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Discovering the Deccan Plateau: An Exploration of Culture, History and Nature

Author: David Pettitt

Discover the Deccan Plateau on a remarkable and unforgettable journey. The spine of southern India and an indisputable natural wonder, this distinctive region covers a vast area of more than 400,000 square kilometres which, remarkably, accounts for over 40% of India's entire geographical land mass. With its diverse topographies, climates, flora and fauna, peoples, architectural styles and historic sites, the Deccan Plateau is one of India’s cultural treasures and serves to highlight the subcontinent’s incredible diversity making it one of the most fascinating travel destinations in India.

Artistry, innovation, cuisine and history in Hyderabad


Telangana's capital, Hyderabad, is renowned for its flourishing IT sector, mouthwatering cuisine and celebrated history. Founded in 1589 and ruled by a succession of powerful wealthy Nizams who over the centuries glorified their city with multiple extraordinarily beautiful monuments. Highlights include the beautifully restored Chowmahalla Palace which was used by the Nizams to entertain royal visitors and official guests, 16th century Charminar which remains one of the most recognisable structures in the city and the shops of colourful Lad Bazaar famed for its bangles, fabric, pearls and semi-precious stones. Outside of Hyderabad visits can be made to Golconda Fort, an impressive hilltop citadel surrounded by huge ramparts, bastions and gates, the Qutb Shahi Tombs famed for their fusion of Persian, Pathan and Hindu architectural styles and textile town of Pochampally where skilful weavers specialise in ikat or tie and dye weave using cotton, silk and sico – a mix of silk and cotton. 

Discovering medieval Bidar

Dating to the early 1400s, Bidar has retained much of its old charm and heritage and boasts a huge fort, beautiful palaces and pretty pleasure gardens. Imposing Bidar Fort is the highlight and its three huge gates provide access to a number of interesting structures including the Rangin Mahal, or Coloured Palace, Lal Bagh garden with its remains of water channels and a fountain, the Sola Khamba Mosque built in 1423 and the Tarkash Mahal which historians believe may have once housed the harem. The fort architecture clearly demonstrates the expert craftsmanship of the time as well as a distinct Persian influence.

Uncover the past in Gulbarga

Noted for its fort, mosque and many great tombs, Gulbarga was an important early Islamic centre in southern India and played an important role in spreading the Muslim faith throughout the region during the medieval period. Home to a unique 15th century mosque which bears more than a passing similarity to the mosque in the Spanish city of Cordoba – over the centuries a legend has developed that it was designed by a North African Moorish architect – the fort within which it is located, although now ruined, clearly shows Gulbarga’s former significance and splendour. A further point of interest are striking tombs of the Bahmani sultans which can also be visited.

Exploring the magnificent ruins of Hampi

Hampi was once the epicentre of the Vijayanagara Empire, one of the largest and most successful Hindu empires in South India and, today, is one of the subcontinent’s most impressive and evocative historic sites. A UNESCO World Heritage site which flourished during the medieval period gaining great prosperity through the trade in spices and cotton, historians believe that, at its zenith, the Hampi’s wealth and power rivalled that of Rome. Sacked and subsequently abandoned, today much of the site is now largely in ruins but it remains an exceptionally impressive place. Highlights include the Vitthala Temple, one of the oldest and most intricately carved temples of its kind, the grandiose Royal Enclosure which houses the beautiful Lotus Mahal and fascinating elephant stables.

Historic Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole

The three small towns of Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole are each home to remarkable religious complexes that aptly illustrate how Indian temple architecture evolved and developed. Badami possesses 6th century Hindu and Jain cave temples cut into the cliff face of a sandstone hill overlook the town, Pattadakal has an impressive 8th century UNESCO protected Hindu and Jain temple complex built during the Chalukyan Dynasty and Aihole, considered the birthplace of Indian temple architectural design, boasts over 140 temples of a range of architectural styles including the unique circular Durgigudi Temple.

Unparalleled biodiversity of the Western Ghats

Stretching over a vast distance, the Western Ghats, which form the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, is a haven for wildlife, has an ideal climate for coffee and spice production and is popular with walkers and those interested in the natural world. The forests, rivers and wetlands provide a haven for around 7,500 species of blooming plants and 1,800 species of non-flowering plants, many of which indigenous to the area, 140 animal species including elephant, deer and the elusive tiger and leopard, 500 bird species, many endangered, and 180 recorded species of amphibian making this an area of unrivalled richness and variety.

The undiscovered coastline of northern Kerala

Finish with a tranquil end to your Deccan tour beside a palm-fringed beach waves, where you can relax and review your holiday. A favourite coastal destination of ours is pretty Neeleshwar and the delightful property Neeleshwar Heritage. Located in northern Kerala, this heavenly hideaway is set in a palm grove just back from the beach with the traditional thatched cottages large and airy and providing comfortable and spacious rooms. Enjoy the swimming pool, spend time in the spa and Ayurvedic centre, take sunset walks on the pristine beach or visit the local village and temple all whilst reflecting on your journey and everything you have seen and learnt during your time in southern India.
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