Other than the usual tourist spots of Pondicherry or backwaters of Kerala or the hilly regions of Andhra and Karnataka, South India has a number of exquisite places one must visit. A true traveller searching for places of fun, food and frolic must drop a visit to the spicy south. Even if you are a student or a working person in either of the South Indian states and not from the region, then these places are a must add to your getaway trip.
Here I suggest 15 incredible tourist spots of South India which is a must visit.
1. WAYANAD (KERALA)
With historical caves, sprawling spice plantations and marveling waterfalls, Wayanad is truly a Nature’s Abode. Best known for wildlife reserves, Wayanad is a home to exquisite variety of flora and fauna. With a wide variety of wildlife such as elephants, leopards and bears, Wayanad is an integral part of the Nilgiris Biosphere reserve. Chembra Peak, Neelimala, Meenmutty waterfalls, Chethalayam waterfalls and Pakshipathalam are a trekkers paradise, as well as incredible haunts for bird watchers. A road trip in this part of Kerala would leave one mesmerised.
2. GANDIKOTA (ANDHRA PRADESH)
Known as the Grand Canyon of India, Gandikota is a hidden canyon carved by the Pennar river that flows through Erramala Hills in Andhra. The steep rock walls, narrow valleys and running streams provide an unmistakable similarity with the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Gandikota is a hiking paradise in Andhra, with unbeatable scenery. Other than the splendid gorge views, the region has the 13th Century Gandikota Fort which stands sturdy and surrounded by gorges on both sides. A road trip to Gandikota would offer exceptional views of the fort, hills and valleys.
3. KOTAGIRI (TAMIL NADU)
The third largest hill station in the Nilgiris, Kotagiri is famed for having one of the best climatic conditions in the world. Situated in an ‘open-terrace massif’, Kotagiri has developed around numerous knolls and valleys. The Elk Falls, St. Catherine’s Falls, Kodanad View Point and the Longwood Shola are a few places to visit in and around Kotagiri. The serenity of the town is what makes it distinct from the other commercialised hill stations such as Coorg or Ooty. There is a Kota temple right in the middle of town, although the Kota tribe had moved out long back. The essence of hill magic and sylvan charm provides a relaxing weekend trip to those who visit the lush green Kotagiri.
4. GOKARNA (KARNATAKA)
Often overshadowed by its neighbour Goa, Gokarna is a tiny coastal town in Karnataka with plenty pleasures of its own. The place has a couple of pristine beaches, namely the Kudle Beach, Gokarna Beach, Om Beach, Paradise Beach and Half Moon Beach, all of which are way calmer places than the usual Goa, for sea lovers. Gokarna provides visitors with both peaceful strolls on the beach as well as adventurous sports activities such as snorkelling, parasailing and banana boat rides. Being a tucked away town in the Karnataka coast, the beaches are usually not much crowded. Those seeking for serene environment with a little splash of saltwater in their life, Gokarna is the place you must make a trip.
5. THALASERRY (KERALA)
An island amidst the Eranjoli river, Thalaserry is one of the largest cities in North Malabar situated on the Malabar Coast in Kerala. The place is popularly called as the City of Seven Hills, as Thalaserry has got seven hills, which is believed to be auspicious and reason for prosperity in the region. No other place in Kerala can boast of having several unique aspects attached to it like that of Thalaserry. Be it fashion, or tales of adventure, or love for sweets and confectionaries, or even cricket, Thalaserry has dedicated socio-cultural places for each of these. A remarkable city by the sea in Kannur, there are a number of places to visit in an around Thalaserry, such as the Thalaserry Fort, Dharmadam Beach Island, Gundert Museum, Bekal Fort and many more. Oh, a visit here must be completed with the famous Thalaserry Biryani, preferably in Hotel Paris on Logan Street.
6. HOGENAKKAL FALLS (TAMIL NADU)
Located in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, Hogenakkal Falls is a waterfall on the Kaveri River. The two Kannada words, “Hoge” meaning “smoke” and “Kal” meaning “Rocks”, gives meaning to the place as Smoky Rocks. It is also called as Marikottayam by the people of Tamil Nadu. The falls has about 14 channels, and Coracle Riding is one of the main attractions here which is allowed during the monsoon and winter season. One could also test their swimming skills in Hogenakkal, although the water is very challenging. Meanwhile, one could go hiking in the surrounding hills. The falls is famous for medicinal baths too. There are no food shacks or restaurants near the falls, except for the provision of fried fish by few villagers during the hide boat rides. Nothing short of a refreshing trip, Hogennakal is another unfrequented tourist spot in the South.
7. ARAKU VALLEY (ANDHRA PRADESH)
Located on the border of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern ghats, Araku Valley is known for its coffee plantations. The premium organic “Araku Emarald” brand of coffee sells globally. The valley is a hidden destination for nature and wildlife lovers. Araku is located in the lap of three mountains, Galikonda, Raktakonda and Chitamogondi, providing a perfect getaway from the city hustle-bustle. The Shimliguda Railway Station located at an altitude of 996 metres above mean sea level is a visit worth your experience. The place has it all, waterfalls, greenery magnificent mountains and a definite addition to your bucket list of holidays.
8. BADAMI-AIHOLE-PATTADAKAL (KARNATAKA)
Resembling the American Wild West, Badami is a place of rock-cut cave temples and Redstone cliffs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the top places to visit here includes the intricately carved cave temples, archaeological museum, the north fort and the Agastya Tirtha Tank. Those in absolute love with history and architecture, Badami is the destination you must have in your mind. The ruins of the ancient edifices date back to the Chalukya dynasty, i.e. the 6th-12th Century. For those who might plan to visit in November-December would get to experience a small fair which is held in Godachi Village every year. The fort and the ruins provide a rock-climbing adventure, while the tranquil vibe and a picturesque landscape provide a perfect environment for nature lovers and spiritual seekers, to calm the body and soul.
9. ATHIRAPALLY FALLS (KERALA)
Often referred as the “Niagara Falls of India”, the Athirapally Falls is breath-taking falls flowing through the Vazhachal forest towards the Arabian Sea. This largest waterfall of Kerala is 80 feet high and is a trip spot for adventures. Just 60kms from Thrissur, the way up to the waterfalls is a delightful sight with the lush greenery, small villages dotted along the landscape and narrow winding roads up to the falls. While safari rides in the area are organised by the Thrissur District Tourist, one can go hiking in the hills and the forest near the falls, or simply to marvel and gape awestruck at the falls. The Athirapally is indeed a majestic cascade of water.
10. DHANUSHKODI (TAMIL NADU)
Often called as the “Ghost Town” or the “Lost Land”, Dhanushkodi is a small beach town on the Tamil Nadu coast with a small population and scenic views. Situated at the south-eastern tip of Pamban Island, Dhanushkodi translates into ‘end of the bow’. With an unorthodox charm about it and much less frequented visitors, this beach town is isolated, cut off from the world and is untouched. In 1964, one of the worst cyclones hit Dhanushkodi leaving nothing but beautiful ruins and now a rebuilt beach town, with a grandeur reflecting the history of the town. Another incredibly majestic place, Dhanushkodi may not offer thrilling activities but the place is once in a lifetime visit worth.
11. SKANDAGIRI HILLS (KARNATAKA)
Skandagiri is a mountain fortress located just 70 kms from Bangalore city. Also known as Kalavara Durga, Skandagiri Hills guarantees a breath-taking view at an altitude of about 1350 metres of the surrounding Nandi Hills and Muddenahalli. The place also provides an opportunity to trek and explore the hills amidst the moonlight, thus breaking the myth of trekking in morning. To make the trek more interesting and adventurous, the hill also has a ruined fort to explore. A moonlight trek would be leaving you mesmerized with the hills and a night under the stars. Those in Bangalore and nearby, Skandagiri is weekend getaway for the young souls.
12. TADA FALLS (ANDHRA PRADESH)
Tada falls located near Kalahasti is a destination for trekkers and adventure lovers. Locally known as Ubbalamadagu Falls, Tada is just 80 kms from Chennai and is one of the offbeat weekend getaways, a one-day trip too. The place gives you an opportunity to stretch your muscles and enjoy the scenery, while the total trek, to and fro, takes a whole day. There are three base camps, the first base can be reached in car but the rest two has to be covered by foot to reach the falls. One must set out with all the trekking supplements for this 10km trail, and there are small natural pools here and there to freshen up during the trek. While the first half of the trail is easy and beautiful with streams flowing through the greenery, the second half gets rocky with rough patches until the Tada falls which cascades in a mesmerizing beauty. The Tada trekking experience is a package for adventure lovers and rock climbers with its small streams, dense forests, big rocks and the Tada falls.
13. MARAVANTHE BEACH (KARNATAKA)
Located at a distance of 12 kms from Kundapur, Maravanthe Beach will leave you in sheer awe. The beach runs along NH 17 as close as 100 metres. Adding beauty to the Karnataka coast is this serene beach, with waves crashing at the shore of the beach on one side and, and on the other you would see Kodachadri Hills making a beautiful backdrop for the Souparnika River. The beach offers various activities such as scuba diving, sun bathing or taking strolls on the beach, although one should stay away during high tides and during monsoons, which can make the beach a dangerous place. One could also go fishing with the local to the nearby Gangoli port. What makes this place a paradise is the incredible stillness and peace, the serene and quite flowing river, the dotting hills on the landscape, the deep sea, all of it providing a picturesque panoramic view. A visit here is a mystical experience and the sunset here should not be missed.
14. AGASTYAKOOTHAM (KERALA)
If you are looking for an exciting trekking, why just restrict to Wayanad or Munnar. Agastyakootham is the destination. An astounding pinnacle situated in Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Trivandrum, Agastyakootham is accepted to be the dwelling place of the Hindu Rishi, Sage Agasthya. Trekking in Agastyakootham is one of the hardest trails in India. The place is also a nature’s tribute to bird watchers. Once could see a variety of avian species flocking the second most astounding peak of Kerala. It is also known for its momentous greenery, particularly certain uncommon therapeutic herbs which are found here and have been left untouched. More than 2000 species of life is said to exist here, including lichens, orchids, plants and herbs.
15. ST. MARY’S ISLAND
Also known as the Coconut Island and Thonsepar, the St. Mary’s Island is truly a one of the incredible places of the South. It is a set of four islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe, Udupi in Karnataka. The island is known for its distinctive crystallized basalt rock formations, giving a special landscape to the place. An unspoiled island, St. Mary’s is a beautiful place with white sands, blue water, coconut trees and pleasant weather. While the eastern beach boasts of virgin sands, the western beach is made up completely of sea shells. An amazing tourist spot but only until the sun goes down, since the island is completely uninhabited and one would not have any place for an overnight stay, until you are extremely adventurous to set up camp and enjoy the night breeze and the island secrets.