15 days in South India: My travel itinerary

Tripoto
27th Aug 2012

Charminar

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Nasik Vineyards

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Ajanta Caves

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Ellora Caves

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

St. Philomenas Cathedral, Mysore

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Maharaja's Palace, Mysore

Photo of 15 days in South India: My travel itinerary by Brian

Having spent the last 3 months moving around northern India, we had grown accustomed to how things are done in the North but now it was time to venture into the cities of southern India to see how great a difference there really is between North and South. The big northern cities such as Delhi, Varanasi, Amritsar and Jaipur are much more densely populated with crowded bazaars, chaotic streets and non-stop action from sun up to sun down. By comparison the big southern cities which we visited such as Hyderabad, Bangalore and even Mysore to an extent have a different feel to them; cleaner, more suburban areas, not as hectic and generally more approachable and easier to negotiate. 

Before we entered into the 'south' south India, we went to Nasik and then onwards to Aurangabad to explore the surrounding caves at Ajanta & Ellora. Although both of them are in Maharashtra, in the central region of India, they are below the Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, which divide India into two halves. So technically we had crossed into the southern part of India, and Nasik and Aurangabad as the halfway house would be our diving board into the deeper reaches of South India. 

On the banks of the holy Godavari River lies Nasik, a town of 1.2 million people and an important spiritual place for Hindus. Our reason for visiting this holy town was quite ironic, we were here to see India’s vineyards at nearby Sula Wines. Sula has thirty acres of vineyards set around the company’s headquarters and they have a further three hundred and fifty acres in the Dindori region. Unfortunately due to the wet weather, venturing out into the vineyards wasn’t viable and so our tour was limited to the wine production area and the tasting afterwards. An excellent tour guide showed us around the different machines and explained each of the processes. After learning about winemaking it was time for the wine tasting. Swirling, sipping but not spitting, we tasted six of the different wines which the vineyard produces. After a few months in India, where we had hardly had a drop to drink (due to it being crazy expensive!), we were feeling a little giddy leaving the tasting but it had been a great overall experience.
Photo of Nashik, Maharashtra, India by Brian
After Nasik, we planned on using Aurangabad as a springboard to explore the Ajanta & Ellora caves. However, on reaching Aurangabad we realized that this Indian town had an interesting story of it’s own and so we set about seeing what was on offer before continuing onto the surrounding caves. Aurangabad has quite an array of Mughal architecture, of these the most interesting was the Bibi-qa-Maqbara which Aurangzeb’s son Azam Khan built in 1679 as a mausoleum for his mother. Known as ‘the baby Taj’, the mausoleum is a replica of the Taj Mahal in Agra but is constructed of much cheaper material earning it another nickname, ‘the poor man’s Taj’. When we walked through the gates to see the baby Taj we were amazed, it really was the Taj Mahal only smaller, but with hardly any visitors and no vendors or rickshaw drivers annoying us it was more pleasant than the original in a way!
Photo of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India by Brian
A day on and a short, forty-five minute bus journey north-west of Aurangabad and we were at the UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Ellora Cave Temples. The Ellora Cave Temples are a collection of thirty-four caves strung out along a two kilometer rock face in the green hills outside of Aurrangabad. Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions are all represented here and were chiseled out of the rock over a period of five centuries by the monks of each respective religion. It’s an incredible example of Indian rock-cut architecture and the monks used these cave as monasteries, chapels and temples once all the work, done by hand, was completed. Each cave is numbered from one to thirty-four. The first 12 caves are Buddhist, the next 17 are Hindu and the last five are Jain. We rolled back towards Aurangabad and made one old local ladies day when she asked us to take her picture (through a series of gestures) and then shook hands with Noelle, she was smiling ear to ear and we weren’t far off either!
Photo of Ellora, Maharashtra, India by Brian
One more day in Aurangabad was all we had left to make the trip out to Ajanta, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ajanta Caves are a group of twenty-eight Buddhist caves dating way back to the 2nd century B.C. This collection of caves is much older than those at Ellora and are some of the earliest monasteries to be constructed in India. Working our way through the caves was a treat, each cave we reached was as good as the last with a few exceptions. The light filtering in through the doorways cast an eerie glow around some of the temples and the lights which gently illuminated the frescoes inside created a solemn atmosphere. Sharing our thoughts with yet another friendly local we started the two and a half hour bus journey back to Aurangabad where after a feed and a kip it would be off to our first southern Indian city, Hyderabad.
Photo of Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra, India by Brian
Immediately after stepping off the train in Hyderabad we got a distinct feeling that we had left northern India behind. Driving towards the city center in relatively orderly traffic we passed by the massive Hussain Sagar lake reflecting the blue skies of Hyderabad in its calm waters. After settling into a hotel, we went out exploring the city using its bus system. Suburbs sprawl out from the main business center of the city and we headed for the fancy Banjara Hills, Hyderabad’s answer to Beverly Hills. We found a branch of the Hard Rock Cafe. We couldn’t resist going in for our dinner and as it was Friday night the place was in full swing, complete with staff dancing to YMCA, bottle jugglers, a fire show and even a break dancer. For the first time in three months we were treated to a beef burger, which we hadn’t realized was possible in India
Photo of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India by Brian
Rising early the next morning, the plan was to see the sights of Hyderabad and first stop had to be one of Hyderabad’s most iconic structures, the Char Minar. The landmark building consists of four fifty-six meter high columns, each topped with a minaret. Each of the building’s four sides is adorned with a huge archway flanked by the structures tall columns, making it look like India's Arc De Triomphe. Not far from Charminar is Chowmahalla Palace, a complex containing four palaces built over one hundred years beginning in 1750. Magnificent thrones and huge chandeliers decorate some of the rooms inside while weapons and hunting equipment lined the walls of others. Sitting in a glass room at the back of one of the palaces was a bright yellow Rolls Royce, which is still driven in special ceremonies in Hyderabad today.
Photo of Charminar, Ghansi Bazaar, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India by Brian
Twenty kilometres east of Hyderabad is Ramoji Film City, the world’s largest film studio complex. Tollywood, as it’s known, was opened in 1996 and produces movies in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and also some foreign films. Set on 1,666 acres, the film studios house a total of forty-seven sound stages. Driving through different areas of the studios we were brought through sets depicting cities, suburbs, train stations, hotels and a highway with changeable street lights. There were also varied assortments of amusement rides. While the tour of the film studios was a good insight into the sets involved in bringing a movie together, the remainder of the day was a little more lackluster and a bit of a cheesy family day out.
Photo of Ramoji Film City, Andhra Pradesh, India by Brian
Leaving Hyderabad behind us we began the twelve-hour train journey south to India’s answer to Silicon Valley, Bangalore. A major cosmopolitan city, Bengaluru is home to a huge number of ex-pats working in the hub of India’s booming I.T. Industry. The design and layout of certain parts of the city can make you forget for a minute that you are in India at all with the surroundings reminding one more of European city suburb than a major Indian city. Though Bangalore has a few attractions for tourists to visit such as the Bengaluru Palace, Botanical Gardens, Hindu Temples and even an Aerospace Museum, we chose to hang out in coffee shops and soak up the cosmopolitan vibe of the city. A break from stereotypical India is what we wanted and that’s exactly what Bangalore offered us
Photo of Bangalore, Karnataka, India by Brian
After the break, we reached Mysore recharged and our first stop had to be the street side dosa stalls serving up the famous south Indian dish ‘masala dosa’. With hot, freshly made dosas in our laps we sat on cold stone steps looking out on the magnificent 1927 Silver Jubilee Clock Tower now lit up by spotlights. The next morning we made our way to visit our first Catholic church in India, St. Philomena’s Cathedral. The cathedral has some beautiful stained-glassed windows and it was very interesting how inside the locals had Indianised the church. From the cathedral we caught a rickshaw and made our way towards the gate of the Maharaja’s Palace. Continuing through the palace the interior never ceased to amaze with huge hallways, massive swinging chandeliers and a kaleidoscope of mirrors, stained glass and sparkling walls that when reflected in the mirrors seemed to continue forever.
Photo of Mysore, Karnataka, India by Brian
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Wed 12 06 17, 01:35 · Reply · Report
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Sat 07 22 17, 14:15 · Reply · Report