What are the main differences between North and South India?
While the north boasts grand palaces, tombs and forts, the south is more about its tropical climate, stunning hills, the Keralan backwaters and its overall scenic beauty. That's not to say it doesn't offer a huge amount of cultural activities with visitors able to chose from 11 UNESCO sites
I personally find the south to be more relaxed, easier to travel and friendlier than the north. The food is varied, but very different to north in its use of spice and coconut, and excellent. Plus the choices for vegetarians and seafood lovers are second to none.
Historically, South Indians are Dravidians, as opposed to the Aryan North; and with the French in the East Coast, the Dutch and Portuguese in the West Coast and the British all vying for trade and the precious spices, it makes up for a fascinating history and unique blend of cultures.
Why do you love going to South India?
You can't help but feel inspired by the stunning temples like the Brihadeshwara in Thanjavur and the mesmerising rituals of the devotees worshipping in the colourful temples of Madurai.
Just a few hours north from there you could be among stunning scenery of the Blue Mountains in Munnar, where the surrounding foothills are strewn with tea plantations and spice markets. On a personal note, I find the story of Tipu Sultan, 'The Tiger of Mysore', really fascinating so I recommend taking time to visit Srirangapatna, the fort where he died fighting the British.
I am also a huge fan of the less travelled Deccan areas, especially Badami. Just the location, colours and the picture postcard lakeside temples and the rock-cut caves makes you feel like you are on an Indiana Jones adventure. And don't get me started on Hampi further north. Probably not technically South India but I'm going to include it anyway - I could talk about this incredible abandoned city all day long!
If you had to pick out one must see, and one must do for visitors, what would they be?
Definitely spend a night (or two) on a private houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala and ask your chef to prepare fresh Karimeen (Pearl Spot fish) for you. Then relax in the open-air living area with your meal, a nice drink and enjoy the gorgeous vistas that unfold before you. Just Fantastic.
One of South India’s biggest draws is its cuisine – can you tell us a little more about that?
South Indian food is different from the north with its uses of black pepper, curry leaves, tamarind and reliance on coconut. Breakfasts usually revolve around various dosas (a thin pancake of fermented batter), idlis (a steamed rice cake) or vadais (a kind of lentil fritter) served with coconut chutney and spicy sambars.
Bread isn't eaten as much in the south as rice is the staple, so dinner and lunches are often meat and vegetable curries served with various chutneys and pickles. Unsurprisingly, seafood is immensely popular as well - and I believe it's some of the best in the world.
It's the fusion of cultures that gives southern food such a fantastic array of flavours, with Tamil, Muslim and Syrian Christian influences all playing their part.
What’s the accommodation like and do you have any favourites?
South India does not have many big hotel chains like the north, so the hotels tend to be more independent but this means they are full of charm and character. Kerala, in particular, has some lovely hotels built in a traditional style with use of teak wood and local material. However, the lack of huge global chains outside the cities also means that the hotels are smaller and get sold out quickly - so early booking is recommended.
Personal favourites are the Brunton Boatyard in Cochin for its location and the Marari Beach resort too (above), because I can totally unwind there.
When is the best time to visit?
Between Jan - early March and October/November are ideal. It's generally cooler at this time which makes travel much more pleasant.