Tamil Nadu Temple Tour

At a Glance


The Southern state of Tamil Nadu was ruled by some of the greatest dynasties in India and the numerous temples, with their intricate carvings and amazing architecture, are their legacy which endures and allures even today. This tour is a dive into history and comprehensive insight into a civilisation that has been thriving for over two millennia now.

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We start at state capital Chennai. Chaotic, serene, bustling and leafy by turns, Chennai has a few specimens of centuries-old places of worship. The oldest is the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore. Built in the 7th Century and later rebuilt, it is dedicated to Goddess Karpagambal, an incarnation of Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati. The temple has a 37-foot Gopuram (tower), and one of oldest trees in Chennai in its courtyard.

Kanchipuram, the next stop, is best known for its fine silk sarees but is one of the seven most important pilgrimage centres in the Vaishnavaite sect of Hinduism. The town’s most significant temples include the Kailasanathar Temple and Vaikunta Perumal Temple that have been built in the Dravidian style of architecture.

Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram as it has been rechristened now, has a beach temple complex that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples carry influences and symbols from present-day Sri Lanka, Egypt and China. Close by is Krishna’s Butterball, a massive granite boulder perched seemingly precariously on a slope that has been in the same place for 1,200 years and resisted attempts to dislodge it.

Tiruvannamalai temple is located in Annamalai town and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is associated with Agni, or fire, which is considered one of the five elements. Spread over 10 hectares, it is one of the largest temples in India and has four towers, one of which is 66 metres high.

The bohemian vibe of Pondicherry, or Puducherry, is apparent in its French Quarter, that has bougainvillea-lined bungalows and secluded beaches. Close by is Auroville, an experimental township dedicated to human unity. At the centre of the township is Matrimandir, a beautiful golden metallic structure dedicated to Mirra Alfassa, the spiritual collaborator to Sri Aurobindo.

Gangaikonda may be a tiny village now, but for 250 years, it was the capital of not only South India but also the erstwhile Ceylon and other south-east Asian countries. Its temple is second only to the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, full of fascinating sculptures and architecture.

The temple at Darasuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who here is known as Airavateshwara, because he was worshipped by the mythical white elephant Airavata belonging to the king of gods.

The gold leaf paintings of Tanjore are world famous and make a great acquisition and investment, but a lot of inspiration from these paintings comes from the sculptures at the Brihadeeswarar Temple, that is over 1000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire temple is made of granite, which is extremely difficult to carve. The 60m temple tower is one of the tallest in the world.

Tiruchirapalli, shortened to Trichy, is famous for its rock fort and temple complex built by the Pallava dynasty. The Ranganathaswamy temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is another site worth visiting.

Madurai is one of the most important temple destinations not only in Tamil Nadu but the entire India. Known as Athens of the East, it is most famous for the Meenakshi temple. Built in the 13th century, it is dedicated to Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. There are a jaw-dropping 33,000 sculptures in this temple. A light and sound show in the evening showcasing some of the greatest Tamil epics is a fitting conclusion to the tour.


Starting from £2684.00

International flights & VIP meet at aircraft door included - more Special Value inclusions listed below



Tel: 0207 931 8273


MOBILE: 07823 777 948


Fly to Chennai with British Airways. Contact us for other airlines and departure airports.

DAY 02 – ARRIVE CHENNAI – Frangi House
Arrive, meet & greet then transfer to your hotel. 
This afternoon you are taken on a private guided tour of Chennai. Begin with a visit to Fort St. George, within the compound is a museum holding many remembrances of the East India Company and the British period. Later visit Mylapore, which was inhabited in the 16th century by the Portuguese; visit the San Thomas Church, named for the Christian disciple (“Doubting Thomas”) who lived and taught here in the first century. Also, visit Kapleshwar Temple, honouring Shiva, dates back to the 13th century AD and is the biggest temple in Chennai. You will also drive past the Marina Beach, the second-longest in the world, stretching for several miles.

After breakfast, you will first drive to Kanchipuram (2.5 hrs) for sightseeing. One of the seven sacred cities in India was the historical capital of the Pallavas. This city is the centre of the fine and purely woven silk sarees. Later continue to Mahabalipuram (2 hrs). On arrival at leisure.

Today you will be taken to see the various temples, some located on the shoreline. Mahabalipuram is full of UNESCO World Heritage-listed carvings and temples, Mahabalipuram site, was once a major seaport for the ancient Pallava kingdom, which was also responsible for much of the stunning architecture you see here today. 

After breakfast, you will continue your journey via Tiruvannamalai (3 hrs) then later to Pondicherry. Tiruvannamalai is one of the most significant Saivite shrines in Tamil Nadu, India, on a sprawling 24-acre temple campus, drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every full moon. The hill here is considered to be a manifestation of Shiva. Later visit the Arunachaleshwarar Temple located in the centre of town covering 10 hectares and is one of the largest in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar (the form in which Shiva is worshipped here) and Unnamulai Amman (his wife Parvati) being the most prominent. Later continue to Pondicherry (3 hrs). On arrival at leisure.

After breakfast, you will take a private guided tour of Pondicherry. Visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram,  Pondicherry Museum and the Sacred Heart Church

After breakfast, you will drive from Tiruvannamalai to Tanjore, which is a full day’s drive visiting Cholapuram Temple,  GangaiKonda & Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram en route. On arrival in Tanjore early evening, you are then at leisure

After breakfast, you will visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple (Big Temple), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you wish, you can also visit the Art Gallery and the Saraswathi Mahal Library.

Today is a leisure day to enjoy some of the eight different Svatma experiences like a choice of learning Tanjore painting techniques or maybe witness a demo of Chola bronze casting, veena & bell making. Experience a chamber concert or traditional dance; see handloom weaving and draping techniques, Vedic chanting and even culinary classes to name but a few.

After breakfast, you will drive to Trichy for sightseeing visit Srirangam, an island that houses the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple- dedicated to Ranganatha, a reclining form of Lord Vishnu. Later you will visit the Rock Fort, a well-known landmark in Trichy, attracting a large number of tourists. Then return to Tanjore for the night

DAY 11 – TANJORE TO MADURAI (B) – The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai
After breakfast, you will drive to the temple town of Madurai (3.5 hrs). On arrival at leisure, or perhaps you would like to drive into town for some shopping at the heritage markets. We can also arrange a walking tour of the old city based on history or food. Ask me for more details.

After breakfast, you are taken on a private guided tour of Madurai, visiting the great Meenakshi Amman Temple, and the Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Later visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum. This evening you are taken back to the Meenakshi Temple to witness the nightly ceremony ‘Going to Bed Ceremony’ when the image of Shiva (in the form of Sundareswarar) is carried from his shrine to join his consort Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi) at hers, in another part of the temple.  This ceremony is chaotic and noisy, but we feel it’s not to be missed if travelling to Madurai.

DAY 13 – MADURAI TO CHENNAI (B) – Radisson Blu Chennai Airport
This morning take the train to Chennai 0645-1435, on arrival transfer to your hotel. Alternatively, we can arrange a flight to Chennai instead of the train.

Early morning you will transfer to the airport for your homebound flight where India India bids you farewell until next time.

Special Value

  • A gift when you book your tour with us, a DVD film called ‘Mystic India’
  • International flights included
  • VIP meet at aircraft door on arrival
  • Useful gift is given to you on arrival
  • Private arrival and departure transfers
  • Private car & driver for all road transfers
  • Snack Hamper, with juice and water in your private car
  • Mobile phone to use while in India to keep in contact with our local office and your driver
  • Meals as per itinerary (B = breakfast) (HB = breakfast, lunch or dinner) (FB = breakfast, lunch & dinner)
  • Private guide for sightseeing in all major cities
  • Entrances to all monument and places of interest included
  • Sightseeing in Chennai, visiting churches and temples
  • Take a visit to Kanchipuram
  • See the Shore Temples at Mahabalipuram
  • Visit Tiruvannamalai
  • See the Arunachaleshwarar Temple
  • Take a walking tour of Pondicherry
  • Visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry
  • See the Cholapuram Temple
  • Visit Gangai Konda & Airavatesvara Temple
  • Tour of Tanjore and its temples
  • Visit Trichy’s Rock Fort and temple complex
  • Walk around the famous Meenakshi Temple
  • Visit Meenakshi Temple for the evening ceremony
  • Visit the Thirumalai Nayak Palace in Madurai
  • Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai
  • Experience a domestic train journey from Madurai to Chennai

This Tour features the following locations

CHENNAI: Chaotic streets, scorching heat and the sheer absence of world famous sights. You’d expect Chennai to be the poor cousin, the most ignored metro of India. But that’s because you haven’t heard of its magnificent traditions, beautiful customs, and super-friendly people. Any city that believes offering food to others to be a service is sure to be a treat for your taste buds. Authentic dishes such as rasam, kootu, and fish curry steal your heart, and that strong Tamil coffee is exactly what those caffeine dreams are made up of. Chennai has also managed to turn up the heat, with glitzy nightclubs, cosmo shopping malls, and multi-cuisine restaurants staying open till late, but it’s still all about meeting people, eating, drinking and exploring the local way of life.

KANCHIPURAM: One of the seven sacred cities in India was the historical capital of the Pallavas. Apart from the Pallava rulers the Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, the Muslims and finally the British too ruled this part of Tamilnadu. It also became the seat of culture and religion for many centuries. This city is the centre of the fine and purely woven silk sarees. The famous Vaishnavaite temple here is Lord Varadharaja Perumal temples is also one of the 108 holiest Vaishnavaite temples.

MAHABALIPURAM: Full of UNESCO World Heritage-listed carvings and temples, Mahabalipuram site, was once a major seaport for the ancient Pallava kingdom, which was also responsible for much of the stunning architecture you see here today. Considered to look especially beautiful during sunset, these temples can truly take the breath away. Factor in all that coastal beauty and you have a hidden gem on your hands. It’s not all ancient and historic, though. Mamallapuram also has a popular traveller ghetto where you get all kinds of dishes, souvenir items, and shops. If you’re looking for a small, laid-back town that can be easily explored via a day tour from Chennai, this is where you need to be!

TIRUVANNAMALAI: One of the greatest Saivite shrines in Tamil Nadu, India, on a sprawling 24-acre temple campus, drawing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every full moon. The hill here is considered to be a manifestation of Shiva. Arunachaleshwarar Temple located in the centre of town covering 10 hectares and is one of the largest in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar (the form in which Shiva is worshipped here) and Unnamulai Amman (his wife Parvati) being the most prominent.

PONDICHERRY:  Ruled by the French till the year 1954, so you can still see the French culture having great significance here. It presents an intoxicating mix of French and sub-continental cultures, largely responsible for its boho-chic vibe and international acclaim. The fresh sea air, stunning secluded beaches, low alcohol prices, great cuisine and excellent yoga retreats don’t hurt its reputation either. The Old Town is known for its bougainvillea-lined teahouses, ancient cathedrals, 18th-century buildings, cobblestone streets and quiet enclaves, while the newer areas are chaotically Indian. Auroville, one of the greatest spiritual destinations on the planet, a place without borders, is also located just outside town.

GANGAIKONDA: Gangaikonda Cholapuram was built during medieval India and was erected as the capital of the Cholas by Rajendra Chola I. Chola rulers were active patrons of the arts. They flourished in architectures, education, science, arts, ship construction, poetry, drama, music, business trading, dance. The temple of Gangaikondacholisvara is approached through the eastern entrance from the road. The entrance is called the “Mahaduvar” leads to the inner court.

DARASURAM: In Darasuram the Airavateshwarar temple is a storehouse of art and architecture. The vimana is 85 feet high. The front mandapam itself is in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses. The temple has some exquisite stone carvings. The main deity’s consort Periya Nayaki Amman temple is situated adjacent to Airavateshwarar temple. The Great Living Chola Temples. (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) at Thanjavur, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Darasuram were built by the Cholas between the 10th and 12th centuries CE and have a lot of similarities.

TANJORE: Formerly known as Tanjore, Thanjavur presents the foundation blocks of one of the greatest civilisations of South India, one that was defined by its eloquent culture, artistic excellence and architectural legacy. The capital of the Great Chola Empire in its heydey, this bustling Indian town has a labyrinth of palaces, temples and memoirs of ancient civilisations that warrant exploration and deserve moments of your time. The best thing to do here is exploring the Great Chola Temples, UNESCO World Heritage Monuments that are solely constructed from granite, one of the hardest materials that most modern day architects with all their modern technology would want to avoid. The greatest of all temples is the Brihadishwara, a beautiful temple that is full of elaborate carvings, mesmerising artistry and beautiful frescoes. Other destinations worth exploring include Poompuhar and the Thanjavur Royal Palace. Thanjavur also gave birth to the Tanjore style of painting, and many masterpieces can be seen all over the city.

TRICHY: Located on the banks of Cauvery River, Tiruchirappalli (or simply Trichy) is the fourth largest city in the state, one of the oldest inhabited cities of India and one of the key tourist areas in the region. Its star attraction is the Rock Fort, an architectural marvel that hosts two stunning temples constructed in an 83 m rock. With settlements dating back to the second millennium BC, there is much to see and do here, and you can literally feel the presence of the ancients in this beautiful land, a unique energy reverberating in its 17th-century temples and churches. Like Thanjavur, Trichy celebrates Pongal with great fervour and visiting the city while it celebrates its most beautiful festival is an experience to be cherished.

MADURAI: Madurai, the city that never sleeps! Madurai is essentially a temple town that might not boast of hedonistic attractions, but more than makes up with its incredible architecture. The temples found here are truly spellbinding, glowing examples of Dravidian architecture. As one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of India, this pilgrim town is also known for its rich cuisine, traditional shopping, and grand culture. Popular festivals such as the annual Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival or the Jallikattu, a game of taming angry bulls, are also known to attract a lot of visitors to the city. When you’re not exploring the city’s temples or enjoying its festivals, do spend some time at the Gandhi Museum, constructed in the memory of his assignation. The museum also hosts many of Gandhi’s personal belongings and hosts cultural programs in an open air theatre.

What our clients say

Thank you, Mystic India. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through Tamil Nadu exploring the many different temples, from the shore temples at Mahabalipuram all the way through to Madurai where we witnessed the nightly ceremony when the gods are put to bed. All in all a very successful trip.

Lawrence & Kumi, Chelmsford UK


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