Heritage, nature or wildlife. What’s your pick? Occupying the bottom stretch of the Coromandel Coast, Tamil Nadu sits comfortably in the lap of nature. Supremely rich in culture and heritage, it is home to the ancient Chola Dynasty, the state has a wealth of temple architecture. A social-distancing friendly destination, especially in the hill stations, the towering mountains and charming landscape offer countless reasons as to why this southern gem should be your next vacation destination post the pandemic.
Step Back In tIme
The rich history of Tamil Nadu has resulted in many notable sights across the state. Its diversity is best exemplified in the plethora of religious sites including a number of churches, mosques and even Buddhist monasteries.
The Chola dynasty that ruled the region till the 13th century is credited with the most outstanding temples that showcase the grandeur of the bygone era. During their reign of nearly 1,500 years, the Chola temples became the hub of economic, political and cultural activities. Head to the Great Living Chola Temples, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to witness their architectural brilliance. The site includes three great temples— the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram and the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple at Jayankondam.
The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, another Unesco World Heritage Site, is a collection of monolithic monuments built by the Pallava kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. The rock sculptures are inspired by tales from Mahabharata and are a sight to behold. Some of the prominent ones are Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas, Varaha Mandapam, Mahisha suramarthini Mandapa etc., Located in the heart of Madurai, the Meenakshi Temple, built in 6th century BC, is one of the most iconic attractions down south. Madurai situated on the banks of River Vaigai, has a rich cultural heritage passed on from the great Tamil Sangam era which is more than 2500 years old. It was the capital city of Pandya Kings. Meenakshi Temple is dedicated to Parvathi or Meenakshi – the consort of Lord Shiva. It is a splendid example of Dravidian Architecture. The temple has doors in all four directions for devotees to enter. However, it’s the Koodal Azhagar Temple here that is believed to be older than the Meenakshi Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one can spot the three varied statues in different postures—standing, sitting and reclining.
Along the Coast
With the Indian Ocean in the south and the Bay of Bengal in the east, this Tamil Nadu is the perfect destination for a beach holiday. Each beach has its own charm with resorts and tiny cafés serving delicacies as you gaze into that picture-perfect sunset.
Apart from the monolithic structures, the sandy beach of Mahabalipuram also attracts hordes of tourists from all over the world. If you love swimming and windsurfing then this is the ideal spot for you. The Mahabalipuram Dance Festival held during winters every year is another reason to hit this beach town.
The southernmost tip of the Indian mainland, Kanyakumari is located at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Its tranquil aura is contrasted by the roaring tides of the sea, making it the perfect getaway for those who prefer the solitude of a less-touristy beach. The sight of the waves striking the rocks makes for an alluring visual. While in Kanyakumari, you can pay your respects to goddess Kanya Kumari at the 3,000-year-old Kumari Amman Temple, visit the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the century-old lighthouse. A memorial dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, 500 meters from main land, accessible by a ferry service and gigantic 40 meters high statue of Tiruvalluvar, a great poet – saint are major attractions.
If you’re looking to get away from the bustle of city life, then you surely need a holiday to the ‘lost town’ of Dhanushkodi at the southernmost end of Rameshwaram. Surrounded by the Bay of Bengal on one side and Indian Ocean on the other, Dhanushkodi Beach offers a chance to encounter the thrills of sea surfing. With every beach extraordinary in its own sense, it is a sweet addition to your Tamil Nadu vacation.
ENCOUNTER NATURE’S BOUNTY
There’s no doubt that Tamil Nadu is a nature lover’s paradise. With its quaint hill stations, including the likes of Ooty, Kodaikanal, Coonoor, Yelagiri and many more situated in the Western Ghats, it offers ample scope for eco-tourism.
Known as the ‘Queen of Hills’, Ooty or Udhagamandalam is one of the most popular hill stations in the region. Situated in the Nilgiri Mountains, this little town served as a getaway for the British in the pre-independent era. A boat ride at Ooty Lake can be very refreshing. If a heritage ride is on your mind, then the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is just the one for you. Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2005, it was first built by the British in 1908. The train runs from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam, via Coonoor. As the train chugs over bridges, be prepared to be awed by the vistas of mountains, valleys and tea plantations along the way.
The journey to upper Bhavani Lake located within the deep jungles is worthwhile and if you are lucky you might even spot wild cats and peacocks. You can spend the night at the forest boat house near Pykara Lake. The highest point in the Nilgiri Mountains, the Doddabetta Peak in Ooty is a real treat to the eyes, offering a breathtaking view of the city's skyline.
Kodaikanal, nestled in the Palani Hills is perfect for those looking for something a bit more offbeat and away from the typical touristy crowd. Be it a boat ride along the star-shaped Kodaikanal Lake or capturing the ethereal beauty from the Pillar Rocks, where three vertical granite boulders play hide and seek with mists, this resort town creates the ideal setting for you to connect with nature. Apart from its manicured cliffs and rolling slopes, the charming hill station is known for its mesmeric cascading waterfalls. The Bear Shola Falls and Vattakanal Falls are both sights to behold especially during the monsoons.
Into the Wild
With as many as 15 wildlife and bird sanctuaries, five national parks and four tiger reserves, the sheer number of flora and fauna is incentive enough for travellers to visit the state.
Located at the foothills of the Nilgiris, Mudumalai National Park is a must-visit on a first timer’s itinerary. Established in 1940, it is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Home to many endangered species like the royal Bengal tiger and the Asiatic wild dog, reports suggest that nearly 13 per cent of the mammal species in India can be found in Mudumalai. Bird watchers are in for a ride as one can spot the crested serpent eagle and the tiny-eared owl.
Catch a glimpse of the wild cats at the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Situated in the Anamalai Hills of Coimbatore, the reserve is home to not only tigers but many other species such as spotted deer and panthers. A biodiversity hotspot in its truest sense, you can find more than 250 species of birds here.
Offering a real insight into urban wilderness, the Guindy National Park in Chennai serves as the humble abode of a large number of migratory birds, reptiles, blackbucks, jackals, pangolins and Indian civets among many others. For the adventure lovers, Mukurthi National Park in the Nilgiri Hills has some of the most beautiful trekking routes up its sleeve.
This is a sponsored post.