Traveling in India
October 19, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

What are the best things to do with my family during our trip to Southern India?

I am taking my family to India this summer. I will be teaching a class in Bangalore for four weeks. Our plan is to spend another 10 days to 2 weeks in India after my teaching is completed. What are the things we absolutely must do or see?

Here are some relevant details. It will be me, my wife, and my three kids. My kids are 8, 6, and 3. My teaching will be from mid-May to mid-June and it will be every weekday.

I know India is huge and that is why we are trying to decide what we should see. We are leaning towards going up to the Taj Mahal, and we are also considering going to Mysore.

So all of you world travelers, help us out. We will also happily take any general advice about traveling/living in India especially advice that is relevant for families with young children.
posted by bove to Travel & Transportation around India (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The best place on the web to take your India travel questions is The people in the forums there are very helpful, and there's tons of previous questions to browse through to find answers.

I'll ask a few of my friends from Bangalore about local sites to see, and come back to this thread in a bit, but my first suggestion would be to consider taking a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerela. I've never been, but everyone I know raves about it.

Also, consider taking a train ride to one or more of the places you intend to go - train rides in India are a great adventure, and a wonderful way to meet regular folks.
posted by Gori Girl at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2010

I'd recommend stopping by the Agra Fort when you visit the Taj Mahal -- you can see one from the other, as they're only a few km apart.
posted by BurntHombre at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Kerala, for sure. MeMail me if you'd like a copy of the article I wrote about it earlier this year.
posted by cyndigo at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Thirding Kerala. Things to do: take a houseboat ride in the backwaters; stay in the Periyar National Park, and then take a early morning boat ride on the lake. If you are lucky, you will see elephants, and if you are really lucky, a tiger. Even if you are not lucky, you would be on one of the submerged forests.

You said summer. Delhi and Agra can be a scorching 45C in late May, and early June. If you can't handle the heat and the dryness, I would avoid it. But, if you are brave enough to tackle it, then definitely visit Jaipur and Udaipur also.
posted by hariya at 11:53 AM on October 19, 2010

Kerala. Somnathpur (day-trip). Halebid/Belur. Kabini. Wayanad.

Munnar, if you can handle very curvy roads with significant traffic (from a nausea/frustration point of view; do not attempt to drive yourself). It's a nice change of pace up there.
posted by aramaic at 12:07 PM on October 19, 2010

Bangalore is really nice as are plenty of weekend trips that you can take around bangalore. I would definitely leave Agra, Delhi, the forts for another trip if you cannot handle the heat (it feels much worse than the numbers make it seem).

7-10 days in rural kerala can be nice scenery and change of pace although it might get boring for 3 kids quickly. Srinagar, Himachal region (mountains near the Himalayas) might be worth a look-in to. memail me if you would like more info.
posted by cusecase at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Okay, a coworker from Bangalore says that the site-seeing high points in the city are:
the palace, Cubbon Park, MG Road, the Giant Shiva Statue, and the Secretariat and High Court.

Other places to see in South India include Mysore, Bandipur National Reserve, and the Shore Temple near Chennai (Madras). And, of course, the hill stations - getting up in elevation will help you escape some of the summer heat. Coorg and Ooty would be good choices in the south. If you go further north, Manali, Ladkh, etc would be good choices, although I'm not sure how interesting they are for kids.

Bombay is fun - you could take the ferry out to Elephanta Island to see the extremely old Hindu and Buddhist caves. And there's plenty to see in the city! A day's train ride from will take you to Aurangabad, which is a smaller Indian town close to the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Rajasthan is gorgeous (especially Jaisalmer), but I can't recommend it in the summer - it'll just be too hot, especially for your kids. It's going to be hot everywhere except the hill stations and the foothills of the Himalayans, but the desert is particularly hot, of course. Generally, in South India you're going to get a wet heat and in North India you're going to get a dry heat.

Overall, India is very kid-friendly. The tolerance level for kids roaming around restaurants, climbing on things, and being a bit noisy is pretty high. Be ready (and get your kids ready) for some staring and attention if your family is foreign-looking - whether that's east Asian, African, or white (but I think it can be especially bad if you've got blonde hair or blue/green eyes). It's almost always kindly meant - you're just an interesting attraction and staring isn't seen as quite so rude in India as it is in the States - but I imagine the attention would be hard for shy kids. If you've got a girl or boy who likes to dress up, take them to a shop to get some fancy Indian clothes - no one does snazzy kids clothes like India does.

There's a fair number of expat mommy bloggers in India - the first that comes to mind is Delhi Bound, but I know there's at least one blogger in Bangalore. Reading through their posts might give you ideas about things that your kids would enjoy, pitfalls to avoid, and resources in case a kid gets sick or whatever.
posted by Gori Girl at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2010

I absolutely adored Hampi and would go back again in a heartbeat. It's a great place to bring kids, as well - interesting old temples, ruined palaces, monkeys and elephants, all the things you expect. It's also a popular destination for middle class Indian families, so there's a good chance your kids would meet some local kids and get to make international friends.

I would not try to go to places like Rajasthan, Ladakh, the Himalayas, or New Delhi in 10 days from Bangalore with three young children in tow. Assuming you will be flying out of Bangalore - but even if you finagled a flight out of New Delhi, I'd still limit it to the Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra "Golden Triangle".

I'm on the fence about recommending the Taj Mahal. On the one hand, everyone says it's a "must see" if you are in India. And you could definitely fly up there, do Agra for a couple or three days, and fly back to Bangalore. But I don't know how much the Taj Mahal would interest your average 6 year old. I predict you will spend an hour there, tops. Agra Fort is amazing, though I don't know that it's worth a cross-country flight.
posted by Sara C. at 12:35 PM on October 19, 2010

Bangalore to Goa on the West Coast is an overnight bus trip, then work your way down along the ghats through kerala, cross over via Srirangapatna , Mysore and one of the national sanctuaries that might fall along the way, say Bandipur, towards Tamil Nadu where you simply must do Mahabalipuram. Along the way will fall Pondicherry and you could even nip down to KanyaKumari or work your way up from the south of Kerala and then do the middle.

But if you choose Agra then stay north, with your time schedule, pick either North or South, travel isn't that easy either than you can do both. And as others have said, summer is too hot.

In winter, I'd start with Ranthambhore for Xmas New Years and then meander through Rajasthan and Gujurat.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: These are all really great suggestions. I particularly appreciate those comments that give a little bit of detail about why we should choose those options, and those of you who are taking our kids into consideration.
posted by bove at 1:13 PM on October 19, 2010

Seconding what Sara C. says about not trying to do too much in two weeks. I would say that anyway but with three kids doubly so.

The kids may find train trips quite amusing. Possibly an overnighter (in a sleeping compartment) might be both a source of amusement and a way of covering a lot of ground.

When choosing where to go I would strongly advise you look at the weather. You say you'll be there in summer. The northern summer spans the period when the Southwest Monsoon signficantly influences the weather experienced in India .

I've never been there at monsoon time but I understand that basically pre-monsoon=hot as hades, post-monsoon=much wet weather, possibly more water borne illness . Others with more practical experience may correct me. The Southwest Monsoon does not affect the south (south-east ?) in the same way.

In short given the time of year you will be there I would take the weather into account when choosing where to go.
posted by southof40 at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: Here is the itinerary we settled on: After my job is finished in Bangalore we are going to Mysore, then going south and doing a Keralan backwater tour. After the backwater tour we will spend a couple of days on the beach at Mararikulam, then we will fly up to Delhi and hit the Golden triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur). We will fly back to the US from Delhi.
posted by bove at 2:16 PM on March 4, 2011

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