North India vs. South India: Which to Explore?

India is an incredible country which leaves visitors amazed and astounded by both the people and the destinations. It presents more to see than a week would allow. In fact, the question here is, “How long do you have to experience India?” You’ll need a minimum of 10 days to take in either North or South India, although 14 days would allow for a nicer pace visiting a few highlights, and obviously more than that to combine both.

Getting Started in India
India is a large country, and it takes a fair amount of time to get around. It is referred to as the “Subcontinent”. Want to see both Northern and Southern India? Plan for 18 to 21 days to ensure you see it all. An incredible amount of diversity exists across the country, complete with hundreds of cultures and languages to take in. In fact, the cultural differences are so huge between the northern and southern areas, that it can seem like these are practically two different countries. You can thank their diverging histories for the cultural shift. Both regions are worthy of visiting, and you’ll only see this massive shift by visiting both.

6. Street snake charmer India
Local snake charmer

Northern India
Broadly speaking, Northern India offers a diverse look into India’s Mughal, as well as, Hindu history. Start with Rajasthan, India’s largest state, which is better known as the land of the maharajas. It is home to Jaipur, Jodphur, and Ranthambore National Park, one of India’s famous tiger reserves. This is the India you might imagine with bright colours, enormous mustaches, painted elephants, and ornate castles. With much history to see on street corners as well as tourist sites, travel along with an interesting tour guide to show you the lavish palaces and wonderful forts from centuries past, as well as the food, culture and dress. You’ll also learn about the Rajput – warrior clans that ruled this part of northern India for more than a millennium.

India’s Grandest Tomb – The Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal, known the world over as the most beautiful tomb, is possibly the most recognizable building on earth. Completed in 1653, you may already know that this tomb in Agra is the final resting place of Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Shah Jahan, a Mughal Emperor, who was beyond grief at her early death. Blending Islamic, Persian, Indian, and Ottoman Turkish styles, it’s a one-of-a-kind building that’s beautiful no matter what angle you see it from. While people picture the white marble dome, the complex has dozens of structures to marvel at, including the fascinating minarets, but seeing the incredible designs and attention to detail is what you’ll remember most.

Taj Mahal India
The infamous Taj Mahal in Agra

Culture and Cuisine: You can’t say you’ve experienced Northern India without trying the food, and it’s distinctly different from the south. Whether you find yourself preferring Punjabi, Rajasthani, or Bengali, many regional variations await.

While in Northern India, must-sees include Delhi, with its 11 million people and city full of activity, as well as Varanasi and the mystical Ganges River.

Suggested Itinerary in Northern India:
15-Day India Odyssey

River Ganges, Varanasi
River Ganges, Varanasi

Taking in Southern India’s Beauty
With plenty of lush tropical beaches and the former spice exporting region of Kerala, Southern India has natural beauty to behold. Head to the better-known beaches in Goa or Kerala; check out Varkala, north of Kerala, for some rest and rejuvenation. While in Kerala, enjoy the backwater houseboat cruises that are unique to the area.

Goa's beautiful beaches
Goa’s beautiful beaches

Explore Chennai, formerly Madras, the gateway to South India. Chennai is located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, and is the second largest port in India.

On the west coast and almost half way up is Mumbai, the gateway to both North and South India. Formerly known as Bombay, it is India’s largest city and is best known for Bollywood, the nickname first used in the ’70s when India began producing more films than the U.S. The area of Mumbai has long been associated with the Hindi film industry.

Suggested Itinerary in Southern India:
15-Day Best of South India

Mumbai's Gatweay of India and iconic Taj Hotel
Mumbai’s Gatweay of India and iconic Taj Hotel

Northern and Southern India Combined
Only combining both India’s North and South will you get the distinct awareness of how vastly different these two regions are. Some would say the North has tastier, thicker, or creamier curries and delicious naan bread, while others appreciate the spicier, more watery curries and abundant use of seafood, coconuts, and tamarind in the South. The North is a riot of noise, colour, history, and adventure, while the South is arguably quiet, shy, and more ‘chilled out’. The clothing of both regions is interesting and colourful, especially the saris, turbans, and scarves, although the South could perhaps be said to resemble a more Western style, at least amongst most men. Religion and spirituality is on every corner, hilltop, and town across India, but is noticeably different in the North vs the South.

Rail - Palace On Wheels - Dining Rm
Dining room, Palace on Wheels

When it comes down to it, there isn’t a better or worse part of India to explore, it’s the sheer pleasure of travelling to witness these differences in the midst of one country. With a range of incredible hotels built within former palaces, to quiet ‘homey’ boutique properties, accommodation varies as much as India’s regions. Several hub cities have long been serviced by an extensive rail network, which is an adventure unto itself, or short domestic flights work well for those shorter on time.

When you’re ready to experience all that is India, our knowledgeable Asia travel experts can help guide you to the best excursions possible, given your time and budget. Whichever part of India you choose, you are sure to enjoy an unforgettable experience!

Suggested Luxury Itineraries:
18-Day Splendours of India – Holiday of a Lifetime
9-Day Palace on Wheels

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Globetrotting Editor
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