I recently spent three weeks travelling South India, and while three weeks seems like a decent amount of time, I know that we barely scratched the surface! So saying that I travelled around South India really doesn’t seem accurate, it was more like a ‘taste’ of South India.
We arrived on the 4th of May, the start of the HOTTEST month of the year in India. We knew this beforehand but decided to still go anyway. This trip was a bit of a last minute decision (we only booked our tickets a month before) so we couldn’t go any earlier, and then Monsoon season starts from June so we’d have to wait until at least October for better weather. So we just decided to wing it and go, we’re from South Africa after all…we can handle a bit of heat right?
WRONG! India is flippen hot! That heat was on another kind of level…
So, while we did still manage to get around and see a lot of things, I’d suggest going during the winter months when the weather isn’t as hot. Also, if you’ve going to travel to Goa just realise that the season is over and a lot of the places will already be shut down. We were lucky to just catch the last of the action (though barely), but a lot of the places were shutting down as we left. They were actually pulling down the lodge that we stayed in while in Agonda on the day that we checked out.
Though even with the heat and what felt like the end of season dreads, we had an amazing time and would love to go back again to explore more of South India, as well as spend some time up North.
South India: Three Week Itinerary
We started our journey in Mumbai, a city of 18.4 million people! It was a culture shock of note, but a really good intro into what to expect over our next three weeks in India.
We landed in the early afternoon, so took a taxi straight to our hotel. (Tip: use Uber if you’re able to get access to mobile data straight away, or get the prebooked taxi from the airport, at least that way you’ll know what you are paying upfront.) (Tip 2: Make sure you have the address of your hotel, a printed out map will also be handy. The taxi drivers are unlikely to speak English, so you’ll be doing a lot of pointing to your map).
Once we were settled a bit we decided to venture out and check out the streets of Mumbai. We headed straight to the central train station to book our tickets for the night train to Goa the following night.
The next day we got a Tuk Tuk driver to take us on a tour around the city (I’ll write more about this in a separate post). Then later in the evening hopped onto a sleeper train to take us to Goa. The train ride was about 10 hours and cost us Rs 2 900 for the both of us (in AC 2 Sleeper).
Our first stop in North Goa was in Morjim. We hopped off the train at Thivim Station, which was about a 20-minute drive to Morjim (the taxi ride cost us Rs 700). We loved it here and ended up staying for three nights. Our hotel (FabHotel Retreat Morjim) was about a 10-minute walk to the beach, had a swimming pool, was close to restaurants, and in a central spot to explore the nearby areas. We hired a scooter for two days and went beach hopping. We managed to check out Ashwem Beach, Mandrem Beach, Arambol Beach, Chapora, and Vagator Beach.
After Morjim we packed up and headed to Dona Paula (an hour taxi trip for Rs 1100). We only picked this spot because it looked central on the map, but honestly, we were quite disappointed. There wasn’t much going on, so we organised a tour that included a few highlights of South Goa: Old Goa churches, Mangueshi Temple, Sahakari Spice Temple, Big Foot Museum, and Utorda Beach.
After two nights in Dona Paula, we took a taxi to Cavellosim where we stayed at Byke Old Anchor. This was supposedly the oldest hotel in Goa, and I’d believe it. Here, we mostly just chilled out and enjoyed the beach and hotel’s swimming pool. Since we were there just out of the season it was really quiet and a lot of the shops had already shut down, but we still managed to get a few deals (supposedly).
What I loved the most about Cavellosim was the beach restaurants, hands down some of the best food that we had in India — I’ll remember the butter naan bread that we had there for the rest of my life. There weren’t many still open, and they quietened down in the evenings quite a bit. But the owner of the one told us that during the peak season there are parties at at least one of the restaurants each night.
From there, we took a taxi to our next stop: Agonda (Rs 1000). We were meeting up with a friend from home and he’d booked us into Dunhill Beach Resort for the weekend. Agonda was super chilled out: we swam, walked on the beach, ate, drank, and played games.
We were treated to a tropical thunderstorm on our last night which turned into the most epic experience. We sat on our little porch watching the lightning out at sea, while rain poured down around us. Another one of those never-to-forget memories.
We bid farewell to our friends (for now) and boarded a night bus to Hampi from Canacuna (Rs 900 per person).
We were blown away the minute we arrived in Hampi. It really is the most unreal and incredible place I’ve ever been to. We stayed at Gopi Guest House and took them up on their tour offering of the ancient city which was basically a full-day tour around all of the temples. It cost us Rs 1200 for the two of us and then an additional Rs 500 each for access to two of the sites.
We then took a night bus to Bangalore to spend our last week in India with our friends in Bangalore. We would have loved to have squeezed in somewhere in Kerala, but the distance was just too far and time was running out. And of course, it’s always good to leave somewhere to come back to next time.
While in Bangalore we took a day trip to Mysore to see the palace. We hired a private driver for the day and the whole trip cost around Rs 5400 for the two of us. The trip included visiting the mosque, temple, churches, the palaces, and some gardens. I’m not sure if we were just a bit grumpy that day, but we didn’t really enjoy our time there. The palace was cool, and the Hindu temple that we visited was also really special but overall we weren’t really that impressed. It didn’t help that we got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams (ie. normal daily traffic in Bangalore) on our way back.
Otherwise, we just spent some QT time with our friends, ate different foods (highlights were momos and Dosa’s), walked the streets, shopped, went to a museum, partied it up at Mudpipes and Monkey Bar, and played badminton.
From Bangalore we took a night bus to Chennai (Rs 800 each) where we went straight to the airport to wait for our flight to Sri Lanka. Where our next journey began…
If you’re still considering visiting India, here are 5 reasons to visit India. I hope this post inspires you to book your flight and prepare for an awesome Indian adventure!
All photos by Michael Langer.