South India is made up of a wonderfully diverse patchwork of states. The vernaculars are varied, the customs are distinctive, there's a variety of culinary choices and the topography is spectacularly manifold. A mind-shaking mix of state-of-the-art and timeless tradition, the south rewards you with an invigorating, all-out sensory assault, regardless of your chosen destination.
For travellers, South India’s remarkable diversity is most often apparent in its extraordinary wealth of architecture, wildlife, landscapes, festivals, handicrafts, cuisine and performing arts. And then there’s spirituality – the heart, indeed, of the entire nation – which faithfully beats all the way from the jagged peaks of the snowy Himalaya to the lush, steamy jungles of the southern plains.
The British left striking colonial-era architecture in Mumbai, highlighted by Unesco-listed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the High Court and the University of Mumbai.
Culture & Cuisine
Mumbai’s collision of cultures makes it a haven for foodies. A kaleidoscope of flavour from all over India vies for taste-bud attention with cuisines imported from the world over. Yum.
Bollywood & Booze
As India’s financial powerhouse and home to the world’s most prolific film industry, Mumbai parties hard…even on Wednesdays! The subcontinent’s wildest bars, hottest clubs and exclusive Bollywood bashes showcase a tipsier, more liberal side of India.
The Unesco World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora house the most exquisite collection of cave paintings and rock sculptures dating back to India’s golden ages – and are miraculous feats of architecture and engineering to boot.
Sun-Toasted Konkan Sands
Strung out along Maharashtra’s Konkan Coast are some of the most secluded and beautiful beaches, custom-made for romantics, adventurers, loners and philosophers alike.
Nasik's Up-&-Coming Vineyards
Nasik, the grand cru of India’s up-and-coming wine industry, proudly flaunts a few world-class drops in the many excellent (and gorgeous!) vineyards in the surrounding countryside.
Golden Goan Shores
Goa’s stunning beachscapes are so beautiful that they’re practically a cliché, but even the most hardcore travellers can’t resist them. Many are backed by shady palm-tree groves.
Fresh & Fiery Seafood
Goa has fresh, fresh seafood and a long tradition of preparing it in brilliant ways, often with the ubiquitous coconut. Sometimes it’s the random shack on the beach that does it best.
Old-World Portuguese Relics
Portuguese colonialism’s most attractive legacy may be its pretty buildings. Mansions in Chandor, houses in Panaji, Old Goa’s grand religious structures, and little homes and churches across the state are pure eye candy.
Bengaluru & Karnataka
Architecturally Diverse Shrines
From the Hoysala beauties at Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur to the electric Virupaksha Temple in Hampi or the quaint shrines in Gokarna and Udupi, Karnataka is strewn with fantastic temples that overwhelm you with their ambience and ritual finery.
Biospheres & Bengals
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve boasts some of the most pristine forests in India, and there’s abundant wildlife to be sighted in national parks such as Bandipur and Nagarhole.
Mysore Masalas & Craft Brews
Start off with the delectable Udupi vegetarian thali, then move on to some fiery Mangalorean seafood, and finally wash it all down with fresh ale in beer-town Bengaluru (Bangalore).
Telangana & Andhra Pradesh
Hindus flock to the Venkateshwara Temple at Tirumala. There are ancient ruins of once flourishing Buddhist centres across the state, while Hyderabad has grand Islamic architecture.
Biryani is a local obsession. The taste will leave you salivating long after your departure. Meanwhile, hyderabadi haleem (a thick meat, lentil and wheat stew) has been patented so that it can’t be served unless it meets strict quality standards.
Sunbathing with Locals
Visakhapatnam has a sweeping stretch of sandy coastline. Tourism is geared towards the domestic market, bringing a unique and festive atmosphere.
Tranquil Inland Waterways
Kerala’s backwaters are vast lakes and long canals that spread inland like tendrils. One of India’s most relaxing and beautiful experiences is to stay overnight on a houseboat or take a canoe trip.
Coconut-Laced Spice Bounty
Delicious, delicate cuisine flavoured with coconut and myriad spices, and often gorgeously presented on banana leaves – Kerala’s table is born of a melting pot of influences and remarkable geography that has earned it the nickname 'Land of Spices'.
Kerala has a concentration of national parks inland where, amid lush mountainous landscapes, you can spot wild elephants, tigers, lions, numerous birds and other wildlife.
Chennai & Tamil Nadu
Tall Towers & Pillared Pavillions
The astounding architecture, rituals and colourful festivals of Tamil Nadu’s Hindu temples draw pilgrims from around the country; major temples have soaring gopurams (gateway towers) and intricately carved, pillared mandapas (pavilions).
Colonial-Era Hilltop Refuges
The hill stations of the Western Ghats offer cool weather, the chance to hike to gorgeous mountain vistas, bustling festival seasons, and cosy colonial-era guesthouses with open fires.
Restored spots to lay your head include romantic heritage houses in Puducherry’s (Pondicherry's) French Quarter, palace hotels in the hill stations and Chettiar mansions in the south.
Diving & Snorkelling
Translucent Waters & Deep-Sea Corals
Apart from terrific snorkelling possibilities, this prime diving destination offers easy ocean dips for first-timers as well as more challenging drift dives for veterans.
White Sands & Aqua Seas
Blessed with some of India’s most beautiful beaches, this is a superb place to sink your toes in soft white sand and splash in warm aquamarine waters.
The Andamans are home to an extraordinary mix of tribal groups with some still literally living in the Stone Age. Most reside on outlying islands, which tourists are prohibited from visiting, but elsewhere you’ll encounter a vibrant array of South and Southeast Asian settlers.