The temple trail
Tamil Nadu has all that a visitor could look for. A dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches and dense forests. Apart from this, Tamil Nadu has also some of India's most magnificent temples, many still active centres of religious practice.
The magnificent temples and their towering gopurams (entrance towers) dominate the landscape just as Hindu religion permeates Tamil life.
, formerly known as Madras, is the state capital of Tamil Nadu and the gateway to the rich and varied culture of the South Indian peninsula. The Fort St. George area contains many reminders of the time when the British established the East India Trading Company in the 17th century.
At , barely an hour's drive from Chennai, the 7th-century complex of monolithic rock-cut shrines, and the legendary Shore Temple, are now a World Heritage Site. The stunning archeological remains co-exist with a long white sand beach, making Mamallapuram a favourite destination for travelers.
The coastal road from Mamallapuram leads to the former French colony of . There are some delightful small heritage hotels reflecting the French influence. Further south from Pondicherry is , a former Danish settlement, where you can stay in the Bungalow on the Beach. A perfect place to chill and relax.
From Tranquebar an inland road puts you back on the temple trail, leading to Chidambaram, and Darasuram. The best bronzes and paintings can be found in , a city which boasts of almost a hundred temples including the monumental Brihadeshwari Temple, built entirely from granite.
The next major temple town is . The Srirangam Temple in Trichy is probably the largest temple complex in India. It remains a functional temple with colourful bazaars in the first layer and Bhrahmins' houses in the second.
Moving southwards from Trichy you reach , the bastion of the Chettinads. and home to some of the most exquisite heritage homes which provide genuine home-cooked Chettinad food.
From Karaikudi, is just a two hour drive. Here you find the magnificent Meenakshi Temple complex whose soaring temple towers are covered with stucco figures of deities, mythical animals and monsters, painted in vivid colours.
In the west of the state, the hill stations of , and are the premier destinations. Verdant hills offer mountain views and a network of trails winds through forests and tea and coffee plantations.