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Lonely Planet South India & Kerala

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#1 best-selling guide to South India*

Lonely Planet South India & Kerala is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Admire the regal Mysore Palace, relax on a palm-fringed beach, or cruise through tropical Kerala; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of South India and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet South India & Kerala Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including history, art, architecture, politics, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, customs, volunteering, yoga, Hinduism and bazaar-shopping.
  • Over 82 maps
  • Covers Kerala's backwaters, Goa's beaches, Chennai's urban villages, Bengaluru's sophisticated city life, Ellora and Ajanta's Buddhist caves, Puducherry's French-colonial streets, Mysore's sandalwood markets, and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet South India & Kerala, our most comprehensive guide to South India, , is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

  • Looking for a guide focused on India? Check out Lonely Planet India guide for a comprehensive look at all the country has to offer; or Lonely Planet Discover India, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to South India. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA, December 2013 to November 2014

List price: $27.99

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Mumbai (Bombay)

ePub

%022 / Pop 21.1 million

Mumbai is big. It’s full of dreamers and hard-labourers, starlets and gangsters, stray dogs and exotic birds, artists and servants and fisherfolk and crorepatis (millionaires) and lots and lots of people. It has India’s most prolific film industry, some of Asia’s biggest slums (as well as the world’s most expensive home) and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone. Mumbai is India’s financial powerhouse, fashion epicentre and a pulse point of religious tension. It’s even evolved its own language, Bambaiyya Hindi, which is a mix of…everything.

If Mumbai is your introduction to India, prepare yourself. The city isn’t a threatening place but its furious energy, limited public transport and punishing pollution makes it challenging for visitors. The heart of the city contains some of the grandest colonial-era architecture on the planet but explore a little more and you’ll uncover unique bazaars, hidden temples, hipster enclaves and India’s premier restaurants and nightlife.

 

Maharashtra

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India’s third-largest and second-most populous state, Maharashtra is an expansive canvas showcasing many of India’s iconic attractions. There are lazy, palm-fringed beaches, lofty, cool-green mountains, World Heritage Sites and bustling cosmopolitan cities. In the far east of the state are some of the nation’s most impressive national parks, including the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

Inland lie the extraordinary cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta, undoubtedly Maharashtra’s greatest monuments, hewn by hand from solid rock. Matheran, a colonial-era hill station served by a toy train, has a certain allure. Pilgrims and inquisitive souls are drawn to cosmopolitan Pune, a city famous for its ‘sex guru’ and alternative spiritualism. And westwards, the romantic Konkan Coast fringing the Arabian Sea is lined with spectacular, crumbling forts and sandy beaches, some of the best around the pretty resort of Malvan, which is fast becoming one of India’s premier diving centres.

AJan It’s party time at Nasik’s wineries, marked by grape harvesting and crushing galas.

 

Goa

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%0832 / Pop 1.46 million

Goa is like no other state in India. It could be the Portuguese colonial influence, the endless beaches, the glorious whitewashed churches or the relaxed culture of susegad – a uniquely Goan term that translates as ‘laid-backness’ and is evident in all aspects of daily life and in the Goan people themselves.

But Goa is far more than its old-school reputation as a hippie haven or its contemporary status as a beach getaway. Goa is as naturally and culturally rich as it is compact; you can go birdwatching in a butterfly-filled forest, marvel at centuries-old cathedrals, trek out to milky waterfalls and aromatic spice farms or meander the capital’s charming alleyways. Add a dash of Portuguese-influenced food and architecture, infuse with a colourful blend of religious traditions, pepper with parties and beach shacks, and you’ve got a recipe that makes Goa easy to enjoy and extremely hard to leave.

ASep–Nov Post-monsoon, some shacks are up but crowds are still down; accommodation bargains.

 

Ancient & Historic Sites

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South India has a remarkable assortment of monuments and ruins that testify to the splendour of the many cultures that have strutted across its broad canvas. From serene places of worship to remnants of grandiose empires, the opportunities to marvel at the genius of long-gone civilisations are manifold.

The rulers of South India’s bygone kingdoms and sultanates not only proclaimed their pomp while alive by erecting opulent palaces, many of them were also buried in opulent tombs – some of which rank among the region’s most exquisite architecture.

First prize among South India’s flamboyant royal residences goes to the fabulous Mysore Palace, but Mysore’s rival princely state of Hyderabad put up a stern challenge with the chandelier-bedecked Chowmahalla Palace; the Purani Haveli, with its 54m-long wardrobe; and the hilltop Falaknuma Palace on the city’s outskirts, a splendiferous neoclassical construction that is now a super-luxury hotel.

 

Karnataka & Bengaluru

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Blessed with a a diverse makeup conforming to all the romance of quintessential India, Karnataka delivers with its winning blend of palaces, tiger reserves, megacities, ancient ruins, beaches and legendary hang-outs.

At its nerve centre is the silicon-capital Bengaluru (Bangalore), overfed with the good life. Scattered around the epicurean city are rolling hills dotted with spice and coffee plantations, the regal splendour of Mysuru (Mysore), and jungles teeming with monkeys, tigers and Asia’s biggest population of elephants.

If that all sounds too mainstream, head to the countercultural enclave of tranquil Hampi with hammocks, psychedelic sunsets and boulder-strewn ruins. Or the blissful beaches of Gokarna, a beach haven minus the doof doof. Otherwise leave the tourist trail behind entirely, and take a journey to the stunning Islamic ruins of northern Karnataka.

AMar–May The best season to watch tigers and elephants in Karnataka’s pristine national parks.

 

Telangana & Andhra Pradesh

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Hyderabad, the fascinating capital of Telangana, is reason enough on its own to visit this region. Its old quarter of colourful markets, teahouses, biryani restaurants and narrow lanes is studded with the monuments and palaces of bygone dynasties. On the city's fringes rise the fabled Golconda fort and magnificent tombs of departed royalty. Meanwhile Hyderabad's newer districts are lit up by the classy restaurants, hotels, boutiques and bars of IT-fuelled economic advance.

The other attractions of these two states (which were one state until they split in 2014) are less brazen, but dig around and you will unearth gems – like the wonderful medieval temple sculptures of Palampet, the beauty of ancient Buddhist sites such as Sankaram and Guntupalli hidden in deep countryside, the cheery coastal holiday vibe of Visakhapatnam, and the positive vibrations emanating from the vast pilgrim crowds at Tirumala Temple.

AMay & Jun Join locals digging into haleem, a Ramadan (Ramzan) favourite.

 

Kerala

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Serene Kerala is a state shaped by its wonderful natural landscape: a long, luxurious coastline; wandering backwaters; lush palms and spice plantations; and cool mountain escapes. Add the kaleidoscope of culture best experienced in the unique performing arts and you’ll understand why Kerala is a destination not to be missed.

Kerala’s hill country in the Western Ghats is a sumptuous natural spectacle where narrow roads wind up through jungle thick vegetation and provide dizzying views over peacock green tea plantations. A cooling altitude helps to make the towns soothing places to escape from the cares of the world, while the wildlife sanctuaries are unspoiled wildernesses offering the chance to spot exciting wild animals.

Best known of the hill stations is Munnar, with contoured green fields carpeting the hills as far as the eye can see. This is South India’s tea-growing heartland, but also a great place to trek to viewpoints across epic mountain scenery. Some wonderfully remote lodgings are hidden in the hills, tucked deep into spice and flower gardens or cardamom and coffee plantations.

 

Kerala

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Pop 33.3 million

A sliver of a coastal state in India's deep south, Kerala is shaped by its layered landscape: almost 600km of glorious Arabian Sea coast and beaches; a languid network of glistening backwaters; and the spice- and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats. Just setting foot on this swathe of soul-quenching, palm-shaded green will slow your subcontinental stride to a blissed-out amble. Kerala is a world away from the frenzy of elsewhere, as if India had passed through the Looking Glass and become an altogether more laid-back place.

Besides its famous backwaters, elegant houseboats, ayurvedic treatments and delicately spiced, taste-bud-tingling cuisine, Kerala is home to wild elephants, exotic birds and the odd tiger, while vibrant traditions such as Kathakali plays, temple festivals and snake-boat races frequently bring even the smallest villages to life. It's hard to deny Kerala's liberal use of the slogan 'God's Own Country'.

ADec–Feb Perfect beach and backwater weather. Ernakulathappan Utsavam festival in Kochi.

 

Tamil Nadu & Chennai

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Tamil Nadu is the homeland of one of humanity’s living classical civilisations, stretching back uninterrupted for two millennia and very much alive today in the Tamils' language, dance, poetry and Hindu religion.

But this state, with its age-old trading vocation, is as dynamic as it is immersed in tradition. Fire-worshipping devotees who smear tikka on their brows in the famously spectacular Tamil temples might rush off to IT offices to develop new software applications – and then unwind at a swanky night-time haunt in rapidly modernising Chennai (Madras).

When the heat and noise of Tamil Nadu's temple towns overwhelm, escape to the very end of India where three seas mingle, or up to the cool, forest-clad, wildlife-prowled Western Ghats. It’s all packed into a state that remains proudly distinct from the rest of India, while at the same time being among the most welcoming.

AJan Pongal (harvest) celebrations spill into the streets and the weather is at its (relative) coolest.

 

Andaman Islands

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Long fabled among travellers for its legendary beaches, world-class diving and far-flung location in the middle of nowhere, the Andaman Islands are still the ideal place to get away from it all.

Its lovely opaque emerald waters are surrounded by primeval jungle and mangrove forest, and snow-white beaches that melt under flame-and-purple sunsets. The population is a friendly masala of South and Southeast Asian settlers, as well as Negrito ethnic groups whose arrival here still has anthropologists baffled. Adding to the intrigue is its remote location, some 1370km from the mainland, meaning the islands are geographically more Southeast Asia – 150km from Indonesia and 190km from Myanmar.

While the archipelago comprises some 300 islands, only a dozen or so are open to tourists, Havelock by far being the most popular for its beaches and diving. The Nicobars are strictly off limits to tourists, as are the tribal areas.

ADec–Mar Perfect sunny days, optimal diving conditions and turtle nesting.

 

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