4 Historical and Heritage Travel Attractions in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is the southernmost state in India with a rich heritage and an unique culture. Tamil Nadu has retained much of its heritage from the distant past since this part of the country had remained peaceful before and during the British era. So one could still find structures that have lasted well over a millennium.
The 4 heritage and historical travel attractions covered are
1. Stone sculptures in Mahabalipuram
2. Ancient Natarajar temple in Chidambaram
3. Danish fort in Tranquebar
4. Kutralanathar Temple in Courtallam
Distance From Chennai
Nearest Railway Station
Mahabalipuram is a coastal town located close to Chennai. The Pallava kings created the famous stone sculptures found in this town more than 1000 years ago. The 3 main attractions there are the Pancha Pandava Rathas, Shore temple and the Arjuna Penance.
This town got its other name "seven pagodas" from the belief that it originally had seven temples. The temples were believed to have been constructed in the seventh century. A Tsunami could have submerged six of the seven temples during the thirteenth century. Now we have only one of these seven temples left known as the shore temple. Some explorers have found evidences of old structures on the ocean floor that could well be the missing temples. Such legends add to the mystical value of this place.
Arjuna Penance offers a chance to trek up a small hillock housing many stone carvings. The climb is not steep as it is a small hillock. At the other end of this trek, one comes across an old light house built during the British era. From the top of the lighthouse, one can have a nice view of the sea and the town.
One can plan a stay for two days in Mahabalipuram. Some good stay options include Taj Fisherman's Cove, Ideal Beach Resort, TTDC and Radisson Blu Temple Bay. One can also stay in Chennai and plan a one-day trip to Mahabalipuram from there. It takes just an hour of drive time to cover the distance.
If you are visiting Chennai, then Chidambaram can be part of your plans. From Chennai, it takes about five hours of drive time to reach Chidambaram through the East Coast Road (ECR). It is also connected by direct trains from Chennai. Chidambaram is a coastal town in Tamilnadu and it is known for its famous Natarajar temple built in the tenth century.
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Apart from being a pilgrimage site, Chidambaram has many attractions nearby. The best-known mangrove forest in Tamil Nadu is located on the outskirts of Chidambaram, known as Pichavaram. The Mangrove forest in Pichavaram is only a short driving distance from Chidambaram. One must not miss the boat ride in Pichavaram. The Mangrove forests provide an illusion of being larger than what it is when viewed from inside.
Trees form a thin boundary around the banks. The boats find their way through the narrow canals where trees from either side arch towards each other forming a green canopy. It is a beautiful little world cut off from its neighborhood.
We have another port town by name "Tranquebar" reachable within an hour of drive time from Chidambaram. Tranquebar is the name given by the westerners to the port town called "Tharangambadi" in Tamilnadu. This was under Danish occupation for a long period before becoming a part of British Empire. The Dutch built the Fort Dansborg in the seventeenth century on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This town is a reminder of the many connections Tamil Nadu had with the western world in the distant past.
Tranquebar and Chidambaram are so close to each other that the two can be clubbed in a single visit. One can plan the stay in Chidambaram or Tranquebar. Hotel Saradha Ram in Chidambaram is an option because of its central location and good South Indian food.
There is an old palace called "the Bungalow on the beach" in Tranquebar used by Danish royalty in the past. Now it is converted into a heritage hotel and it is another option to consider because of its legacy.
Courtallam may not feature in the plans of many outsiders but it is a favorite weekend getaway for the residents of South Tamil Nadu. If one is visiting Madurai or Tirunelveli, Courtallam can be included in their plans. This is far from Chennai for driving down. It is better to take an overnight train from Chennai.
Courtallam is a small town on the footsteps of the mountain range called the Western Ghats. Courtallam boasts of many waterfalls where one can have a safe bath. The major waterfalls in the foothills are Main falls, Sitraruvi, Five falls, Puli aruvi and Palaya Courtallam. The word "Aruvi" means waterfalls in Tamil.
A strenuous trek takes us to two more waterfalls on top of the mountain. The first one is Shenbaga Devi Falls and the second one is Honey Falls or Then aruvi in Tamil. Honey falls is shaped like a horseshoe but it is a thin shoe unlike the broad horse shoe shape of Niagara or Hogenakkal falls. This makes the honey falls unique. I have done this trek in once as a kid and I still remember how challenging the trek was. On our way up, we came across a person who was seen bleeding after he was bitten by a leech. But he seemed to be in good spirits and must have returned safely. It was not a happy sight for a twelve-year-old then.
Ancient Kutralanthar Temple
The famous Kutralanathar temple is close to Main falls. This temple is one of the oldest temples in India believed to have been constructed before 5th century B.C.. There is an ancient Jack tree inside the temple that is several centuries old.
The town also has a park and a small boathouse on the outskirts. The town is known for its good non-vegetarian food, mangoes, Jamun fruit (Naaga Pazham or Navvaa pazham in Tamil) and purple Mangosteen fruit (known in Courtallam as Mangustan). The aroma of hot coffee fills the streets dotted with many tea shops. Some good stay options are Orchard Valley Resort, Ezhilagam and Hotel Kurinji.
The best months to visit are from June to December. Courtallam is crowded during the weekends. The crowds thin down after September. So, it is best to visit Courtallam around October during weekdays. Most waterfalls go dry between February and May.