Southern Sojourn: Destination Guide

Tamil Nadu is flanked by the Indian Ocean on its eastern borders. The southernmost tip is Kanyakumari- land's end, with the great expanse of the ocean in magnificent view. Temple towns, forests and hill stations make Tamil Nadu an enticing destination for any traveller. To the west is Kerala, blessed with palm fringed beaches, an extensive network of interconnected canals, lakes and estuaries, thick forests and rugged peaks. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of holistic healing has strong roots here. So you really should try an Ayurvedic massage. And the food is to die for. Period.

Chennai
Is the bustling capital of Tamil Nadu with the second largest beach in India- the Marina Beach. Some of the sights to see include Fort St. George, which also houses the St. Mary’s Church and a museum. The San Thome Basilica, built over the tomb of St. Thomas is another popular attraction, as is the Kapaleeshwara Temple, built to Lord Shiva.

Mahabalipuram
This seaside town, a short drive from the centre of Chennai, is a historical World Heritage Site famous for its rock-cut shore temples, a treasure trove of architectural splendour. The carvings depict scenes from the Mahabharata . Among the structures here are the Pancha Rathas- monolithic carvings of chariots, and Arjuna's Penance (aka Descent of the Ganges), an immense and intricate bas relief from the 7th century. Mahabalipuram also has options for bike trips, fishing trips, boat rides and trekking. 

Kanchipuram
According to Hindu religious belief, Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred Indian cities. A pilgrimage to one of these sites is supposed to cleanse you of your sins. The city has over a hundred temples, some of the more spectacular ones being the Ekamabaranath Temple, the Varadaraja Swamy Temple  and the Kamakshi Amman Temple. Kanchipuram also has a world-renowned tradition of exquisite hand-woven silk saris (the sari is the traditional Indian garment worn by women, draped over the body).       

Pondicherry
Was under the rule of the French for over 250 years, and the French influence is still prevalent in the town's architecture, food and culture. The beaches, churches and temples make Pondicherry an attractive destination.  Sri Aurobindo established his famous ashram here, attracted by the tranquility of the place. A few kilometres away is the township of Auroville, founded in 1968 as a place for people of all nationalities to live together and realize human unity. Also nearby is the Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research. 

Tanjore 
Now known as Thanjavur, the city was the capital of the erstwhile Chola Empire which was the most immense and long-lasting empire in South India. Tanjore has a rich classical painting style all its own. It's also home to the Brihadeeswara Temple, which is India's largest. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a thousand years old and still a living temple. Go get spellbound.   

Madurai
Madurai, like Tanjore, also retains its old world charm. It's an ancient city, one that's been inhabited for two and a half thousand years. At the heart of Madurai is the Meenakshi Amman Temple. This is another important Hindu temple and the folklore and legends associated with it are truly fascinating. 

Kodaikanal
Is a honeymooner’s paradise known for its lush green hills and meadows. Surrounded by the Western Ghats which rise to 2000 metres, the climate here is always cool and pleasant. The terraced hillsides and the lakes make it one of the most picturesque hill stations of India. The surrounding countryside makes for some great hiking.

Kumarakom
180 km from Kodaikanal, Kumarakom is the most laid-back destination, set amidst the massive Lake Vembanad,  Enjoy the experience of the dreamy Kerala backwaters on your houseboat cruise. And if you visit around the festival of Onam  (August - September) you'll get to see some crazed boat racing.  

Cochin
Historically, Cochin (now Kochi) was a major trade centre for spices. Over the centuries, the port city was held by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Cochin is well connected with all the major cities. Fort Cochin (the old town) has the country's oldest Jewish Synagogue, as well as a number of lovely boutique hotels. 
The Chinese fishing nets along the coastline are a sight not to be missed. 

 

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