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How is South India different from North of India from a traveller's Perspective

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

“If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest day when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”

- Romain Rolland

British Raj in India

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India is the second most populous country and the largest democracy in the world. India was once, a distinct collection of numerous princely states brought together, under one roof by the British. One can never find a country with so many diverse cultures, geographical terrains, and languages. The new age form of India is a version, derived from the brains of the British officers who administered over this land mass, during the British Empire. It was an exercise done with very strong intentions and diligent planning, to overcome the difficulties of holding India as multiple colonies. The strategies applied were very much different, in different kingdoms. However, the overall intention was to form a market for the British goods, and a portion of the money gained as taxes was then sent back to England in various forms. The boundaries extended from the modern day Pakistan in the west to Thailand in the east; the Himalayas in the north to Tamil Nadu & Kerala in the south. The land was quite vast and managed with just six thousand primary officers. Essentially the British made most of present-day India, irrespective of, whatsoever the intentions they had in mind.

Cultural India

Image courtesy - Zostel Rishikesh

Such an enormous country with so much of cultural diversities, India, is a role model to the world. It is like Europe, instead of being different countries, India has different states that mark the borders of culture, language, and ethnicities. A broader division of India would be; North India and South India, keeping aside the seven sister states of North East India. The categorical division of North and South India is because they are very much different from each other, and generalising them would be difficult in many aspects. They differ in origin of languages, ethnicities, cuisines, architecture, customs, even to the extent of what they think of each other. The only common thing is the feeling of being an 'Indian'!

The Himalayas

The Taj Mahal has unquestionably built an image in the international community, as it has found a place in the seven wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal has drawn enough tourists over the years, but India is not just about the Taj Mahal. India is a land that extends beyond the Taj Mahal with much more to offer for the discerning learner, the traveller. The North Eastern States (often referred to as seven sisters) offer some vivid locations of stunning natural beauty, with numerous mountain ranges and, rivers. There is so much to explore out there. The Himalayan foothills, other than the touristy ones can offer some space for you to have a holistic living patter, with Yoga and meditation. The leftovers of the young and large kingdoms of Rajasthan will give you a glimpse of the lifestyle and way of life of the kings, and the people of this part of the world. It includes a lot of folklore, art, culture, customs and heritage. There is umpteen number of mansions, forts and monuments that explain how rich this part of the world must have been. Towards central India, you can still see forts and a lot of temples, especially the temples of Khajuraho, depicting Nagara-style architectural symbolism, and their erotic sculptures.

Brihadeshwara Temple at Tanjore

The South of India has several similarities to the North of India. However, you might not find large forts and palaces here. Probably, the kings were more religious as they built many magnificent temples, especially the Pallava and Cholan temples, that exhibit intricate carvings with Dravidian architecture. The Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu in Karnataka are also fine examples of temple architecture. Kerala, a tourism superbrand, has been able to attract most of the tourists towards the South of India in a very responsible model. The hill ranges of the Western Ghats and the backwaters are two phenomena that make Kerala a popular travel destination. Again, there are many folklore, art forms, architectural marvels, and customs, that spread across the South Indian states; not to forget the Ajanta & Ellora caves and the Konark Sun Temple of Odissa which could be either considered North or South.

Taj Mahal Agra

Essentially, North of India has an established tourism circuit with monuments and forts in the highlight. Leh, Ladakh, Kasol and Rishikesh which fall in the foothills of the Himalayas, recite the stories of adventure and spirituality. Rishikesh is considered to be the Yoga as well as the adventure capital of India. The North Eastern States are still unexplored to its best, and the tourism infrastructure is very limited here. You would love these places as a backpacker. On the other end, South of India is relatively expensive from a traveler's perspective, especially Kerala. However, it depends on how you plan your travel, and how well it is executed. Public transport and infrastructure are very much developed even in the rural areas, giving travellers the advantage of being more flexible.

Amber Fort Jaipur Rajasthan

Image coutesy - The History Hub

In total, you should be visiting - Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan for a lot of monuments; Himalayan foothills for some distinct experiences; North East states for a backpacking trail close to nature; Central India for forts and stunning temples (Madhya Pradesh); Tamil Nadu for astounding ancient Hindu temples, in terms of Dravidian architecture and sculptures; Karnataka for palaces and temples; Kerala for its beautiful hills, backwaters and beautiful beaches.

Radha Nagar Beach, Havelock - Andaman Islands

India has around 26 Tiger Reserves, and several National Parks and Sanctuaries spread across from north to south thereby giving ample options of niche tours like birding and wildlife. Not to forget about the Andaman Islands, located far east close to Thailand. These cluster of Islands come under the administration of the Union of India and is a Union Territory. The Radhanagar beach, one of the finest in Asia, is located here. Also, you have a good number of water sports activities, including Scuba diving.

Elephants at a Tea Plantation in Valparai - Tamil Nadu

Geographically, the North of India is more of a landlocked territory with the Himalayas spread across from north to east, and the Thar desert in the West, bordering Pakistan. However, some states in North India have access to the sea; Gujarat, West Bengal and Orissa. In this context, Mumbai, the commercial capital of India and the capital city of the state of Maharashtra, can be considered as a central point between North and South. South of India visibly looks like a triangle with the Arabian sea in the west, the Bay of Bengal in the east and the Indian Ocean in the south. Having access to the ocean, the South Indian states have had great maritime trade relations with many civilizations, throughout the centuries. An example can be the port town of Muzuris, close to the modern day Kochi. The port had great maritime relations with Arabs, Chinese, Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Greeks and Romans. The trade was mostly related to ivory, spices, precious stones and gems, timber and, a lot more. The Pallavas of the modern-day Tamil Nadu had a very efficient Navy, with whose efforts, Hinduism crossed the sea to far East lands; Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a perfect example. Just like the Himalayas in the north of India, the south of India has both, the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats. The later falls among the top 8 bio hotspots in the world. The Western Ghats is home to some of the most exotic and endangered flora and fauna. It gave way to a lot of plantations and hill stations, mostly concentrated in the high ranges of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Towards the north of India, the mighty Himalayas play a major role as an international border with Pakistan and China. The Foothills of the Himalayan ranges, lead to many interesting hill stations which were summer hill stations for the British officers. Many plantations like tea have found their place in the east of India; Siliguri, Darjeeling, and Assam. The state of Assam is one of the largest tea producing belts in the world. Ganges and Brahmaputra, remain as the lifeline of North India that flows down and merges with the Bay of Bengal. The South Indian states have their own share of rivers, for example, Kerala has around forty-four rivers, most of them originating in the Western Ghats and merging with the Arabian sea. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh, and Maharashtra towards the south, have their own share of rivers as well.

Backwaters of Kerala

Essentially the Himalayan foothills and the North Eastern states, can be considered as beautiful destinations in the north of India and destinations in the Western Ghats of South India, are the beautiful ones in the South. North of India does not have any beaches, the south gains that advantage. In Kerala, there are many backwaters connected to the Arabian Sea. Backwaters are an extension of the sea into the mainland. This phenomenon is seen in many parts throughout the shoreline of India.

Hope you found this article interesting. If you wish to experience India in all its fullness, we would be more than happy to assist you. We are based in Kochi, in Kerala. If you wish to be in touch with us, please contact us at

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