top of page
  • Benjamin John

Must see monuments of Southern India - A guided tour

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

Are you planning a visit to South India? Does the art, architecture and cultures of the past enthrall you? Then this blog is meant just for you. Here are some beautiful monuments in South India that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram

South India is generally described as the union of three states namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. All of them had multiple kingdoms reigning through different chapters of history. They have all contributed their share of art, cultural and architectural facets to each state of South India. A complete South India itinerary that involves all of these monuments do not happen every time, mostly because of connectivity as well as backtracking issues. Here we have drafted an itinerary at the bottom of the page with a map.

1. Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

Mahabalipuram is a 7th Century port city of the Pallava kings. The Pallavas considered themselves as unique artists and had built a lot of temples at their coastal capital of Mahabalipuram. The Pallavas have built many monolithic temples, rock-cut caves and incorporated bas-relief models, making them unique and special. The shore temple and the Arjuna’s penance are few structures that still exist today. Just sixty kilometres from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is a ‘not to miss place’ en route to Pondicherry.

2. Brihadeshwara Temple, Tanjore – Tamil Nadu

The Brihadeshwara Temple is a 1000-year-old temple built by the Chola king Raja Raja Chola. The temple is part of the UNESCO world heritage site and is considered to be a “Great Living Chola Temple”. This is one of the largest temples in India and a fine example of Dravidian architecture. The temple is purely built on stones and is a wonder in itself. How the engineers of those times built such a large temple with just humans and elephants as the workforce, is totally inconceivable.

Brihadeshwara Temple in Tanjore

3. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai – Tamil Nadu

The Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple is a Hindu temple located on the banks of River Vaiga at the 2500-year-old South Indian city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The temple is dedicated to Parvathi (Meenakshi) wife of Lord Siva. The temple is large and is spread across the heart of the city and is visited by 15000 devotees every day. The Temple was built by the Nayaks of Madurai to the present day status, during the 17th Century. The temple is surrounded by gateway towers namely “Gopurams” in the local language of Tamil. An evening ceremony happens every day when the deity of Meenakshi is taken along with a procession to the chamber of Lord Siva.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple

4. Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kerala

Located at the foot of the Veli hills of the Western Ghats, the Padmanabhapuram Palace was the palace of the Travancore Kings of Kerala. The palace was initially built during the early 17th Century and was rebuilt during the 18th century. The palace is the largest wooden palace in Asia and has many peculiarities. The place is visited by many en route from the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram to Kanyakumari.

Padmanabhapuram Palace

5. The Paradeshi Synagogue, Cochin – Kerala

The Paradeshi Synagogue is the living example of the Jewish life in Kerala and Malabar. The synagogue today acts as a monument for visitors and shows around the arrival of Jews at the Malabar Coast during early medieval times. There were many other synagogues in and around Kochi, of which the only live synagogue is the Paradeshi Synagogue at the Jew Street at Mattancherry in Cochin. More than a monument, it marks the arrival and departure of the Jewish community in Kerala.

Paradeshi Synagogue in Kochi

6. Bekal Fort, Kerala

Bekal fort was a fort located on the coastal belt in North Kerala. The fort is spread across around forty acres on the Malabar coast overlooking the Arabian sea. There are large keyhole kind of structures that extend to the sea amidst the rock formations on the coastline. Towards the south, there is an extended beach almost crescent-shaped which is very beautiful. There are storage spaces for ammunition and it was said there have been cannon lying here for some time until recently they were taken away. There is a large water tank and an observation tower with the fort complex. Check out this itinerary of the Konkan Coast Tour that includes a visit of the Bekal Fort

The Bekal fort in Kasargod

7. Mysore Palace, Karnataka

The Mysore palace is the second most visited monument in India after the Taj Mahal. Built by the Woodeyar kings, the Mysore Palace is the official seat of the Mysore King. Facing the Chamundi Hill, the palace has a large courtyard with gardens. The architectural style of the domes of the palace are commonly described as Indo-Saracenic and blend Hindu, Muslim and Gothic styles. The Palace is very elaborate with many rooms, durbars, galleries and is an architectural marvel. The Palace was commissioned by British architect Lord Henry Irwin.

Entrance of the Mysore Palace

8. Hoysala Temples at Belur and Halebidu, Karnataka

The two Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu were built by Hoysala Kings during the 13th century, when the Hoysala kingdom was at its prominence in the present day Indian state of Karnataka. Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebiduare are the most known temple complexes with abundant sculptures and rock cut temple complexes. These two temples are 'must visit places' if you are planning to visit around Karnataka.

The dancer sculpture at the Hoysala Temple of Belur

9. Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi was the capital city of the Vijayanagara Kingdom on the bank of the Tungabhadra River. The city was built during the 14th and 16th Century with white granite and stands as a ruined city today. The city is elaborate and has a lot to explore, historically and architecturally. There are few significant temples, Royal Enclosures, Queens Bath, and Elephant stable. To see around Hampi in detail you need at least two days in hand. Most accommodation options available are at the nearest city of Hospet.

The following is a route itinerary we prepared if you wish to take part in this extensive tour of South India.

Top monument map of South India

If you wish to go for a elaborate or a short tour of South India, you can visit the website of Green Earth Trails or be in touch with them at Their local knowledge would be of great help to plan and execute the tour is the best possible way based on your interest.

17 views0 comments
bottom of page