For those bored of the “hill station circuit”, South India, with its lush greenery, ancient history, tropical beaches and backwaters is great for leisure travel. From partying to exploring history, and making time to soak in the local vibe, here are 5 handpicked destinations that will be the ideal retreat you’ve always looked for.
Varkala, Kerala Leisure travel
Kerala’s coastal town is also its lesser side. Varkala is of some importance to the Hindu community for its 2,000-year old Janardana Swami Temple, one of India’s most important shrines for the Vaishnavite community. This gives it the title of Dakshin Kashi (Kashi, or Benaras of the South).
The temple’s proximity to the Papanasam beach is an auspicious one – devotees believe that the beach’s holy waters can wash away sins. It is also an important Ayurveda centre. A fascinating relic at the temple is an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck in nearby waters that the ship’s captain donated after no casualties occurred during the incident. Varkala provides the rare combination of excellent amenities and being a serene destination that provides escape to those tired of noisy beaches. Travelers flock here after word of mouth recommendations about the evening sunset view, the cliff, and the hippie vibe that can be felt at the local market.
The French influence has never left this laid back town, and is apparent in its outdoor life – shops, food, and even architecture. Pondicherry is known for its retreats, ashrams, and yoga centers. Photographers will spend hours shooting every detail of the beautiful yellow colonial townhouses, and for city-frazzled visitors, the incredibly neat and (and usually empty!) roads will be a sight to behold. A trip to Pondicherry should at least last a week, so that you can spend hours idly walking the cobbled streets, along the sea bordering the road.
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
In the South, Kodaikanal is often referred to as the “Princess of Hills”. Nestled between two picturesque valleys – Parappar and Gurandar – the place is serene where nature can be experienced in its full glory. Some of the prominent attractions of Kodaikanal include Coaker’s Walk, Bryant’s Park, Bear Shola Falls. There’s a lake in the area which is the main focus of tourism in Kodaikanal. Today, the charm of the town lies in its wooded slopes and gigantic trees. Vast green meadows and huge green pastures are immense source of mental peace to the people who visit Kodaikanal.
Coorg is rightfully earned the nickname of “Scotland of the South”. It is known for its mesmerizing terrain which comprises lush green valleys, misty hills, sprawling coffee and tea plantations. Then there are forts, ecological parks, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries. Coorg is also a much sought-after destination by adventure enthusiasts. Its hills are perfect for adventure activities like trekking, rock climbing, biking and white water rafting.
Ooty is known as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, and for good reason. While the classic “hill station experience” is one known for cool weather and trekking, Ooty is known more for its soft sunshine, cool breezes, and lush green valleys. Tourist hotspots here are laid back; you won’t feel rushed as you walk through the Botanical Garden, spot deer at Deer Park take a dip at Kalhatty Falls and go boating at Pykara Lake. There’s hours of lazy outdoor enjoyment available, including fishing and watching kids shriek with delight on the mini-train and pony rides. You can end the day with a walk through the local tea garden.