12 Highlights of Tamil Nadu
Chloe and Ellie have just returned from a particularly exciting and whirlwind ten-day trip to Tamil Nadu. This magical south Indian state is full of surprises; towering temples, mist shrouded hills and palm fringed beaches are just a few of the incredible sights that they witnessed.
Beginning their tour in Madurai, the ‘city that never sleeps’, they travelled north to the geographical centre of the state, Trichy, before making their way to the ancient capital of the great Chola empire, Tanjore. From there they headed to Pondicherry, a small slice of southern France on the Indian coast, and then on to explore the ancient archaeological wonders of Mahabalipuram, before ending their trip in Chennai, formerly Madras.
Here is a small selection of the many highlights they experienced on their trip, a series of snapshots which hopefully encapsulate the magic of Tamil Nadu…
1). Visiting the great temple Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore at sunset
The atmosphere was electric and alive as we watched hundreds of people gather in and around the temple to worship. In the dimming light and in a swirling mist of incense, we were invited to partake in a once-a-month puja, before being quietly ushered into the main sanctum to be blessed by a priest. A truly magical and spiritual experience.
2). Climbing on to the rooftop of the Srirangum Temple in Trichy to get the best view of the magnificent coloured gopuras
Ramkumar, our wonderful guide, sourced a key for a hidden gate which lead up to the rooftops of Srirangum Temple. The sights which were waiting for us were spectacular… the 360-degree views of the towering gopuras was breathtaking, particularly as we had only seen them from ground level. Climbing up onto the roof meant we could see them from a completely different perspective.
3). Having dinner on the rooftop of the Palais de Mahe in Pondicherry
Palais de Mahe is a glorious hotel in the heart of colonial Pondicherry, which itself is a small slice of France in southern India. Feeling the cool sea breeze while we tucked into delicious fresh seafood was a luxury in the truest sense.
4). Staying at The Leela in Chennai
The boutique hotels in Tamil Nadu are extremely charming, with a lovely home from home feel. The Leela is the antithesis to these hotels; large, glamorous, luxurious with a touch of bling, it was lovely to experience this at the end of our tour!
5). Taking in the cool air of the Palani Hills from our tranquil base at Rajakkad Estate
Tucked away in the green jungles of the Palani Hills and surrounded by charming rural village life, Rajakkad Estate is a haven for nature lovers, hikers and for those yearning for peace and quiet.
6). Ellie getting her past, present and future told by a Tamil priest
An age-old practice based on a finger print and ancient Tamil palm leaf manuscripts. She was initially sceptical, but after he guessed her name, which very few people know is Elizabeth, she was sold! It’s not for everyone though…
7). Having lunch by the sea in the historic Danish settlement of Tranquebar
Bungalow on the Beach is an adorable hotel, bursting with charm and right next to the sea. We sat with our guide, laughing and chatting, listening to the sounds of the sea and eating simple fresh fish with lemon. The moment could not have been more wholesome.
8). Taking a tour of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (while it poured with rain!)
And it really poured, we practically had to swim out of the temple as we were leaving because the streets had flooded! But the temple itself was the first of its kind that we saw, and what a special moment it was. Vibrant ceiling and wall paintings, a vivacious atmosphere… the sights and sounds of Hindu temple life surrounded us, and it was fabulous!
9). Watching the collection of colourful characters on the dawn walking tour of Madurai
It was an early start, but well worth it. At 5.30am the streets were already alive with people going about their daily business; collecting water, milking cows, creating the beautifully intricate kolam, everyone had something to do. We perked ourselves up with a steaming cup of south Indian coffee (deliciously strong and sweet) and a hot sweet donut.
10). Taking part in a photo shoot for Visalam’s new hotel brochure
Visalam asked us to be part of their new brochure, and had organised for a photographer to capture every moment of us riding a bullock cart to Chettinad Palace and back. There were a lot of laughs!
11). Experiencing sound therapy and a massage at Svatma’s spa
This treatment is a must try! Led by their amazing specialist, Penny, there is nothing more relaxing. Followed by an indulgent massage and you will leave Svatma’s spa feeling totally zen.
12). Enjoying the tiny details of the serene Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram
This deconsecrated temple is an ancient delight. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts only tourists, rather than a cacophony of worshippers, which allowed us to enjoy the finer details and peacefulness of the temple.
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