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Things To Do In Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is a unique blend of traditions and cultures as well as all that is contemporary. There are temples and monuments, beaches and hill stations galore on the one side and a progressive modernity on the other side with adrenaline thumping sport activities and a vibrant night life with pubs where you can dance away till the wee hours! Each city and town of Tamil Nadu has its own specialities just waiting to be explored and experienced, so your trip to the state is going to keep you on the move and active all the time.
Here are some of the things that you can do while in the state of Tamil Nadu.
There are more than a dozen hill stations in Tamil Nadu including the popular Ooty and Kodaikanal, Yelagiri (Vellore) with its rose gardens and lush green valleys to the less explored Vellingiri (Coimbatore), Kolli (Namakkal), Sirumalai (Dindugal) and Jawadhu Hills (Eastern Ghats). The hill stations with their pristine greenery offer grand trekking and hiking trails. Go rock climbing and paragliding at Yelagiri, hand gliding at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, paragliding in Nilgiris and Mettupalayam.
There seems to be no dearth of waterfalls in Tamil Nadu, what with the number of most beautiful cascading falls that you find around the state. Visit the Hogenakkal Falls (Dharmapuri) where you can ride a coracle or indulge in a traditional oil massage and Bath, Rat Tail Falls or Thalaiyar (Palani Hills) the Courtrallam (the Spa of South India in Tirunelveli), Pykara (Ooty) with its boat rides, Silver Cascade (Kodaikanal) and the lesser known Kutladampatti (Madurai) or Agaya Gangai (Kolli Hills). These are just a tiny number of the long lists of waterfalls in Tamil Nadu.
You’d be amazed at the number of places that offer aqua sports like snorkelling, diving, angling, Kayaking, surfing and sailing. Check out the coastal town of Manapad near Tuticorin, the sea around which is supposed to have the best wave formations, go scuba diving or Kite boarding in Rameshwaram or Covelong Beach near Chennai that celebrates the Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival. You could buy quaint handcrafted surfing boards at Covelong.
Wildlife enthusiasts will have a wonderful time visiting the wildlife sanctuaries and Nature parks of Tamil Nadu. Some of them are real unique, like the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary near Madurai for the Grizzled Giant Squirrels, Vallanadu Wildlife Sanctuary for Blackbuck antelopes in Thuthukudi, Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tirunelveli for tiger conservation, Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary along the sea at Palk Strait near Nagapattinam for endangered Blackbucks and water birds like Greater Flamingos migrating in for the winter. You could even spot Bottlenose Dolphins and check out the artificial hatchery for Olive Ridley Turtles.
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, a part of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve is located on the south-eastern tip of India and west of Sri Lanka. The Park has 21 islands with coral reefs, estuaries, beaches, mangroves, pearl banks and an extensive marine life made up of about 3,600 species of plants, invertebrates, whales, dolphins, turtles and birds including endangered Dugongs. The coral reefs are so enticing that they are called ‘Underwater Tropical Rain Forests' and are one of the world's richest marine biosphere.
There are glass bottomed boats to take you on a trip across the shallow parts of the waters.
A Place to Meditate
Tamil Nadu is known for its rich heritage of devotion, traditions and spirituality, vouched by the number of temples and ashrams you’d find in the state. People turn up at these ashrams for inner peace and tranquillity through music, meditation and yoga. You could visit the Ramana Ashram and Sheshadri Swami Ashram at Tiruvannamalai near Chennai, Isha Yoga Centre near Coimbatore and the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram, set in the most lush and picturesque surrounding a little further away from the Western Ghats near Madurai where you could practice yoga and meditation. Accommodation and food are provided to visitors in all the ashrams.
Apart from the traditional festivals like Pongal, Navratri and Diwali, Tamil Nadu has its own exceptional Natyanjali Dance Festival (Feb-March) at Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, Mahamaham at Kumbakonam (Feb-March) celebrated once in 12 years, called the Kumbh Mela of South India, the music festival for Saint Thyagaraja at Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur (Jan-Feb) on the banks of the river Cauvery and the Chithirai Festival (April) at the Temple town of Madurai.
Now, this is a hot favourite among people who tour Tamil Nadu. Each district of the state has its own specialities that can be bought as souvenirs to remember your trip by. You can buy silk saris from Arni and Kanchipuram, the latter made quite popular with beautiful Temple borders, floral patterns and stripes, world renowned bronze idols and statues from Swamimalai near Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district, while in Thanjavur you could also check out Thanjavur Paintings, musical instruments and more metal artefacts. You could buy stone carved statues in Mahabalipuram, wild honey, spices, chocolates and tea from the hill stations of Ooty, Yelagiri and Kodaikanal and beautifully handcrafted silk mats made of Marsh reeds from Pathamadai in Thirunelveli. If you go shopping in Tamil Nadu around September or October, you'd be surprised at the number of vibrant clay dolls sold even in push carts and on street corners for Navratri, the doll festival.
As you travel through the districts of Tamil Nadu, you get the opportunity to taste the special delicacies of the region. The buttery, soft Halwa of Thirunelveli, the fried crunchy Murukku of Mannaparai (Thiruchirapalli), the piping hot biriyani of Ambur (Vellore), and the spicy delicious, aromatic food from Chettinad-Kuzhi Paniyarams, Chettinad Chicken or Meen Kozhambu (a spicy fish gravy). Wash it all down with a special Jigirdhanda from Madurai or a degree kaapi from Kumbakonam in the traditional steel dabara tumbler (cup and saucer).
All cities and towns would have a range of budget hotels, luxury accommodations and off-beat regions would have resorts where you can book a room or cottage. Since local transport is not a big issue with mobile app taxis and local buses on the move, you could have the option of staying in bigger towns closer to your destination. Most of the tourist places of Tamil Nadu have accommodations offered by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, so you could contact them for a stay.
After a hectic day of doing the visits, you might need a break before hitting the pillow. Most of the cities of Tamil Nadu have upbeat sundown activities. You can go to the movies, visit the pubs for a late dinner or drinks or simply to shake a leg and loosen up those tired limbs. You would find pubs and restaurants in most areas that are frequented by tourists, like the hill stations and metros.
Most of the places close by 11.00 pm, while some work from 12.00 am to 3.30 am. For a change, check out Madurai, the city that never sleeps, which has a marketplace that throbs with activity even at the dead of night, loading and unloading fruits and vegetables for the next day. Food and tea stalls close by work well into the night. If you are in Madurai, take a trip to this market.