Tamil Nadu is one of the most traditional states in Southern India and is well known for its numerous mega-temples, it’s strict adherence to its traditions, and language and of course the mouth-watering dosai!
Things To Do In Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is the historical home of the famous Chera, Chola, Pandya, and Pallava kingdoms which thrived in the ancient and medieval era. You can go temple hopping and be amazed at their grandeur, colors, and mega-construction.
Alternatively, you can go to the coastal areas, relax by the beach. Or, go to one of the most beautiful hill-stations in the entire country.
If temples and beaches are not your thing, can go shopping for the traditional Sarees. Kanchipuram Sarees are especially famous and people from all over the South make it here in times of weddings and special occasion.
You may want to check out Tanjore paintings at Thanjavur, made with real gold and jewels.
Top Cities in Tamil Nadu
- Chennai — the capital of Tamil Nadu; one of India’s major metropolitan cities
- Madurai — a place of great historical and cultural importance; oldest city in Tamil Nadu (documented since 4th century BC)
- Ooty — a major hill station in Tamil Nadu
- Kodaikanal – the most famous hill station, known for its beautiful Nilgiri Hills
- Yercaud – another beautiful hill station
- Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip of India, you can see both sunrise and sunset from here
- Coimbatore — known as the Manchester of the South and major producer of engineering goods, textiles, auto components, pumps and wet grinders
- Thiruchirapally — an ancient capital city of Chola and Naicka kings for many centuries
- Vellore – known for its famous educational Institution, it also has a famous golden temple which people throng in huge numbers
- Erode — a major producer of turmeric, milk, and textiles, plus, many beautiful temples
- Salem — city with beautiful temples and other sites
The terraced city of Kodaikanal
The capital city has a wide range of choices ranging from relaxing at the longest beach in the country, Marena; to shopping in the equally long lanes of TNagar, Pondy Bazar, or Purshawakam.
Indulge in some street food, on the lanes 0f the city while walking past some amazing monuments built during the British Era, like their central Railway Station or the Portuguese Santhome Church.
For a complete list of Things to Do in Chennai, please visit our Chennai Travel Guide.
Temples and Cultural Sites
Tamil Nadu is home to numerous temples. Few of the most famous ones are located at:
- Kanchipuram – the tallest temple gopuram (gateway tower at 59m tall), one of the tallest in India
- Tiruvanamalai – the Annamalaiyar temple, spread over 25 acres is one of the largest in the country
- Kumbakonam – home to numerous temples, a majority of them dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu
- Rameshwaram – Ramanathasawamy temple, is not only a famous pilgrimage site but also an architectural marvel, having the longest corridor sculpted with stone columns on either side
Colonnaded hall at the temple complex
- Thanjavur – Bhrihadeswara temple, Built out of granite, the tower above the sanctum is one of the tallest in South India. The temple has a massive collonaded prakara (corridor) and one of the largest Shiva Lingas in India. The temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the state.
- Srirangam – Ranganathaswamy temple, occupies an area of 155 acres with 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, 50 shrines, 9 sacred water pools, Ayiram kaal Mandapam (a hall of 1000 pillars) in its complex.
Nature & Scenic Sites
Sometimes referred to as the “Niagara Falls of India,” it is known for bathing areas, oil massages and boat rides, all while admiring the thundering falls. Since the force of the water is mighty you are only allowed to stand on a bridge to view the falls for few minutes and not allowed to venture into the actual falls.
But there are numerous water streams before the main falls where people venture for a swim or boat ride
The Hogenikkal falls in full flow
Mahabalipuram is a town on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake. It’s known for its temples and monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries located right next to the sea. The seafront Shore Temple comprises 3 ornate granite shrines.
Krishna’s Butter Ball is a massive boulder balanced on a small hill near the Ganesha Ratha stone temple.
The temple by the shore at Mahabalipuram
Ooty is a hill station in the Nilgiri Hills, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located between Mysore and Coimbatore, the region is connected by the Nilgiri ghat roads and Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Ideal getaway during the hot summer months, it still retains a lot of its green cover but is slowly succumbing to tourist footfall
For a complete list of Things to do in Ooty, please read Ooty Travel Guide.
Situated 7,200 feet above sea level amongst the picturesque Western Ghats of India and located in the Palani Hill Rang, Kodaikanal is known as one of Tamil Nadu’s finest hill stations.
For a complete list of Things to do in Kodaikanal, please read Kodaikanal Travel Guide.
The major industry is ecotourism with resorts amid high trees and plantations. It has a lake surrounded by gardens and trees. Other major attractions include Killiyur waterfalls, Lady’s seat from where you can view the whole plains below and few temples, because it is in the state of temples, after all.
Wildlife in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is home to numerous National Parks. Here is a list of the famous ones:
- Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park — home to various species such as the Bengal Tiger, Indian elephant, Indian hornbill and lion-tailed macaque. This park is located in the Anaimalai Hills.
- Guindy National Park (Guindy’s Lodge) — one of the smallest parks in India located within a city Chennai. The Snake Park is located next to Guindy National Park and a Children’s Park (zoo) is located within the park
- Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park — mangroves provide important feeding grounds for the vulnerable marine mammal, the Dugong. This park has a large variety of plants and animals in its marine, tidal and near shore habitats. Access is limited to glass bottom boats. Coral mining has degraded parts of this park
Turtles at Gulf of Mannar
- Madumalai Nationa Park— offers a variety of flora and fauna plus the opportunity to go on an elephant safari
- Mukurthi National Park — home for several endangered species and its mammal attraction, the Nilgiri Tahr
- Palani Hills National Park — this park has many mountains and waterfalls plus a large variety of plants, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The plant Kurinji flowers which blossoms every 12 years is found here
Bison can be spotted in Kodaikanal
- Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve — part of Nilgiri biosphere reserve, the sanctuary has the largest elephant population in the country. The park has significant tiger and leopard population.
- Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve — home to various species such as the Bengal Tiger, Indian elephant, lion-tailed macaque, leopard, and the rare Malabar squirrel.
Beaches & Sports Activities
Located in the capital city of Chennai, this is stated as the longest beach in the world which stretches a span of 13km. Best visited during the early morning to see the sunrise or late evenings after the temperature lowers. You can sit by the water until late night while enjoying some street food or ice cream.
From one end of the road, you get to see the sunrise and then go the other end to see the sunset in the evening. Beyond you can see the Arabain Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean all merge as one from the lighthouse.
The wide coast of Kanyakumari
At a distance of 13 Kms from Chennai (located in Besant Nagar), The Elliot’s Beach is a well-known destination for people who seek relief from the crowded metropolitan life of the Chennai. The Adyar River drains into the sea here.
Popularly known as ‘Bessie’ among locals, this is an extremely calm and tranquil place. The Beach has become a popular hangout for the young generation. Elliot’s Beach is also a favorite haunt of foreigners where they can peacefully take their sun bath.
ECR- East Coast Road
Go for a long drive on ECR from Chennai to Pondicherry, experiencing the local architecture of South India at Dakshin Chitra, adventure at amusements parks and watch a humongous collection of crocodiles at one place at Crocodile Bank or Dolphins and Seals jump at Dolphin City
One of the houses on display at Dakshin Chitra Museum
Trekking & Hiking in Tamil Nadu
- Siruvani Waterfalls (Near Coimbatore)
- Topslip (Near Coimbatore)
- Vaideki Waterfalls (Near Coimbatore)
- Perumal Peak (Near Kodaikanal)
- Thalaiyar Falls / Rat Tail Falls (Near Kodaikanal)
- Kolli Hills (Near Tiruchirappalli)
- Gingee Fort (Near Vellore)
Trekking trail in the Western Ghats
When to Visit
Summers are incredibly hot in Tamil Nadu and unless you can tolerate high temperatures with humidity so it is best avoided during the months of April to July. Best time to visit are the winter where the temperature isn’t very high and you can walk around without much of a hassle.
During monsoon, the many cities usually get water clogged and traveling by road can be tough sometimes.
Culture of Tamil Nadu
The state is very proud of its heritage and language. They can get offended if you try and talk with them in Hindi (major language in India) and it’s best to stick to English if you do not know Tamil.
Best visited during December and January as numerous fests related to dance and music take place during this time. It becomes the cultural hub for traditional art forms.
Here is a list of major festivals they celebrate and what is worth seeing.
- Aadi Perukku (18th day of the Tamil Month of Aadi) is celebrated to welcome the huge influx of water in the major river Kaveri.
- Deepavali, the festival of lights marks the killing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna. To celebrate the end of evil, people symbolically take oil bath, burst crackers, exchange sweets and adorn new dresses to express their joy.
- Pongal, the harvest festival of the state is celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai (mid-January in Gregorian Calendar ), is an important festival for the people of Tamil Nadu, especially the farmers, irrespective of their religion. It is celebrated over four days. The festival thanks everyone – the sun god for his sunshine, cattle for their work, friends & fellow workers for their support, for the season’s harvests.
People celebrating Pongal
- Tamil Varuda Pirappu (Tamil New Year) The 1st day of the Tamil month of Chittirai. Usually, this falls on 14th or 15th April.
- Vinayaga Chathurthi A celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
- Krishna Jayanti or Gokulashtami A celebration of the birthday of Lord Krishna.
- Navaratri is a festival celebrated across nine days in honor of the three goddesses Durga (strength), Lakshmi (wealth), Saraswathi (learning). Vijayadasami is the next day after Navaratri and is considered to be the most auspicious day for starting new ventures.
Jalikattu, a traditional event where Bulls are released into a sea of people.
- Dosai or dosa – It is made from rice flour. Dosas again come in a variety of forms and sizes. A dosa with potato curry stuffed inside becomes a Masala Dosa. A Dosa made from Rice flour and Fine semolina (Rawa) becomes a Rawa Dosa.
- Pal payasam (rice pudding) – This is a sweet dish made from rice and thick milk.
- Plain idlis– Plain Idlis are similar to rice cakes, but they are eaten with a coconut side dish made out of beaten coconut white mixed with a little spice. Its called Coconut (Thenga in Tamil) Chutney. Also typically served are Tomato chutney (the difference is here tomato pulp is used) and Dal sambar. The Idlis are served hot. They are meant to be eaten by hand.
A typical breakfast of 2 Idlis and a Vada
- Poori Masala (Poori Kizlaingu)– It’s made in fine wheat flour, quite oily food. It served as breakfast or evening tiff-en with potato curry.
- Vadai– it’s prepared with different lentils and fried in oil, which can be eaten with or without chutney & sambar. It can be had with breakfast or evening snacks. Various types of Vadai are prepared, including Medu Vadai (orid dal) and masala Vadai (toor dal).
If you were to fly in and around the state, Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, and Tiruchirapalli have international airports while there are 7 more domestic airports within the state. So, it is easy to fly from one part to the other.
The government bus service called the TNSTC provides buses of all types to help reach all the corners of the state. Depending on your destination the buses vary from Airconditioned Volvo/Scania buses from one city to the other to local buses running within the city.
You can also move from one part of the state to another by train. Though not as many in frequency as the buses they are also an ideal way of traveling, especially for a night journey. You can book your ticket from IRCTC.
Where to Stay
Tamil Nadu has a wide range of accommodation to provide to its visitors, be it the class-conscious tourist or the budget-backpacker. The house owners require the services of helpers to attend to the needs of the tourists. Apart from this, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has 36 Hotels in Tamil Nadu that are hygienic and suits the budget to middle category tourists.
A number of 5-star hotels and resorts are also available if you want to splurge, or resorts by the beach to spend a weekend in the midst of nature.
How Safe Is Tamil Nadu
Generally, Tamil Nadu is one among the safest provinces in India. They respect tourist as long as you don’t hurt their sentiments.
Beware of pickpockets and thieves in buses and trains. If you travel via train, think twice before eating anything offered by other passengers. Also, when traveling with someone from the opposite gender, it would be advisable to avoid too much of physical intimacy, as it may invite unwanted attention and comments in this conservative state.
May 30, 2018 3:00 am
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