Best beaches in South India

As a country, India has it all, from mega-metropolises to vast swathes of uninhabited deserts, and icy mountains to idyllic beaches. The south of the country is home to some of the finest beaches, not only in India, but across the whole of Asia. Here are our favourites...
Beautiful beach in Gokarna, Karnataka. Photo: Shutterstock
Beautiful beach in Gokarna, Karnataka. Photo: Shutterstock

 Beautiful sunset at Palolem beach, Goa. Photo: Shutterstock

Bangaram, Lakshadweep

The coral islands of Lakshadweep, which are located about 350 miles off the Keralan coast, are each ringed with arcs of blinding white sand, lapped by clear waters with pristine reefs just below the surface. Needless to say, these idyllic white-sand islands and their clear waters are a diver's dream. 

Varkala, Kerala 

With craggy red cliffs, epic sunsets and an array of easy-going accommodation, Varkala is the epitome of Kerala’s classic backpacker beach scene. It is also a photographer's dream, so don't forget your camera! Add a stop at Varkala to Insight Guides' Magical Kerala trip and experience it for yourself! 

Varkala Beach in Kerala. Photo: Shutterstock

Palolem, Goa

Lined by palm trees, and home to plenty of rustic restaurants and bars, the iconic Palolem Beach is a lively but beautiful arched one-mile stretch of sand in south Goa. The sheer size of the beach has allowed it to retain much of its natural beauty whilst also accommodating a thriving backpacker scene. At the northern end of the beach is Monkey Island, accessible by foot at low tide only. The beach itself is well sheltered and the waters are calm.    

Kovalam, Kerala

Kovalam is easily the most sophisticated beach resort on the Malabar Coast, and features high-end resorts, warm waters, and crowds of happy holidaymakers. There are several beaches around the town of Kovalam, with the pick(s) of the bunch being Lighthouse Beach and Hawa Beach. Add a stop to Kovalam to Insight Guides' Unmissable India trip and explore all the beaches, and make your own mind up about which is best.

Fisherman boats on the beach in the morning at lighthouse background in Kovalam, Kerala, India. Photo: Shutterstock

Fishing boats on the beach in the morning n Kovalam, Kerala. Photo: Shutterstock

Gokarna, Karnataka

Originally a hideaway for backpackers looking to escape the Goa crowds, Gokarna is now a renowned beach destination in its own right. The main – and most popular – beach at Gorkana is called Om Beach, because of its likeness to the Hindu symbol Om when viewed from above. Often described as 'the sound of the universe' the Om is a sacred symbol in Hindu culture, and this feeling has transferred itself to the beach, which is still largely undeveloped and is home to just a handful of accommodation and restaurant options.

Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu

An appealing blend of exquisite temples and a laid-back travellers’ scene make Mamallapuram a prime – perhaps the prime –  seaside spot on India's eastern coast. The temples date as far back as the 7th and 8th centuries, and the long beach is sandwiched between the Great Salt Lake and the Bay of Bengal.   

Patnem, Goa

Although in close proximity to Palolem Beach, Patnem feels a million miles away in terms of  atmosphere and ambience. Patnem is a relatively small stretch of sand that offers a relaxing alternative to the lively Palolem. Although the waters are not as calm as at neighbouring Palolem, they are still more than safe enough to swim in, which helps make Patnem a family favourite. 

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