Tamil Nadu, the jewel of South India is replete with many visit-able destinations that would fascinate the heart and soul of any passionate vacationer. There are temples, wildlife resorts and many other places to keep you busy on your Tamil Nadu vacation. To plan the best Tamil Nadu holiday, read on to learn about the top 20 visit-worthy places of Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu is the cultural capital of the South, known for its temples, for being a stronghold of traditions that have endured since centuries, for being home to exquisite temples, beaches and for its hill stations. People here are warm and welcoming and the cuisine reflects traditions and festivals, a celebration of life in a holistic way. Whereas Hinduism may have been toned by external influenced farther up North, there are pockets in Tamil Nadu where Sanskrit and the original rituals are still maintained the way they were practiced hundreds of years ago. Tamil Nadu is said to have been inhabited since well over 10000 years but it is the Chola, Pallava and Pandya rulers who created carved temples, followed by the Vijayanagar influences. The British took over and have left landmarks of their culture, adding to the spicy mix that is Tamil Nadu today.
If you plan to visit Tamil Nadu always spare plenty of time or make specific plans to visit specific destinations. You could plan to visit:
- Temples of Tamil Nadu
- Hill Stations of Tamil Nadu
- Visit Tamil Nadu in time to partake in festivals such as Pongal, Mamallapuram dance festival, Arubathimoovar Festival or any popular festival
- Since Tamil Nadu is known for its modern healthcare facilities you might want to go in for treatment and then take in a few sights
For the best all-round experiences Plan Tamil Nadu Holidays that take you to some of the better temples, to hill stations and to beaches.
Chennai is the capital, a port city, the center of commerce and also an arts and cultural centre so what better way to start your South India trip. Chennai is a mix of Hindu traditions and Christian influences. You can visit the Marina beach and have a lovely time and then take in the St. Mary’s Church and Santhome Cathedral Basilica. Chennai is also home to Swami Vivekananda House. From Chennai, you can take short excursions to the Pulicat Lake and then onwards to Mamallapuram with its beautiful 8th-century monuments. For amusement and entertainment, you have the MGM Dizzee World, the VGP Golden Beach, Queens Land, Dash and Splash to keep you and your children engrossed.
Cuddalore boasts of one of the finest golden beaches where you can indulge in various activities and have a wonderful time with your family. Porto Novo is another place of interest where you can go visit the Portuguese Fort and then have some fun at the Samiyarpettai Beach. For the religiously inclined, Cuddalore offers Bhuvanagiri, Padaleeswarar Temple, the ancient Vriddhagiriswarar Temple at Virudhachalam and Devanatha Swamy Temple.
Your Tamil Nadu Sightseeing tour must include Chidambaram, home to the ancient temple built by the Cholas. There is a temple to Lord Shiva where, instead of the usual lingam, one sees a statue of the Lord and the temple complex, spread over 40 acres, and also houses a Lord Nataraja idol in the kanakasabha, the roof of the sanctorum being covered with gold foil. Chidambaram is also of special interest to devotees of Bharatanatyam since the eastern gopuram of the temple complex has 108 carvings depicting various poses of the dance form. You also have the Kali temple here. Sirkazhi is about 20 km and is the birthplace of Thirugnana sambandar with a Shiva temple dedicated to him. Nagore is home to the dargah of Hazrat Meera Sultan Syed Shahabdul Hameed and the fossil wood park at Thiruvakkarai is also worth a visit.
For nature lovers Dharmapuri offers a number of attractions in the form of water falls, the most striking of which is the Hogenakkal Falls located about 46 km away, close to the border of Karnataka. Another place worth visiting is Theerthamalai, 16 km from Harur and this is not only a religious spot with a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva but the beautiful springs around the temple make it an ideal picnic spot.
If the Hogenakkal falls have whetted your appetite, then go on to Courtallam in Tirunelveli in the Western Ghats region where the rivers Chittar, Manimuthar, Pachaiyar and Tamiraparani create numerous waterfalls as they meander onwards to the sea. While some falls can only be seen during and just after the rains, the area is even otherwise a place of enchanting beauty with a mix of mountains, wooded slopes and water bodies. The main waterfalls worth a visit are the Peraruvi, the largest at 60 metres and the Chitraruvi, somewhat smaller. However, in terms of striking visual beauty the Aintharuvi or five falls takes the cake and is visited by hundreds of tourists. The two other falls worth a visit are the old courtallam falls and the Puli Aruvi or Tiger falls. Courtallam is also famous for an ancient temple of Lord Shiva. Kasi Viswanathar temple is another famous Siva temple about 6 km from another equally famous Courtallam Dakshinamoorthy temple in Puliyarai.
Kanchipuram is temple town and is about 75 km from Chennai. At one time it is said this place had over a thousand temples and even today, it is a pilgrimage spot. Kanchipuram is also famously known for its silk sarees. The temples to visit are the Kailasanathar temple the Varadaraja Perumal temple, the Vaikuntha Perumal temple and Ashtabhuja Perumal temple. Ekambareswarar Temple is magnificent, rising high into the sky while the Kamakshi Amman temple, with a pond is about serenity. There is plenty more to see in Kanchipuram by way of temples and your Tamil Nadu tourism expert should be able to give you the right guidance about time to spend here.
It is a given that wherever you go in Tamil Nadu, you will come across temples ancient and modern. It is no different in Erode where you have the Bannari Mariamman temple, one of the famous Shakti temples and also the Kondathu Kaliamman temple and the Bhavani Sangameswarar temple. The last one is located at the confluence of three rivers and has equal religious significance. As for sightseeing you can go to Kodiveri dam, a picturesque location about 65 km from Erode.
Kanyakumari is famous for being the southernmost tip of India where three seas meet and it is also a place of religious significance with the Kumariamman temple attracting thousands of devotees. Apart from temples Kanyakumari also has the Kamaraj Memorial and Gandhi Memorial as places worth a visit. Then you might take excursions to Suchindram for a visit to the Thanumalayan Temple, go on to St Xavier’s Church in Kottar in Nagercoil and visit the Udayagiri Fort and Padmanabhapuram Palace, 45 km from Kanyakumari.
Visiting one temple after another can be tiring so take a break and refresh yourselves at Kodaikanal, one of the enchanting resorts in South India. Kodaikanal has everything in the right mix: rocks, wooded slopes, mountains, water bodies, meadows and tall trees. Places you must visit are the 24 hectare Lake, Bryant’s park, Coaker’s Walk and the Pillar Rocks.
Yercaud may not be as famous as Kodaikanal but has a charm and beauty of its own. It is cool and has groves of citrus trees and coffee plantations. While here you must take a walk to the Lake, to Kiliyur Falls to Kaveri Peak and to Arthur’s seat.
Another place of natural beauty, Krishnagiri has its own set of ponds, waterfalls, lakes, hills and valleys. The place is said to be named after Krishnadevaraya and this is where Dr C Rajagopalachari was born. There are three Dams here: Pambar Dam, Kelevarapalli Dam and Krishnagiri Dam with gardens adjoining the spots.
12. Ooty or Udhagamandalam
Ooty is the queen of hill stations of the South. The weather is always pleasant and cool throughout the year and the region is dotted with tea and coffee plantations. From here you can explore the charms of Nilgiris, ride in the toy train and also visit Coonoor and Kotagiri hill resorts. Ooty itself, with its Government Botanical gardens, the rose Garden and Lake Park are enough to keep you pleasant occupied. Take a walk through the Deer Park and go boating on the Lake after which you can consider trips to the Doddabetta and Pykara Lake, Kalhatti Falls and Water Falls.
Madurai may not be as famous as Chennai is today but it is important in its own right, dating back to the 4th century or even before. Madurai is the repository of Dravidian culture, home to countless temples and is today a flourishing industrial city, especially textiles and the Chungidi sarees. There are dozens of temples here but the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple should be on your list of places to visit during your Tamil Nadu sightseeing tour. The wonderful thing about this temple is the hall of thousand pillars, each one elaborately and ornately carved. Madurai, one must not forget, was also home to kings and the Thirumalai Nayak Mahal is an impressive structure inspired by Indian and European styles of architecture, a lasting legacy of King Thirumalai Nayak. Close to Madurai you will find Srivilliputhur temple, the Palani Temple and Thiruparankundram temple. For some change you can go on to the Suruli waterfalls and make time to visit the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady.
Once a famous port, Mamallapuram today is silent yet one of the most outstanding testimonials the carving ability of the artisans of the Pallava times. The best time to visit Mamallapuram is December-January when the place comes alive for the classical dance festival, an international event. However, even otherwise, you can visit the rock cut temple caves, peek into the Sea Shell Museum and do the rounds of the Five Rathas, the shore temple and admire Krishna’s butterball. Be sure to visit the Crocodile bank where you can see crocodiles and other natural fauna.
For devotees of Shiva, Namakkal has special significance because it has Tiruchengode, one of the seven Shiva Sthalams. Kolli Hills, at a distance of 45 km from Namakkal are famous for the collection of medicinal plants.
Rameshwaram is a tiny island in the Gulf of Munnar but it is home to one of the most magnificent temples with one of the longest corridors to be found in any temple. There are 22 tiny wells around the temple, said to be of religious importance. In addition to the temple, Rameshwaram boasts of beaches at Dhanushkodi, Pamban and Olaikuda, site to lovely coral reefs. The other temples you might want to visit are the Saatchi Hanuman Temple the Jada Theertham, Nambu Nayagiamman temple and the Badrakaliamman temple.
Though Salem may be an industrial city today, it does have its charms such as the Mettur dam surrounded by beautiful parks and the Tharamangalam Kailasanathar temple.
Thanjavur is a must visit place during your Tamil Nadu Holidays. This is where the Chola Kings flourished and it is also the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. However, Thanjavur is better known for its Brihadeeswarar temple, its paintings, musical instruments and art plates. The magnificent Sri Brihadeeswarar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is beautifully carved. The temple is World Heritage Monument and reflects the magnificence of the Palace about 1 KM away. Do not miss the Saraswathi Mahal Library, one of the oldest libraries in the world. Thanjavur has quite a lot to offer by way of Royal Museum, The Serfoji Memorial Hall, the Sharajah Madi, all forming part of the temple complex.
Located on the banks of the Kaveri, Tiruchirappalli was once the bastion of the Chola rulers followed by the Pallavas and Pandyas later on. However, it was the Nayaks who really created the city and left behind a rich legacy for us to admire. They were followed by the Muslims, Marathas, French and the British. Today Tiruchirapalli shows influences of all the past rulers with an exotic collection of Forts, churches, temples and a cultural flavor of its own. Undoubtedly it is the Rock Fort that, standing on a tall rock, that will claim your attention. The fort is a landmark but the rock itself lays claim to pride for being the oldest in the world at 3800 million years of age. At the top of the rock are remnants of the Fort and there is a Lord Vinayaka temple. A short distance away you will come upon the Marundeeswarar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Only 7 km from here you will visit the famous Srirangam temple, one of the most magnificent in south India with 21 gopurams and a height of 72 metres. In and around the city you can visit the grand Anicut dam, Vayalur where you have Lord Muruga temple, Samayapuram for the temple dedicated to Goddess Mariamman, Puliancholai forest, Lourdes Church, the Nadirsha Dargah and Pachamalai.
Chettinad is a world within a world. Once ruled by the Chettiars who left behind the magnificent Chettinad House showcasing the heritage and art of that period, this part of Tamil Nadu has its own distinctive lifestyle reflected in the art and the foods. Sample the cuisine and visit the Chettinad House and it will be an unforgettable experience. From here to Karaikudi is a short distance and you will surely love the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva but with as many as 108 statues of Ganpati? Go on to Nagercoil because this is where the people of Chettinad settled and this forms a continuation of their culture highlighted in the Ilayathangudi Temple, about 25 km from Karaikudi. If you have time you can go on to visit Vairavanpatti Temple, Soorakudi Temple, Velankudi and Iraniyur temple, all in the neighborhood of Karaikudi.
People from the North have a very dim view of the culture of South India. However, a visit to Tamil Nadu shows the essence of pure Hinduism at its most magnificent, untouched by Mughal, Turk or any other influences.
There is plenty more in Tamil Nadu such as Velankanni where your prayers are answered; Vellore, a royal city with timeless carvings and Theni, nature’s bounty for man. Go on a South India Trip and your Tamil Nadu Holidays will prove not only entertaining but also educational. You will return with more knowledge and awareness of the past glories of India.