From the tranquil backwaters of Alleppey to the historic city of Mysore, visiting South India will be an experience you’ll never forget!

southern-india-tourist-guide-travel-ideas-best-vacation-destinations visiting south India Hey there! Planning on visiting south India? Here’s everything you need to know about when to plan your visit, how to plan it, where to go and what to do there. With its limitless natural beauty, South India has some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the country and is also highly underrated!

So, the first and foremost thing is to pick a season, summers might be too hot and winters are too cold, especially in the hill stations. So the ideal time to visit would be around October or Feb. I’d say you’d need atleast 14 days for a good and complete South India tour. All the four states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are special and unique in their own way. There’s not one you should miss. And the best part is, you don’t need to spend a lot to experience the best of South India tourist destinations.

From the highest peak in South India, Ooty, to the Southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari, all the places are bucket-list worthy. With the diversity of cultures, friendly locals, mouth-watering cuisines, alluring beaches and heavenly hill stations, visiting South India will certainly be an experience you’ll cherish for life.

So let’s take a look at the best holiday destinations you need to consider when visiting South India.

best-travel-destinations-south-india-tour-trip-summer-winter-holiday-places-tourism-guideVisiting South India: The Best Destinations

Pondicherry

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Serenity Beach, Pondicherry

Pondicherry is hands down my favorite place on this list of holiday destinations in south India. And my ultimate weekend getaway with friends. I’ve been here about 11 times now and I doubt I’ll ever get sick of it! It’s got the most beautiful and serene beaches you’ll find in India. Serenity beach and paradise beach (my all-time favorite!) are must-sees.

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Paradise beach, Pondicherry

And don’t leave Pondicherry without seeing the french colony. Soak in the essence of France as you take a walk along the picturesque french quarters and use the colonial french architecture as backdrops for pretty Instagram-worthy photos! Also, don’t forget to grab a bite at the quaint little cafes (namely, polka cafe and Le cafe)! The small street shops along the beaches are great for souvenirs and little bits and bobs. I could honestly go on and on about this beautiful city but I’ll stop right here by saying that this place is the best tourist spot in Southern India.

Auroville

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Atithi Griha guest house

Need an escape from the everyday hectic life? Auroville is the place to be! Just 10 minutes from Pondicherry is this experimental township that was established to create unity in humanity. It’s totes gorgeous and you’ll find people from all over the world who  come here to find nothing but peace and help the community. There’s something about this south India tourist destination that brings a strange sense of peace to my mind.

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Auroville

At the heart of the city is an enormous golden globe called the Matrimandir. Make sure to make a reservation atleast five days prior to your visit. Or you won’t be allowed inside. A day is all you would need in this quiet and secluded city.

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Matrimandir

Spend your morning taking in all the positive vibes at the Matrimandir, have lunch at one of the many cafes in the area and take a blissful stroll on the sandy Auroville beach as the sun starts to set! For all those who are in need of some soul-searching, Auroville is your answer! You have to go there if you’re visiting south India! Also try Tanto’s pizza and the local silk dresses.

Mysore

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Lalitha Mahal Palace

You can’t go to Karnataka and not visit Mysore, a city known for it’s rich and royal heritage. Just 150 kms from the capital, Bangalore, this south India vacation spot is still culturally deep-rooted. No matter how many times I visit, there’s always something I haven’t seen yet!

From magnificent palaces and ancient temples to historic museums and spectacular zoological gardens, the sightseeing places in Mysore are endless! And don’t take cabs while in this city. Instead, ride in the famous horse-drawn carriages that can be spotted everywhere like auto rickshaws to feel like royalty! Also, check out the silk saris and wooden handicrafts that this south India tourist destination is famous for. (my mom loves ’em)

Visit Mysore during Dussehra and you won’t regret it. During this time of the year, the Ambavilas Palace is entirely lit up and the whole city comes to life! It’s something everyone needs to experience atleast once in their lifetime. For an extra royal treatment, I recommend staying at the Lalitha Mahal Palace, the second largest palace in Mysore. It’s so beautiful in itself, you’re not going to wanna leave your room and explore the city!

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The exquisite interiors of the Lalitha Mahal Palace

Just 18 kms from this city is the Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary which will leave you wanting more. You get to see the most exotic birds of all sizes and colors all while on a leisure boat ride in a lake filled with crocodiles!! Don’t put your hand in the water!

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Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Bandipur National Park

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A wild Indian elephant in its natural habitat in Bandipur

For all wildlife and nature lovers out there, Bandipur will not disappoint you! You’ll see the Indian wildlife in all its glory!! Unlike other forests, you don’t need to go on a safari deep into the jungle to spot wild animals. So don’t be alarmed if you see a cheetah walking leisurely on the roads, a bear climbing up the trees or an elephant blocking your way! One thing you wanna make sure is to always have your camera ready. You never know what to expect when!

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Bandipur National Park

I recommend staying at The Serai, a magnificent resort overlooking the wild, to experience luxury in the midst of a jungle. Damn, writing all this is giving me immense nostalgia.

Alleppey

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A boathouse on the serene backwaters of Alleppey

I can’t be the only person who wanted to see this unrealistically gorgeous place after watching Jiya Jale from Dil Se! This south India tourist destination is a tiny city situated in Kerala. It is also called as the Venice of the East and rightfully so! From the relaxing boat rides to the mesmerizing scenery, this south India tourist spot is one place that always makes me want to keep re-visiting.

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Breathtaking views at Alleppey beach

Enjoy the tranquility of the place as you take a boathouse tour along the glistening backwaters lined with lush palm trees on either side. Stop by at the local shops for some fresh and scrumptious seafood. You can even stay overnight in the boats for the full becoming-one-with-nature experience!

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Alleppey beach

Coorg

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Madikeri – the largest town in Coorg

Coorg, also known as Kodagu is a small hill station in Karnataka. As much as I love the greenery and coffee plantations here, the most memorable for me is the Namdroling monastery. Situated in Kushalnagar, this peaceful place is the closest thing to actually being in Tibet. It’s unquestionably beautiful. With brightly colored walls that depict ancient stories and a magnificent 18m high gold plated Buddha, this monastery is a sight to behold from the outside as well as the inside.

You’ll also find monks of all ages going about their daily routines. Do stop and talk to one, it’s very insightful and thought-provoking! And if you’re someone that’s into zen Buddhist home decor, don’t forget to check out the shops surrounding the Tibetan monastery.

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Abbey Falls

For those on the lookout for some fun and adventure, visit the Dubbare Elephant Camp where you can do everything from feeding an elephant to giving it a bath! They’re so adorable and friendly! It’s a heart-warming and unforgettable experience. There’s also river rafting which is seasonal, so do check before you go.

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A retired logging elephant at Dubbare

Bangalore

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Bangalore Skyline

In all my years of living in this city, if there’s one thing I admired about it, it’s the climate. It’s the same all year round – cool and pleasant. So, it doesn’t matter when you decide to visit Bangalore. Drive around leisurely and you’ll know why it’s also called as the Garden City.

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Tipu Sultan Palace

The best tourist attractions in Bangalore are Cubbon Park and the Bangalore Palace. It’s a huge monument resembling a medieval castle with stone walls covered with ivy. You won’t know how beautiful it is until you see it with your own eyes. Other than that, you can’t have a Bangalore trip without enjoying it’s nightlife! The locals love fun and beer. And brunch! Check out Sky Bar in UB City for a good time.

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i-Bar, The Park, Bangalore

Have an evening out at the Black Pearl (a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed bistro!). Commercial Street and Brigade Road are a must for shopaholics. Street shopping has never been better! And do not leave the city without trying the local delicacies like Neer Dosa, Khara bath and Bise Bele Bath!

Ooty

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The picturesque Nilgiri mountains

When visiting south India, this breathtaking hill station with idyllic and scenic views is a must-visit. Enjoy nature at it’s finest at the Avalanche Lake. With it’s crystal clear water surrounded by greenery, this lake is one of the best places to visit in Ooty.

Also, visit the Doddabetta Peak, which is the highest point in South India, and feel like you’re on top of the entire world (literally)! The woody pine forest is another place you don’t wanna miss and the various lakes and botanical gardens here are also worth a visit.

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Ooty

Ooty’s cold all year round but best to visit in summer when it’s not too foggy that you aren’t even visible in any of the pictures! Winters also hard for whoever’s driving, so summer or spring is ideal.

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Coonoor, Ooty

And what better way to deal with the chilly weather than munching on some steaming hot momos from the street vendors. The souvenirs you should most definitely bring back are the homemade chocolates of all sorts of flavours and varieties that you can find pretty much anywhere in Ooty.

Chennai

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DakshinaChitra

If you’re visiting South India, Chennai isn’t exactly one of the best places to visit. Although Chennai isn’t big on sightseeing, it’s really great to visit here to start experiencing the best of South India. And of course, this South Indian tourist spot has the best idlis, dosas and utthapams! Head over to the Mylapore temples for a traditional experience. Go to DakshinaChitra, a historic museum, to see the best of South Indian heritage. The most happening place in the city, Khader Nawaz Khan road (You’d be crazy not to try out the cafes here) has the best eateries and hit the secluded beaches along ECR for a tranquil and relaxing end to the day.

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ECR beach, Chennai

At 55 kms from the city, is Mahabalipuram, a town known for it’s shore temple, beautiful beaches and ornate monuments.

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Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

Kanyakumari

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Thiruvalluvar Statue

Another one of the best tourist spots in Tamil Nadu is Kanyakumari, a small coastal town at the southern tip of India. The beaches in this town are unreal. Not only is the sea clean and clear but also the shore has the most beautiful looking seashells scattered all over it. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending half the day collecting them.

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Kanyakumari beach

This beach is also the meeting point of the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The waves lapping at the shore from all three sides is a magnificent sight. And the Valluvar Statue, a 133 ft tall stone sculpture in the middle of the ocean is reason enough for visiting South India.

Vizag

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Vizag harbour

This south India tourist destination has been on my bucket list for a while now ’cause it’s truly one of the best holiday spots in south India. Anusha says that Arakku Valley, which is a 2 hour drive from Vizag is a gorgeous place to visit. And the Rishikonda beach, which I’ve heard a lot about from friends, is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in South India.

Kottayam

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Kottayam beach

Another one of the best tourist destinations in Kerala is Kottayam. And yes, it’s just as lush and exuberant as Alleppey. However, this is yet another place on my must-visit list. Illikkal rock, Vembanad Lake and the Kumarakom Bird sanctuary are the best tourist spots in Kottayam. Apart from those, there’s also the Poonjar Palace and Kodimatha are some other vacation spots in Kerala. With so many places to see, this should definitely be a place to consider while visiting South India. Plus, Shilpa recommends staying at a nature spa resort for a totally relaxing experience. Get a back or head massage and spend a full day listening to the chirping of birds in the tropical greens to forget all your worries.

So those were our top picks for the must-see holiday destinations while visiting south India. Which one’s next on your bucket-list? Let us know by tweeting @shilpa1ahuja! 😀

Photo Credits: Pondicherry (1), Auroville, Alleppey, Bangalore (3), Chennai(1,3) and Kottayam – Shilpa Ahuja; Pondicherry (2), Mysore, Bandipur, Coorg, Bangalore (1,2), Ooty, Chennai (2), Kanyakumari (2) – Nishita M