Most tours of South India tend to focus on the southern part the peninsula, starting at the old colonial spice port of Fort Cochin and nearby backwaters of Kerala, continuing via a well-trodden trail over the Western Ghat mountains to Tamil Nadu, whose great temples are the focus of intense ritual activity. Having visited Madurai and Thanjavur, you could then veer north up the coast to the former French colony of Pondicherry, then on to Mamallpuram to take in the ancient monuments of the Pallavas, winding up with a day or two on the beach before flying out of Chennai (Madras).

Karnataka, covering the southern portion of the Deccan Plateau, offers a compelling mix of magical archaeological sites, beautiful volcanic uplands and misty hills carpeted with coffee plantations, where tiger, elephant and leopard roam wild in forests retaining some of the greatest bio-diversity in Asia.

The state’s undisputed showpiece, however, are the ruins of medieval Vijayanagar at Hampi. Scattered over a tract of boulder hills and banana plantations on the banks of the Tungabhadra River, the site has a unique atmosphere, which travellers have been able to enjoy in great comfort since the appearance of a couple of world-class luxury hotels.

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