The northern cities of India can be crazy, hectic and at times overwhelming. If that’s not your cup of tea, the south of India might be more to your liking (as it was to ours!). Beautiful beaches and breathtaking mountain ranges will leave you in awe of this beautiful part of the world. The contrast between the north and the south of India will leave you wondering if you’re still in the same country.
The first place you have to visit is Goa. In the past, Goa has been known as the party state of India. If that’s what you’re looking for, the northern stretch of Goa won’t disappoint. Beach parties go on all night, and there’s a steady stream of tourists all year round.
We found that the south of Goa is where the real beauty lies. Varca Beach and Benaulim beach are real musts. We’ve been around the world and never felt warmer seas. If you can go in late October it’s almost perfect – the monsoons have gone, but the tourist season is yet to start. We consistently had entire beaches to ourselves.
Transport for tourists is difficult in Goa. The beaches and scenery you’ll want to visit are in small villages with very little public transport. Our advice? Rent a scooter for $3/4 a day and go exploring yourself. Everything you’ll want to see is within an hour drive. You’ll find driving in Goa much safer than in the Indian cities. Remember you’re not being honked at because you made a mistake. Locals are just letting you know they’re there!
There are few big tourists attractions in Goa. It’s no coincidence that TripAdvisor’s top 10 things to do in Goa are mostly beaches. Use your time in Goa to tour the beaches. Relax, recuperate and have a real holiday.
Next, be sure to visit the state of Kerala in Southern India. Settled by the Portuguese, taken over by the Dutch and then the British, it’s history is fractured, yet fascinating. Take the time to visit the museums in the capital, Kochi, to learn more about the history of this port city. Kerala is primarily a Christian state, so be sure to visit some of the oldest churches. In St. Francis’ church in Kochi, you can even see the original tomb of Vasco de Gama.
The backwater cruises are especially popular in Kochi. The guide takes you on a really relaxing (if a little long) 8 hours through the canals. You can do a 24 hour overnight stay, but at 10 times the price of an 8 hour trip, it’s really not worth it. Use your time to kick back and relax or meet the other tourists on the boat. We heard great stories and made great friends that we spent the next week with. Be warned that lunch is extremely spicy!
Kochi is a city right on the coastline and because of this the seafood is incredible there. Try out the Kashi Art Cafe. The owner is really friendly, and they’ve got ever changing art galleries to look at while you await your food. Try one of the seafood omelettes, they’re great! For those on more of a budget, eat at the Lucky Star Hotel. It’s a real local eating haunt. We had a huge feast for two for less than $4 – get the chicken 65 and paratha. We ate there a couple of times!
While in Kerala, take a couple of days to visit the tea plantations in Munnar. The plantations themselves aren’t the attraction, it’s the backdrop and incredible mountain views. Be prepared for the 5 hour bus journey from Fort Kochi into the mountains, they turn the air con right up so take a jacket! It’s also much cooler in Munnar, about 10 degrees Celsius lower than in Kochi (for us it was a welcome respite). There’s a popular yet underwhelming tour available. It’s really just a load of average viewpoints with stalls to squeeze you for money. What you really want to do is walk the mountains around Munnar. The sights are breathtaking and we found far better sights ourselves than the tour provided.
The south of India is likely to really surprise you. If you’ve already seen the hustle and bustle of Delhi and Mumbai, you’ll enjoy the scenic and relaxing south. The south of India is a place best used to take a break from a hectic travelling schedule.
Visit the rural south and see the parts of India you’ll really remember.