A visit to Chennai is highly recommended if you choose to travel to India. Formally known as Madras, the capital of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is known as the ‘Gateway of Southern India’. The diverse range of activities and sight seeing opportunities on offer make this place the cultural hotbed of South India.
Chettinad is a region in Tamil Nadu steeped in grandeur and history. It comprises of 75 villages, built in the 19th century by the Chettiar traders, who made their fortune in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. They spared no expense building thousands of mansions for their community boasting wide courtyards and palatial rooms furnished with Italian marble and Burmese teak. Chettinad is also known for its ornate temples, each of which has its own oorani, a water tank where lilies are grown for holy rituals.
This inland town in Tamil Nadu is surrounded by sprawling countryside, yet its heart is at the Nataraja temple complex. It's beloved as one of the holiest of all Indian sites dedicated to the God Shiva, as well as remarkable for its intricate Dravidian architecture. In fact, all of Chidambaram is steeped in antiquity, while nature lovers can also tour the dense and enticing Pichavaram Mangrove Forest found close by.
This city brims with life at all hours, yet it's still got plenty to see for nature lovers. The Anamalai Tiger Reserve is home to both the gorgeous striped cats and elephants, not to mention countless colourful birds. For a taste of serenity, there's also both Monkey Falls and Siruvani Falls to choose from, or you can immerse yourself in the rich history of textiles that first helped Coimbatore find its fortune. Don't miss a tour of the incredible Dhyanalinga Temple in the hills either.
Nestled in the heart of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor is a natural wonderland of viewpoints with evocative names like Lamb's Rock and Dolphin's Nose. You'll find acres of coffee and tea plantations surrounding the town, speaking to its rustic heart. Foodie festivals in January and May make the most of the fresh greens and goods grown here, but if it's greenery you're after, Sim's Park is another gorgeous must-see. It has 12 hectares of lush botanical gardens and many rare plant species.
Darasuram in Tamil Nadu is home to countless examples of architecture and stonework from the Chola period. Of particular note is the majestic Airavatesvara Temple, whose columns and towers abound with intricate precision from a bygone era. Other temples nearby include Chakkarai and Kathyayene, and the town's bisected beautifully by the Arasalar River, on which locals have made their livelihood for generations. For contrast, the wider and mightier Kollidarm River lies further north, with boats bobbing along it in a colourful parade.
This bustling temple town has a rich and compelling past. It houses 18 different Hindu temples, most dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. All the temples have brightly coloured, intricately carved gopurams, or towers. Kumbakonam was once known as the ‘Cambridge of India’, due to its prominence as a centre of European education and Hindu culture during the British Raj. You can still find a few examples of colonial architecture here, including the Town Hall.
Tamil Nadu’s inland city of Madurai is a treasure trove of personality and unique sights. Evidence of the city’s ancient character can be found in the records of trade links with the Romans dating back to the 4th Century BC. Today it offers some truly remarkable sights including the Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Meenakshi Temple complex.
Known locally as the city that doesn't sleep it is also a shoppers paradise with bargains galore to be seized.
This laid back beachside town is a place where ancient Indian landmarks and modern life rub shoulders. It has a collection of UNESCO designated temples, rock cut caves and one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world. The intricately carved Shore Temple, which overlooks the Bay of Bengal, is a perfect place to watch the sun set. Meanwhile, Othavadai Street is a popular traveller’s hangout spot, a place to grab a plate of Tibetan momos and a beer. Mahabalipuram is also a renowned surfing destination.
Tucked down at the base of the lush Nilgiri Hills, this rural community brims with life. That's thanks in part to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, whose colourful locomotives weave their way through the back country. Mettupalayam itself is home to a railway station and a museum to the line's history, while more spiritual pursuits can be had at Vana Bathrakali Amman Temple. A trip out to Pillur Dam also gives you the chance to see how people work with the land and its waterways.
Merging Indian bustle with Hindu temples and charming gardens Ooty, also known as the “Queen of Hill Stations” is a popular hill resort located in the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) region of South India. Established in the 19th Century as headquarters for the Madras government the picturesque location was given the nickname “Snooty Ooty”. With its rolling hills, tea gardens and scenery lined with trees and views described as similar in looks to the English countryside, Ooty is a popular summer destination for people who prefer to avoid the stifling heat. Enjoy the idyllic view of endless tea gardens and extensive greenery on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Asia’s steepest rail system with the train itself being labelled a charm of engineering.
Affectionately known as Pondy by locals, Pondicherry is a small city packed to the brim with unique experiences, from the famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram consisting of over 400 buildings across town to the gorgeous selection of white sandy beaches. The city earns its nickname ‘Paris of the East’ through White Town, the city’s historic French Quarter, with its distinct bougainvillea-draped yellow buildings and grid of wide cobbled streets.
The area around Rajakkad in the forests of the Palani Hills near Dindigul in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu offers the perfect spot for nature enthusiasts to explore. It is an area of tranquility with local villages offering bustling markets made up of pepper, cardamom and coffee traders and temple festivals, situated in a serene and beautiful location in the Western Ghats, the lush green surroundings of rolling hills and coffee plantations are the perfect ingredients for a relaxing visit. With temples and lots of tourist attractions nearby, Rajakkad has plenty to offer.
Once the capital of the great Chola Empire, Tanjore is now a bustling modern city. However its historical legacy lives on its collection of Great Living Chola Temples, which are visited by tourists and pilgrims alike. The most renowned of these is Brihadeeswarar Temple, with sandstone towers ornately decorated in religious carvings. Another notable attraction is the Maratha Palace, constructed by the Narak and Maratha dynasties. It’s a compelling maze of rooms with brightly coloured frescos and shady, crumbling courtyards.
Top station offers magnificent views stretching for miles of nearby Tamil Nadu beneath the misty blue skies, It is situated about 1,700 m above sea level and is credited as being one of the most beautiful spots in Munnar. The cool breeze and wild flowers make this a great place to wind away the hours.
Top Station is at its most beautiful during the flowering season of Neelakurinji. It’s simply amazing to watch miles and miles of flowers blanketing the hills and valleys.