19 Best places to visit in Tamil Nadu
Enchanting Tamil Nadu is the epitome of ancient culture and heritage co-existing with modern infrastructure. This beautiful state of south India is the proud home of several Indian luminaries like Nobel laureate CV Raman, World Chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and many more. For tourists, this is one of the best states to visit in India. In this post I bring to you the best places to visit in Tamil Nadu from my own travel diaries as well as from fellow bloggers who share this love for the Dravidian state.
My Favorite Places to visit in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is full of wonders – natural and man-made. Places like Mahabalipuram and Thanjavur are studded with UNESCO heritage monuments, while the Nilgiri Railways, Pamban bridge are examples of modern engineering excellence. With the Western Ghats on the West and Eastern Ghats on the east, one can just keep exploring hill-forests in Tamil Nadu forever. Here are my all-time favorite destinations of Tamil Nadu which I would love to visit again and again.
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Dhanushkodi – A visual spectacle
Dhanushkodi is my most favorite tourist destination in Tamil Nadu. Located at the southern tip of Rameshwaram island, it was called the Ghost town of India. That is because the town that was once a trading hotspot for Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) and India , was ravaged by a cyclone.
Following this, it was declared uninhabitable and most people , barring a few families left the town. Today tourism has breathed in new life and ushered a new ray of hope in Dhanushkodi. The crystal clear waters that change colors throughout the day, the vast clean beaches, the coastal woods and ruins of the past charms everyone who visits.
Dhanushkodi is not your usual tourist destination and does not have hotels to stay in. The entry to Dhanushkodi is closed at 6pm every day.
Kolukkumalai – The Pristine Nature
My second most favorite place in Tamil Nadu lies far from the sea, at the top of the hills of Western Ghats. This is Kolukkumalai, the highest organic tea garden in the world. It also boasts of one of the oldest active tea factories in India.
The cool weather, natural streams and vibrant vistas of green and blue fills the soul with pure happiness. You can take a trip to the Kolukkumalai tea estate either by a jeep from the tea garden or by trekking 9 km to the tea factory. Besides the tea estate you can also drive along the hills and explore the bountiful nature. To visit Kolukkumalai, Munnar is the best place to book your stay.
To visit Kolukkumalai, the best place to search for accommodation is in Chinnakanal, Kerala.
Rameshwaram – Architectural wonders
Rameshwaram is the holy land of Hindus – one of the biggest pilgrimage sites for the worshippers of Sri Ram. With pristine beaches, ancient heritage sites and modern architectural marvels – this is a must visit place in Tamil Nadu. Rameshwaram is in fact an island which is connected to mainland India through the first Sea-link of India – Pamban Bridge. Also called the Rameshwaram bridge, it is a marvel of modern engineering.
Mandappam is the last town in mainland India before you land on to the Rameshwaram bridge. Even this place is dotted with great beaches, the most famous of them being the Kushi beach. Rameshwaram is also home to the spectacular Ramnathaswamy temple. The quaint island is also the birthplace of late APJ Abdul Kalam, an eminent scientist and the most loved president of India.
Mahabalipuram – The land of Pallavas
The next on my list is Mahabalipuram – a treasure trove of heritage monuments. Also called Mamallapuram, it is a historic town on the Coromandel coast which was the seat of the great 7th-century Pallava dynasty. It is associated with many ancient Hindu legends, which is probably why the Pallavas commissioned so many rock-cut temples here.
There are around 40 exquisite architectural masterpieces here, some of which are honored as UNESCO world heritage sites. The Shore temple, Pancharathas and Arjuna’s penance are my favorites. The views of the sea from the top of the cave temple complex is unworldly. Watching the sunrise at Mahabalipuram beach adjacent to the shore temple is a mesmerizing experience.
Pondicherry – The French Meets Indian
Pondicherry is actually an union territory, politically independent from Tamil Nadu. But geographically and culturally it is in Tamil Nadu , for an average tourist. From culinary delights, to throbbing beaches, to heritage sites from the French colonial era as well as old Hindu temples – the city has it all. It’s officially called Puducherry, but the anglicized name from colonial era is still more popular. My favorite part of Pondicherry is the long wide promenade speckled with beautiful sculptures, wall art and cafe’s.
Pondicherry is a city that is best explored on foot or on a cycle. You can visit the museums, the old catholic churches, the botanical garden, Aurobindo Ashram – all in a walking tour. The food of Pondicherry is also a special attraction. The amalgamation of French and south India flavors lend a unique character to the local food.
Kodaikanal – Queen of Hills in the South
Kodaikanal – the queen of hills in South India is a precious natural gem of Tamil Nadu. It’s one of the most popular weekend getaways for the IT crowd of Bangalore and Chennai. And why wouldn’t it be? Temperate weather all over the year, opulent green valleys, captivating scenes of mountain peaks playing hide and seek behind the clouds, treks through pine forests – what more does the heart seek?
When in Kodaikanal you will find cottage stays for all budget range. You will feel like stopping your car at every hairpin belt to marvel at the natural beauty. Croaker’s walk, Kodaikanal lake, silent valley view point, Guna caves, Byrant are some of the most popular places for all kinds of tourists. For adventure you can undertake trek to the Dolphin’s Nose, Vattakanal falls and other hidden spots.
Coonoor is a quiet hill station in the Nilgiris tucked away from the crowd of Ooty and Kodaikanal. Coonoor is best known for the Nilgiri toy train, which also happens to be a UNESCO heritage site. The train line built on the Nilgiris is quiet a marvel. It will take you through the scenic tea gardens and valleys of the picturesque town. It’s a great place to visit for a leisure holiday with family, on honeymoon or with friends for adventure.
The Sim’s Park, the famous tea estates, treks to the hidden valley, Law’s falls are some of the best things to do in Coonoor. When in Coonoor don’t forget to take a trip to a tea factory and the heritage Indian Bakery to try out some delicacies there.
Top recommendations from Travel Bloggers
Now I give it up to the amazing travel bloggers who pitched in with their favorite places in Tamil Nadu. These are some stunning places that surely made into my bucket-list for future. All the amazing photos here are presented by the bloggers who contributed to this.
Thanjavur – The Land of Cholas
Excerpt and Photo by Mohana and Aninda – Two Together
Located in Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur was the seat of the Cholas, the Nayaks, and the Marathas. The iconic attraction is the magnificent Brihadeshwara Temple, one of the three great living Chola temples (the other two being the Temple of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple), whose intricate carvings narrate the religious and social traditions of the Chola kingdom. All three temples are UNESCO heritage sites.
Don’t miss the Maratha Palace on your trip to Thanjavur; the gorgeous Durbar Hall with its vibrant frescoes draws artists and travelers from around the world. At the Saraswati Mahal library, you can see some of the world’s oldest manuscript, including a book of recipes written in the forgotten “Modi” script. Thanjavur is also the birthplace of Carnatic music and one of the major styles of Bharatnatyam; if you can attend a performance, consider yourself lucky!
If you travel to eat, Thanjavur won’t disappoint you. From Thanjavur-style biriyani, dosa and idli, and Ashoka halwa (a moong dal halwa named after a nearby town) to spicy Chettinad-style preparations, the local cuisine will leave you wanting more.
Madurai – Old is Gold
Excerpt and Photo by Ellis Veen – Backpack Adventures
Madurai is India’s oldest continuously inhabited city. It is mostly famous because of the Meenakshi temple , but there are many more reasons to visit. Madurai is a city soaked in history and culture and also has incredible food on top of that.
Madurai’s bustling and colorful bazaars are where history and modern culture go hand in hand. Silk, cotton and jasmine flowers are sold among the sturdy remains of ancient temple architecture. The locals are rightly proud of their city and there are excellent walking tours as well as food tours available.
The Madurai Meenakshi temple will be one of the most impressive temples you have seen in India. It is a huge complex of high walls, gateways, carvings, paintings and inner sanctums. You will without doubt get lost among the more than 30,000 sculptures. Something new will amaze you at every corner and a visit to the Madurai temple can easily take up your whole day.
Kanyakumari – The Southern Tip
Excerpt and photo by Neha – Travel Melodies
Located at the southernmost tip of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu is this famous coastal town of Kanyakumari. It is a popular religious and tourist destination. It is home to the ‘Triveni Sangam’ – the confluence of three seas- Arabian sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. It is also considered auspicious to take bath in this holy water.
It is a sight to behold watching both the sunrise and sunset at the Kanyakumari beach with only the waters, monuments and the horizon within your sight. This one sure is a magical experience that can only be felt.
Besides being a famous tourist spot it is also an important pilgrim place. Kanyakumari is named after Devi Kanya Kumari, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi. There is an interesting story associated with it. In order to honor her, there is Bhagavathy Amman temple, beloved to be 3000 year old. The temple has fixed timings and also gets closed during afternoon, so make sure to check the timings.
Other major attractions in Kanyakumari, are the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and the Thiruvalluvar Statue, both on islands off the shore. It is believed that Swami Vivekananda attained enlightenment on this rock. Thiruvalluvar statue is a 41 meter tall stone sculpture of the famous Tamil poet and scholar. Both the islands are accessible by state run ferries that have a nominal ticket for a to and fro trip.
Tiruvannamalai – The abode of Shiva
By Sarah Carter – A Social Nomad
The city of Tiruvannamalai is located in the shadow of Arunachala mountain and is one of the 5 elemental cities of Shiva in South India. It is a place of pilgrimage and many come from afar on foot to here. Tiruvannamalai pilgrims walk what’s called the Giravalam, which is a purifying ritual and is usually done barefoot. It involves circling the base of Arunachala, visiting the 8 linga along the 14-kilometre route, on tarmac roads with little road traffic to worry about its thirsty work.
The temple at the centre of Tiruvannamalai is another reason to visit – Arunachaleswarar is one of the largest in India, measuring 10 hectares with four stunning gopurams marking the entrances. Some parts of the temple date back to the 9th century. Arunachala itself, the “mountain” is just 800 meters high but also another hike with a viewpoint of the local area. Tiruvannamalai is off the beaten track and all the most interesting to visit for it.
Valparai Hill Station
Other beautiful places in Tamil Nadu
It’s a little odd to not include Ooty on the list right at the beginning. While these don’t feature on my top 5 list, they are no less beautiful.
Who does not know about Ooty? It was the most featured destination in Hindi movies before Bollywood got obsessed with Switzerland. Ooty is probably the most famous tourist destination of Tamil Nadu. This kind of makes a weekend trip to Ooty an underwhelming experience because of the over-commercialization and over-crowded tourist spots.
If you truly want to enjoy Ooty, slow down. Book a homestay or resort away from the tourist zones and explore the enchanting small town. That doesn’t mean you should miss out on the highlights. The popular family spots in Ooty are the Boat Park, the botanical garden which hosts a flower show in May, Dodabetta peak and Avalanche lake. Unfortunately, because of the fame the places are crowded throughout the year.
Chennai is the capital of TamilNadu and one of the four original metropolitan cities of India. Sitting on the Coromandel Coast the city is bustling with culture and heritage along with modern highways, theme parks and other amenities of an international city. It was called Detroit of India because of the large number of automobile firms that grew here.
The most famous beach of Chennai is the Marina Beach, a place where you can spend the whole day wandering. When in Chennai you can also stroll around the Eliiot’s Beach or visit the clean and offbeat ECR beach on the outskirts. There are a plethora of monuments like visit St George fort , cathedrals and temples to marvel at in Chennai. You can also consider visit to the amusement parks with family and take amazing day trips to places like Mahabalipuram or Pulicat Lake.
Mudumalai National Park
Mudumalai National Park, also known as Masinagudi is one of the largest tiger reserves of India. Besides tigers, these dense forests are home to giant elephants, antelopes and many indigenous species of the Western Ghats. Living in a cottage in the forests amidst deer and peacocks , and going on a tiger safari is an experience of a lifetime.
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Yercaud is a little town in Tamil Nadu that developed around a resplendent lake surrounded by forests. Yeri means “lake” and Kaddu means “forest” – what an apt name isn’t it? This is one of the most beautiful hill stations in the Eastern Ghats of India. Filled with beautiful lakes, forests, nature-parks and colonial English houses, Yercaud is indeed a gem. You can drive to Yercaud through the 32-km loop road with numerous harpin turns along the mountains. That itself will introduce you the the bountiful nature of Yercaud.
When in Yercaud, a visit to the Emerald Lake, the lake from which the town derives its name is a must. Around the Yercaud lake there are a plethora of parks and gardens. See the sunrise on the Eastern Ghats from the Pagoda point, explore the English architecture in Montfort school, Norton’s Bunglow and other old houses in the streets. Trek to the Killyur falls, and Shevaroy temples and end your day with a magical sunset at the Lady’s seat.
Auroville is an experimental city based on the vision of Rishi Aurobindo Ghosh and Mirra Alfassa, fondly remembered as the Mother. The residents of this city have no religion, no nationality, no race that divides humanity. Located right off Pondicherry, Auroville is however a separate city, and a different world all together. The experimental city pans across 20 square kilometers and is an international township. People from all over the world live and work there renouncing their nationality , religion and everything that divides humanity.
Tourists can book rooms at very affordable prices to stay and enjoy Auroville. Or they can just explore it on a day trip on foot or on a cycle. Large trees abound the city providing the much needed shade from the scorching sun. There is a theatre where you will be invited to see a short film on Auroville. Then you can walk to the Matrimandir revelling at the nature around you. Entry to Matrimandir is restricted only to people who have booked meditation sessions.
Gingee is an ancient fortified town located in Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu. It’s surrounded by three lofty citadels which you can explore on a day trip from Pondicherry. Rajagiri, Krishnagiri and Chandrayandurg – these three together made Gingee an impregnable fortress in the medieval ages. It is located 60 km from Pondicherry and 150km from Chennai. It’s a fantastic day trip destination for families and history-lovers from either of the cities.
It is believed that the Jains built the Gingee fort 1800 years ago and lived there till 5th century AD. After that it was subsequently captured and extended by the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Nayakas, the Marathas , the Mughals, the French and the British! The British called it the Troy of the East. The forts are in ruins now but still magnificent enough to remind you of the past glory.
Hogenekkal falls is wide plunge formed by the Kaveri river in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. It is a charming perennial waterfall and one of the most popular one day trip from Bangalore, despite its distance. You can also take a coracle or boat ride in the river here.
So this was my tribute to the great Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Have you visited the state? What is it you loved about it? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Please share the post and subscribe to our email-list if you liked it. Stay safe and travel later.