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The cities of southern India

14 March 2018

The breath taking and rippling beauty of splendid Southern India seeps into every aspect of this magnificent corner of the world. Straight out of the musical numbers of Bollywood, the striking and saturated colours of Kerala, Bengaluru and Kochi turn this part of India into a brilliant painting of different hues and strokes.

Part of this tapestry are a series of delightful cities, bustling and thriving under the Indian sun, but lying in the shadow of more well-known metropolises like Agra, Delhi and Mumbai. Many of these cities have enormous populations, and the towers, markets and temples stretch out for miles across the ever-changing landscape. In this post, we go through some of the finest Southern Indian cities, discovering their history, culture and landmarks.

One of India's most prominent port cities, Kochi is found on the west coast of the state of Kerala and has the nickname Queen of the Arabian Sea. This should come as little surprise as this one of Kerala's finest destinations. A bedazzling concentration of silvery tower blocks sit on the marina, gazing across the sea of turquoise, and deeper in the city confines a rumbling buzz of locals stream through tingling marketplaces.

Much of Kochi's import and wealth comes from a storied history as the centre of the Indian Spice Trade which stretches back centuries to ancient times. Here, traders from across the known world, from Romans to the Chinese came to access a spice market which was one of the only markets to sell treasured spices. This heritage as a major trading post saw Kochi develop into a remarkable city which played host to Europeans and Indians alike, and its wealth was and still is reflected in some of the remarkable buildings which are found on the streets corners and in the squares.

The Fort Kochi region of the city is arguably the most striking area. This is where the iconic Chinese fishing nets are found, hung suspended across the water and still in operation today. The Kochi. Tirumala Devaswom temple is also a sight well worth seeing. This impressive Hindu building was constructed around the 16th century and is an important institution at the heart of Kochi.

Benglauru is a megacity, there is simply no other word for it. With a staggering 10 million people living there, Bengaluru is India's third largest city and the capital of the state of Karnataka. A magnificent maze of veritable labyrinthine streets set out across the landscape, Bengaluru is rising quickly as India's answer to Silicon Valley and the technological centre of this enigmatic nation.

A major feature of Bengaluru is the striking skyline of glass towers. The technological boom which hit India recently has seen an abundance of wealth, providing excellent examples for start-up and existing companies. It's a fantastic place, building its way up into the sky. Examples of the architectural renaissance that this tech surge has brought is the glimmering Bagmane Tech Park and the Infosys headquarters. Both of this structures herald a new age for India's industries; the Bagmane Tech Park features seemingly impossible structures leaning over the park while the Infosys headquarters has fantastic glass buildings including a Louvre-inspired pyramid.

Bengaluru also plays host to some wonderful sights from both the colonial period and before. The palace here is stunning, and took its inspiration from London's Buckingham Palace. Also well worth seeing is the marvellous seat of state government, the Vidhana Soudha, which combines the architectural styles of various Indian eras.

Significantly smaller than Bengaluru, but still boasting a remarkable 4.6 million people (1 million more than the population of Wales!), Chennai is a truly idiosyncratic city. Located on the eastern coast overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is famous for its beaches and its reputation as a health destination for foreign tourists.   Colourful temples, enormous parks and some memorable buildings make this city a delight to discover, and its status as the capital of the Tamil Nadu region cement it as one of southern India's greats.

There is simply so much to talk about here. There's the Indian National Art Gallery, the Shore Temple, the India Land Tech Park, the splendid High Court and miles and miles of golden beaches, sat against the azure bay. Marina beach is notable the largest beach in the world, and runs for an astonishing 3.7 miles along the coast. It was and indeed is the sight of the first British fort in India, the formidable Fort St. George which was created in the 17th century at a cost of £3,000.

So those are some of our picks for the greatest southern Indian cities. Each one offers something different, from the technological wonders of Bengaluru to the health centre of Chennai with its glorious coastlines. Southern India has so much more to offer than just urban adventures though, so keep your eyes open for future blogs about this magnificent corner of the world.