Tamil Nadu On a BudgetLocated in southern India, Tamil Nadu is a state best known for the capital city of Chennai which has beautiful beaches and historic colonial landmarks, as well as a significant number of Hindu temples which are prevalent throughout the region.
SightsThe Sri Meenakshi Temple, located at the heart of the historic city of Madurai is one such place that draws visitors. The premises of the complex have a number of impressive sculptures and towers, while the temple itself is adorned with intricate ancient paintings. Another magnificent example of South Indian temple architecture is the Brihadeeshwara Temple (a.k.a. Rajarajeswaram or Big Temple) in Thanjavur. Established in 1011 AD in celebration of the success of Chola kingdom, the temple today stands as a world heritage site.
Other impressive sights include the Dravidian (or South Indian) carvings at Mahabalipuram, and many more temples in the cities of Tiruchirappalli, Kumbakonam, Chennai, and Tirunelveli. The cities are also great locations to explore the modern culture of South India with many examples of art, handicrafts, music, and local flavors available in any of the popular markets.
RegionsTamil Nadu is generally divided into seven regions - Northern Tamil Nadu which is best known for the Sripuram Golden Temple surrounded by a star-shaped path, Tamil Nadu North Coast which is home to the capital city of Chennai, Western Tamil Nadu which is home to the textile capital of Coimbatore, Central Tamil Nadu which is known for cities like Salem and Tiruchirappalli, Southwestern Tamil Nadu home to Madurai the oldest city having historical and cultural importance, Tamil Nadu South Coast which features hundreds of temples in the city of Kumbakonam, and Far Southern Tamil Nadu which encompasses the southernmost point of the Indian mainland (at Kanniyakumari). Formerly known as Madras from its colonial history, Chennai today is one of India's largest cities and capital of Tamil Nadu. It is located on the Bay of Bengal with an extensive stretch of sandy beaches, plenty of dining and shopping, a number of historic temples, monuments, and churches, plus amusement parks and more.
ActivitiesWith so much history and culture to learn as visitors admire Tamil Nadu's famous landmarks, it is common for visitors to book tours for a more guided experience. These can be anything from walking history tours to culinary excursions to getaways in the more natural areas of the state. Sightseeing the most popular locations can take up much of a visit, however, there is also much to say for indulging in the culture as well. There are a number of festivals held throughout the year - one of the most important is perhaps Pongal, which celebrates the harvest over four days in mid-January. Other celebrations include the Tamil New Year (14th or 15th of April), Krishna jayanti or Gokulashtami (a celebration of Lord Krishna), and Deepavali (or Diwali - a festival of lights, which honors the killing of the demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna).
Food and DiningSouth Indian cuisine, also referred to as Dravidian, usually consists of (mainly vegetarian) dishes eaten with steamed rice. The traditional way of eating a meal involves being seated on the floor with the food served on a banana leaf, using the fingers of the right hand to eat, no utensils. Cooking of the Tamil Nadu area is famous for using a variety of spices to add flavor to main ingredients like rice, lentils, and legumes. One common dish, Biryani, is a type of fried rice with masala cooked with vegetables or meat. Special varieties include Ambur biryani, served with dhalcha (a sour brinjal curry), and Dindigul biryani which uses a little curd and lemon juice to get a tangy taste. Coffee and tea are the staple beverages. Major cities, like Chennai, will have dining options to satisfy all tastes and budgets, from street food to quality restaurants.
TransportationBy plane, Tamil Nadu is best connected via Chennai International Airport. It is one of the busiest airports in India (after Mumbai and Delhi) with over one hundred direct flights each week serviced by airlines which include Air Costa, Air Carnival, Blue Dart Aviation, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Air India, GoAir, and IndiGo. There are three other international airports within the state - Coimbatore International Airport, Madurai International Airport, and Tiruchirapalli International Airport. There are also a few domestic airports (Salem and Tuticorin) which provide connections to the rest of the state and country.
The state is also well-connected by rail. Southern Railway operates trains from Chennai to almost every major city in India. Generally, Chennai serves as a gateway for transportation throughout the state.