NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

Chidambaram

100 Kms to the North (1h 51min drive)
It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram. By the 7th century it was a port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva; these have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, it is a very popular tourist destination and the infrastructure to support the multitude is superlative, from cost effective guesthouses and restaurants to luxury resorts.

Gangaikondacholapuram

100 Kms to the South (1h 53min drive)

It was erected as the capital of the Cholas by Rajendra Chola I, the son and successor of Rajaraja Chola, the great Chola who conquered a large area in South India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Sumatra and Kadaram (Kedah in Malaysia) at the beginning of the 11th century A.D. As the capital of the Cholas from about 1025 A.D. for about 250 years, the city controlled the affairs of entire southern India, from the Tungabhadra in the north to Ceylon in the south and other South East Asian countries.
The great temple of Siva at this place is next only to the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur in its monumental nature and surpasses it in sculptural quality. The Gangaikondaan temple is an architectural and engineering marvel because the shadow of the main tower never falls on the ground throughout the year.

Gingee

70 Kms to the Northwest (1h 20min drive)

The Kon dynasty laid the foundations for the Gingee Fort in 1190 AD. The fort was later built by the Chola dynasty in 13th century. In 1638, Gingee came under the control of Bijapur Sultanate from Vijayanagar. In 1677, it was under the control of Maratha king Shivaji. In 1690, it came under the Mughals, when it became the headquarters of Arcot. It changed hands to the French in 1750, and then to the British in 1762. During this time, many sculptural aspects of Gingee were shifted to Pondicherry by the French.

Gingee Fort is a huge complex, spread over three hills with the ruins of a palace, a temple, a mosque, a granary, an auditorium, stables and even a harem among other structures.

Karaikal

130 Kms to the South (2h 48min drive)

Before 1739 Karaikal was under the regime and control of Raja Pratap Singh of Tanjore. In 1738, Dumas, a shrewd calculative prudent man and a lover of peace and above all one who was anxious to extend the French territory in India by smooth means, negotiated with Sahuji of Thanjavur for possession of Karaikal, the fortress of Karakalcheri and five villages for 40,000 chakras. On 14 February 1739 the French took possession of Karaikal town, the fort of Karakalcheri and eight dependent villages.
Karaikal is a major port city on the east coast of India and is part of the Union Territory of Puducherry. It has one of the best natural beaches in South India and is home to the temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. These temples are mentioned in the holy books Nayanmars and Alwars.

Keezhoor

22 kms to the West (32min drive)

India was a colony of western countries for over 2 centuries. While a major portion of India was under the British, there were some pockets under the French, Danish and Portuguese. Pondicherry (aka Puducherry) was under French India. While British India gained Independence on 15th Aug. 1947, French India did not.
In 1954, a vote was taken by the French governed pockets to decide about the merger with India. On 18th Oct 1954, representatives of these pockets voted; 170 votes were for the merger with only 8 against. Thence these pockets came under the Union Territory of Puducherry. The voting took place at Keezhoor!
A memorial, a very contemporary and modern marble structure, to commemorate the occasion was built in 1972. As part of the celebrations of 50th Anniversary of De-facto Puducherry, a permanent Exhibition of paintings relating to the merger of Puducherry was opened at the Keezhoor Monument.
Close by is a 400 year old banyan tree that covers a few acres and is believed to be the oldest banyan tree in the whole of South India.

Marakanam

38 kms to the North (47min drive)
As per Roman records, this coastal town had been a major port in the 1st Century AD. Marakkanam was connected to Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh via the Buckingham Canal, a 420 km long fresh water navigation canal. The 110 kms Stretch from Marakkanam to Chennai is called the South Buckingham Canal. The canal connects most of the natural backwaters along the coast to the port of Chennai. It was constructed by the British for transportation of goods.
The ruins of the Alamparai Fort lies on the coast near the north channel to Kaliveli Lake. Kaliveli Lake nearby, is one of the largest wetlands in peninsular India, and is considered a wetland of both national and international importance by the IUCN and is an important winter refuge for thousands of migratory birds.

Mahabalipuram

100 Kms to the North (1h 51min drive)
It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram. By the 7th century it was a port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva; these have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today, it is a very popular tourist destination and the infrastructure to support the multitude is superlative, from cost effective guesthouses and restaurants to luxury resorts.

Mandagapattu

57 kms to the West (1h 18min drive)

Mandagapattu is home to a 7th century Hindu Cave Temple, Mandagapattu Tirumurti. Hewn from rock by the Pallava ruler Mahendravarman I in honour of the Hindu Trinity, the cave temple is considered to be the oldest stone shrine to a Hindu god discovered in Tamil Nadu. In one of his inscriptions, Mahendravarman I boasts that he caused a stone temple to be built in honour of the Hindu Trinity without the use of brick, mortar, timber or metal. Though the inscription does not state clearly whether this is the first of its kind, the enthusiasm of the king and mention of brick, timber, metal and mortal specifically in the inscription suggests that this is probably the first attempt in this direction hence the creator was overwhelmed at the success and inscribed such words over the pillar. This 7th century Cave Temple is comparable to those at Mamallapuram and Trichy.

Nagapattinam

152 kms to the South (3h 20min drive)
There are urn burials in and around the city from the Sangam period indicating some level of human habitation. The inscriptions from the Kayarohanswami temple indicate the construction was initiated during the reign Narasimha Pallava II (691 – 729 CE). In the 11th century CE, Chudamani Vihara, a Buddhist monastery was built by Javanese King Sri Vijaya Soolamanivarman with the patronage of Raja Raja Chola.
In the early 16th century the Portuguese started commercial contacts and established a centre by 1554. In 1690, the capital of Dutch Coromandel changed from Pulicat to Nagapattinam. When the Dutch and British reached a peace agreement in 1784, Nagapattinam was formally ceded to the British.
The town boasts of the busiest harbour in the south and is the centre for heritage and historic sites nearby.

Nagore

140 kms to the South (3h 7min drive)
This small coastal town, on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, is world famous for the tomb of the Muslim Saint Hazrat Miya. The festival season in Nagore occurs during the month of May, typically, but the festival dates change as they are based on the lunar calendar. The popular Kandhuri festival is celebrated with pomp and splendour. Notable temples exist, too. This shows the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and other faiths. The Seeralamman temple situated in the fishermens area near Nagore railway station is a century-old Hindu shrine maintained by local fishermen. The annual Seeralamman festival season has ten days of celebration.
In Tamil Nadu, Nagore Dargah is not only the Islamic Religious Centre but is also a common religious gathering point of many hundreds of thousands of devotees who attend to get the unequalled benevolence. Hindus, Christians, Muslims or any other religious devotee can attend without any obstacles irrespective of religion, Race, Caste.

Panamalai

66 kms to the West (1h 24min drive)
The site is known for the various ancient structural temples built during the Pallava dynasty. Narasimhavarman II, (aka Rajasimhan) is credited with constructing several temples of the Pallava dynasty; namely the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchipuram and Talagirisvara Temple at Panamalai – built on a small hillock overlooking the Panamalai Lake.
The garbhagriha houses a Dharalingam and as in Pallava temples of that time, there is also a Somaskanda panel on the rear wall of the sanctum. On the walls of the Ardhamandapam (half Mandapam) one can see panels of deities. The main shrine faces east and the garbhagriha is surrounded on three sides by sub-shrines. A few more these and a Mahamandapam (big Mandapam) have been added to the structure at a later period.
The pillars with squatting lions, a typical Pallava signature, can also be found. On the sub-shrine to the north, a small section of mural has survived the years and bears testimony to the Pallavas’ mastery of the arts.

Poompuhar

104 kms to the South (2h 19min drive)
Pugar (also known as Poompugar) is a town in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. It was once a flourishing ancient port city known as Kaveri poompattinam, which for a while served as the capital of the early Chola kings in Ancient Tamil country Tamizhagam. Puhar is located near the end point of the Kaveri River, next to the sea coast. Ancient pottery dating back to the 4th century BC has been discovered off shore, by marine archaeologists, east of the town.
Two important landmarks that attract tourists on a yearly basis are the Masilamani Nathar Kovil and the Silappathikara Art Gallery. The Masilamani Nathar Koil was built in the 14th century AD and has borne the brunt of tidal erosion. It still stands as a rare example of the architectural style of that period. The Silappathikara Art Gallery is a 7 storied structure dedicated to the Tamil epic Silappathikaram. The Danish Governor’s Bungalow, Town Gateway, Poompuhar Beach and Zion Church are other tourist hotspots of the place.

Pichavaram

73 kms to the South (1h 39min drive)
Pichavaram mangrove forest is located between two prominent estuaries, the Vellar estuary in the north and Coleroon estuary in the south. The Vellar – Coleroon estuarine complex forms the Killai backwater and Pichavaram mangroves. The backwaters offer abundant scope for water sports such as rowing, kayaking and canoeing. The Pichavaram forest not only offers waterscape and backwater cruises, but also another very rare sight the mangrove forest trees are permanently rooted in a few feet of water.
Pichavaram is located near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. The nearest railway station is Chidambaram from where it is accessible by road.

Singavaram

70 kms to the North West (1hr 11min drive)
Singavaram is about 4 km from Gingee. The temple of Lord Ranganatha, is on top of the hill. This 7th Century Cave Temple is a good specimen of South Indian type of rock-cut-shrine. The idol of Lord Ranganatha, in a reclining posture, measures 24 ft. in length which together with the inner sanctorum, is carved out of a single rock. It is said to be bigger than that of the idol in Srirangam. Like Thiruvananthapuram Ananthapadmanatha Swamy, the head, chest and leg portions of this Perumal have to be worshipped through 3 separate entrances.

Tharangambadi

114 Kms to the South (2h 30min drive)
Tharangambadi (formerly Tranquebar) means “place of the singing waves”. It was a Danish colony from 1620 to 1845, and in Danish it is still known as Trankebar. The place dates back to 14th century. The Masilamani nathar (Shiva) temple was built in 1306, in a land given by Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I. As of now, this temple is the oldest monument. In 1620, when the Danes came, the place was under Thanjavur Nayak kingdom. Danish admiral Ove Gjedde felt the place would be a potential trading centre, made a deal with Raghunatha Nayak and built a fort, which is known as Fort Dansborg. Nevertheless, a Jesuit Catholic church was already in place before that, catering to the Indo-Portuguese community. The Catholic Church was probably demolished to build the fort, which was to become the residence and headquarters of the governor and other officials for about 150 years. It is now a museum hosting a collection of artefacts from the colonial era.

Thalavanur

67 Kms to the West (1h 10min drive)
The Satrumallesvara Temple at Thalavanur, built by Mahendra Varman I, belongs to the early phase of Pallava architecture represented by a series of rock-cut shrines built between the 5th and 9th centuries in the Tondaimandalam region, around their capital Kanchipuram.
These temples were the first in South India to be carved out of hard, granite rock. Earlier rock cut shrines, mostly Buddhist, were excavated into the softer rock in the Deccan. This temple is a fine example of temple architecture built without the use of conventional materials.  Sculptures and Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions are found here.

Thiruvannamalai

106 Kms to the West (1h 40min drive)
The history of Tiruvannamalai revolves around the Annamalaiyar or Arunachalam Temple. The earliest reference to the temple is in the poetic epic work Tevaram. It is one of the largest temples in South India built between the 16th and 17th centuries by the Vijayanagara kings. The main deity here is Siva and it is the holiest of all Siva temples. The 1000 pillared hall and the66 metres tall gopuram have some excellent carvings.
On the foothills of the Arunachalam lies the Samadhi of Sri Ramana Maharshi at his Ashram, one of South India’s most sought after spiritual centres. As a boy of sixteen in 1896, he challenged death by a penetrating enquiry into the source of his being. Later hailed as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi he revealed the direct path of Self-enquiry and awakened mankind to the immense spiritual power of the holy Arunachala Hill, the spiritual heart of the world.

Vedanthangal

100 Kms to the North (1h 40min drive)
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is a 30-hectare (74-acre) protected area some 75 kilometres from Chennai on National Highway 45 (NH45), south of Chengalpattu. More than 40,000 birds (including 26 rare species), from various parts of the world visit the sanctuary during the migratory season every year. It is the oldest water bird sanctuary in the country. This area was a favourite hunting spot of the local landlords in the early 1700s.
The region attracted a variety of birds because it was dotted with small lakes that acted as feeding grounds for the birds. Realising its ornithological importance, the British government took steps to develop Vedanthangal (meaning hamlet of the hunter) into a bird sanctuary as early as 1798. This was established in 1858 by the order of the Collector of Chengalpattu. The best time to visit is between Nov – Mar, when birds are busy building and maintaining their nests and is open to public from 6am to 6pm.

Velankanni

160 Kms to the South (3h 30min drive)
Once a port that traded with Rome and Greece, the tiny commercial centre gradually lost its importance to the larger city of Nagapattinam. The canal built to link this town with Vedaranyam still lies to the west. The Vellayar, a minor branch of the Cauvery River, runs south of the town and discharges into the sea.
Velankanni, is a very popular Roman Catholic pilgrimage centre and is the home to the imposing Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health. The town is fondly referred to as the ‘Lourdes of the East’ because like Lourdes in France, millions of pilgrims visit the shrine throughout the year, praying to our Lady for various needs and thanking her for the favours received through her intercession.