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The Southern states of India include Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Keralaand Karnataka. The region occupies 20% of India's area, and lies on theDeccan peninsula, surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bayof Bengal. Due to its diverse geography, it offers some of the mostvariety in landscape, from oceans and bays to mountains and forests,even hosting a multitude of wildlife sanctuaries. Some of the country'smost notable cities are also in southern India, including Chennai (thefourth-largest city in the country), Coimbatonre (the textile capitalof the South), Erode (which features the largest market in India) andKanniyakumari (the southern most tip of the Indian mainland). Visitorscan enjoy Carnatic music, take in a cricket match and enjoy atraditional South Indian breakfast of masala dosa and sambar in thistruly unique region.
Tamil Nadu:The state of Tamil Nadu is known for its architecture, temples andclassical Carnatic music. The largest city is Chennai (Madras). Beingthat Tamil is the most preferred language, the city's Tamil filmindustry (also known as "Kollywood") has featured some of the mostnotable Chennaites. Check out a movie in the beautiful Devi Cineplex,in the heart of Chennai. The city is also a hub for cricket andmotorsports. Famous sites here are the Kapaleeswarar Temple (datingback to the 8th Century, and site of the Thaipusam festival inJanuary/February) and Marina Beach.
Within an hour fromChennai is Mahabalipuram, famous for its stone carvings, and where thefamous Shore Temple is located. The Shore Temple is the oldeststructure in the area, built around 700 AD. Definitely a must-see,Mahabalipuram gets very crowded and is purely a tourist town, so it'sbest to visit in the off season. Bike trips around the countryside andtrekking on foot are both great ways to explore the area. Several areayoga camps are also a big draw with foreigners.
As the largest French colony in India, Pondicherry still has a strongFrench influence within the language, food and architecture (mostresidents speak Tamil, French and English). A good way to explore thearea is by renting a motorbike and enjoying the mix of beaches,temples, shopping, churches and French colonial buildings that make upthis city with a dual-personality.Take in a Bharatanatyam perforamance,or fish on a catamaran at Rocky Beach. This is definitely a city inSouthern India not like any other!
Karnataka:In the widely-spoken Kannada language, the words "karu" and "nadu" mean"elevated land" as well as "black land" (referring to the black cottonsoil found in the region). Visitors should take in a performance of thewell-known Carnatic music, named for the region. It emphasizes "vocalmusic", performed in a singing style, even when played by instruments,and is performed in small groups.
Bangalore is one of the most happening cities in India, and a hub forthe I.T. industry (many consider it the "Silicon Valley of India").Must see spots are the Bull and Dodda Ganapathi temples, situatedacross of one another, as well as the legislative House of the State,Vidhana Soudha. More recent attractions include the Lumbini Gardens andthe Wonder La Amusement Park. Many Indians visit Bangalore for thegreat cricket matches, including the Cricket World Cup or the IndianPremier League.
Mysore is the cultural capital of Karnataka, and features manyprominent palaces and gardens. The Mysore Palace is illuminated onSundays and national holidays, and features close to 100,000 bulbs.Visitors should get an early start and climb up Chamundi Hills for agreat view of the city, as well as the Nandi statue that sits atop thehill.
Ooty is a hill station in the Nilgiri mountain range, covered withforests and tea gardens. A must-see is the Doddabetta peak, whichstands 2,600 meters high as is considered the best vantage point in thecity. Travelers visit tea plantations, cabbage fields, forestsanctuaries, and often opt to see the environs on horseback.
Andra Pradesh: The state with the most cinemahalls in India (around 3,300), Andra Pradesh produces the largestnumber of movies in India per year (more than Mumbai). It is also wherethe world-famous 105-carat Koh-i-Nur diamond originated, belonging tothe Mughals and finally seized by the East India Company to put intoQueen Victoria's crown in 1877. Queen Elizabeth II still wears thediamond in her crown today.
Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh, and known as the "City ofPearls". It is home to the Telugu Film Industry (known as "Tollywood"),and also houses the world's largest film studio, Ramoji Film City.Famous for its Hyderabadi biryani and blend of Hindu/Muslim traditions,Hyderabad is both modern and traditional in its cultural offerings. Novisit is complete without visits to Charminar, Golconda Fort(especially the laser light show at night), Qutb Shahi Tombs, FalaknumaPalace, Mecca Masjid, Salar Jung Museum and the Hussain Sagar Lake(with statue of Buddha in the center).
Nestled among the hills and facing the Bay of Bengal, Bisakhapatnam(known as "Vizag" for short) is an industrial city known for its steelplants, ports and shipyards. Known as one of the most peaceful cities(Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists co-exist with never a riotin its entire history), attractions here are all about the beach,cliffs and hilltops facing the sea. Take a long drive on the beachroad, or visit a wildlife sanctuary.
The pilgrimage city of Tirupati is most famous for the VenkateswaraSwamy temple. The temple draws millions of visitors annually from awide range of Hindi traditions every September. Another notable templeis the ISKCON Lord Krishna Temple, with gold and white towers and glasspaintings depicting Lord Krishna on the windows.
Kerala:The progressive state of Kerala is known for its famous backwaters,Ayurvedic treatments and the highest literacy rate in all of India (91%of "Malyalis", Kerala natives, are literate). It is regarded as one ofthe most beautiful states in Southern India.
Situated at the intersection of three rivers, Munnar is abreathtakingly scenic tea town. Now a bustling tourist destination,Munnar offers many activities catered to its visitors, such as resortexcursions, boating, parasailing, hot air ballooning and wildlifesafaris in the jungles.
Alleppey is known as the "Venice of the East", and has the largestnetwork of canals that run through town. There is a popular Snake BoatRace ("Vallam Kali") held every August.
Once the center of the Indian spice trade, Kochi is now a hub for theshipping industry. It was once ruled by the Portugese and Dutch, and isnow a melting pot of all Indian religious backgrounds. The backwatersof Kochi are a chain of lagoons and lakes parallel to the Arabian Sea,and are usually accessed by visitors via houseboats. Marine Drive is apopular promenade facing the backwaters, with shopping and restaurantslining the drive. Other notable attractions are the Mattancherry Palaceand the nearby Athirappilly Falls.
When to Go?
TamilNadu and Kerala: Visit Tamil Nadu and Kerala during the mild monthsof December to February, in between the Monsoon (October-December) andthe peak, humid Summer season (March-July). January and February arealso great months to travel because deals on flights and hotels aremore easy to come by, and visitors can sightsee without crowds.
Andra Pradesh: November through February arethe best months to visit the area, when the climate is the coolest.Hyderabad specifically offers a monthlong "Numayesh" (city festival),with local artisans, vendors, textile merchants and performers. It isheld annually from January 1 through February 15.
Karnataka: February-May are the best times tovisit Karnataka, as they are the warmest months, before peak summerhits.
How to Get There?
TamilNadu: The quickest way to get to Tamil Nadu is to fly into
Kerala: Kerala has three major airportsincluding Thiruvananthapuram,
Andra Pradesh: The brand-new
Karnataka: The new
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