The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has been home to the Tamil people since at least 1500 BC and has a distinct ancient language and culture. The state is strewn with temples, old forts as well as architectural reminders of its colonial history.

Sample Itinerary
Chennai (Madras)

Chennai (Madras)

  • Ancient monuments
  • Shore temples of Mahabalipuram

Chennai is the capital of the modern-day state of Tamil Nadu. It was the busiest and wealthiest port in India under the British till Mumbai took over the role in the mid-19th century. The city has witnessed many settlements in its long and ancient history. A tour reveals ancient temples and monuments and traditional markets quintessentially Tamil in character. Highlights include the oldest Anglican church in Asia, St Mary’s Church; The San Thome Cathedral, said to have been built on the original site of a chapel built by the apostle St Thomas; bronzed statues from the Chola period at the Government Museum and the stunning shore temples of Mahabalipuram, just outside the city.

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Madurai

Madurai

  • Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple
  • Gandhi Museum
  • Nayaka Palace

A few drops of nectar fell from Lord Shiva’s locks onto the land and thus was born the ‘city of nectar’, Madurai, so goes the legend. Madurai, located on the banks of the river Vaigai, is one of the oldest cities in southern India and was the seat of the Pandyan rulers from the 7th to 13th century. The Meenakshi-Sundareshwarar temple is the main temple of Madurai and lies in the busy city centre. It is even today an important centre of Hindu pilgrimage and is covered with brightly painted stucco figures. The dimly-lit pillared halls, alive with pilgrims, priests and wafting fragrances, make this one of India’s liveliest temples. The Nayaka Palace and the Gandhi Museum dedicated to the life of Mahatma Gandhi are some of the other attractions that Madurai offers.

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Athoor, near Dindigul

Athoor

(near Dindigul)
  • Off the beaten track
  • Snapshot of rural life

Athoor is a picturesque tropical village of coconut groves, mango orchards, rice paddies and spice plantations. Athoor is conveniently close to Madurai yet well off the beaten track, an ideal getaway from the commercial centres for a brief bucolic retreat. The Kamarajar Lake on the western side of the village provides distant views of the spectacular Western Ghats, while the seasonal Kodaganar river runs through the village on its way to join the river Kaveri. A tour of the village provides glimpses into the daily life of the villagers with farmers working in the paddy fields, women tending to cattle and the activities around the vibrant temples.

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Chettinad

Chettinad

  • Home to lavish mansions
  • Superb arts & crafts on display

Chettinad is a small town in rural Tamil Nadu, home to the rich Chettiar community of merchants and businesspeople. The Chettiars are said to have accumulated huge amounts of wealth in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries which they used to construct lavishly decorated mansions. This semi-arid region is today home to those architectural splendours with their intricately carved woodwork and arts and crafts from different parts of the globe. These mansions, however, were not lived in for extended periods of time and even now are used at festivals and family reunions.

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Tiruchchirappalli

Tiruchchirappalli

  • Ancient temples
  • Huge conical rock
  • Spectacular views

Tiruchchirappalli, strategically located on the banks of the river Kaveri, was the site of many battles between the Chola and Pallava kings and later between the Nayaka kings and the Mughal Empire. In the British Raj it became an important cantonment and a centre for missionary activity. The old city is centred around ancient temples and a huge conical rock, which is ascended by 437 steps cut into it leading to a small temple dedicated to Ganesha, the elephant God. The views from here are superb and look out to the tower of the Srirangam Temple. Just outside Tiruchchirappalli is a large temple complex, Ranganatha Temple, remarkable for the geometric precision of its design.

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Thanjavur (Tanjore)

Thanjavur (Tanjore)

  • Magnificent temples
  • Distinctive artistic style
  • Bronze collection of Thanjavur Art Gallery

Located in the rice-bowl of Andhra Pradesh, the fertile Kaveri delta, Thanjavur was once ruled by the Cholas, the Nayakas and the Marathas in succession. Most famous for the marvelous temples that adorn the city and their artistic stylization, Thanjavur benefitted greatly under the Cholas, great patrons of the arts and architecture. The Cholas were great builders as well, and undertook magnificent building projects. The Brihadeshwara temple was perhaps the feather in the crown of the Cholas, who encouraged their people to donate wealth to temples for the purpose of spiritual gain, thus making Thanjavur a centre of piety and spirituality. Visit the several outstanding temples in Thanjavur; the Thanjavur Art Gallery; and observe artists in workshops, creating gorgeous statues in bronze.

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Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Puducherry (Pondicherry)

  • French character to the old town
  • Catholic places of worship
  • Home to the Aurobindo Ashram

The former French colony of Pudducherry (formerly Pondicherry) is a charming amalgam of French and Tamil culture and traditions on the east coast of India. The French character of Pudducherry can be seen in the scores of colonial buildings and Catholic churches scattered across the town as also in many of the customs practiced here. The Aurobindo Ashram, founded by the philosopher-poet Aurobindo Ghosh, is headquartered in Pudducherry and attracts disciples and visitors from all over the world.

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Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram

  • Vibrant religious & cultural centre
  • Hundreds of working temples
  • Opportunity to visit silk weaver’s home

Kanchipuram was an ancient seat of power and learning in Tamil Nadu and a centre for religion and culture that is still vibrant today. Once the capital city of the powerful Pallava and Chola kings, the city has inherited a multitude of temples of which more than 150 still function today. This erstwhile capital is known worldwide as the place where the famous Kanchipuram silk and gold-thread sarees are woven by hand by numerous weavers spread across the city. A visit to see this ancient craft as it is practiced in a silk weaver’s home can be organised.

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