A Road Trip Through South India Every History Buff Must Take!

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Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of A Road Trip Through South India Every History Buff Must Take! by Siddharth Sujan

Credits: Goodfreephotos

Photo of Hyderabad, Telangana, India by Siddharth Sujan

The Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist Eduardo Galeano once said "History never really says goodbye. It only says 'See you later'."

Being one of the oldest habitable societies in the world, India is a land soaked in history. From ancient kingdoms to the bittersweet British rule, the country has seen it all—which now results in a beautiful confluence of influences in architecture, culture and lifestyles.

The southern states of the country, in particular are a treat for those who love exploring remains of the past and understanding their lineages. If you happen to be someone who's all set to take a memorable trip down memory lane, here's an epic road trip you can take through South India and explore the best of India in the best possible way.

The Route

The 1800-km road trip kicks off from the City of Nizams, Hyderabad from where you drive down to Hampi, the go-to destination of every history aficionado. The next day, drive to the cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysore. After exploring Mysore's royal heritage, proceed to the holy city of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. For the final leg of the trip, drive down farther south to Madurai.

Here is a suggested route every history buff must take to explore South India's magnificent history:

Hyderabad - Hampi - Mysore - Mahabalipuram - Madurai

Itinerary

The itinerary for the road trip is spread across four days:

Day 1

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Hampi, Karnataka, India by Siddharth Sujan

For the first leg of the trip, drive down on NH44 to reach the ancient village of Hampi. Dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes from the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi has continued to fascinate travellers ever since. Over the past few years, the World Heritage Site has also emerged as a popular hippie destination. While that happens, Hampi continues to be a hotspot for history fanatics who flock here in big numbers to get an insight into a bygone era.

Time on the road: 8 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 385 km

Top experiences: Visit the oldest functioning temple in India, the 7th-century Virupaksha Temple dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva; witness stone chariots, huge pillars and intricate sculptures at the 15th-century Vittala Temple dedicated to Lord Vittala—an incarnation of Lord Vishnu; get a taste of Hampi's glorious history at Archaeological Museum; explore the shrines and statues of riverside ruins; visit the Queens's Bath and go shopping for souvenirs at Hampi Bazaar.

Where to stay: Orange County, Hampi and Clarks Inn, Hampi. For more options, click here.

Day 2

Credits: Spiros Vathis

Photo of Mysore, Karnataka, India by Siddharth Sujan

A taxing drive on the NH150A from Hampi gets you to the historic city of Mysore. The city houses the famed Mysore Palace, seat of the former ruling Wodeyar dynasty. In addition, Mysore is lined with several monuments and historical temples which speak volumes of its rich past and heritage. It is this glorious history of Mysore which gives it the distinction of being identified as the cultural capital of Karnataka.

Time on the road: 9 hours

Distance: 450 km

Top experiences: Marvel the beauty of Mysore Palace, residence of the Wodeyars, the erstwhile royal family of Mysore; witness intricate carvings on the rock-cut temple of Chamundi Hills; visit Lalitha Mahal, best known for its architectural influences from St Paul’s Cathedral in London; study the neo-Gothic style of architecture at St Philomena’s Church; take a day trip to the majestic heritage site of Srirangapatna and visit Jaganmohan Palace and Lakshmi Vilas Mansion to witness priceless artefacts collected over years from the region.

Where to stay: The Windflower Resort and Spa, Mysore and Sonder Hostel. For more options, click here.

Day 3

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India by Siddharth Sujan

Heading into the state of Tamil Nadu through what is the most challenging drive of the trip will land you up in Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram. Located 50km south of Chennai, Mahabalipuram is a town on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake. Once a major seaport of the ancient Pallava kingdom, Mahabalipuram is now a major religious hub that shouldn't be missed by admirers of ancient archaeological wonders.

Time on the road: 9 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 500 km

Top experiences: Go to Arjuna's Penance, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to witness some of the greatest ancient artworks inscribed in two monolithic rock boulders; witness Dravidian style architecture at rock temples of Panch Rathas; visit Shore Temple, a gorgeous single rock structure; offer your prayers at the Thirukadalmallai, a structure erected by the Pallava Kings around the 6th century BCE; learn about the humble life of South India's villages at Dakshinachitra Museum and take surf lessons on Mahabalipuram Beach.

Where to stay: Grande Bay Resort and Spa, Mamallapuram and Blue Moon Guest House. For more options, click here.

Day 4

Credits: Richard Mortel

Photo of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India by Siddharth Sujan

Drive down farther south in Tamil Nadu for the last leg of the trip to reach Madurai, a city that is undoubtedly the soul of this beautiful state. Madurai's history dates back to the 3rd century BCE and at the heart of this historic city lies its biggest tourist attraction, the Meenakshi Temple. The famed temple is a one-of-a-kind complex best known for its maze-like structure. The very fact that Madurai has been ruled by a string of kingdoms starting from the Pandyas to the British leads to it being a city soaked in history, culture and heritage.

Time on the road: 7 hours

Distance: 420 km

Top experiences: Visit the pride of Madurai, Meenakshi Temple; get awed by Indo-Sarcenic architectural style of Thirumalai Nayak Palace; attend Sunday mass at Saint Mary's Cathedral, a marvellous structure constructed in 1840; learn about Mahatma Gandhi's glorious life at Gandhi Museum and take a walk through Vilachery, a village inhabited by potters and artisans who carve intricate idols.

Where to stay: Mount Retreat and The Lost Hostel, Madurai. For more options, click here.

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