Have you ever been there- waiting for a callback or reply from your friend confirming your travel plans?
Made vain attempts to get your whole group on the same page while picking out a destination or the date?
Made all plans but that one friend backs out last moment and dampens your vacation mood?
And at a time like this, you whisper under your breath- I wish I had come alone!
Well, why not?
Sometimes the best travel companion you can have is your own self. Ambling down the streets, stopping for that scoop of gelato that your other travel buddies never waited for, visiting monuments others wouldn’t visit without a hint of nagging underneath or sitting in peace and calm in a lush green park collecting your thoughts; these are a few rewards of travelling solo.
So if you are an adventure seeker or an escapist from your routine, on a spiritual journey or merely collecting experiences, solo travelling is the key. And what better way to kick-start your solo travel than beautiful South India. From expansive tea gardens to sprawling beaches, busting metropolis to quaint settlements, South India is home to several lands and treasures waiting to be explored and discovered by you.
Best Places to Travel Alone in South India
Whether you are a history aficionado excitedly examining the stone carvings and temples of this rocky wonderland, a writer in progress hoping to find your voice in the vast ruins of this old settlement or merely someone seeking a quiet escape from the chaos of your routine, Hampi is the one-place-fits-all. Once the capital of Vijaynagar Empire in 14th century, the city is now in ruins but enjoys a prime spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as well as the solo travellers’ list.
The city is a treasure trove of monuments and ancient relics, most popular among them being the Virupaksha Temple. This oldest shrine remains a significant site of worship till date. Around the temple complex are several other worship sites and monuments like the Jain Hemakuta temples, Ganesha temple, Krishna Temple and a small Krishna Bazaar. A quiet stroll along the river from the Virupaksha temple also leads to Vitthala Temple-site of the famous stone chariot and hall of musical pillars. A little distance away is Kamalapura where you’ll stumble upon the Zenana Enclosure, the Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables and the Queen’s Bath.
Besides being rich in historic landmarks, Hampi also has a tranquil setting, ideal for the lone traveller.
You can read more about the city on Nirupama Jain’s solo travel diary to Hampi on her blog.
Best Time to Visit: Winter months from October to March
Where to Stay: Book a comfortable stay at the hotels in Hospet
How Long to Stay: 3 days are ample to explore the ruins of Hampi
A small beach town in Karnataka, not quite as fancy as Goa but matching it in beauty, Gokarna is every beach lover’s and solo traveller’s dream. The town is famous for a chilled-out beach holiday. Its beaches, pristine and quiet, away from the large crowds are what attract the travellers to the city.
Be it the expansive cove of Kudle Beach flanked by woodlands on one end, the stillness and quietude of the rocky Paradise Beach or the sprawling palm fringed Om Beach, you are spoilt for choice in the city. Besides the beaches, there are also many religious sites and Hindu temples in Gokarna where you can observe the Dravidian architecture or summon the spiritual voice in you.
If time is not a constraint for you, extend your trip to visit Murudeshwar, a mere one hour journey via train from Gokarna. The ancient city is popular for tall and historic temples that proudly grace the skyline by the beach.
Best Time to Visit: Winter months from October to March when the weather is balmy and pleasant
Where to Stay: Book a comfortable stay at the hotels in Karwar
How Long to Stay: Spend at least 4 days exploring the beaches of Gokarna and the landmarks of Murudeshwar
If walking on the sandy shores with nothing but miles and miles of the glistening blue blanket of the sea is what you are looking for, Varkala is the place for you. Situated between Alleppey and Kovalam, this lesser known destination is a budget backpacking location for solo travellers.
The calm and quiet hamlet, driven heavily by the tourism industry is an ideal place to watch the days turn into weeks in the blink of an eye. Varkala is small enough to walk around in about 15 minutes, but its location atop a cliff provides hours of scenic vistas, peaceful environment and calm solitude.
Welcome the new day on the golden sands of the quiet Varkala beach while the sea waves lightly spray your feet and sheepishly recede. Walk through the ragged coastline of the fishing village as the terrain alters between rocky and sandy. Before you know it, you may have discovered an attraction you weren’t even looking for.
Explore the awe-inspiring temples and forts like Janardhana Swamy Temple, Anjengo Fort, Vishnu temple and Sivagiri Mutt to study and marvel at their architecture. Having strolled through the sandy shores of Varkala Beach, enjoy a culinary experience with candle lights and the stars flickering in the dark and hear the roars of the sea, splashing against the shore repeatedly.
By the end of your journey, the calm of Varkala will have become a part of your being.
Best Time to Visit: Winter months from October to March when the weather is balmy and pleasant. The monsoon months from July to September are also a pleasant time in Varkala. Summers, however, must be avoided.
How Long to Stay: 3 days are ideal to relax in Varkala and explore the village.
Verdant hills, panoramic views, and vast tea estates are what make the ‘Queen of Hills’ Ooty a favorite among solo travellers. The town is well suited for the thrill seekers, nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and hikers.
With several attractions to explore, plan your days to include most of them in your itinerary. Hire a taxi or amble on your own to see lofty mountains, dense forests, sprawling grasslands and miles and miles of lush pasture greet you pleasantly. Take a stroll through the terraced gardens at Ooty Botanical Park housing diverse varieties of flora. A sole 20-million years old fossilized tree is a popular attraction of the gardens.
Go for a joyful toy train ride through dark tunnels and misty woods to discover the pristine treasure of the Nilgiri Hills or hike up to Doddabetta Peak to capture the scenic beauty of Ooty with your lens. If adventure runs in your blood, trek up to the Dolphin’s Nose to catch the breathtaking view of the Catherine Falls and the confluence of Coonoor stream and Kotagiri stream. For a fun activity, spend some time fishing at Kamraj Sagar Lake.
And lastly, treat your sweet tooth because your trip to Ooty is incomplete without tasting its special white chocolate!
Best Time to Visit: Ooty is a year-round destination; however, the months between April to June and September to November are the most ideal.
Where to Stay: Enjoy a comfortable stay at the luxury as well as budget hotels in Ooty.
How Long to Stay: 3-5 days are ideal to spend in the Queen of Hills, Ooty.
Hippie trails, quirky cafes, European boulevards, Gothic churches and sprawling isolated beaches- this is Pondicherry for you. Reminiscent of French Polynesia, the city is well known among backpackers and solo travellers for a wide array of experiences.
If lying beside a lonely beach, doing nothing but relaxing is what you are looking for, head to the Auro beach. If you enjoy aqua sports, go surfing or parasailing at Paradise Beach or swim in the waters of the expansive and popular Promenade Beach.
Stroll through the French Quarter of the city to trace the remnants of the colonial times. Enjoy a quiet reading experience in the quirky cafes while sipping of freshly brewed coffee or relish Franco-Indian cuisine at the restaurants sprinkled throughout the neighborhood.
To see the epitome of the French architecture in India, pay a visit to White Town. It is a well-planned area with European style streets and trees of bougainvillea. Ever seen those rustic images against a sunflower-yellow wall on Instagram? Those are from the White Town too!
For a soul cleansing experience, visit the globally famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram or check out the hippie settlement of Auroville some 15 kms from the ashram
Read more about Pondicherry here.
Best Time to Visit: Owing to a coastal influence, Pondicherry remains warm throughout the year. The months from October to March are the most ideal to visit and enjoy Pondicherry. The weather during this period is pleasant and balmy to enjoy a leisurely walk through the streets and boulevards of the city.
Where to Stay: Suit your budget and book comfortable stays at the hotels in Pondicherry.
How Long to Stay: Spend at least 3-5 days in the French-esque Pondicherry.
Abundant in natural beauty, this quaint hill station will make its first impression on you even before you have reached your destination. Dotted by woods and forests, the way to Yelagiri is marked by stunning landscape. Once you reach the town, the first thing you will notice is its quietness. So, if you seek some ‘me time’, Yelagiri is the perfect destination.
While it may seem much different than the other hill stations, it does have quintessential features of one. From viewpoints to lakes, Yelagiri has it all. A visit to Punganoor Lake is the perfect way to begin your vacation. The tranquil surroundings of the lake make for a pleasant experience. You can collect your thoughts here to the sound of water or take a boat ride across the waters. If you are up for a quick adventure, take a short trek from the lake to reach famous Swami Malai Hills. Watch the sunset down the valley here.
If you are looking for a tryst with nature, take a walk in the Nature Park near Punganoor Lake. Spread over 12 acres, the park is abundant in exquisite floral species. An artificial cascading waterfall, a multicolored musical fountain, fish aquarium and a bamboo house are also within the park confines.
Best Time to Visit: November to February are the most ideal months to visit Yelagiri and witness its beauty.
Where to Stay: Enjoy your stay at the luxury and budget hotels near Yelagiri
How Long to Stay: 4 days in Yelagiri are enough to get your groove back and collecting an experience of a lifetime.
Now that you know what the best places to travel alone in South India are, start your journey to experience the world unfiltered; explore the hidden coves, meet new people and discover the undiscovered to truly discover your own self.
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