Introducing Tamil Nadu & Chennai
If thoughts of temples and tigers appeal, then Tamil Nadu – land of the Tamils and heartland of southern India – is the place to be. Long coastlines and forested mountains form stunning backdrops to this, the cradle of Dravidian civilisation. Manifestations of its ancient culture are everywhere, from vast temple compounds with steeply stepped, riotously coloured gopurams (gateway towers) to beautifully detailed rock carvings, and classical music and dance that are both complex and compelling. Pilgrims pour into the ancient sites of Kanchipuram, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), Thanjavur (Tanjore), Madurai, Kanyakumari and Rameswaram – far outnumbering tourists.
While only the very lucky few will see a tiger, the state’s national parks and reserves remain important refuges for much of India’s wildlife including elephants, several species of rare monkeys and gaurs (a type of bison). The historic hill stations of Ooty (Udhagamandalam, reached by the famous miniature train, and Kodaikanal are perfect bases for exploring and provide cool, calm, green contrast to the bustle of the cities.
The eastern coast fronting the Bay of Bengal has a few resorts and sleepy fishing villages, but Tamil Nadu isn’t a beach destination and only Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), south of Chennai (Madras), attracts chilled-out tourists. The 2004 tsunami swept along this coast; rehabilitation was comparatively swift near tourist areas, but many local communities are still recovering.
Travel literature review: Nine Lives
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple Rating: 5 out of 5 Reviewed by Elizabeth Shannon Nine Lives is not really a travel book.
South India & Kerala - Andhra Pradesh (Chapter)
Andhra Pradesh doesn’t have the flashiness of Rajasthan, but be prepared to dig for the jew-els; to wend through paddy fields and 500-year-old urban markets, to climb towering smooth-granite hills, and to feel the liberating uncertainty of being off the tourist trail.
No matter how determined you are, you'd be pretty hard pressed to find much to gush about when it comes to Chennai.
Ask Lonely Planet: he wants activity, I want relaxation. Help!
Here at Lonely Planet, we have travel experts on tap.
South India & Kerala - Tamil Nadu & Chennai (Chapter)
Tamil Nadu is dynamic. Fire-worshipping devotees who smear tikka on their brows in Tamil temples may then head off to IT offices to develop new software applications – and afterwards unwind in a stylish nocturnal haunt in rapidly modernising Chennai (Madras).
Lush and tropical, southern India is inspiring and delightful. Beneath the green shade of a coastal paradise, meet with locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the bazaars, on buses and boats or even on pilgrimage in Madurai.
Classic South India
Travel to India and embark on this Classic Kerala tour from Kochi to Kovalam Beach. Lush, tropical southern India is charming, captivating and hospitable. Discover a thousand shades of green and share smiles with the friendly local people. Experience the culture, religion and history of this region in its small rural towns, quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations.
South India & Kerala - Mumbai (Bombay) (Chapter)
Mumbai is big. It’s full of dreamers and hard-labourers. It has the most prolific film industry, some of Asia’s biggest slums (and the world’s most expensive home) and the largest tropical for-est in an urban zone.