Would you like to learn more about the differences between South India VS North India? Then you have come to the right place!
Whether you would simply like to know more about this country or are trying to decide which part to travel to, I hope this post will help you find an answer.
Apart from my own observations, I’ve also asked some of my Indian friends (both from the South as well as from the North) about their thoughts on the subject. The result is the list below.
South India VS North India: What’s the difference?
Before diving into the differences between South and North India, it’s good to know that this country is HUGE, and each state feels like another country.
The Golden Triangle Tourist Route and Rajasthan may be the most famous places for tourists, but India has got so much more to offer. It’s home to pristine beaches, some of the highest mountain peaks in the world and fascinating cultures.
At the end of this post, I’ve also included a comparison of both parts of the country which will help you which one to travel to.
But more about this later! Let’s dive into the biggest differences between North and South India.
One of the things India is famous for is its incredible amount of spoken languages. This country has over 19,500 languages and dialects, 121 of which are spoken by more than 10,000 people.
The languages spoken in North India are primarily Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. These belong to the Indo-Aryan family. In South India, however, the majority of people speak Dravidian languages like Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.
Many Westerners think that all of India speaks Hindi, but this is not the case. Although it is the most spoken language with over 40% of the population speaking it.
The majority of the people all over India follow Hinduism, but when it comes to other religions, there are some differences between the North compared to the South.
You will find more people practising Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism in North India. The state of Punjab is famous for its great amount of Sikhs, while there are many Muslims in Kashmir, and Buddhists in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.
In the South of India, you will find more Christians, this is especially true in the state of Kerala.
The festivals that are celebrated also differ in both parts of the countries. Whereas Holi, the Festival of Colours, is more popular in the north, one of the big festivals in Kerala (in the south) is Theyyam.
One thing is certain, though – there’s an abundance of festivals in India.
3. The North is more varied
With its Himalayan mountains, the desert state of Rajasthan and the holy Ganges River, the North of India offers more variation.
This is the part of the country where you will find the beautiful Taj Mahal, the holy cities of Varanasi and Pushkar, the former capital, Kolkata, and other famous Indian destinations. It’s also home to the beautiful Himalayan mountains and famous hill stations like McLeodGanj, Manali and Rishikesh.
The South of India, on the other hand, is famous for its pristine beaches, tropical sceneries and enormous temples. Some of the most famous destinations here are the colonial city of Pondicherry, the backwaters of Kerala and the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, which is one of India’s most famous landmarks.
South Indian cuisine tends to be spicier compared to North Indian cuisine, and you will also find more rice and fish in this part of the country. Some of the South’s most popular dishes are dosas, idli and uttapams. It’s also interesting to note that dishes are often served on banana leaves here.
In the North of India, you will find the typical Indian cuisine that you can find in Indian restaurants all over the world. People eat more wheat here, like roti and naan, and you will find many delicious curries and gravies to accompany this. Some of the North’s most famous dishes are samosa, aloo gobi and malai kofta.
While the South of India is surrounded by the Arabian Sea, the North of the country is landlocked. This plays a role in the difference in climate between the two regions.
You will find more tropical temperatures all year long in the South of India. This part of the country is also quite humid, which makes it feel much hotter (I can confirm).
The North of India is a bit cooler in the winter and hot during the Summer. In the Himalayan mountains in the far North, however, it’s significantly colder and snows during Winter.
Another difference between the South and the North of India is the music. The music in the South is called Carnatic Music, while Hindustani music can be found in the north of India.
While South Indian classical music wasn’t much influenced by external factors, the music in the North of the country was influenced by Muslim rule.
You will find different instruments in both parts of the country. Mridangam and ghatam in the South, and tabla and sitar in the North, for example.
7. The North is more populated
It’s no secret that India is home to an enormous population of over 1.4 billion people. However, the vast majority live in the North of India.
Uttar Pradesh, the state in which you can find Varanasi, is the most densely populated state in India. An estimated 235.6 million people live in this state alone, this is one-sixth of the entire population.
The other most populated states can also be found in the North. The other ones in the top five are Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
A piece of clothing for women that you will find all over India is the colourful sari. In the North, however, many women also wear a salwar kameez. This is a traditional combination consisting of a dress, pants and a scarf.
When it comes to clothing for men, you will see many Northern men wearing pants, shirts and kurtas (a long piece of cloth that reaches up to your knees). South Indian men, on the other hand, often wear dhotis or lungis, which are types of sarongs.
9. There’s more poverty in the North
Some of the states with the most poverty are Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These are all located in the north of India.
There’s less poverty in the South and the percentages of literacy are also higher here, especially in Kerala, which is the state with the highest literacy rate.
South India VS North India: Which one to travel to?
So, now you know what the main differences are between the South and the North of India, but which one should you travel to?
It all depends on your personal taste and preferences, so I’ve summed up some important factors to consider below. I hope this helps you decide which part of the country to visit!
- Characteristics: Deserts, mountains, forts, palaces, more populated.
- Main tourist attractions: Rajasthan (the desert state), Golden Triangle (Delhi, Taj Mahal and Jaipur), Himalayan Mountains, Varanasi (the holy city of Hinduism), Golden Temple (the most important shrine in Sikhism), Dalai Lama Temple.
- Good for: A first-time visitor to India who would like to see the “typical India” that you often see in movies. Also good for mountain lovers, people who would like to see the desert, etc.
- Characteristics: Beaches, temples, tea plantations, colonial architecture, more relaxed.
- Main tourist attractions: Backwaters of Alleppey, Fort Kochi (Portuguese colonial city), Pondicherry (French colonial city), Auroville (experimental township), Madurai (temple city), Hampi (city of ruins) Meenakshi Temple (one of the oldest temples in India).
- Good for: Someone who’s looking for a more relaxed holiday, beach lovers, temple lovers, etc.
South India VS North India: Final thoughts
There’s no question that the South of India is very different from the North. Apart from that, each state is completely different too, often with its own language, landscapes, culture and traditions, and this is one of the things that makes India such a fascinating country to visit.
I love both parts of India equally and spent a little over 6 months in this county so far. I am heading back in a couple of weeks, though, as it’s a country I love and there’s still so much to discover here.
Can you think of other differences between the South and the North of India? Let me know in the comments! I might add it to this post as I’m updating it frequently.
Are you planning a trip to India? Check out my itineraries!