Southern India is chilled, the people tend to be nicer and are less concerned with trying to grab your money. There’s a lot to see here; from bustling metropolises and chilled out beaches to old colonial towns and wildlife reserves. I recommend spending at least a month in the South of India, if you only have a short while in India you may want to consider flying into Bangalore and exploring the south for a couple of weeks before heading up towards the triangle of awesomeness. I recommend visiting Southern India between November and March.
Suggested itinerary; Bangalore – Kodagu – Mysore – Fort Cochin – Allepay – Munnar and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – Varkala – Bangalore (3 – 4 weeks)
Top Things to See and Do
- Bangalore: It’s big, it’s dirty, it’s expensive. If you don’t have a couchsurfing friend here I suggest getting out as soon as possible. Mysore is just two hours away.
- Kodagu: Six hours (by bus) from Bangalore lies the largely unexplored Kodagu region. Although Lonely Planet claims to have been to Kodagu the information in the book is so point blank wrong that I find this hard to believe. This is real exploring. It is easy to arrange a homestay once you reach the administrative capital of Madikeri. From Madikeri it is worth taking the hour long bus to Bylakuppe to visit a Tibetan colony, nearby is the Dubare forest reserve where you can ride, feed and bathe elephants. There are no particularly nice hotels to stay in so I definitely recommend finding a homestay in the rolling hills and spending a few days here. A bus to Mysore from Kodagu takes about four hours.
- Mysore: Mysore is an ancient city and it still has a real feel of the British Raj about it. You should definitely visit Chamundi Hill and Mysore Palace. To cool off head to the Emerge Spa for a massage and a swim. Its worth visiting the Royal Orchid Metropole for a drink and a cheeky swim in their pool. The food and rooms are amazing but very expensive. Srirangapatnam makes a great day trip from Mysore. My India travels lasted well over a year and this was probably my favourite city in the entire country.
- Fort Kochin: There are plenty of sites to wander around happily for a couple of days here and you must make sure to check out the ancient chinese fishing nets. For transport away you will likely have to get a bus to Ernakulum, about forty minutes away by tuk tuk, from here it is just two hours to Allepay.
- Allepay: There’s only one reason to come here; to arrange a trip on a houseboat. A three day, two night jaunt is normal and when haggling for the rental make sure food is included in the price. There are hundreds of houseboats so take your time choosing and make sure to haggle. If you do end up having to stay in the town there is a YMCA. Just outside of Allepay is a little known but very beautiful stretch of beach and some interesting villages easily explored by bicycle.
- Munnar and Periyar: By now your probably a bit stressed and need some time out, never fear; simply head to Periyar wildlife sanctuary. To get to Periyar you must first head towards the town of Kumily. Once there head to the ‘Klaus Guesthouse’, it’s a bit expensive but wonderfully relaxing and the lovely German owner will offer you a joint quite frequently. Bank to spend a week here and in nearby Munnar cycling, hiking and sipping coffee. There are buses to Periyar from both Ernakulum and Allepay.
- Varkala: There is a train from Allepay which takes just three hours to arrive in Varkala, make sure to book seats in advance. Varkala is a lovely stretch of sand and restaurants but sadly suffers from a crowd of rather pushy shop owners. The Ruby Blue Guesthouse is excellent value. There are trains from Varkala all the way to Bangalore. For some fashion tips for the beach, I tend to just go with a ripped tank top, have a look at Steph’s guide on what to wear in India.
- Kerala; Kerala is renowed for its sleepy, tropical blissful backwaters. You can book a house boat for a few days or even a package through any number of Kerala tour operators.
- Back to Bangalore: From Bangalore consider doing the ‘triangle of awesomeness’ or flying to Sri Lanka. You could also explore Tamil Nadu. I spent a lot of time volunteering in a village in Tamil Nadu and it was great. Check out the ‘Working Abroad’ section to find out more about volunteering opportunities abroad.