Rameshwaram Itinerary for our 3-day Road Trip
This is an account of our much-awaited trip to Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi which turned out to be the highlight of our 2019 travel memoirs. Rameshwaram is a holy land of Hindus and is speckled with temples signifying different episodes of Ramayana. But our Rameshwaram itinerary of 2 days was more about exploring the natural beauty of the island through offbeat spots. We visited a couple of temples but skipped the more obvious ones. Follow this itinerary for an offbeat trip to discover the idyllic island of Rameshwaram and its nearby places like Dhanushkodi and Mandapam.
Check out the 25 Best Places to visit in South India including Rameshwaram.
Day 1- A Road Trip from Bangalore to Rameshwaram
Firstly I should begin my story by saying that the road trip from Bangalore to Rameshwaram is the smoothest drive we have ever been on. More than 80% of the route is a multi-lane highway, with the best roads in India. We started at 4:30 am and reached Rameshwaram by 1 pm, with a pit-stop for breakfast at A2B at the Salem-Madurai Road. We crossed the temple city of Madurai on our way. You can stop here to see the iconic Meenakshi temple of Madurai. For most Hindu Pilgrims that would be the most obvious thing to do. But we were on a road trip and we didn’t want to stop anywhere else before we reached Mandapam. We were a little afraid of the retreating monsoon in the south in November, but the clear sky made our day.
Mandapam Bird Sanctuary – a let-down
Mandapam is the gateway to Rameshwaram. It is the last area in mainland India before you cross the Pamban bridge to reach the island. We took a small diversion to reach the bird sanctuary that we read some raving reviews on popular travel sites. It turns out to be sort of a let-down. There weren’t too many birds when we went, but we did get some interesting photo subjects here. Aren’t the horses beautiful?
Aryaman Beach at Mandapam
Our next stop was the Aryaman beach, also known as the Kushi beach resort. There is a nominal entry fee of Rs. 20 to this isolated beach. The approach road to the beach is rugged but you don’t need a 4-wheel drive for it. Kushi beach is a beach like I have never seen before in India. Yes, the beaches of Dhanushkodi were even better, but we haven’t seen them till then. So it was indeed a pleasant surprise to be greeted by coastal woods around marsh waters that were followed by clean white sand leading to the Prussian blue sea.
Located in the Palk Bay, this 2 km long stretch of shimmering beach is one of the best places to visit in the Rameshwaram trip. There are many watersports activities that you can engage in on the beach. It’s said that the water is so clean that you can actually see the fish underneath. The water was clean indeed but we didn’t find fish. It was a refreshing stop after a long drive with little sleep at night. After this, we drive towards the flyover connecting to Pamban Island, a.k.a Rameshwaram.
Imagine looking at a train running on a bridge running across the spectacular sea and the bridge opening up to allow the ships to pass through. That’s the Pamban Bridge, the first sea bridge in India and an engineering marvel in itself. Constructed over 100 years ago in 1913, Pamban Bridge was also the longest sea bridge in India before the Bandra-Worli Sea link came up in 2009. I have heard and read so much about it before that there was a great chance for this to be underwhelming. The good news is, it was not. Pamban Bridge was love at first sight for me. I could stand at the flyover all day gazing at the changing colors of the sea on both sides – blue, turquoise, sea-green, orange, red, grey.
There’s a bold warning that the sidewalks of Pamban Flyover are a no-parking zone and that doing so will attract an Rs.600 fine. A warning that is conveniently ignored by everyone crossing the flyover at least once, despite it being under the traffic police surveillance. We halted for a couple of minutes at the no parking zone, as Chayan waited in the driving seat and I clicked some pictures. Technically we didn’t break the rule as we just halted the car and did not park it. However, at the end of the flyover, there is a marked parking zone where you can safely park your vehicle and spend as much time as you want to.
For first-time visitors who don’t know about this, the view of the Pamban Bridge from the top is irresistible, and therefore they often tend to park their car or halt for a considerably long time. Don’t do that. Not just because you can be fined but also because it’s can be dangerous to do so, especially with kids.
Tips to see the Pamban Bridge:
- Park your car in the parking zone end of the flyover and always stay on the sidewalk
- Look out for the train running on the bridge, it’s an amazing experience
- Visit at the time of sunset for a mesmerizing view
- Take a train to Rameshwaram for a unique experience of crossing the sea by train
Abdul Kalam Memorial Museum
Who does not love Dr. Abdul Kalam? India’s favorite president, late Abdul Kalam was born in Rameshwaram. A simple man with the most humble beginnings went on to become the Rocket-Man of India. After an illustrious career in science, he became India’s 11th President and later dedicated his life to teaching and philanthropy. Abdul Kalam Memorial was our first stop on the island of Rameshwaram. It was constructed at the burial site of Dr. Abdul Kalam and has some of his humble possessions including his “Veena”. Veena is a musical instrument that is an integral part of Indian classical music.
The entry to the memorial is free but you are not allowed to bring any camera inside. Phones must be switched off when you are inside the building. This is a very small museum but it was a heart-warming experience to learn about the life and exemplary works of the great man again.
Reach Hyatt Rameshwaram
By the time we reached our hotel, it was nearly 2 pm. One disadvantage of Rameshwaram, in general, is that there are only a few hotels that serve non-vegetarian food. One of them that we found on Zomato was closed all day. Hyatt Place is a 4-star property with a beautiful swimming pool, a modern gymnasium, a spa, and a multi-cuisine Vegetarian restaurant. So if you are not too keen on fish and chicken, I’ll recommend Hyatt Place. But you can find many other hotels for different budget-range in the same area.
Drive to Ramanathawamy Temple
After taking some time to freshen up we decided to go out and explore the island on our own. I did have an itinerary chalked out which had the famous landmarks of Rameshwaram – the Ramanathaswamy Temple, Lakshman Teertha and the five-faced Hanuman temple to name a few. Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the four Hindu pilgrimage sites associated with Ramayana, where people come for salvation. I’m not particularly religious, but what I was interested in was the architecture. The temple has the longest corridor in India with 1212 ornate pillars and 22 holy springs.
We reached near the temple but it was a no-parking zone. Looking at the crowd there we decided to give it a pass for the day. That was unfortunate because we never got around to visit the temple again on that trip. The tall gopuram played hide and seek with us throughout the trip as we explored the other places in Rameshwaram.
Olaikuda Beach Park
Olaikuda is a fishing village in Rameshwaram with a park for entertaining tourists. You can go for Kayaking and different types of boat ride in the lake water here. We walked on the shore observing the fishermen and the tourists kayaking in the blue waters of the lake. Though they are trying to make it a tourist attraction, the place is still off-the-radar as you can’t find it on TripAdvisor.
We continued to drive aimlessly towards the land’s end as seen on Google Map, and that’s how we reached the lighthouse beach of Rameshwaram. This is another fishing village, but there were no tourists here. I loved how the small park near the beach had tree houses and a well. The lighthouse was closed when we went but we loved spending time on the desolate beach with no other tourists around.
I made another attempt to convince Chayan to visit Ramanathaswamy temple. However, the lack of parking space made it difficult. Near the Ramanathaswamy temple is the Lakshman Teertha. This is a beach where pilgrims take a bath before visiting the Ramanathaswamy temple. It is also a great place to view the sunset. However, the beach is quite dirty and stinky, unlike all other beaches of Rameshwaram. I liked the spiritual energy out there, but this is not where I would spend much time.
Sunset at Vivekananda Memorial & Beach
We drove through the interiors of Rameshwaram while chasing the sunset to another offbeat place in the area. The Vivekananda Memorial is a beautiful building that stands out for its bright saffron color and a colorful dome. By the time we reached there, we had already missed the sunset but we experienced the ethereal dusk at the beach behind. The Vivekananda memorial itself is small and has only a few photographs and books of Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest Hindu saints. The beach here is spectacular and it was a great way to end our really really long day. After watching the changing colors of the sky to our greatest content, we returned to our hotel to retire for the day.
Day2 –Dhanushkodi and offbeat Mandapam
A mesmerizing drive to Dhanushkodi
After an amazing breakfast at Hyatt Place, we started off early to Dhanushkodi. Starting early at around 9 am was the best decision of the day. The road to Dhanushkodi is one of the most scenic roads in India. Swanked by the ocean on both sides the road goes straight to the border of India. We read about offroading and the need to hire jeeps for the same, but that is obsolete information now. As the entire road is not just motorable but is the best-in-class.
There is a check post at the border of Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi as well. Vehicles are allowed to cross it only till around 11 am. Otherwise, you will need to walk almost 2km in the hot sun or depend on passerby for a lift. After that vehicles can only exit from Dhanushkodi. So if you don’t have your own vehicle, it is prudent to go as early in the morning as you can and leave by 11 am. Even if you have your own car, reach early so that you can drive to the beach.
Exploring Dhanushkodi- the Ghost town of India
Once upon a time, there was a flourishing town called Dhanushkodi. With the Indian Ocean on one side and Bay of Bengal on the other, it was the only landmass separating India from Sri Lanka. It was the gateway for international trade and pilgrimage. The fishermen families here lived a simple yet happy life.
Then came the cyclone of 1964. A disastrous one that ravaged the town and rendered it uninhabitable. The government declared it “Ghost Town”. But few families still decided to stay back. It was their home after all.
53 years after the natural disaster the town started attaining significance once again, this time as a tourist attraction. These families earn their living by fishing and selling coral artifacts to tourists. Words are not enough to describe how I felt when I first stopped at a random beach of Dhanushkodi before reaching the main tourist beach. This was just a place where we stopped our car on our way to the Dhanushkodi beach. You have to keep 3-4 hours aside for a trip to Dhanushkodi, and it will be the highlight of your Rameshwaram itinerary.
Of course, we can’t just talk about a trip to Dhanushkodi and not talk about the famous Ram Setu or Adam’s bridge. There are satellite pictures of a line of stones underneath the sea that connects Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka. According to mythology, this is the bridge that Lord Ram created with the help of Vaanar Sena (an army of monkeys) led by Sri Hanuman to cross the sea and reach Lanka. That is where the mighty Raavan ruled and had kept Sri Ram’s wife Sita captive. Scientific studies have concluded it to be a natural wonder. However, the carbon-dating of the rocks put the age at 7000-year-old, coinciding with the date of the events of Ramayana.
On our way back from Dhanushkodi we stopped at Ramar Padham, the temple of Ram’s feet situated in a hillock called Gandha Madhana Parvatham. It is considered to be the highest point in Rameshwaram from where you can get a panoramic view of the island. If you bring your binoculars you can see the Paman bridge, the Ramanathaswamy temple and the lighthouse from here.
Speedboat rise at seaside park
After a delicious seafood lunch (finally) at one of the not-so-fancy shacks of Dhanushkodi we came back to our hotel and changed into dry clothes for the second half of the day. This time we headed straight to Pamban bridge once again, crossed it and reached the seaside park. It’s a small yet beautiful entertainment park that advertises glass-floor boat rides. The glass-floor boats apparently help you see the fish underneath. a speedboat ride for 2 costs Rs. 400. However, when you actually enquire about it they will tell you straight away that fish sighting is for the rare lucky ones. They are true. The glass-floor is too soiled for you to be able to see anything underneath. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying the ride. In fact, this is one of the best things to do on a trip to Rameshwaram.
Chasing the Sundarmudaiyan Fort
After this, we didn’t know where else to go that will be of interest. There are many other places on the tourist map including an aquarium that we could not find. So instead, we spotted a place for the Sundarmudaiyan fort and started following the Google maps for it. On our way, we were surprised to see a peacock in secluded places running around on their own. However, that was the only attraction we found where we went. We entered a village inside a forest and offroaded through it, but we couldn’t find the fort anywhere. Since there was no one around to even ask, we returned and started driving towards the beach.
We didn’t know the name of this beach when we went here, and it was only when I looked back on my Google timeline I found its name. Once again, this was another quaint fishing village with no tourists around. We spent time clicking a solo peacock in the coastal woodlands and waiting for it to flaunt its wings. Well, it didn’t. This is a beautiful beach to visit if you just want to peacefully relax around in the lap of nature.
Sunset at Pamban
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”- Rabindranath Tagore
These are the only words that can describe the dramatic sky of the evening at Pamban. Our last stop was once again the Pamban Flyover itself on our way back to our hotel. As I stood at the sidewalk of a busy highway and stared at the sunset, the cacophony of traffic faded into oblivion. For those few minutes I had transcended into a different world, I was there at the horizon seeing off the sun while the clouds lingered by. This was the end of our long weekend at one of the most spectacular parts of India.
The next day we would have to start early for our home to avoid the infamous Bangalore traffic on a Sunday evening. We would be back in our mundane life revolving around the office and home. But these memories will keep us motivated to work hard and look forward to traveling again. We had many road trips throughout the year, but Rameshwaram will always find a special place in my heart. I recommend this as one of the best trips in December in India.
FAQs for Rameshwaram
How to reach Rameshwaram by public transport?
The best way to reach Rameshwaram is by train from Chennai to Rameshwaram. Chennai located 600 km from Rameshwaram, is the nearest big international airport. It is followed by Bangalore which is 606 km from Rameshwaram.
However, there is no direct train from Bangalore to Rameshwaram. You have to take a train to Trichy and then get a local train or hire a cab to Rameshwaram. Direct uses (government-run as well as private) ply from Bangalore to Madurai daily. From Madurai, you can take a local train or hire a cab to Rameshwaram.
How to dress in Rameshwaram?
Ramanathaswamy temple is a place of great religious importance, but there is no strict dress code. People here are from a simple and traditional background. Just dress modestly and with common sense. While I didn’t see any moral policing, I’d avoid wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, etc. inside the temple. Even on the beach, you will hardly find anyone wearing short clothes let alone swimwear. Weather is hot and humid throughout the year so dress accordingly. I’d recommend comfortable cotton tops, tunics, leggings, denim, long skirts, etc. for girls.
Always carry a change of clothes because the sea here is irresistible.
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