Every nook and corner of India is filled with amazing stories of the years gone by, further immortalized by the gorgeous monuments left behind by the protagonists. This is what makes India an attractive travel destination for history buffs. It's a place where you not just listen to stories but also, see, feel and relive them.
While North India's palaces, fortresses and tombs are magnets for culture vultures, South India's riches are no less magnificent. Here are 10 destinations that every history aficionado must include in their wishlist.
Stone Chariot; Image Credit: Ami Bhat
This one deserves to be on top of the charts, not just in the south, but India as a whole. The ghost city of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an open-air museum with monuments scattered within a few metre of each other. It is not just the architecture and history behind the monuments but the science behind them that can leave its visitors spell-bound. A classic case being that of the musical pillars at the Vittala temple -- each pillar when tapped gives out the sound of a musical instrument. The chariot temple within the same premises can captivate you with its beauty while the underground passages and temples of the royal enclosures summon a sense of intrigue.
Chennakeshava Temple; Image Credit: Ami Bhat
The twin cities of Belur-Halebid will enthrall you with its beautiful temples, relics from the 12th-century world of the Hoysalas. These temples are not just for history lovers but art and architecture fans as well. The intricate carvings of the temples have always mesmerized visitors; the detailing on the sculptures is so mind-blowing that you cannot but marvel at the advanced levels of craftsmanship that existed then.
Charminar; Image Credit: By Creatographer under CC by SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Known today as an IT city, Hyderabad has a royal past. The capital city of the Nizams, it offers history lovers some amazing museums and monuments that capture the lives of the royalty -- from the well known Salarjung museum for its famed cuckoo clock and veiled Rebecca to the lesser known Chowmahalla Palace and its vintage car collection. A special mention to the Purani Haveli that houses the jewels and the three-floored wardrobe of the Nizam. And that is not all. A visit to this historic city is not complete without a trip to Golconda Fort, known for its strategic architecture and splendid acoustics.
Shore Temple; Image Credit: Ami Bhat
Another UNESCO site, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram is an easy visit from Chennai, Bangalore and Pondicherry. You can witness the sunrise over the golden Shore Temple or head to the unique Panchratha temples for their lovely artistic carvings. On the way, you are bound to see one of the biggest bas-reliefs-- an engraved story of Arjuna's penance . The cave temples here are another story all together, each one distinct from the other. Don't miss the unique rock that stays put on a slope. This one is called Krishna's Butterball, which no one, not even elephants, have been able to roll off.
Mysore Palace; Image Credit: Jim Ankan Deka, under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The erstwhile capital of the Wadiyar dynasty, Mysore offers history lovers several amazing options -- from the magnificent Mysore Palace to the ancient temple of Chamundi and the lovely Somnathpura Temple of the Hoysalas. Not to forget the heritage sites associated with the famed 'Tiger of Mysore', Tipu Sultan. Try to time a visit during Dassehra in September-October; this is the time Mysore Palace comes to life at night in a grand celebration that is reminiscent of its glory days.
Gol Gumbaz; Image Credit: Mukul Banerjee, under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bijapur, now called Vijaypur, is home to relics from the Adil Shah Dynasty. Highlights include Gol Gumbaz, the second highest dome in the world, and Ibrahim Rauza, known as the Taj Mahal of the South.
Bhootanatha Temple; Image Credit: Mashalti under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Established by the Chalukya dynasty, the little town of Badami is famous for its gorgeous cave temples and the Bhootanatha Temple. The rock-cut cave temples feature intricate carvings of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and some from Jainism. However, that is not all to this place. They say that Badami caves were a practice ground for the main temple that was not built a few kilometres away in Pattadakal Classified as a UNESCO heritage site, one cannot miss Pattadakal when in Badami for the perfectly carved temples. Also keep aside some time for the other cave temples at Aihole.
Brihadeeswara Temple; Image Credit: Abhikanil under CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The birthplace of the dance form Bharatnatyam, Thanjavur (earlier Tanjore) is a popular tourist destination in Tamil Nadu. An important city during the rule of the Cholas, there is plenty to explore and experience here -- from the glorious 11th-century Brihadeeswara Temple to the Thanjavur Palace and the ancient Saraswathi Mahal Library, which houses some rare Sanskrit manuscripts written on palm leaves. The little town is also famous for Tanjore paintings, which make for excellent souvenirs.
Meenakshi Amman Temple; Image Credit: Kumar Appaiah under CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
One of the oldest cities recorded in the world, Madurai finds a mention in Chalukya's Arthashastra. The Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai was nominated as one of the new wonders of the world and not surprising, given the amazing history and architecture that it has. A visit to Madurai is not complete if you have not checked out the fabulous Thirumalai Nayak Palace with it tall pillars and fusion of Rajput and Dravidian traditions.
Warangal Fort; Image Credit: Maharajsaran under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Lots of temples, a fort and the ruins of a palace make Warangal a treat for history lovers. Some must-visit places for their art are the Bhadrakali Temple and the 1000 Pillars Temple, a remnant of the amazing craftsmanship of the Kakatiya Dynasty. When in Warangal, you won't be able to miss the stone gateways that are now being used as the emblem for India's newest state Telangana.