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Madurai Tourism And Travel Guide
27° C / 80.6° F
November to February
3 to 5 Days
Madurai Airport (12 kms)
Madurai Junction Railway Station (1.5 kms)
Amid all the hustle and bustle of an active town with a flourishing economic, political and social milieu, lies the culturally ancient city of Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Madurai has a history dating back to the Stone Ages and later to the golden period of Sangam literature, when the ancient classical language of Tamil flourished under the aegis of great poets and scholars who gathered at Madurai.
Tourists visit Madurai to experience the olde city, to see the magnificent Meenakshi temple and the other historic and natural sites that the city is full of. What makes Madurai so exceptional and special are the things that are native to the city and no tourist on a trip to Madurai will want to let pass; the Madurai Meenakshi temple, the GI tagged Madurai Sungudi saris and the Madurai Malli, the flowers that are the pride of Madurai ever since the Sangam period and of course, Madurai’s Jigardhandha.
As Madurai lies in close proximity to many other noteworthy tourist cities like Palani, Kodaikanal, Srirangam and Karaikudi, it makes for a worthy pilgrimage. Madurai tourism has in stock great places to visit and promises a number of thrilling things to do. There are some great shopping surprises in store too. If you are planning a tour to Madurai, our travel guide should give you some tips for a memorable trip.
How to Reach
The easiest and fastest way to reach Madurai would be by flight.
Madurai flies domestic flights to most major cities in India and International flights to Singapore, Colombo and Dubai. You could easily travel to one of these cities by flight and take a connecting flight to Madurai. You could use a state bus or hire a cab from the airport to your destination.
There are quite a number of long trains from the southern cities to the rest of the country that halt at Madurai. The premium super fast Tejas Express from Chennai’s Egmore Station to Madurai is the latest introduction to train services to Madurai. You can get auto rickshaws or cabs from the railway station to your destination.
State and National Highways connect Madurai by bus transport to neighbouring towns, districts as well as states. Madurai boasts of a number of well maintained bus stations and plenty of buses, so travelling to Madurai by bus could be hassle free.
There are local buses, auto rickshaws and cabs you can use for getting around within the city and the suburbs. Try the cycle rickshaws and the two wheelers that come on hire.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Madurai has a hot climate throughout the year. The best time to visit is the months of winter from November to February.
Summer months are very hot and off season in Madurai. There might be occasional mango showers in April-May, which will bring down the maximum temperature. People go off to the waterfalls during these summer showers for a drench. But generally Madurai remains a hot place in summer. Take a breather in the hilly regions of Sirumalai and Kodaikanal.
Monsoon brings moderate rainfall to the region. It’s a good season for nature tourists, for you can visit the waterfalls, but the rains might be a hindrance to long sightseeing trips.
Winter’s neither too cold nor too warm. It’s the right, pleasant season to visit places and go for long drives. Winter is the time the winged visitors arrive at Madurai’s water holes. If you’re a birder, you’ll have great time in Madurai watching the birds.
Things to Do
If you are interested in archaeology, visit Devankurichi, about 40 km from Madurai. Amazing artefacts from megalithic and iron age periods were excavated from the site, which later was the region where Shaivism and Jainism flourished. You could still see the ruined Jain temples and the Shiva temples built by the later Pandya Kings.
A beautiful ancient Shiva temple enroute to Vaigai River, the temple is the 2nd of the Thevara Stalas of the Pandya Kingdoms. According to the temple’s legends, a Pandya king worshipped a wedge or aapu as a Shiva Linga, and it mysteriously turned into a real linga.
Sound and Light Shows:
Don’t miss the Sound and Light Shows at Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal that run in English from 6.45pm-7.35pm and in Tamil from 8.00pm-8.50pm daily. Check out the Madurai Gandhi Museum’s Sound and Light Shows too. You could participate in yoga, pranayama and meditation classes held in the Museum.
This is one of Madurai’s unique rock cut temples. The Tiruparankundram temple for Subrahmanya was built by the Pandya Kings of the 6th century and celebrates the celestial marriage of Subrahmanya with Devayanai.
Visit Gowri Vilasam, the 19th century Sivaganga Palace built over the more ancient Palace of the 1730s, which had been the secret meeting place of the warrior kings Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the Marudhapandi brothers. Visit the Raja Rajeshwari Temple inside the Palace and the royal tank. Sivaganga is about 45 km from Madurai.
The Gorippalayam Dargah built in the 13th century, is the largest mosque in Madurai. Said to have been built by Thirumalai Nayakar, the mosque that sits on the banks of Vaigai River is a marvel of ancient architecture.
About 15 km from Madurai, the rock cut Jain temples, with their sculptures and wall carvings of the 9th century are sure to amaze you. There are 2000 year old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras and stone beds that the monks of the bygone eras used to rest.
Visit Vilacheri in the suburbs of Madurai. The region has skilled pottery makers and you can watch them handle their clay with a dexterity that comes with craftsmanship and years of practise. Go ahead and dip your hands into the soft earth and make yourself a clay souvenir to take home. You could buy clay and Paper Mache dolls here.
Madurai’s huge market area is primarily spread out around the Meenakshi Temple. The Puthu Mandapam near the eastern gate of the temple has hundreds of shops selling bronze, metal, aluminium ware and traditional fashion accessories and toys along with a number of tailoring shops, where you can get your clothes stitched in an hour or two. Around the temple you’ll find a number of textile shops selling the traditional Madurai cotton Sungudi saris and dhotis. Visit Chithirai and Masi streets for clothes and Avani Mula Street for handicrafts. For branded items visit Vishal De Mal, Milan’em Shopping Mall or Madurai Mall. Visit the Banana Market, which is one of Madurai’s popular tourist attractions.
Madurai is a trading city, popularly called Thoonga Nagaram or the city that never sleeps. The business of loading and unloading vegetables at the markets go on till wee hours and flower merchants spread their wares before the cock crows, so roadside eateries work in tandem to keep up with a steady supply of food. A late night visitor to Madurai is familiar with the clang-clang of steel ladle on a hot tawa as the Kothu Parotta gets done to a gentle crisp. And do try the Ceylon Parotta, said to have been introduced in Madurai by the people of Sri Lanka. You will find a number of Messes that sell varieties of veggie or mutton biryani, kola urundai or chicken dosa. Call on Murugan Idli for Idlis and Onion Utthapam, Modern Restaurant for a variety rice and Ven Pongal, Prema Vilas for Tirunelveli Halwa, Arya Bhavan for Kachoris and Annapurna Mithai for Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti.