culinary variety and melange of dining options are an adventure in their own right. Some of India's most famous and traditional staples hail from here: large papery dosas (savoury crêpes) and fluffy idlis (fermented rice cakes) are the backbone of South Indian cooking. Mouth-watering Mumbai is India’s top destination for gastronomic indulgence, be it hole-in-the-wall street food or haute-cuisine wizardry. Goa's spicy, Portuguese-influenced cuisine is fiery inventive fusion at its finest; Kerala's coconut-infused seafood is the stuff of legend; and, everywhere you travel, the humble South Indian kaapi (filter coffee) keeps things ticking over.
The south's vibrant cities are the pulse of a country that is fast-forwarding through the 21st century while also at times remaining staunchly traditional. From in-yer-face Mumbai Bombay) and increasingly sophisticated Chennai (Madras) to historic Hyderabad, IT capital Bengaluru (Bangalore) and charming, colonial-era Kochi (Cochin) and Puducherry (Pondicherry), southern cities are great for browsing teeming markets, soaking up local history and indulging in India's more fashionable side – from arty coffee houses and chic boutiques to an explosion of hipsterised microbreweries and cocktail bars.