What are the things that instantly come to your mind when you think of the southernmost state in India? Is it Chennai, Kanyakumari, Carnatic music, or the superstar Rajinikanth? While all these things are surely associated with the state, Tamil Nadu is so much more beyond that. It is said to be one of the most urbanized and industrialized states in India and is filled with serene beaches, fascinating temples, and splendid waterfalls waiting to be explored.
Adding to the charm of this state is its proximity to the Union Territory of Pondicherry. Perceived to be an exciting blend of Indian and French cultures, Pondicherry deserves to be on the bucket list of all travelers. Now that we’ve given you enough excuses to start packing your bags, here are the top 7 things to do in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry that you wouldn’t really want to miss out on.
Popularly referred to as the Gateway of South India, Chennai will most probably be on your itinerary when you’re planning to visit Tamil Nadu. Home to a number of well-known temples, churches, and popular beaches, Chennai gives you a glimpse of traditional art, history, and culture, with a modern twist. Ashtalakshmi Temple, Kapaleeshwar Temple, Government Museum, Mylapore, and Fort St. George are some of the most popular places to visit in Chennai. But amongst all, it is the scenic beaches in the capital city that cast a spell on people visiting from all over.
Marina Beach is definitely the first name that would be taken when talking about the beaches in Chennai. Stretching around 13 km, Marina Beach is considered to be the second largest beach in the world and the longest natural urban beach in India. Kite flying, fishing, windsurfing, beach volleyball, and sunbathing are some of the different activities that you can indulge in at this beach.
Another interesting beach to visit near Chennai is Elliot's Beach, also known as Besant Nagar Beach or “Bessie” among locals. It’s a popular choice among people who want to stay away from the crowds. Breezy Beach is also a good alternative if you wish to enjoy the picturesque sunsets and breathe in the tranquility of fresh air.
Also read: A Guide To Exploring Manali.
Want to witness the best of nature and experience the thrill of an adrenaline rush? If that’s a yes, Hogenakkal Falls is definitely your place to be. Located between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the region is well connected to all major cities of both states. The Hogenakkal Falls are at a height of around 66 ft and witnessing the thunderous streams cascading down is a different experience altogether. What would make your visit to the Falls even more worthwhile is enjoying the coracle ride. Locally known as ‘Kottathoni’, the coracles are like makeshift ferries made out of bamboo and plastic sheets for waterproofing.
Around 6 to 8 individuals can travel together on each coracle. You will also spot a number of small islands as you enjoy the ride along the river through the valley. The best part about this coracle ride is that you get to experience a complete 360 degrees view of the enthralling Hogenakkal Falls. The months after monsoon, that is, from October to March are considered to be the ideal time for this one-of-its-kind experience.
Also read: The Coracle Ride At Hogenakkal Falls.
We’ve already mentioned how Tamil Nadu is a state rich in temples and ancient monuments. Along with being home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the towns and cities of Tamil Nadu are laden with beautiful and fascinating temples. One such popular site is the town of Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram.
Located on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake, this region is well-known for its carved temples and monuments built during the ruling period of the Pallava Dynasty. The temples and sculptures are believed to be constructed during the 7th and the 8th centuries and are made up of stones and granites that have withstood the pillage of time even till date.
A temple complex situated by the sea, the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram is one of its most popular places. The temple represents the architecture of the Pallavas and the Cholas and has three shrines, with two of them dedicated to Lord Shiva and the third one dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Pancha Rathas, Arjuna’s Penance, Krishna Mandapam, and Mahishasuramardini Mandapam are also some of the other popular sites to visit in Mahabalipuram. Apart from these, Rameshwaram and Chidambaram are some well-known destinations for temple hopping.
Also read: Agra Travel Guide.
Famous for bird watching and the production of Nilgiri Tea, Coonoor is an exquisite hill station that is worth your time when you visit Tamil Nadu. Just sipping on some hot piping tea while drowning in the velvety views of the valley, and you’ll know for yourself what charm the region holds. The quiet little hill station of Coonoor offers various trekking opportunities as well as family picnic spots. Sim’s Park, Droog Fort, Tiger Hill Cemetery, Wellington Lake, and High Field Tea Estate are some of the popular destinations to visit in Coonoor.
One unique attraction at this hill station is the Hidden Valley. Trekking through the lush greenery and thick forests, this valley offers a soothing and tranquil ambience that you wouldn’t want to miss out on your trip to Coonoor. Interestingly, there aren’t any mainstream trekking routes to the Hidden Valley. So you might also discover a hidden gem while traversing your way along the rolling mountains and green meadows. Law’s Falls, Catherine Falls, and Katary waterfalls are also equally enticing places to visit in Coonoor.
Also read: A Guide To Visiting Jaipur.
Emerging from a backdrop of steam and smoke, the blue-painted Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tamil Nadu. The first-ever ride on the route took place in 1899 and since has been a major attraction for people all around. The train runs from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam in Ooty and passes through Coonoor in the Nilgiri Hills. Throughout the 46 km long journey, the train ride leaves you mesmerized with the enchanting views of the deep valleys and thick green forests.
The Bollywood fan inside you will instantly fall in love with this toy train ride, recognizing it from the Shahrukh Khan starrer Dil Se. Winding through bridges, tunnels, and curves, this journey will leave you drowning in the beautiful landscapes of Ooty. Whether you wish to admire the beauty of Mother Nature or just unwind in the cool breeze of the surrounding hill stations, a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway will surely be one of the best things to do in Tamil Nadu.
Also read: Varanasi Travel Guide.
Formerly a French colonial settlement in India, Pondicherry is rightfully referred to as the Paris of the East or even as the French Riviera of the East. Whether you’re a regular traveler or are just setting foot into the dreamy world of traveling, Pondicherry (or Puducherry) is sure to find a spot on your list of some unique places to visit. Today a Union Territory, Pondicherry has a rich history of European colonists. A blend of the Tamilian roots and the influence of the French culture make this city a great example of a multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan society. And the best mode of exploration in this distinctive city is to rent a two-wheeler or a car.
Cycling or riding a bike through the French and Tamil quarters will give you a glimpse of the rich cultural heritage and diversity of the city. Mahe Beach, Paradise Beach, and Promenade Beach are some of the most beautiful beaches to visit in Pondi. If you wish to indulge in water sports activities in Pondicherry, Paradise Beach and Serenity Beach are your go-to spots. Not to forget is to enjoy boating at the Chunnambar Boat House.
Auroville Ashram is yet another popular place among the spiritual seekers visiting Pondicherry. Apart from these, you can also explore the French Memorial Site, Arikamedu, and The Promenade to feel the essence of this unique city.
Also read: Pondicherry Travel Guide.
Like the rich history and unique ethnicity, the food in Pondicherry is also an exciting blend of both Tamil and French cultures. While rice and sambar remain the staple food for the majority of the Tamil population settled here, you will also find a number of cafes offering French delicacies like baguette, quiche, crepes, and pastries.
If you’re tempted by the traditional South Indian cuisine, Surguru and Madhuram Multicuisine are a few popular places to check out. And if you wish to tickle your tastebuds with some European delicacies, then Le Café, Le Club, Le Dupleix, and Carte Blanche are a few places that won’t disappoint.
Khowsuey, also known as Kaukswe, is a coconut base curry that’s a must-have food in Pondicherry. Available in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, this curry is served with either rice or noodles and is garnished with some crispy noodles. Pondy Moussaka and Kudugu Yerra are also some of the other lip-smacking delicacies to try out in Pondicherry.
Also read: Delhi Travel Guide.
What Is The Best of Tamil Nadu?
Being the southernmost state in India, Tamil Nadu is also known to be home to around eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From captivating hill stations to yummy-licious cuisines, Tamil Nadu seems to be gifted with the best of almost everything. The state is known for its temples built in unique architectural styles and captivating hill stations that are perfect for any getaway you’ve been looking for. Kodaikanal, Nilgiri Hills, Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari, and Mudumalai National Park are some of the best places to visit in Tamil Nadu.
Which Is The Most Visited Place In Tamil Nadu?
The capital city of Chennai is said to be the most visited place in Tamil Nadu. It serves as a perfect blend of modernity with traditional roots. Along with being a popular IT and industrial hub, Chennai is well-known for its unique culture and artistically built temples. Kapaleeshwarar Temple and Ashtalakshmi Temple are popular temples in the city, to name a few. Apart from Chennai, the hill stations of Ooty and Kodaikanal are also among the most visited places in Tamil Nadu.
Which Is The Richest City In Tamil Nadu?
As we mentioned before, Chennai being the industrial and IT hub, is considered to be the richest city in Tamil Nadu. The automobile and tourism industries are some of the major contributors in the boosting economy of not just the capital city but also the entire state.
Why Is Pondicherry Famous?
With a variety of untouched beaches, heritage buildings, ancient temples and churches, and French and Tamil quarters, Pondicherry is a popular tourist destination in South India. Another prominent reason why Pondicherry attracts people from all over is the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, that offers an alternate way of living especially for spiritual seekers. The colonial ambience and picture-perfect attractions of Pondicherry have made the quirky town famous among people all across the globe.
How Many Days Are Enough For Pondicherry?
Ideally, around 2 to 4 days are enough to visit the best locations in Pondicherry and experience the colonial vibe of the town. Depending on the attractions you’re planning to visit, you can choose to either extend or reduce your stay. But Paradise Beach, Auroville, The Promenade, and Café Xtasi are some of the places you should definitely visit in Pondicherry.
What Are The Do’s And Don’ts In Pondicherry?
While Pondicherry is considered to be a relatively safe place, there are still a few things that you should take note of. Firstly, the weather in Pondicherry often gets too humid during the monsoon and summer months. So, you should be wearing comfortable clothes and keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep important documents on you at all times and avoid carrying too much cash.
Roaming around the city at night might not be a good option in Pondicherry. If you still happen to go outside, try to move around in a group and keep a torch with you for easy navigation along the dark streets. Renting a vehicle is very popular in Pondicherry. Just make sure to take pictures of the vehicles before renting so you aren’t blamed for any unnecessary damages thereafter. Pondicherry is truly a unique place to visit, so make the most out of your experience by exploring the quaint lanes of this fascinating town.
What Makes Pondicherry Unique?
Pondicherry is referred to as the French Capital of India, it is a beautiful city with beaches, ancient churches and temples, and a vibrant colorful city all over.
Is Pondicherry Safe For Female Travelers?
Yes, Pondicherry is absolutely safe for female travelers, be it traveling solo or in a group.