At a time when the holiday bells are tolling, the perfect way to rediscover yourself is to take a vacation to explore the unexplored places in India. South India is a place which could thoroughly take years upon years for exploring. Before travelling to different countries, knowing our own is important. Because no, Goa doesn’t count as a trip to the South. There’s SO much more that South India has to offer. Take a look at these stunning places that are still fairly unexplored.
- KURNOOL, SEEMANDHRA:
KurnoolÂ is home to a number of temples such as theÂ Peta Anjanyeswami temple, the Venugopalaswami temple, the new Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. Some places in Kurnool are listed below.
- Ahobilam: Ahobilam is a major pilgrimage center located in Kurnool. It is a place where Lord Narasimha killed the demon Hiranyakashipu and blessed Prahlada. There are nine Narasimha temples around the Nallamala Forest range and there are two temple houses, the lower Ahobilam and the upper Ahobilam.
- Nallamala Forest Range: It is a part of the Eastern Ghats and runs parallel to the Coromandel Coast over Kurnool. It is a place of many tourist attractions such as River Krishna, Srisailam Dam, Mallela Theertham waterfall, Cumbum Lake and ancient Lord Shiva Temples of Mahanandi, Ahobilam and Mallikarjuna Temple.
- Belum Caves: Belum Caves are the longest caves in the plains of the Indian Subcontinent and the second largest cave in India. Located at Belum Village in Kolimigundla Mandal of Kurnool, the caves are geologically and historically important caves for Jains and Buddhists. Formed in black limestone, the caves have long passages, spacious chambers, fresh water galleries and siphons. Engulfed in mystery, there are 16 different pathways, including the main entrance.
- Banaganapalli Fort: The summer palace of Kurnool is known by different names such as, The Nawabâs summer palace or The Tipu Sultanâs Summer Palace, and is situated in the Banganapalle town. Banganapalle lies in the Kurnool district and is famous for its mangoes and has a cultivar and not to forget, The Sree Veerappayya Swamy temple.
- Yaganti: Yaganti is a place famous for the Sri Yaganti Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and one of the few temples patronized by one of the great dynasties of India. Famous places in Yaganti are Agastya Cave, Veera Brahmam Cave and the most interesting Growing Nandi, which is believed to be growing in size every year, or so.
- GOKARNA, KARNATAKA:
Known for being laid back and unspoiled natural surroundings and its pristine unpopulated beaches, Gokarna is a pilgrim center and is considered among the 7 major pilgrim spots in the Hindu scriptures. The name is derived from the Hindi word for a cowâs ear and is located at the confluence of the two rivers Gangavali and Aghanashini which is shaped like the ear of the cow. It was a bustling temple town during the Sangam era and a part of the Tamil Kingdoms.
- Kudle beach: The prime tourist destination in Gokarna, the Kudle Beach is located towards the south of the Gokarna beach. The Kudle beach is one of the most visited beaches in Gokarna and has plenty of places for tourist accommodation. With just a few shacks on the beach, this place is just perfect to chill. It is also one of the lesser known places in the area, and you’d actually find more foreigners than locals. The town is like any other, but the small trek that one needs to do before reaching Kudle is what makes it all the more special.
- Om Beach: The Om Beach is the sister beach of the Kudle beach in terms of popularity and while one half of the beach features vast sandy shores, with clean waters and sand, the other half is lined with restaurants and accommodations. The beach is split by a rocky island and can be visited all year round.
- Koti Theertha: The name refers to the artificial water tank located at a short distance from the Mahabaleshwara temple. Koti Tirtha literally means a thousand springs and is considered to be an immensely sacred spot for the Hindus. The surroundings are totally ancient and will provide a totally different experience to the visitors.
- DHANUSHKODI, TAMIL NADU:
According to the Hindu story, Rama then broke the bridge with one end of his bow. Hence, the name Dhanushkodi or ‘end of the bow’ (Dhanush means ‘bow’ and Kodi meaning ‘end’). It is also said that Rama originally marked the spot for the bridge with one end of his famous bow that he strung to marry Princess Sita. The series of rocks and islets currently found in a line between India and Sri Lanka suggests there was indeed a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.  The Kodhanda Ram Kovil temple marks the place where Rama is said to have begun his journey to Lanka.
Dhanushkodi, which translates into âend of the bowâ, is situated in the south-Eastern tip of Pamban Island of Tamil Nadu. It’s also only 29 kms west of Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. It is also called the ‘Ghost Town’ or the ‘Lost Land’, but either way, Dhanushkodi has this unorthodox charm about it. According to multiple sources, the Dhanushkodi railway line from Pambam station got destroyed in 1964 when a cyclone hit a passenger train, tragically drowning over a 100 passengers with it. Being the only land border between India and Sri Lanka, which is also one of the smallest in the world – just 45 meters in length. Dhanushkodi used to flourish as a tourist and pilgrimage town after the ’64 disaster. It was also in this island in January 1897 that Swami Vivekananda set foot on Indian soil again, after his visit to the west to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions held in the United States. Left in ruins, but beautiful nonetheless.
- PAPI HILLS, ANDHRA PRADESH
This is yet again a hidden gem which has nothing much written about it. Papi kondalu or the âPapi Hillsâ are a series of mountains that are located in Rajahmundry in West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Simply put, Papi Hills is a just a gorge, but it’s a gorgeous gorge. It is an example of raw, untouched beauty. They are often compared to Kashmir for their structural hills and virgin beauty. The range also boasts of a wonderful waterfall atÂ Munivaatnam. A boat trip on the Godavari River in the Papi Hills region is quite spellbinding and romantic. Boat trips are available from Bhadrachalam, Rajahmundry and Kunavaram. Tour boats locally called “Launches” are the main transport vehicles. There are two entries to Papi Hills, from Kunavaram or from Rajahmundry. Kunavaram is reachable by road from Hyderabad (351 km), Khammam (170 km) and Bhadrachalam (49km). You can hire a boat or join a tour. Rajahmundry also offers boat services to Papi Hills.
- VARAKALA, KERALA:
This is a MUST visit coastal town. Located in the Thiruvananthapuram district, this is possibly the only place in southern-Kerala which hosts a perfect mix of hills and the sea. Varkala, a calm and quiet hamlet, lies on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district. It has several places of tourist interests like a beautiful beach, a 2000-year-old Vishnu Temple and the Ashramam – Sivagiri Mutt a little distance from the beach. Legend has it that a Pandyan King was instructed by Lord Brahma to build a temple at this very place to redeem him of his sins. But there are several other myths abound about the birth of Varkala. Another legend goes like this – when a group of pilgrims approached Narada and told him that they had sinned, Narada threw his vacuum (a loincloth made from the bark of a tree) and it landed in this scenic village and hence, the place came to be known as Varkala. Narada told the pilgrims to pray for their redemption at Papanasam, which literally means redemption from sins.Â
- PONMUDI HILLS, KERALA:
Another hill station that should be in the priority section of your travel list. Ponmudi (translates to the Golden Hill) is located 55.2 km northeast of Trivandrum at an altitude of 1100 mts or 3600 ft. Ponmudi has a carpet of thick tropical forest that rolls down to the foot of the hill range. Absolutely splendid, nearby attractions also include Kallar, Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, and Koyikkal Palace, an ancient palace dating as far back as the 15th century. One can attempt mountain climbing at Ponmudi on theÂ Agasthayarkoodam, the highest peak in the areaÂ at 1868 feet. Ponmudi offers excellent opportunities for trekking. With its tea estates and mist covered valleys Ponmudi is a fast developing hill resort with cottages and dormitory accommodation facilities.
- MARAVANTHE, KARNATAKA:
Maravanthe is a village and a beach near Kundapur, Karnataka India. Located on one of the best stretches of road, you’ll find the beach on one side, and a river on the other as you drive on from Mangalore towards Karwar, Goa, or Mumbai. One of the cleanest beaches in the country, it can also get pretty dangerous during high tide, so it’s better to be cautious, and avoid the area during the monsoons. There are places where you can stay on the highway, but a better alternative would be staying at the nearby town of Kundapura. September to March is the perfect time to indulge in water sports in this offbeat beach destination. Fishing is the main activity of the fisher folk of this area. Native boats and small diesel trawlers are used for fishing. Seafaring is avoided during the monsoons.
- SKANDAGIRI HILLS, BANGALORE:
Also known as Kalavara Durga, Skandagiri is a mountain fortress located just 70 kms from the city of Bangalore. Off Bellary Road (National Highway 7 Hyderabad-Bangalore Highway), and overlooking Nandi Hills and Muddenahalli, this place guarantees a breathtaking view at an altitude of about 1350m.Â This place guarantees a breathtaking view at an altitude of about 1350 m. The dilapidated walls of Tipu Sultan’s fort can be seen even today.
- ARAKU VALLEY, VISAKAPATNAM:
Famous for its coffee plantations, Indiaâs first tribal growersâ organic coffee brand was launched in the Araku Valley in 2007. The premium organic âAraku Emeraldâ brand of coffee sells globally. Inhabited by different tribes, Araku is a hill station in the Vishakapatnam district. It is a perfect spot for a vacation where you find yourself at peace, surrounded by mountains like Galikonda, Raktakonda, Sunkarimetta and Chitamogondi. Some of the places to visit around Araku valley are listed below.
- Kataki Waterfalls: Katiki Waterfalls is named after Katiki, the place where it is located. The waterfall is about 50 ft high and lies around 4 km away from Borra Caves. Katiki Waterfalls originate from the Gosthani River and contains greenery and clear water in its vicinity. Considered as the most beautiful waterfalls of Araku Valley, the surroundings of this waterfall are very popular for trekking activities. At the foot of the waterfall there is a pool formation. During the summer season, Katiki Waterfalls however, remain dry.
- Araku Tribal Museum:Â Araku Tribal Museum is situated on the Araku Road in the heart of Araku Valley. Located in the vicinity of Padmapuram Botanical Gardens, the museum offers a glance at the lifestyle and cultures of the tribal communities indigenous to the Eastern Ghats.Other artifacts belonging to the tribal community that are on display in the museum include jewellery, hunting tools and kitchen utensils. The museum is well equipped with signboards, which provides requisite information to aid the visitors.
- Anthagiri Hills:Â Ananthagiri Hills, most popularly known for their coffee plantations, are found while heading towards Araku Valley from Visakhapatnam. Located at a distance of 6 km from Vikarabad, these hills are surrounded by the ranges of the Eastern Ghats.Located at an elevation of 1,168 meters along with coffee plantations, these hills also contain mango groves and beautiful waterfalls that flow into the valley.Ananthagiri hills can be reached via both road and rail. The closest railhead to these hills is 3 km away in Srikakulam.
- Dumbriguda Waterfalls: Dumbriguda Waterfalls are located about 15 km from Araku Valley, on the way to Paderu. It is a popular tourist attraction, with its endless streams that cut across big rock formations of Araku Valley. The area around the waterfalls has become a popular site for picnicking, owing to the presence of the beautiful stream spreading across the entire valley.Falling from an elevation of about 3,215 ft, the waterfalls are one of the preferred locations for Telugu filmmakers. The beauty of the waterfalls is enhanced by the presence ofsilver wood trees in the vicinity.
- Bheemuniputnam Beach: Bheemunipatnam Beach, located at the mouth of the Gosthani River, is a famous attraction of Araku Valley because of its natural beauty. The sandy beach and the blue sea of this attraction are complimented by tall coconut trees in the surroundings. Situated at the confluence of Gosthani River and the Bay of Bengal, the beach contains the ruins of a 17th century fort and cemetery.During the reign of the Dutch rulers, Bheemunipatnam Beach was a pivotal settlement. Even today, tourists can find many forts and monuments at the beach, which are in ruins. This beach is known for the opportunities of exciting watersports available for the tourists like swimming. Well- known as Bheemli, the beach has a lighthouse and is a minor port, though it is seldom used now.
- HOGENAKKAL, TAMIL NADU (SOUTHERN)
- Hongenakkal Falls:Nothing short of breathtaking, the Hogenakkal Falls is located on river Kaveri in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. About 180 km from Bangalore and 46 km from Dharmapuri town, Hogenakkal is famous for medicinal baths and hide boat rides. Some say that the freshly fried fish served by the village women at a shore during the boat ride is a highlight of the trip. Apart from this, unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information available about this place. It is often known as the ‘Niagara of India’. It lies at a distance of about 180 kilometers from Bangalore and 46 kilometers from Dharmapuri. A waterfall in South India on the Kaveri River, it has gained immense fame for its medicinal baths and hide boat rides. Considered as one of the oldest in the world and the oldest of its kind in South Asia, carbonate rocks adorn the site. Owing to its water that is supposed to be having curative power, the site is a beautiful picnic spot.
- Mettur Dam: A waterfall in South India on the Kaveri River, it has gained immense fame for its medicinal baths and hide boat rides. Considered as one of the oldest in the world and the oldest of its kind in South Asia, carbonate rocks adorn the site. Owing to its water that is supposed to be having curative power, the site is a beautiful picnic spot.
- Melagiri Hills:Â Melagiri Hills on the Eastern Ghats contain an expanse of 1,295 square kilometres of dry deciduous and semi-evergreen forests. Located between the Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri Districts of Tamil Nadu, the hill ranges are covered with forests that are largely dry deciduous with some stretches of shola vegetation. The highest peak of Gutherayan rises up to 1,390 meters above sea level. Forest in the Melagiri Hills are home to mixed vegetation types, including dry tropical riverine, dry deciduous, thorn scrub, mixed deciduous, dry evergreen, and semi evergreen. Home to Shorea roxburghii, and elephant, the hills offer tourists an opportunity to enjoy trekking.
- Pennagram Village: Pennagram Village is surrounded by dense forests. A beautiful hamlet located in Dharmapuri District, it about seven square kilometres in area. Located at a distance of 15 kilometres from Hogenakkal, the village is famous for its brightly colored giant terracotta statues. Known as Aiyanars, these statues depict everything from mustached warriors to a modern day policeman. These are regarded as guardian deities by the villagers. A large fair celebrated every week also attracts tourists to this village.