Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, formerly known as Madras, lies on the East Coast of India. It is a city of heritage and progress, of colonial grandeur and traditional values, a city that presents an interesting blend of the modern and the ancient. Museums, churches, beaches, temples, colonial architecture, forts, and modern entertainment hotspots, ensure that a dull moment can never be found in Chennai, the Jewel of the Coromandel Coast.

There are plenty of things to experience in this vibrant metropolis, from spicy food to beautiful beaches (Elliot's Beach, Marina Beach); quaint ancient churches such as St. Mary's Church, San Thome Basilica; temples such as Kapilashvara Temple; and places of historical importance like Fort St. George and Clive House. There are also numerous places of interest near the capital city, and a drive down the beautiful beach-lined East Coast Road will bring you towards Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry. En-route the, you can find the scary yet intriguing Crocodile Bank, arts and crafts treasure troves like Cholamandalam Artists Village and Dakshinachitra, and wondrous amusement parks such as MGM Dizzy World and Ahaa Water Park.

A serene town set along the sea, Mahabalipuram is picturesque and unlike other pilgrimage towns thronged by multitudes. Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram, as it is also known, offers a pleasant surprise. While the town does see a lot of tourist and pilgrim traffic, it still retains its solitary charm. Located on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon, Mahabalipuram enjoys the perfect setting. Often referred to as an open-air museum, the former port town has on display hundreds of fabulous sculptures that date back to the 7th century and are marvelous examples of Pallava Art. In addition to historical monuments, Mahabalipuram offers some great beaches and sumptuous spread of fresh seafood!
Sight Seeing

The most prominent and important sites to visit in Mahabalipuram are its sculptures and monuments. These structures not only hold immense historical and archaeological importance but are also fine examples of Dravidian architecture with Buddhist design elements. From rock-cut and monolithic monuments to structural buildings, you'll find it all in Mahabalipuram. Thisukadalmallai, a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is an important religious site. The Shore Temple, set on the beach with the sea as its backdrop, is in addition, an architectural marvel.

Enjoy morning and evening walks on the beach as the waves from the sea splash at your feet and the slight chill in the air refreshes your very being. Another must do while in Mahabalipuram is to rise early in the morning and witness the sunrise and enjoy a breathtaking view of the first sunrays sparkling off the Shore Temple.

Mahabalipuram is strategically located to offers numerous short excursions and overnight getaway options. While Tiger Cave (4 km), an open air theatre and Thirukkalunkundram (14 km), a pilgrimage centre, are worth a short visit or afternoon picnic on a pleasant winter day, the Crocodile Bank (14 km) is worth a day trip. Set on the Chennai-Mahabalipuram Road, it houses a range of crocodiles and also boasts of a snake farm nearby. Pondicherry (130 km), on the other hand, makes for a great place to enjoy an extended holiday after your visit to Mahabalipuram. Picturesque beaches and a French town ambience await you in the white town of Pondicherry or Puducherry, as it is often referred to.

Stone carvings have made Mahabalipuram famous and stone sculptures made by local artisans make for popular souvenirs. Poompuhar Handicrafts Emporium on South Mada Street is recommended for their great collection and helpful staff. Prices for these granite sculptures vary so do remember to bargain. Better prices are guaranteed if you step off the main road and browse the smaller workshops in the side streets.

This curious little town seems to have its own guardian sea, lashing the boulevard with froth and roars. Divided into two with a canal built by the French, the city has two distinct flavors - the old colonial charm of the French and the native colors of hinterland.

The one place that Pondicherry is renowned for around the world is the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Auroville, 10 kilometres away. Famous for its quiet concentration centre, Matrimandir, which is built in the form of a globe, the township has citizens from all parts of the world staying together.

Sight Seeing:
Pondicherry owes its cultural diversity to its French connection, which has left behind an indelible impression. You can cherish some of the French remains and Pondicherry's ancient roots at the Pondicherry Museum adorned with French artefacts and the findings of Arikamedu, chola bronzes and sculptures, traditional handicraft, paintings, armoires and carvings. Visit the Botanical Gardens established in 1826 to see a variety of exotic plants from over the world.
Visit the Mansion of Ananda built in 1773 by Rangapillai (courtier of Joseph Francois Dupleix, then governor), which is a fine specimen of Indo-French architecture. Tour the rich cultural beauty in
Home to beautiful virgin beaches and backwaters, Chunnambar is the place to be for boating on the high seas. Sea sick? No worries. The golden beaches of Pondicherry are enough to keep you occupied. Walk on the beach in the evenings and enjoy the warm sunset set behind the horizon or just take your book and get a sun tan during the day. The Yanam River cruise is another thing that you must try in Pondicherry. The cruise gives you a heritage tour and takes you through beautiful canals and waterways fringed by the ancient French villas and the rustic villages. Yoga is the best way to unwind and what is a better place to relax than here, in the hub of spirituality?

Pondicherry is the best place in India to shop for leather, natural products and handcrafted paper items. One of the most popular boutiques in the city is Kalki (132, Mission Street). They stock an interesting collection of leather footwear, silk clothing, jewellery, perfumed candles, incense sticks, handmade paper articles and an eccentric collection of music. The place is good for browsing. Across the street is Casablanca (165, Mission Street) with luxury goods spread over three floors and a funky atmosphere.

Auroville & Aurobindo Ashram
The Shri Aurobindo Ashram in Auroville is a living elegy to the seer, poet and prophet of the 20th century. Located 10 km north of Pondicherry town, Auroville is envisioned as a universal town, where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs, can live in peace and harmony. Famous for its quiet concentration centre, Matrimandir, which is built in the form of a globe, the township has citizens from all parts of the world staying together..

One of the prominent pilgrimage destinations in South India is Tirupati, which draws lakhs of visitors every year. The presiding deity here is Sri Venkateshwara and the chief points of pilgrimage are Sri Venkateshwara's Temple on Tirumala Hill, the shrine of Govindaraja in Tirupati town and the shrine of Padmavati in Tiruchanur, about 3 miles south of Tirupathi.

Other temples in and around the region include Kapileshwara Temple at Kapilatirtham, the Rama Temple in the town of Tirupati and the Parasareshvara Temple at Jogiallavaram, in Tiruchanur. Another important temple is the Govindarajaswami Temple in Tirupati.

Also called Cape Comorin, Kanyakumari is one of the few places in the globe, where you can see both the sunset and sunrise from the same place at same time. Situated in southernmost tip of the main land of Indian peninsula, Kanyakumari boasts of an amazing geographical location along the confluence of three seas, namely the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It also enjoys a special place among discerning tourists as well as devotees. A historic city, Kanyakumari has been linked with many great personalities including Swami Vivekanada and Mahatma Gandhi. While Vivekananda Rock Memorial describes about Swami Vivekananda association with Kanyakumari, the massive 133 feet tall Thiruvalluvar Statue provides a glimpse of great Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar.

Sight Seeing
Kanyakumari is home to many temples, historic monuments, architectural masterpieces and natural wonders like waterfalls, hills and lakes. Once you are in the city, you will be surely amazed by the vast collection of sightseeing and leisure options. Vivekananda Rock Memorial is an impressive attraction in Kanyakumari, which is set atop two rocks about 500 metres away in an island. Built around 1970s, the memorial is linked with noted philosopher Swami Vivekananda, and remains open all days in week. Thirvalluvar Statue and Mathur Hanging Trough are the architectural masterpieces that deserve a visit on your Kanyakumari holiday. Also pay a visit to historical monuments, namely Vattakottai Fort, Udayagiri Fort, Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument, Padmanabhapuram Palace and Sitharal Jain Monuments. Tsunami Monument is a modern monument that has been built as a memorial of the tragic natural calamity 'Tsunami' along the south shore.

An ancient city, Kanyakumari has a deep religious root and houses many places of religious significance. A trip to Kanyakumari is incomplete without visiting the important religious shrines in and around the city. Tiruchendur Temple, Thirunandhikarai Cave Temple, Kumari Amman Temple, Gandhi Mandapam, Suchindram and St. Xavier Church are some of the popular religious sites that you should visit during Kanyakumari tour.

Beaches are one of the major attractions of Kanyakumari thronged by visitors in large numbers. Along with spending relaxing moments along the serene beaches, guests can enjoy fascinating views of sunset and sunrise. Sothavilai Beach and Sanghurai Beach are the popular beaches of Kanyakumari. The beach at Vivekanandapuram is considered best for enjoying sunrise and sunset. Maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission, the beach is quite peaceful in comparison to other beaches in Kanyakumari. Besides beaches, there are beautiful waterfalls and lakes in and around Kanyakumari. Courtallam Falls is a picturesque fall that also believed to contains curing powers for many ailments especially mental ailments. Olakaruvi Falls is another waterfall close to Kanyakumari, about 20 km away from Nagercoil. Also visit Thiruparrapu waterfall and have a bath under the water stream set amidst tranquil surroundings.

Leisurely walks along the beaches are quite popular among the tourists visiting Kanyakumari. Take a stroll on the beaches of Kanyakumari and pass a good time in either watching sunset or sunrise or other activities as per your wish. Remember, bathing is banned in most of the beaches of Kanyakumari due to security reason. However, if you are eager for a bath in massive sea, you can visit Vattakotta Beach, about 6 km away from Kanyakumari.

Enjoy a nature trek in the Keeriparai area of Kanyakumari and spot a variety of floral and faunal species in their natural habitat. You can see massive elephants in the plains of Keeriparai and other interesting animals. Kodhayar also called Kodhayar Lower Camp is another natural habitat in Kanyakumari region and houses a wide array of animal and plant species. Explore the 60 km long region through the interesting winding paths, and spot bison, bears and many different wild animals.

Of course, you will not find glistening shopping malls or chain of branded outlets, but Kanyakumari has enough to please the discerning shoppers. The shops in the city as well as vendors on the sea coasts offer a variety of items that can be bought as a souvenir of Kanyakumari holiday. Explore the markets of Kanyakumari and pick up exquisite items made from seashells, wood and bamboo. You can use these items to decorate your home or office.

Rameshwaram is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. A pilgrimage to Varanasi or Kashi is incomplete without going to Rameshwaram. It is an island just off the East Coast of India, connected to the mainland by the longest sea bridge in the country. It is here, according to legends, that Lord Rama, built a bridge across the sea to Lanka to rescue his consort Sita, from her abductor, Ravanna. It is also supposed to be the place where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva, to absolve the sin of having killed Ravanna. Hence the island is named “Rameswaraâ€Â, which means lord of Rama.

There are many, many places of religious and mythological importance in Rameshwar, the most important being the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. Situated next to the sea, it is famous far its corridors of sculpted pillars, and its tall Gopuram. It is also the home of the worlds longest corridor, measuring in at 197 metres long and 133 wide. Another important place is the sacred bathing place, Agnitheertham, on the east side of the temple on the seashore. Gandamadana Parvatham is the highest point in the island, and its from here that one can see entire island of Rameswaram. Sugreevar Temple is another Theertham or sacred bathing place.

South India's most popular temple town, Madurai is synonymous with the Meenakshi Temple. Seeped in heritage which is almost 2500 years old, Madurai boasts of having been an important cultural and commercial centre of the Pandya kings. Designed in the shape of a lotus, it is said that Lord Shiva blessed the land and its inhabitants and poured 'madhu' (nectar) from the locks of his matted hair.

Besides the Meenakshi Temple, don't miss Koodal Alagar Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, an architectural splendour. The Gandhi Museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi houses the personal memorabilia of the Mahatma, along with a picture gallery, a library and an exhibition of South India handicrafts and village industries..

Tiruchirapalli also called Trichy or Tiruchi is an ancient town situated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Set on the banks of Cauvery (Kaveri) River, Tiruchirapally serves as a major commercial, industrial, educational and religious centre of Tamil Nadu. One of the biggest cities of Tamil Nadu, Tiruchirapalli is renowned for its rich historic past and fine collection of temples. Fondly called the temple city, Tiruchirapalli is home to many old temples that are quite popular for unique architectural styles and religious significances.

While Rock Fort Temple dominates over the city, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is renowned for encompassing the impressive feat of world's largest temple complex. Being a famous tourist destination of South India, Tiruchirapalli also offers excellent shopping and eating opportunities. Explore the markets of the town to buy artificial diamonds, jewellery, sarees, handloom clothes, grass bangles, toys and other interesting objects as a souvenir. And also savour some exotic cuisines especially South Indian dishes that you might not have tried earlier.

Sight Seeing:
Sightseeing in Tiruchirapalli mainly revolves around the temples and historic attractions. Begin your sightseeing expedition from the city's principal landmark Rock Fort Temple. Set atop a huge rocky outcrop, Rock Fort Temple is an impressive monument that caters the attention of visitors from a long distance. You can reach the temple complex by a steep climb of many steps that houses many rock cut temple of Pallava period. While on way to Rock Fort Temple, pay a visit to Thayumanaswamy Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and houses a 100-pillared hall. Located at a distance of about 6 km from Trichy, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam is a famous temple devoted to Lord Vishnu. Considered among the most sacred shrines in South India, Ranganathaswamy Temple is bestowed with world's one of the biggest temple complex. Constructed on an island in the middle of Cauvery River, the temple covers an area of 2.5 sq. km and flanked by seven rectangular walled courtyards. Ranganathaswamy Temple also has 21 huge gopurams including a 73 metre high gopuram built in 1987.

Besides these two major temples, there are many temples in and around Tiruchirapalli that are known for exquisite architecture, presiding deities, and religious and historical significances. Jambukeshwara Temple, Erumbeeswarar Temple or Tiruverumbeeswarar Temple, Perumal Malai Temple (Thuriaur), Samayapuram Amman Temple, Brahmapureeswarar Temple, Gunaseelam Temple, Vekkalimman Temple, Vayalur Murugan Temple, Viramalai Murugan Temple and Katha Verraiya Swamy Temple are other important temples situated in Tiruchirapalli and nearby areas. Tiruchirapalli is not only a temple town but it also houses shrines of other religious faiths like Christian and Muslim. St. Joseph's Church is considered among the popular attractions of
(Thirukokarnam - 40 km) and Puliyancholai Waterfall are other tourist attractions close to Tiruchirapalli.

It sounds little unusual to talk about leisure activities in the temple town of Tiruchirapalli. But if you wish, you can find out some leisure activities in the town itself. Take leisurely strolls and cover the temples and other places of tourist interest on foot. While exploring the town on foot, you can closely observe the local culture and enjoy the soothing climate. A walk on Cauvery Bridge that leads to Rock Fort is a favourite leisure activity among visitors to Tiruchirapalli. Close to Tiruchirapalli there are many places that are ideal for picnics or spending leisure moments.

The temples of Tiruchirapalli town are alone enough to keep a visitor involved in sightseeing. You can pass hours in understanding the architectural styles and other fine details of the temples around the town. After exploring the temples and other attractions of Tiruchirapalli, you can take short to long excursions and cover other places of tourist interest. Just 15 km from Tiruchirapalli, Mukkombu is a famous tourist spot and ideal for picnics with family members or friends. Pudukkottai (45 km) is another popular destination known for centuries old paintings and delicate carvings. Situated 65 km away from Trichy, Thanjavur is a historical town and houses the noted Brihadeeshwara Temple. You can also combine your Tiruchirapalli trip with popular destinations like Coimbatore (200 km), Chennai (325 km) and Bangalore (330 km).

Tiruchirapalli is an excellent place for discerning shoppers and common travellers as well. The town is dotted with shopping centres, local markets and roadside stalls where you can buy daily use items to souvenirs. Alimal Street, Big Bazaar, Andal Street and Junction Road are the main shopping areas of Tiruchirapalli. Besides big and small shops, Tiruchirapalli has a huge shopping mall - Femina Shopping Mall. Situated in the city centre the mall has many branded outlets, children's play area and food court..

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