Our Itinerary to Tour the South of India in 3 Weeks

From the French Quarter in Pondicherry to Kerala's backwaters, there’s no end of fascinating things to see and do in Southern India. Nomad Mariellen shares her three-week itinerary to get you started.

South India is a fascinating mix of some of the most evocative monuments, revered temples, lush forests, golden beaches, and modern metros in the country. The food is spicy, the people are warm, and the climate is tropical.

Many travelers find that it’s the ideal place to begin your India travels, as it offers a gentler landing than north India.

You can travel in the south most of the year, though Summer (June-September) is monsoon season. 

Days 1-7: Karnataka

Once a sleepy colonial town, Bengaluru is now a booming metropolis. Though not really a tourist destination, there are nevertheless some interesting markets, historic restaurants, and a stunning park, Lalbagh Botanical Garden.

From Bengaluru, it’s an easy train ride to charming Mysore, known for a colorful market, splendid palace, and the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute.

West of Mysore, in the Western Ghats, is a beautiful and relatively undiscovered region called Coorg. Known as the “Scotland of India,” Coorg is rolling, emerald hills, coffee plantations, and a year-round temperate climate.

Before leaving the state, it’s well worth the trip to the remote center of Karnataka to visit Hampi.

One of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites in India, Hampi is a vast, abandoned city of stone.

Rock monuments in Hampi. Photo credit: Mariellen Ward

Finally, end your travels through Karnataka on the coast in laid-back Gokarna.

Days 8-14: Kerala

Kerala is directly south along the Arabian Sea coast from Karnataka, and it’s one of India’s most popular and tourist-friendly states.

Start in Wayanad, an undiscovered paradise in the north. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is home to wild elephants, and the landscapes are scented with spices and picturesque to the extreme.

Kerala Backwaters. Photo credit: Mariellen Ward

A complete South Kerala itinerary should include the historic port town of Fort Cochin, an overnight boat ride on the backwaters, the spice gardens of Munnar, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the dramatic clifftop tourist town of Varkala, and the beautiful beaches south of Trivandrum.

If you have time, you can take Ayurvedic treatments in one of the many resorts that line the southern coast.

Days 15-21: Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is one of the most traditional states in India. Here you will find some of the most ornate, spectacular temples in India, such as the huge complex at Madurai.

From Kerala, you can work your way up through Tamil Nadu by starting at the very bottom of India.

At Kanyakumari, you can watch the sun come up among the pilgrims who flock there, and see where three bodies of water meet; they Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Head north, with a stop at Madurai, towards the Bay of Bengal coast to Pondicherry (aka Puducherry). A former French colonial outpost, it still retains a Gallic flavor.

Just up the coast is Mamallapuram, a World Heritage site, famous for stunning temples and carvings.

Finally, end your South India trip in Chennai, the state capital. A bustling city with no discernible center, Chennai is a cultural capital that comes alive with music and dance in the winter.

Marina Beach is one of the longest urban beaches in the world, and a fun place to be at sunset.

Heading to India? Download our FREE Insider’s Guide!

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2 Comments

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