Can somebody suggest a good and cheap way of touring around Southern India in early to mid December?
I'm interested national parks, beaches, temples...photography is my thing.
Please suggest an itinerary and things not to be missed as well as how much to budget.
Lastly, what is the easiest/cheapest way of getting to Colombo? Are there ferries or cheap flights and where should i leave from?
Dear Guest, Welcome to South India !
Here is a Tentative Tour Itinerary :
Chennai ( Gate way of South India) - Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry- Chidambaram - Pichavaram -Kumbakonam - Tanjore - Trichirappalli - Rameswaram-Madurai-Kodaikanal -Kanniyakumari-Trivandrum-Kovalam-Alleppey-Kumarakom-Tekady-Munnar-Athrampalli-Guruvayur-Wayanad-
Ooty-Coorg-Mysore-Hassan-Belur- Helebid- Shravanbelagola- Bangalore-Goa-Hampi-Hyderabad- Tirupati-Chennai.
Hi! It all depends how much time do you have. I spent 1 month and a week in Southern India (january/february 2007). My itinerary was: Bombay - Ajanta & Ellora caves - Hampi - Mamalapuram - Pondicherry - Tanjavour - Trichy - Kanyakumari - Varkala - Kollam - Peryiar National Park - Munnar- Ooty- Mysore - Bangalore - Badami - Bijapur - Sholapur- Bombay. I spent exactly 350$ and 50 Euros (1$ = 40 Rs aprox.) including hotels, food, traveling, entrance tickets and even small gifts for my family and friends (of course the airplane ticket is not included) I traveled mostly by buses (Southern India got an impressive bus network, I used mostly the cheapest buses - without air-cond.) and sometimes trains (2nd sleeper class only) in towns I used auto-rickshaws, and in big cities like Bombay or Trichy public transport. I'm a very low budget traveler I slept in cheap hotels (doubles from 100 - 300 Rs/the room, often with shared bathroom and very basic stuff and sometimes with private bathroom, hot water, tv - you never know). When it comes to food I would eat in cheap restaurants and so called food stalls. A good Masala dosa for breakfast cost around 20-25Rs (mniam), a South Indian Thali (gorgeous) for dinner around 35Rs, samosas on a food stall at a railway staion about 5 Rs /piece and Tshaj (indian tea with sugar and milk - very tasty) 2,5 Rs.
I don't know what you would like to see in Southern India, but if you like ancient architecture you have to visit Ajanta & Ellora caves, it's a must! You simply can't miss Hampi for its marvellous surroundings as well as Badami, a beautifull little village complitely forgotten by western tourists, where you can observe indian villagers in their daily life and take pictures of giant and picturesque red rocks. I loved the old temple in Tanjavour espetially in the light of the risng sun and the charming and colourful fishermen village of Kanyakumari (the bottom of India). If you take the train from Kanyakumari to Varkala you will enjoy some of the most fantastic views in India : the splendid Western Ghats mountains and coconut palm forests - amazing. For backwatters in Kerala (known also for beautiful beaches not that much overcouded by Western turists as Goa beaches are) don't miss the public ferry from Allapey to Kottyiam (15Rs only and great views). From there you can easily catch a bus to Kumilly - the gate to the Peryiar National Park. Hotels are good value there but the visit of the Park can be expensive (entrance 300 Rs but you can't explore the Park by yourself, you need to pay a guide 2000Rs at least, however for 50Rs you can make a 45 minutes long trip with a ferry and observe wild elefants and other "exotic" animals) I liked also very much Munnar for its tea plantations, there are also graet places to explore around Ooty and Conoor (the Nilgiri Hills are a good option if you like mountains). Mysore is one of my favourites cities in India, I can't really say why, but all my travel companions had the same impression. It just got a good atmosphere. The top of the top of this travel was Badami, a place that I always see in my mind when I remeber the best moments of this travel. Its weakest point was Mamalapuram (just disapointing - full of tourists, a kind of typical seaside resort in indian style) for the Indian Ocean just go to Pondicherry (you can easily borrow a bike there and make a lot of nice trips around the city). I didn't also like Trichy (the bigest temple in India is impressive, but the city is huge, loud, polluted and completely charmless...it's just waste of time). My friends reported me that northern Kerala is really beautiful and wild, their great photos seem to prove it.
I hope my suggestions will help you in any way in planning your own journey
Best of luck in beautiful India
For any questions and informations just ask