Tamil Nadu Tour: Temple Heritage with Pondicherry
Tamil Nadu Tour: Temple Heritage with Pondicherry combines the best UNESCO Heritage Sites, temples, the French town of Pondicherry and cultural experiences of Tamil Nadu in south India.
During this Tamil Nadu tour, you will visit the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram (UNESCO Heritage Site), walk through by lanes of the French town of Pondicherry, visit huge temple complexes, explore areas rich with craft and enjoy the delicious authentic cuisine.
Tamil Nadu Tour with Pondicherry Highlights
- Admire the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram which overlooks the Bay of Bengal
- Experience a drive on the scenic ECR (East Coast Road)
- Spend some time at Auroville, a unique experimental township of international residents
- Capture the diversity of Pondicherry
- Visit UNESCO Heritage Sites of Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Brihadeeswara
- Be a part of workshops where they teach you Thanjavur painting and visit the musical instrument factories in Thanjavur
- Experience the villages and authentic cuisine of the Chettinad region
- Get mesmerized by the massive Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai
- Hotel accommodation in a double / twin room with buffet breakfast at all places
- Guided heritage walk at Pondicherry
- Services of English-speaking guides in Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, and Madurai. We can arrange other language guides on request.
- All transfers, sightseeing, and visits as per program using AC Toyota Innova
- Any and all applicable taxes are included
- Any airfare or train fare
- Entrance fees at monuments mentioned in the itinerary
- Any meals that are ordered other than that which is part of the “Cost includes”
- Expenses of a personal nature such as gratuities, telephone calls, laundry, liquor, etc.
- Additional costs and charges as applicable based on any changes made during the holiday
- India visa charges
- Travel insurance
Expert Travel Opinion
Experiential Travellers – There are stays with experiential character in Pondicherry, Thanjavur and Madurai that offer an extensive set of heritage, culture, craft and cuisine experiences for travellers. Guests looking for more local experiences on top of temple heritage areas can opt for these.
Day 01 - Mahabalipuram
Arrive at Chennai and travel to Mahabalipuram
You will arrive at Chennai, a key metro city serving as the main gateway to Tamil Nadu. Here you will meet our representative and get introduced to your private driver for the rest of the stay.
Immediately, you will proceed to Mahabalipuram (60km - 1.5 hours) to stay at a beachside hotel. Mahabalipuram is a beach getaway which is also home to a group of monuments including the Shore Temple, which is listed as one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites.
After you arrive at the hotel, in the evening you can take a short walk to the beach, visit Dakshina Chitra (a renowned craft center) or just relax at the hotel to recuperate for the remainder of the journey.
- Dakshina Chitra is situated between Chennai and Mahabalipuram and therefore best visited enroute.
Day 02 - Pondicherry
Visit the Shore Temple in the morning and travel to Pondicherry
In the morning visit monuments of Mahabalipuram that are listed as UNESCO Heritage Sites such as the Shore Temple which overlooks the Bay of Bengal and the Five Rathas temple.
Thereafter, begin your journey to Pondicherry (100km - 2 hours) via ECR (East Coast Road), which is one of the most scenic drives in South India. Pondicherry is the erstwhile French colony where travelers visit to experience the charm of the French quarters by the Bay of Bengal and its seamless amalgamation with the Tamil quarters, markets etc.
Upon arrival in Pondicherry at lunch-time, you will be taken to your hotel in the French quarters. In the evening, you can take a walk along the promenade, visit some souvenir shops run by Aurobindo Ashram and enjoy a quiet meal at one of the small charming local restaurants in the vicinity.
Day 03 - Pondicherry
Cycle rickshaw ride followed by a visit to Auroville
On day 3, you get to take a cycle rickshaw ride (1.5-2 hours) early in morning which takes you through the by-lanes of Pondicherry and on the way you will pay a visit to the French War Memorial, Aurobindo Ashram, Sacred Heart Church, Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (French Church), few local markets (flower market, fish market, vegetable market) etc.
The cycle rickshaw ride also takes one through the stunning French homes which are contrasting in nature when compared to the traditional Indian homes of the Tamil Quarters and Muslim Quarters. Also, this ride is a fantastic way to capture the diversity of Pondicherry and also allows one to pay special attention to the sights, sounds and the buzz of the old city.
After breakfast, proceed to Auroville (10km), a commune of international residents and an experimental township situated off East Coast Road (ECR). It is a one-of-its-kind institution where travelers from 50+ countries come to co-exist in harmony.
Walk around Auroville, visit some of its shops, interact with the volunteers from all over the world to better understand the concept of Auroville and visit the Matri Mandir, a dome type structure that is an architectural marvel. In the evening you will return to Pondicherry.
Day 04 - Thanjavur
Travel to Thanjavur and visit Chidambaram and Gangaikonda Cholapuram enroute
On day 4 you will need to start early (8 AM) to travel to Thanjavur (180km - 4 hours), a town renowned for the Brihadeeswarar Temple and craft centers. Travel past the pristine green countryside and on the way stop at Chidambaram, (a massive temple dated 1000-1200AD and a renowned Lord Shiva pilgrimage).
Next, head to Gangaikonda Cholapuram (one of the 3 UNESCO Heritage Sites (dated 11th century AD). After all these visits, you will arrive in Thanjavur by evening.
Day 05 - Thanjavur
Visit Brihadeeswarar Temple and explore Thanjavur
On day 5 you will visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO Heritage Site and known as the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’. The temple dates back to the Chola period (10-12th century AD) and is a wonderful example of Tamil architecture. This temple complex, apart from the main temple, houses sculptures too.
After spending a couple of hours at the temple, you will go on to explore other elements of Thanjavur such as visiting the Tanjore painting workshops, the Chola Art Gallery (17-18th century), Tanjore Palace, handicraft gallery and Thanjavur Veenai (instrument making factory). You will return to the hotel in the evening.
- You have the option to take an excursion to visit a third UNESCO Heritage Site ‘Great Living Chola Temples’ at Darasuram (36km -1 hour one way) instead of exploring Thanjavur.
Day 06 - Chettinad
Proceed to Chettinad where you will eat authentic cuisine, visit the village, etc.
On the morning of day 6, you will travel to Kanadukathan (93km from Thanjavur - 2 hours), a village in the heart of the Chettinad region and known for villages that have homes where the entrance is shaped to look like a temple.
You will arrive here by lunch-time and will be greeted with an elaborate set meal made with traditional authentic Chettiar and Tamil recipes. After lunch, you will visit the local tile making factory, take a bullock cart ride, go on village walks and soak in the laidback character of the Chettinad area.
Day 07 - Madurai
Travel to Madurai where you will visit the Meenakshi Amman Temple
On the morning of day 7, you will travel to Madurai (90km - 2 hours), a 2500+ years old city, one of the busiest towns of Tamil Nadu and home to the Meenakshi Amman Temple.
The Meenakshi Amman Temple (dated 17th century) was on the list of top 30 nominees for the "New Seven Wonders of the World". The temple complex has approximately 33,000 sculptures and 14 towers (the highest being 51 meters high). You will spend a couple of hours in the afternoon here, where you can get lost in the mastery. Later, you can spend the afternoon leisurely and indulge in shopping or explore local markets of Madurai on your own.
- Like most of the Hindu temples in South India, western travelers are not allowed inside the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Meenakshi Amman Temple.
Day 08 - Chennai
Departure from Madurai
Depart from Madurai for a flight to Chennai and from there to your onward destination.
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