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The Perfect South India Travel Itinerary for First Time Visitors to India
Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

by Sudha Mathew

For those who have always wanted to visit India but are yet to getting around to it, the ongoing winter season offers the perfect scope for a quick getaway. The temperate, cozy and pleasant wintry climate makes the south of India this season’s perfect travel destination. Getting your travel documents in place has gotten easier with the newly introduced Tourist Visa on Arrival in India. If you intend to stay longer than 4 weeks, you might want to get a regular tourist visa to India

To help you plan your India holidays, we have picked out the must-see places for you to include in your South India travel itinerary . You can use this guide to plan a trip of 2 weeks, 3 weeks or even more. As with any trip to foreign locales, remember to add a few days for jet lag and unexpected delays while planning your south India travel itinerary. This article is like a mini travel guide to South India, with a listing of places to see at each stop of the itinerary, best season to travel, and options to reach the holiday destination.

The ideal location to begin your journey would be the Indian state of Kerala. Rightfully called God’s own country, Kerala is a rich nugget of tropical splendour snugly placed between the land and sea. This coastal beauty harbours a strong history of tradition with a rich flavour of culture; the unhurried ambience of the state further enhances its appeal. If you wish to get away from the humdrum and cacophony of city life and rejuvenate yourself in the heart of nature, Southern India would be the ideal host for you. Winter in India is the best season to visit travel destinations in South India. So, let’s get started with the first stop on our South India travel itinerary.

Following is an itinerary guide for exploring the state of Kerala, the destinations are listed as per the route to be followed on the journey.

Cochin Fish Nets
Chinese Fish Nets

Cochin – Not only is Cochin the entry point into Kerala from most destinations abroad, it also has its own set of attractions too. A charming city whose present is an amalgamation of a diverse past, Kochi is famous for the historical sites of great architectural significance.

Must see sites:

  • Matancherry Palace,
  •  St Francis Church,
  • Jewish Synagogue,
  • Elephant Camp at Kodanad and,
  • The Folklore Theatre and Museum.

From Cochin the next stop in Kerala is Munnar.

Magical Munnar
Mystic Munnar

Munnar - A province celebrated for its expansive tea plantations this is an absolute must visit spot. A tea lover’s paradise, here one can witness the entire process of tea making right from the picking of leaves to the processing and brewing of fresh tea. To lend further uniqueness to the experience one can even taste the fresh brew right then and there in the gardens. In fact Munnar’s affair with tea has even led to the establishment of a tea museum. However aside from the rolling tea slopes one can also find meandering lanes along misty hills, and thriving forests full of exotic flora and fauna. The locale is perfect for paragliding, rock climbing and trekking as Anamudi, the highest peak in south India is also situated here.

Must see sites:

  • Munnar Tea Plantation
  • Anaimudi
  • Eravikulam National Park
  • Echo point

Thekkady – Following Munnar, Thekkady is the next visitor’s spot. Thekkady plays host to the famous Periyar National Park, an all season park, and is notable for the presence of elephants. In fact visitors can even take elephant rides through the jungle while in the district. Thekkady is a natural stunner and can also be explored via safaris by boat, across the lake. It is the current hot spot for eco-tourism in the area.

Must see sites:

  • Periyar National Park

To wind up the Kerala itinerary, what better than the most sought after tourist spot in Kerala?

Amazing Alleppey
Alleppey Backwaters

Alleppey – To come to Kerala and leave without exploring the backwaters would be a crime, so an itinerary of a visit to Kerala must include a visit to Alleppey. One of the best ways to travel around this destination would be to take a canoe cruise through the backwater canals and stay at a houseboat.

Must see sites:

  • Explore the Backwaters
  • Alleppey Beach
  • Ambalapphuza Sri Krishna Temple
  • Krishnapuram Palace

Following Kerala the next state to travel to, while on one’s maiden trip to South India, would be – Tamil Nadu.

Parallel to Kerala both in natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Tamil Nadu is the other crowning jewel of the Southern tip of the peninsular India. Therefore, for a complete and well-rounded first trip to South India, one must accommodate both the Western and Eastern Coasts in one’s travel itinerary.

Picking up from the last stop i.e. Alleppey, one can travel towards Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Madurai
Meenakshi Temple

Madurai – A town with its roots in ancient history, Madurai is home to the Meenakshi Temple, the most revered religious destination of the region. If there is one destination of historical and cultural significance one must visit in Tamil Nadu during one’s visit, then it’s the Meenakshi Temple. Overall, this 4000yrs old town has various other attractions to be explored too.

Must see sites:

  • Meenakshi Temple
  • Tirumalai Nayak Palace (1km from the temple),
  • Gandhi Memorial Museum,
  • Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Tanjore- Once one has sufficiently explored the locales of Madurai, the next item on the itinerary would be to visit Tanjore/Thanjavur. While on the way to Tanjore from Madurai, there will be plenty of sites en route like Trichy where one can visit the Rock Fort temple, Ranganathaswamy temple, Jambukeswarar Temple. While in Tanjore, one must visit the 16th century built Vijayanagar which also houses the Tanjore Palace, Saraswathi Mahal Library, Art Gallery and Sangeetha Mahal. Another must see site of Tanjore is the Brihadeeswarar Temple, a relic of the past, specifically the Chola dynasty (9th – 13th century) Temple, it is currently a UNESCO World heritage site.

Must see sites:

  • Trichy – the Rock Fort temple, Ranganathaswamy temple, Jambukeswarar Temple
  • Vijayanagar – Tanjore Palace, Saraswathi Mahal Library, Art Gallery and Sangeetha Mahal
  • Brihadeeswarar Temple

From Tanjore move onwards to Pondicherry

Pondicherry – This is one of the most sought after tourist destinations of the region and has a bit of everything for everyone. While on the one hand there are must see sites like the famous Aurobindo Ashram and the Matrimandir, other sites like the Anglo-French Textiles showroom, multiple cafes and restaurants specializing in Anglo, French and Chettinad cuisines offers the opportunity for doing a bit of shopping and getting the local taste too.

Must see sites:

  • Aurobindo Ashram,
  • Varadaraja Perumal Temple,
  • Pondicherry Musuem,
  • Auroville commune,
  • The Botanical Gardens
  • The Sacred Heart of Jesus Church and
  • The Matrimandir

Finally, the last two stops on the trip are Mahabalipuram and Chennai in Tamil Nadu

Mahabs
Mabalipuram

Mahabalipuram – Probably the best east coast beach, this spot is known for its brilliant stone sculpture industry and offers a great market for purchasing little souvenirs to take back from your India holiday.

Must see sites:

  • Five Rathas,
  • Shore Temple
  • Arjuna’s Penance
  • Crocodile Farm,
  •  Dakshinachitra,
  • Varaha Cave Temple,
  • Tiger Cave, and
  • Krishna Mandapam.

Chennai – It is the capital city bustling with energy and life, though characterized by everything modern, this city too like the rest of southern India, has its roots deep in past traditions, culture and customs. Some of the places to see in Chennai include Fort Saint George, Marina Beach, Mylapore among others.

Must see sites

  • Fort Saint George,
  • Marina Beach,
  •  Mylapore
  • Kapalishwarar Temple
  • Parthasarathy Temple

There are many other similar gems tucked away within the folds of Southern India, to do proper justice to all of which one single trip to India is probably not enough, unless one spends a couple of months in one stay. The aforementioned destinations will help one on a brief trip to India, to get the right taste of the region. Don’t be surprised if this sampling makes you want to keep coming back for more!

Practical info:

Though both the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and all the sites enroute can be visited any time of the year there are definite peak seasons for visits too.

  • Kerala (all destinations enroute included) – Winter i.e. between October and February, is the best & peak season for travel.
  • Tamil Nadu (all destinations enroute included) – Winter usually between October and March, is the best & peak season for travel.

How to travel

  • Reaching Kerala (Kochi)

Air: The nearest airport is 30kms north-east of the city and is connected by all major domestic and International Airlines. Prepaid taxis are available from the airport and can be booked from within the arrival hall.

Rail: Kochi is connected to the rest of India by an extensive network of rails. There are three main railway stations in Cochin: Ernakulam Junction (main station), Ernakulam Town and Cochin Harbour Terminus.

Road: Kochin is connected by an extensive network of national/state highways and local roads to the rest of the country.

  • Travelling in between

Travelling all destinations on the itinerary, within each state at a time, can be best done via rented cars or cabs, and both can be hired through your hotel, for a slightly higher rate. Usually services booked through hotels are usually better in quality than the rest, so you might want to opt for them.

However, the connecting route between Alleppey (Kerala) and Madurai (Tamil Nadu) is best traversed by the Guv Chennai Express, if you are pressed for time and want to avoid road travel.

  • Leaving from Tamil Nadu

Air: The closest airport is Madras (160 kms) and it is connected by all major domestic and International Airlines. Chennai offers many options for Prepaid taxis and radio cab services to travel to and from the airport.

Rail: Chennai is connected to all major cities in India, and there are total 150 railway stations in the city.

Road: Chennai is connected by good motorable roads to all places in South India.

Cheers

Sudha

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia, southindiatempletractions


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Posted by Sudha at 2:40 pm
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Plan to travel to an Indian holiday destination?

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About me

The wise man travels to discover himself - JR Lowell

 

My name is Sudha Mathew. I'm an ex-banker who quit the rat race after a decade to follow my passion for travel and to combine it with my experience in understanding client requirements and exceeding their expectations.

 

While our content is mostly about the holiday experience, the accommodation and services, there's so much more to a journey. I have discovered a whole new me through travel. So I've reserved this corner of the website to share the unexpected aspects of travel. This space is also to hear from you about your journeys and discoveries. Bon Voyage!

 
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