Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Thanjavur (Tanjore)

Brihadishwara Temple

Come here twice: in the morning, when the honey-hued granite begins to assert its dominance over the white dawn sunshine, and in the evening, when the rocks capture a hot palette of reds, oranges, yellows and...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Madurai

Meenakshi Amman Temple

Meenakshi Amman Temple

The colourful abode of the triple-breasted warrior goddess Meenakshi (‘fish-eyed’ – an epithet for perfect eyes in classical Tamil poetry) is generally considered to be the peak of South Indian temple...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli)

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

So large it feels like a self-enclosed city, Sri Ranganathaswamy is quite possibly India's biggest temple. It has 49 separate Vishnu shrines, and reaching the inner sanctum from the south, as most worshippers do,...

Top ChoiceHindu Monument in Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)

Arjuna’s Penance

The crowning masterpiece of Mamallapuram’s stonework, this giant relief carving is one of India's greatest ancient artworks. Inscribed on two huge, adjacent boulders, the Penance bursts with scenes of Hindu myth...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Kumbakonam

Gangaikondacholapuram Temple

The temple at Gangaikondacholapuram ('City of the Chola who Conquered the Ganges'), 35km north of Kumbakonam, is dedicated to Shiva. It was built by Rajendra I in the 11th century when he moved the Chola capital...

Top ChoicePalace in Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin)

Padmanabhapuram Palace

With a forest’s worth of intricately carved rosewood ceilings and polished-teak beams, this labyrinthine palace, 35km northwest of Kanyakumari, near the Kerala border, is considered the finest example of...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Tiruvannamalai

Arunachaleshwar Temple

This 10-hectare temple is one of India's largest. Its oldest parts date to the 9th century, but the site was a place of worship long before that. Four huge, unpainted white gopurams mark the entrances; the main,...

Top ChoicePalace in Thanjavur (Tanjore)

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Thanjavur’s royal palace is a mixed bag of ruin and renovation, superb art and random royal paraphernalia. The mazelike complex was constructed partly by the Nayaks who took over Thanjavur in 1535, and partly by...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli)

Rock Fort Temple

The Rock Fort Temple, perched 83m high on a massive outcrop, lords over Trichy with stony arrogance. The ancient rock was first hewn by the Pallavas and Pandyas, who cut small cave temples on its south side, but...

Top ChoiceMuseum in Chennai (Madras)

Government Museum

Government Museum

Housed across from the striking British-built Pantheon Complex, this excellent museum is Chennai’s best. The big highlight is building 3, the Bronze Gallery, with a superb collection of South Indian bronzes from...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Chennai (Madras)

Kapaleeshwarar Temple

Mylapore is one of Chennai's most characterful and traditional neighbourhoods; it predated colonial Madras by several centuries. Its Kapaleeshwarar Temple is Chennai's most active and impressive, and is believed...

Top ChoiceMuseum in East Coast Road

Cholamandal Artists’ Village

There’s a tropical bohemian groove floating around Injambakkam village, site of the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, 10km south of Chennai's Adyar River. This 4-hectare artists’ cooperative – founded in 1966 by...

Top ChoiceHindu Temple in Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)

Trimurti Cave Temple

At the northern end of the Mamallapuram Hill compound, the Trimurti Cave Temple depicts the Hindu 'trinity' amid guardian figures: Brahma (left), Shiva (centre) and Vishnu (right). A fine carving of elephants...

Fort in Tiruvannamalai

Gingee Fort

With three separate hilltop citadels and a 6km perimeter of cliffs and thick walls, the ruins of enormous Gingee Fort rise out of the Tamil plain, 37km east of Tiruvannamalai, like castles misplaced by the Lord...

Wildlife Reserve in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

In the foothills of the Nilgiris, this newly enlarged 765-sq-km wildlife reserve is like a classical Indian landscape painting given life, with chital deer, wild boar, gaur (Indian bison), peacocks, langurs,...

Hindu Temple in Chidambaram

Nataraja Temple

According to legend, Shiva and Kali got into a dance-off judged by Vishnu. Shiva dropped an earring and picked it up with his foot, a move that Kali could not duplicate, so Shiva won the title Nataraja (Lord of...

Hindu Temple in Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)

Five Rathas

Five Rathas

Huddled together at the southern end of Mamallapuram, the Five Rathas were, astonishingly, all carved from single large rocks. Each of these fine 7th-century temples was dedicated to a Hindu god and is now named...

Mountain in Tiruvannamalai

Mt Arunachala

This 800m-high extinct volcano dominates Tiruvannamalai – and local conceptions of the element of fire, which supposedly finds its sacred abode in Arunachala’s heart. Devout barefoot pilgrims make the 14km...

Ashram in Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and a French-born woman, ‘the Mother’, this famous spiritual community has about 2000 members in its many departments. Aurobindo's teachings focus on 'integral yoga' that sees...

Hindu Temple in Kanchipuram

Ekambareshwara Temple

Of South India's five Shiva temples associated with each of the five elements, this 12-hectare precinct is the shrine of earth. You enter beneath the 59m-high, unpainted south gopuram, whose lively carvings were...