North Tamil Nadu Trip Details
Inter-city roads in Tamil Nadu are not good even by Indian standards. Some of the NH sections are quite stunningly smooth. But majority of the rest and all of state highways are pot hole ridden one-lane each way disasters.
Tamil Nadu is a heaven for vegetarians. Since I am a Tamilian, I am totally biased in this assessment..
GRT Regency, Kanchipuram: Very decent hotel and quite professionally run. The complimentary breakfast spread is quite tasty. The staff is courteous and rooms and bathrooms are very clean. The food available on the menu is good as long as you stick to the South Indian fare. The downside is that the rooms are on the smaller side and the location is not close to any of the temples.
GRT Residency Sameera, Vellore: Excellent hotel. The breakfast spread was even better than Kanchipuram and the rooms are quite spacious. Bathrooms were better as it had a separate bath area. The only downside is that it is at one end of the town.
Ginger, Puducherry: Standard Ginger hotel. The rooms are small; but the cleanliness and service was excellent. The breakfast spread wasn't great. But the food was palatable.
Hotel Grand Palace Stay, Chidambaram: There are only two decent options in Chidambaram. One is this and other is Saradharam. Saradharam is more centrally located and has better food. Grand Palace is much more quiet. The rooms and bathrooms are not great, but have acceptable standards.
Hotel Sara Regency, Kumbakonam: A top class hotel with clean and spacious rooms and bathrooms. The staff is quite courteous and the food is decent. The only complaint is that it is 3km from town with no shops/restaurant close by. Even getting an auto-rickshaw to town is a struggle.
Chennai to Kanchipuram: ~75 km, 1.5 to 2 hrs. The NH section is not great, but in acceptable condition.
Kanchipuram to Vellore: ~70 km, 1.5 to 2 hrs. Again, the NH section is not great, but in acceptable condition.
Vellore to Puducherry: ~140 km, 3 hrs. Road is very narrow, one lane and slow till Tindivanam. The road from Tindivanam to Puducherry is an absolute delight. That section of NH66 can stand upto the best around the world.
Puducherry to Chidambaram: ~70 km, 2 to 2.5 hrs. The road is one-lane throughout. The traffic is quite bad till you leave Cuddalore (which is about half the distance anyway).
Chidambaram to Kumbakonam: ~80 km, 2 hrs. There are two options - one via Sirkazhi and other via Gangai Konda Cholapuram. Both routes are similar in length and quality of roads.
- Kanchipuram: Don't miss Kailasanatha temple. Guide is recommended here. Vaikunta Perumal and Ekambaranatha temples are also worth a visit. The Marriage Hall in Devarajaswami temple is an absolute must-see. Don't miss the stone chain at the corners of the hall. Kamatchi Amman temple is only for the devout. It does not have much for a casual tourist.
- Vellore: Both the museums can be missed. The fort is decent. The must-see is definitely the stunning Marriage Hall in Jalakanteswara Temple. The Golden Temple reeks of opulance; but the crowd is heavily controlled in there and you don't have the freedom of walking around at your own pace.
- Puducherry: The museum is not great and can be missed. The churches are quite pretty.
- Chidambaram: Well, the Nataraja Temple is why you are here and so don't miss it. 20 mins away is Pichavaram. You can take a row boat through the back waters. The bird life isn't great.
- Kumbakonam: Do not miss the two Chola temples nearby - Daraswaram and Gangai Konda Cholapuram. Guide is reccommended at both the locations. If you are religious, you can practically spend a life time here checking out the other temples.