The Dravidian land of Tamil Nadu in southern India offers a rich cultural experience. Wedged between the Western ghats and the Bay of Bengal, Tamil Nadu was ruled by various dynasties such as Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and Nayaks over centuries, and their influences across various fields are evident even in today’s times. Largely an agrarian state, Tamil Nadu is known for its serene villages, temple towns, age old traditions, art forms and friendly locals.
The Essential Tamilnadu tour takes you on a trail through the heart of this state giving you an essential overview into the region’s history, culture, art, architecture, temples and cuisines. The regions of Madurai, Chettinad and Thanjavur form the core of Tamil Nadu’s history and cultural scene. The temples here are more than a thousand years old with impressive architecture and sculptures. From paintings to doll making to bronze sculpting, the trail gives an insight into the indegenous art forms of the region. The tour is interspersed with culinary trails offering a wide range of local and unique flavours popular with the locals.
Make your way through the age old towns of Tamil Nadu and enjoy the cultural extravaganza on this five day Essential Tamil Nadu tour.
Who can do this tour
This is a drive based tour and the journey will be covered in a comfortable air conditioned vehicle. However, there will be short walks exploring places of interest. The day’s activities will start post breakfast and the evenings are at leisure. On an average we will be covering about 2 – 3 hrs driving and over 60+ KMS.
Culturally, this tour is a perfect combination of temples, history, food and local architecture, perfectly suited for anyone who wants to understand the region and heritage of Tamil Nadu with a local and indulge in unique experience.
Physically, this is a leisurely and low intensity tour
The tour starts in Madurai in central Tamil Nadu, known to be one of the oldest cities in the world, where we cover one of its most popular temples and savour its unique cuisines. We then make our way to the Chettinad region to understand and learn about the Chettiar community, their magnificent mansions, delicious cuisine and art works. From Chettinad the trail takes us to Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, known for their stupendous temples and architecture. The artworks such as sculpting,painting and doll-making are the highlights of these regions. We then head to our last destination, Trichy where we will be visiting the largest functional Hindu temple in the world.
Vanakkam! Welcome to Madurai, the heart of Tamil Nadu. Meet your Unventured tour host at Madurai International Airport who will introduce you to this culturally rich tour of Tamil Nadu. After checking into the hotel at Madurai, and a relaxed lunch later, we head out to explore the streets of this temple town. Madurai is one of the oldest cities in the country and listening to its stories and strolling through it’a alleyways makes for a truly local experience to get under the skin of Madurai. Well known for its street food, we will visit some of the prominent places such as Murugan’s Idli shop to try some fluffy “Idlis” (Steamed rice dumplings), a local joint to relish the best “Jigarthanda” in the city (Jigarthanda is a cold drink made of cream, ice cream, milk and natural coolants), Burma idiyappam ( string hoppers) and a few others. The city is known for its unique recipes such as Murukku (snack made from rice and lentil), Adhirasam (doughnut), Paruthipaal (a drink made from cotton seeds), Thennai Kuruthu (made from coconut bark), etc. We later head back to the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Madurai.
Drive Distance: 12 Kms (Airport to Madurai)
Accommodation Type: Boutique/Heritage Hotel
● Meet and greet your fellow travellers and tour host
● A scrumptious food Trail
● Tour Briefing
We start the day early today and head to Meenakshi Amman temple, known for its beautiful sculptures, towering entrance gates, colourful ceilings, sculpted pillars, extensive carvings and decorated halls. The main shrine at this temple is “Meenakshi”, a form of the Goddess, Parvati and the consort of Lord Shiva. After exploring the temple, we head back to the hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast we will check out and take a two hour drive of 90 Kms to the Chettinad region. Check into a heritage hotel at Kanadukathan and enjoy the famed Chettinad cuisine for lunch. Chettinad, constituting over 70 villages was the region of the Chettiar community who were predominantly traders and financiers in the 18th and 19th century. Chettinad is home to numerous magnificent Chettiar mansions, and post lunch we stroll through a few palatial mansions adorned with artworks sourced from around the world and rediscover traditional Chettiar architecture. We also delve deeper into the stories around the Chettiar community in the evening. Dinner and overnight in Chettinad.
Drive Distance: 90 Kms
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel
● A guided walk of the Meenakshi Amman temple
● Taste the Chettinad cuisine
● Explore Chettiar mansions
After breakfast, we drive out to Athangudi, one of the villages in Chettinad to explore its magnificent palace. Athangudi palace is one of the mansions in Chettinad that still resonates with the lifestyle of Chettiars. Adorned with Burmese teak wood pillars, Japanese ceramic tiles, mirrors from Belgium and Italian marble, the palace is aesthetically decorated and is the embodiment of Chettiar mansions. We then head out to one of the tile factories that create the popular Athangudi tiles known for their vibrant colours and traditional designs, we will also try our hand at making a tile or two. Chettinad is also known for its weaving units, which we will visit to understand how the colourful sarees are woven. We then drive to Muneeshwaran street in Karaikudi town, popular for its numerous shops selling a plethora of antiques and artifacts. Later we head back to the hotel for a late lunch. In the evening, we will learn to cook a few Chettinad dishes from the local chefs.
Dinner and overnight in Chettinad.
Drive Distance: 39 Kms
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel
• Visit the Athangudi Palace and Athangudi Tile Factory
• Visit a Weaving unit
• Stroll through Antique market
• A cooking session with the chef
Post an early breakfast, we drive for 3 hours to reach Kumbakonam, known for its temples and bronze sculpting. We first visit Airavatesvara temple, which is covered in spectacular carvings and sculptures of various mythological and godly figures all across the temple walls. The temple is also part of the Great Living Chola temples, a UNESCO world heritage site. We stop by at the nearby town of Swamimalai to get an insight into how this small town has become popular for its bronze sculptures. Time permitting, we would also visit the artisans to see how the sculptures are created. We then head to Thanjavur, 35 Kms away to check into a heritage hotel and head out for lunch. Late in the afternoon, we set out to explore an art gallery where we will learn and understand about the well known Thanjavur paintings which have their origins dated back to 1600 AD. The Brihadeeshwarar temple, also known as the big temple is our next pit stop in the evening. This temple is an engineering marvel with stupendous art work, sculptures and carvings built during the times of the Cholas dynasty 1010 AD, and is another in the list of Great Living Chola temples. Dinner and overnight in Thanjavur.
Drive Distance: 174 KMs
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel
● A guided walk inside the Airavatesvara temple
● Visit an artisan specialising Bronze sculpting in Swamimalai
● Explore Thanjavur paintings
● A guided walk of the Brihadeeswarar temple
We drive out from Thanjavur after breakfast and head to Srirangam, 60 KMs away. In the river island of Srirangam, we walk through the many entrance gates of the Ranganathaswamy temple, the largest living temple in the world, and explore the colourful gopurams (Ornate entrance towers), intricate sculptures and carved pillars. Spread over 156 acres, the temple complex also houses numerous streets, museums and commercial establishments. Later we head for lunch to Chellamal Manpanai Samayal, a local joint known for its traditional preparation of South Indian meals. The tour comes to an end with indelible memories as your Unventured tour host drops you off at the Trichy airport to catch your onward flight. You might be planning some more travels across this beautiful land. Talk to us at Unventured to learn of other different adventures you can take on in South India!
Drive Distance: 76 KMs
Accommodation Type: NA
● A guided walk of the Srirangam temple
● Stroll through the streets of Srirangam
● Savour a traditionally prepared lunch
This tour is a cultural exploration of the state of Tamil Nadu providing an overview into its history, art and cuisine. This is a low intensity tour and we cover destinations in a comfortable air conditioned vehicle. You would be accompanied by a NOLS certified Unventured tour host to guide you through this experience.
PREPAREDNESS – PHYSICAL & MENTAL
The tour is a blend of culture, history, art, architecture, temples and cuisines of Tamil Nadu, giving you a unique insight into the local way of life via off the beaten path experiences. Information with regard to people, culture, currency and introducing the region’s political, historical and cultural structures will be via detailed emails well before the tour begins. This tour is graded as low intensity in terms of physical activities.
Accommodation: Accommodation will be in Heritage Hotels, Boutique hotels and Eco Hotels with good hygienic rooms (offered on a twin-sharing basis) with attached bathrooms.
Transport: We will have a dedicated AC private vehicle at your service through the entire term of the tour. All transfers from the Airport to the hotel will be in comfortable cars or vans.
Meals: All meals on starting from lunch on Day 1, till breakfast on Day 5