South India offers a wonderfully varied array of fantastic activities, from thrilling jungle safaris, mountain hikes, surfing and scuba diving to blissful yoga, meditation and ayurvedic treatments. Most regions provide plenty of activities, courses, equipment hire, clubs and operators to suit a mix of budgets.

Yoga, Spas & Spiritual Pursuits

Birthplace of at least three religions, India offers a profound spiritual journey for those so inclined. Even sceptical travellers can enjoy spas, ayurvedic centres and yoga schools.

What to Choose

  • Ashrams

India has hundreds of ashrams – places of communal living established around the philosophies of a guru (spiritual guide or teacher).

  • Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the ancient science of Indian herbal medicine and holistic healing, based on natural plant extracts, massage and therapies for body and mind.

  • Meditation

Many centres in Buddhist areas offer training in vipassana (mindfulness meditation) and Buddhist philosophy; many require vows of silence and abstinence from tobacco, alcohol and sex.

  • Spa Treatments

India’s spas offer an enticing mix of international therapies and local ayurveda-based techniques.

  • Yoga

Yoga’s roots lie firmly in India; you’ll find hundreds of schools to suit all levels.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda – ancient Indian herbal medicine – aims to restore balance in the body.

Bengaluru & Karnataka

Arya Ayurvedic Panchakarma Centre, Gokarna Beachside ayurveda.

Ayurvedagram, Bengaluru In a garden setting.

Soukya, Bengaluru Ayurveda and yoga.

Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre, Mysuru Therapies from ancient scriptures.

Swaasthya Ayurveda Retreat Village, Coorg Retreats and therapies.

SwaSwara, Gokarna Therapies and artistic pursuits.

Chennai & Tamil Nadu

Sita, Puducherry Ayurveda and yoga.

Goa

Kerala

Ayur Dara, Kochi Treatments of one to three weeks.

Dr Franklin’s Panchakarma Institute, Chowara South of Kovalam.

Eden Garden, Varkala Treatments and packages.

Santhigiri Ayurveda Centre, Kollam Seven- to 21-day packages and day treatments; also at Periyar.

Shree Krishna Ayurveda Panchkarma Centre, Alleppey Multinight packages.

Mumbai (Bombay)

Yogacara Ayurveda and massage.

Yoga

You can practise yoga everywhere, from beach resorts and mountain retreats to serious-study schools. In 2014, at India's initiative, the UN declared 21 June to be International Yoga Day.

Andaman Islands

Flying Elephant, Havelock Island Yoga and meditation in tropical surroundings.

Karnataka

Mysuru (Mysore) was the birthplace of ashtanga yoga; there are centres across Karnataka.

IndeaYoga, Mysuru Hatha and ashtanga.

Namaste Yoga Farm, Gorkarna Leafy-setting yoga.

Yoga Bharata, Mysuru Ashtanga and hatha.

Tamil Nadu

Goa

Bamboo Yoga Retreat, Patnem Beachside yoga.

Himalaya Yoga Valley, Mandrem Popular training school.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre, Arambol Reputable courses.

Swan Yoga Retreat, Assagao Retreat in a soothing jungle location.

Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Varkala and Kochi (Cochin) are popular for yoga.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram Renowned for extended hatha yoga courses; 30km from Trivandrum.

Maharashtra

Mumbai (Bombay)

Meditation

Whether for introduction or advanced study, there are South India–wide courses and retreats.

Maharashtra

Mumbai (Bombay)

Telangana & Andhra Pradesh

Spa Treatments

From solo practitioners to opulent retreats, South India is full of spas. Be wary of dodgy one-on-one massages by private (often unqualified) operators; seek recommendations and trust your instincts.

Bengaluru & Karnataka

Chennai & Tamil Nadu

Goa

Kerala

Mumbai (Bombay)

Ashrams

Many ashrams ('places of striving') are headed by charismatic gurus. Some tread a fine line between spiritual community and personality cult. Many gurus have amassed fortunes collected from devotees; others have been accused of sexually exploiting followers. Always check the reputation of any ashram you're considering joining.

Most ashrams offer philosophy, yoga and/or meditation courses. Visitors are usually required to follow strict rules. A donation to cover your expenses is appropriate.

Kerala

Maharashtra

Chennai & Tamil Nadu