A land rich with diversity, India has so much to offer to every traveller. A single visit is never enough to experience all that there is to see in this vast and colourful country. If you’re looking for something off-the-beaten track, then I’d suggest you explore the fascinating southern Indian destinations that I visited recently.
The neighbouring states of Karnataka and Kerla offer some of the most exotic and idyllic destinations that will surely quench your wanderlust. For those of you, like me, who like to escape from the hustle bustle of the cities into the lap of nature, this is the ultimate itinerary to follow.
I started my journey from the vibrant metropolis of Bengaluru, and ended the tour of the shores of the Arabian Sea at Kochi. From history, to nature, quaint plantations, to the lazy backwaters, this has definitely been the trip of a lifetime.
Bengaluru – India’s Silicon Valley
The tour began as I landed in Bengaluru. Once a sleepy retirement comunity of former armed forces personnel, Bengaluru, today, is one of the biggest technology hubs in the nation. There has been an almost frantic development on the outer suburbs of the city.
It’s a great cosmopolitan city with an overwhelmingly young demographic. Since there is not really much sightseeing to be done in the city, I decided to relax on my first day, with a glass of chilled craft beer in one of the numerous quirky beer joints.
The next day, I set out to explore the city’s Victorian-era architecture and beautiful gardens. The heart of the city still retains its British colonial heritage.
Early next morning, I set off for the historical city of Mysore, en route visiting the town of Srirangapatna. For a history buff like me, this was definitely an experience to remember. Once the stronghold of the great monarch Tipu Sultan, Srirangapatna, today stands as a silent reminder of a more glorious time.
The fascinating sites of the area are replete with Tipu’s struggle against his arch-enemies, the British. There is splendid architecture and paintings to be seen in the complex. Standing in front of the giant mural depicting the defeat of the British troops at the hands of Tipu’s father, Haider Ali, you can almost feel yourself become a part of the scene. As much as I would have loved to linger, it was soon time to continue my journey onto Mysore. I decided to call it an early night, as there was plenty of exctiement coming up the next day.
Apart from the brief and bloody rule of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, Mysore was ruled by the Wodeyar rulers. The beautiful Amba Vilas Palace is a sight you can never forget. It has one of the most interesting collection of rooms that left me speechless. After a stroll through the colourful markets, I headed up to the top of a nearby hillock to visit the famed Chamundeshwari Temple.
Coorg – A tranquil getaway
My next destination was Coorg, located about 120 kms from Mysore. Nestled in the lap of lush evergreen hills on the southernmost edge of the state of Karnataka, Coorg is famous for its spice and coffee plantations. It was like entering a different world all together.
Far from the hustle and bustle of the previous cities, Coorg was a welcome balm for my nerves. The air was rich with the aroma of coffee and spices. A trek through the hills is an ideal way of experiencing the surrounding natural beauty.
Wayanad – A hidden gem
Bidding goodbye to Coorg the following morning, I set out deeper into the mountains of the Western Ghats onto my next destination – Wayanad. I crossed over to the adjoining state of Kerala and entered into a pace that can only be described as heaven on earth.
Here nature is untouched by the hands of development, and pristine natural beauty surrounds you and lifts your spirits from the moment you set foot. There are some of the most beautiful waterfalls and is also home to numerous plantations. It is also a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts with is rich reserves of exotic flora and fauna.
Munnar – A Nature lover’s paradise
Early next morning, I set out for Munnar. It was going to be a long drive (337 kms), but the scenic beauty along the way, along with fantastic roads made it quite a pleasurable one. There are many view points along the way, where you can get off, stretch your legs a bit, and of course, marvel at the wonderful scenery that you are surrounded by.
Everywhere the eye goes, there is a different shade of green, and as you walk through the contoured and clipped tea plantations, you can get engulfed in a veil of low hanging clouds. My favourite part of the stay was the guided tour of the Lockhart Tea Factory.
This 160 years old factory is great for understanding the entire process of modern tea manufacturing. There is even a tea tasting area, and a shop where you can purchase excellent quality tea.
Thekkady – The wild side of Kerala
My next destination was Thekkady also known as Periyar. It is home to the most famous wildlife sanctuary of South India, that has made it quite popular with both domestic as well as foreign tourists. I avoided the cliched boat ride, and opted for a trek through the hills to experience the tribal and jungle life.
Even if I didn’t take the boat ride, I did visit the Periyar Lake. Created by the British in the late 19th century, it is an artificial lake that attracts many tourists all year round. The cool climate of the region is perfect for sipping a warm cup of tea by the cosy fireplace.
Alleppey – Venice of the East
Descending from the hills of Western Ghats, it was time for some rest and relaxation. Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha is home to the famous backwaters of Kerala. The graceful and green network of canals. Here I boarded by houseboat, for an overnight stay.
As we floated along at an idyllic pace, I gazed at the villages and shops passing us by. Simple but hearty meals were served on board, and it has definitely been one of the most memorable moments of my tour.
Mararikulam – Vitamin Sea
Located a mere thirty two minutes away from Alleppey, Mararikulam is a tranquil beach town was the penultimate stop on my itinerary. The luxurious palm groves and untouched beauty makes Mararikulam the ultimate destination to simply relax and unwind.
An ideal place to soak up some sun, Mararikulam beach also offers the best of tradtional Kerala hospitality and charm. Try the freshest sea food here, or just take a stroll along the local fishermen’s village to experience their daily lives.
Kochi – A melting pot of cultures
The final destination of my wonderful journey through Karnataka and Kerala was Kochi, the cultural captial of Kerala. Kochi is a veritable melting pot of centuries of different cultures and traditions. It is a delightful city to explore, and spend some time.
The most striking part of Kochi, for me, has to be the Jew Town at Mattancherry. Walking through the narrow lanes with its shops selling exquisite handicrafts, you will definitely feel as if you’ve walked into a different time altogether. Kochi is also an excellent place to have a taste of the mouthwatering cuisine of Kerala.
Saying goodbye, with fond memories
My travels through the area has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. As I boarded by flight back home, I knew that the memories of this trip would be the ones that I would cherish forever.