For a dose of south Indian culture with a side of French flavours, travel to the city of Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry), perched on India’s east coast in Tamil Nadu. Peppered with Gallic landscapes of bougainvillea draped colonial townhouses, pastel villas and leafy boulevards, Pondicherry is a haven for both – the traveller in the quest for spiritual awakening, and the leisure-seeking tourist. One of the Puducherry’s most sacred attractions, is the internationally acclaimed Sri Aurobindo Ashram located off Goubert Ave. Drawing lakhs of devotees from across the world every year, the grounds are home to the shrines of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother), and a meditation hall, which is one of the most peaceful places to visit in Pondicherry. Another must visit destination is the township of Auroville that was founded in 1968, located 8kms away from Pondicherry. The community, houses people of 45 nationalities. One of the lesser known things to do in Puducherry is bird watching at the Ousteri Wetlands, 10kms from the heart of the town. You could spend your mornings at city’s major beaches - Auroville, Serenity, Promenade and Paradise, and end your trip with a walk along the seafront promenade, as you chase the setting sun.
Known all over the country for the sacred Sri Venkateswara Temple, Tirupati is located in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh. The temple is actually located in Tirumala along with a number of other temples, though Sri Venkateshwara Temple or Tirupati Balaji is the main attraction for visitors. Tirumala is always bustling with energy owing to the many tourists as well as the number of festivals celebrated here. Legend has it that one should visit Sri Varahaswami temple before visiting Sri Venkateswaraswami. Varahaswami owned the seven hills and agreed to give them to Sri Venkateswaraswami with the demand that he too should be worshipped. And for this, Sri Venkateswaraswami asked his pilgrims to visit the Sri Varahaswami temple before visiting him. For first timers there are a few things you should keep in mind including appropriate clothing, no alcohol and carrying extra locks for your rooms as well as vehicles. Before visiting the temple, you'll need darshan tickets, which are available at various TTD counters across the country. A beautiful place with immense spiritual energy, Tirupati is a must visit.
Home to UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples, dreamy sunsets and spiritually-uplifting energy, Mahabalipuram is perhaps one of the most visited places in Tamil Nadu. Locally known as Mamallapuram, this was once the capital of the Pallava Empire. From exciting water sports to classic statuettes, the place is a delight for voyagers. Feel the shore underneath your feet at the Mahabalipuram beach and indulge in some super fun beach activities such as wind surfing and sea diving. The temples here have a special feature in common, they are built in the form of chariots with open air sanctoriums. The Shore Temple, standing strong like a marvellous rock-cut stone and overlooking the sea is known as the last creation of the Pallava kings. Another wonder in Mahabalipuram is the Panch Rathas, the five monuments that were etched out of a single rock in the 7th century. Pack your travel bags to explore the incredible Indian history by discovering the ageless stories of temples and their incredible architecture. You can get a bus from Koyembedu in Chennai or Pondicherry.
Fondly known as the jewel of the South, Yercaud is a hill station in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu. Known for its stunning beauty, trekking trails and abundant forests, Yercaud is a wonderful vacation spot. There are various touristy spots in and around Yercaud and your holiday schedule will be packed. Do visit the 32-km Loop Road on which a drive is beautiful and perfect for a relaxed afternoon. There is also an option to go boating here but if you have other things to occupy you, you can give boating a miss. A small walk through a village will take you to Karadiyur View Point. The watchtower here gives you a chance to admire the valley below and the surrounding mountains. It's best to head here on a clear day and do remember to wear proper shoes since there is a lot of walking! Lady's seat, Pagoda Point and Big Lake are some other tourists spots where you can spend your time.
Kumbakonam is a stunning temple town in the state of Tamil Nadu. Owing to the hundreds of temples in the city and around it, the city is fondly known as the 'land of temples'. Perhaps one of the oldest temples here is the Adi Kumbeshwara Temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Covered with thousands of carvings and idols, this temple is awe-inspiring and attracts visitors from across the world. Another must-visit temple is the Nageswaran Temple, a unique temple that is constructed like a chariot. A fine example of Chola architecture, this temple's presiding deity is Lord Shiva. Another revered temple here would be the Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is associated with the Mahamaham Festival. This one-day festivity signifies the meeting of all holy rivers in the country and a purificatory bath at the Mahamaham tank on this day is considered equal to the combined dips in all the holy rivers of India. Foodies are in for a surprise as well since Kumbakonam has a wide array of delicious South Indian food and is also famous for its filter coffee. Located only a couple of hours away from Chennai, you can either choose to visit the town for a day or spend a couple of nights here. Kumbakonam is a famous tourist town and thus has accommodation options for every budget size.
Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu is considered to be one of the most holy cities in the state. The famous Annamalaiyar Temple located here is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the incarnations of the five natural elements and in Tiruvannamalai it is the element of fire known as Lord Arunachaleshwar. The temple is on the foothills of the Arunachal Hills and every full moon devotees come here to perform the sacred Girivalam ritual. The city also has a number of ashrams, mostly revolving around the deity worshipped in this temple. If you are looking for some peace and spiritual comfort, this small city is sure to surprise you.
This is a very small town by the sea shore but attracts hundreds of tourists every month. Most of the credit for this however goes to the beautiful Pulicat Lake where everyone can rejoice and refresh themselves. This is a popular place for bird watching and flamingos come in flocks here during the peak winter months of December and January. Other than that it is a good place for photographers with the tranquillity and greeneries which are extremely soothing to the eyes. The best time to visit is from October to March. Get away to the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu and you will come across Pulicat, aplace that separates the Bay of Bengal from Lake Pulicat. The place is known for its archaic architecture and some famous spots like the Dutch Cemetery, its cathedral also built by the Dutch and its sandy beaches. The Flamingo festival held during December and January are star attractions and we ought to have this on our list of tourist places near Chennai within 100 kms. Pulicat lies in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. It serves as a divider for Lake Pulicat and the Bay of Bengal. The place is home to some historic hot spots like the Dutch cemetery, the fort, the church built by the Dutch and its pristine beach. The best time to visit this place would be around the months December and January so that one can be part of the Flamingo Festival that is organized by the Tourism Board. Bird watching is best done here and the villages of Nelapattu and Vedurupattu provide great tourist spots as well. Pulicat is a historic seashore town lying 60 km north of Chennai. The Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary holds the greatest attraction which is home to a variety of migratory birds. December and January is the best time to visit if you don’t want to miss the Flamingo Festival. Watch as thousands of flamingos herald you with their presence all along the swampy region of the lake while other birds like ducks, cranes, herons and painted storks add more colour to the festival. This seashore township is perfect during the autumn season. You will be enthralled by the beautiful sights and calm surroundings. Some of the main places to visit include the beach, Dutch cemetery, as well as the nearby church and fort. The bird sanctuary is home to a number of migratory birds. A December visit here will give you the chance to witness the Flamingo festival, when hundreds of the bird species swamp Pulicat Lake. Pulicat is one of the best places near Chennai when autumn sets in. Located in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu and just an hour and a half’s drive from Chennai is this small seashore town of Pulicat. If you love bird watching, the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary is just the place for you where you can catch sight of plenty unique species of migratory birds.Distance from Chennai: 55
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