Enchanting Tamil Nadu in southern India is popular for its rich culture, traditions, art, and music. The state has a plethora of places to explore for both, the traveller and the tourist.
Once ruled by dynasties such as Cholas and Pandyas, the state is known for its innumerable temples with spectacular sculptures and carvings. It also boasts of a beautiful coastline, lined with several less-explored beaches. The Niligiris biosphere has ensured that Tamil Nadu is also home to some lovely hill stations and dense forest reserves. This state, located on the tip of the Indian peninsula, offers some of the magnificent sunrise and sunset views in the country.
What makes visiting all these places in Tamil Nadu a great experience is the fact that its roads are well-maintained. This makes considering a road trip through the state a great way to experience Tamil Nadu.One can also opt for any South India tour packages that would cover various destinations.
While the popular ones always remain the preferred choice, India tourism and Tamil Nadu tourism are making great efforts to ensure that the not-so-popular destinations too get their deserving share of visitors.
Below are a few of my personal favourites when it comes to less-explored places to visit in Tamil Nadu.
The popular town of Rameshwaram lies across the Pamban bridge, which connects it with mainland India. A mere 29 Kms from Rameshwaram is Dhanushkodi, the deserted land which was totally swept away by a cyclone in 1964. The then flourishing fishing hamlet was left devastated and was considered a ghost town for a long period due to lack of human settlements.
Presently, there are some fishing families that stay here. A few dilapidated, crumbling, and windswept structures are what you can find here, apart from make-shift shops selling shells and fruits. The coastal stretch is gorgeous all the way, with the road running parallel to the sea; the sunsets are breathtakingly delightful.
A quick 4 kms from there, the same road takes you to Arichalmunai, the end tip of the Indian peninsula.
While the prominent colonial towns in India have mostly been under the British, French, Portuguese or Dutch rule, Tharangambadi or Tranquebar as it is sometimes called, was the only Danish colony. Located further south of Pondicherry and close to Karaikal, Tharangambadi was a flourishing sea port during the 15th century under the Cholas and Pandyas. Danes made their presence felt in India with the Dansborg Fort in 17th century and ruled the place for over 200 years.
Tranquebar presently has a few colonial buildings, old churches, narrowbylanes, a dilapidated fort wall, an old fort, and a beautiful sea shore. Tharangambadi, which means ‘Land of the Singing Waves’ in Tamil, stays true to its name with a beautiful shoreline.
The region of Chettinad in central Tamil Nadu is made of 75 villages such as Karaikudi, Pallathur, Athangudi etc. Of these, Kanadukathan stands out as the most charming one with its numerous dilapidated Chettiar mansions known as Nattukottais. When the Chettiar community moved into this region in the 12th century, the villages prospered and numerous palaces were built.
Over the years, the fortune of the community dwindled and they moved to various parts of the country. However, what they have left behind is a treasure trove of dilapidated, colourful palaces and a stunning heritage. A few of these grand palaces have been converted into hotels. Some of them have a care taker who would show you around.
With magnificent outer facades, carved doors, tall ceilings, Burmese teak furniture, Japanese ceramic tiles, Italian marble, and mirrors from Belgium, these mansions showcase the Chettiar community’s opulence and style of living.
The nearby Athangudi village is known for its popular tile making industry. The region is also popular for its spicy cuisine.
Situated at the base of Arunachaleshwar hill, Tiruvannamalai is a small temple town known for its Annamalaiyar temple. Dedicated to Shiva, it is apparently the second largest temple complex in India after Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam.
Tiruvannamalai is also known for its numerous ashrams, of which Raman Ashramam is the most popular one. As the ashram attracts people from world over, the town sees a lovely blend of foreign tourists and Indian pilgrims. It is pleasantly surprising to see many continental cafés alongside vegetarian hotels.
The hill behind Ramana Ashram offers lovely view of the town and temple. The KarthigaiDeepam festival held during the full moon night between November and December every year is quite popular, and pilgrims circumnavigate the Arunachaleshwar hill a day prior.
When we try to visualize tea estates in South India, images of Munnar, Ooty or Coonoor are conjured in the mind. If you are keen on a similar holiday but would like to stay away from the crowds, Valparai in Anamalai hills is the place to visit.
Lined with tea gardens, Valaparai is located close to the Sholayar forest; 40 hair pin bends from the sprawling Aliyar dam lead to this hill station. The views of the Aliyar dam from the viewpoints en-route are absolutely gorgeous.
Further, strolling through the vast tea gardens is an absolute delight. The Nallamudi Poojolai view point and Sholayar dam are the other nearby attractions. The place is also home to the elusive lion-tailed macaques. Do not be surprised to spot bisons amidst the tea gardens of Valparai.
P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Thomas Cook.