Tropical south India is a complete contrast to the north and indeed it’s not uncommon to hear them referred to as being like two different countries. The 3 southernmost states- Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala- taken together make a wonderful and diverse holiday destination, but can equally be explored individually.
Connections from New Zealand (via Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur) make the gateway cities of Chennai, Bangalore and Cochin easily accessible, meaning you can easily wake up at home in the morning, and go to bed in south India late the same day.
With a largely unbroken cultural history dating back to antiquity, Tamil Nadu can resemble a giddy ride through ancient history, a ramble through the dusty back-pages of Raj-era history and a breakneck journey into India’s glittering present, often within an hour or two on the same day.
Kerala is smaller, hotter, greener and much more famous in tourism circles and remains unequalled in terms of scenic beauty. Time in Kerala should ideally come at the end of your trip, as it is quite easily the best place in India to relax under a palm tree, on a beach or on the veranda of a tea-estate bungalow.
Karnataka, vast and diverse, offers the colonial charm of Mysore, coffee growing highlands, remote coastline and, at Hampi, one of the greatest open-air museums in the world- a vast archaeological treasure trove without equal in the eastern hemisphere.