South Tamil Nadu Trip Details
Travelling in South Tamil Nadu
Cities are quite impossible for a new driver to penetrate. But inter-city roads and directions are generally very good.
Hotel Gnanam, Thanjavur Hotel Gnanam is a good mid-range hotel. The tariff is reasonable. The service is good. Staff is courteous and the front desk helps you will all the travel needs. The rooms and bathrooms are neat and clean. The breakfast spread is good and tasty. The location is also very good. It is just a short 5 min auto ride to the temple, railway station and the Royal Palace. The rooms closer to the front suffer from street noise. The rooms are probably a bit on the smaller side.
Ramyas Hotel, Trichy Hotel Ramyas is a very good mid-range hotel. The tariff is quite cheap. The service is good. Staff was very courteous. The rooms and bathrooms were very clean. Both were reasonably spacious. The food (dinner) at the vegetarian restaurant below was very good. Breakfast at the roof top restaurant was excellent in both spread and taste. The hotel is quite far from Srirangam temple and Rock Fort. It is about 20 to 30 min auto ride to Srirangam and about 15 min to the Rock Fort. Although the hotel had a dedicated travel desk, it was not very responsive in car bookings. We had to make multiple calls to book a car to Madurai. It was more of an annoyance than a serious complaint.
Madurai Residency, Madurai The hotel is quite centrally located. It is a short auto ride to the temple or the palace. The shopping area is very close by. The tariff is quite cheap. The food is quite good. The travel desk is very responsive and it was quite easy to book transport. The cleanliness of the rooms and bathrooms are in the “acceptable and not great” category. The cleanliness of the restaurant is very good. The rooms and bathrooms are quite small. There is just one power outlet in the room and that is taken up by the mosquito repellent. So simple things like charging your cell phone becomes a challenge.
Hotel Pearl Residency, Rameshwaram This is probably the best mid-range hotel in Rameshwaram. Everything else seemed like Choultry or budget. The rooms and bathrooms were quite clean. We stayed in the suite and it was very spacious. The food is decent. The breakfast spread was not great, but it was at least tasty. Dr. Abdul Kalam’s house is walkable. Temple needs an auto ride. Station is just round the corner. Staff is extremely courteous and helpful. They handled all our transportation needs. The breakfast spread can be better. The temple is a bit far away. The driver that the hotel booked for our onward journey did not know his left from right, but that is probably not the hotel’s fault.
Hotel Sea View, Kanyakumari The location is picture perfect assuming you get the seaside rooms on the upper floors. The view of the Vivekananda and Thiruvalluvar statue is to die for. The front desk is very helpful and very courteous. Staff is courteous as well. The food at the restaurant below is decent. Breakfast was good in taste, but not in spread. The hotel is at a walking distance to the temple, Gandhi memorial, ferry etc. Rooms are spacious and very clean. Bathrooms are not spacious, but quite clean. Tariff is quite reasonable. Breakfast was quite slow in getting served and the spread was not great. The upholstery was old and tired and needs replacing.
- Mamalla Heritage Hotel The location is very good. It is a very short (5 min) walk to the “free sites” i.e. Arjuna’s Penance, Varaha Mandapa etc. The shore temple and the beach is also at walking distance. The lunch thali is excellent. Dinner is good provided you stick to South Indian fares. Tariff is reasonable. Rooms and bathrooms are clean and both are spacious. There is not much noise and place is quiet. Front desk and staff were courteous and they helped with all our travel needs. Breakfast spread and taste is very good. Breakfast was a bit slow in getting served. The doors and furniture looked a bit tired and probably needs replacing.
Tanjore to Trichy via Anicut: ~66 km. This is not the main highway to Trichy. It is one lane road with bad patches in between. It will take about 2 hrs to traverse this.
Trichy to Madurai via Narthamalai and Pudukottai: ~170 km. Again, this is not the direct/fastest route to Madurai. But you can check out the sites on the way. The road is a mixture of one and two lanes (on each side) and is quite good almost throughout the length.
Madurai to Rameshwaram: 170 km. The road is being made into four lane. So there is construction going on. But you can still traverse it in four hours.
Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari: 310 km. The road is excellent two-lane throughout and you can traverse this in 5 hours. Note that at Thuthukudi, there are two roads to Kanyakumari. You need to take the one via Tirunelveli and not Thiruchendur. The latter is a bad road.
Time Required at the Sights
- Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur: 1 hour. Guide is highly recommended. For best pictures go at the crack of dawn. The site opens at 6 am. But guides will not be available till at least 9 am.
- Royal Palace, Thanjavur: 1 hour. Don't miss the Maratha and Nayak Durbar Halls and the Saraswati Mahal Library. The guard at the Nayak Hall doubles up as a guide for the Chola Bronzes if you tip him.
- Grand Anicut: As dams go, there isn't much to see here. The only reason to go here is for the goosebumps you get realising this was constructed over 2 millennia ago. Half an hour is plenty at the site.
- Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam: If it is not a festival day, and you buy the costliest ticket, you can have darshan in an hour. But there is at least another hours worth of things to see in the complex.
- Sittannavasal Caves: There are just two things to see here. The cave at the end of the road is the one with painting and it is just a single rock cut cave. Please ask the guard to do a demonstration of the acoustics of the inner room. The other cave just has some beds carved in the rocks and it is a 20 min walk up the hill. Overall the site should take about an hour for both caves.
- Pudukottai Museum: Minimum of an hour. The ivory carvings, Chola bronzes and granite sculptures are quite good.
- Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace, Madurai: 1 hour. Guide is not very useful here. There isn't much more to know other than the occasional information placard.
- Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai: It depends upon the time of the day and what day it is. On a non-festival working day, if you go early (say 7:30 am), you can have darshan and be out by 9 am. Only mobile photography is allowed.
- Padmanabhapuram Palace: 1 to 1.5 hrs should be enough to cover the palace. There are no guides. But the guards in each room will tell you what you need to know. It is best if you can speak Tamil or Malayalam.
- Mamallapuram: There are 3 sections here. First consists of an assortment of caves, bas reliefs and temples. This site is free and takes about an hour to walk around. The second is a collection of closely placed five temples. That can be covered in 30 mins. Last one is a shore temple which should take about 30 mins as well. It is a 15 to 30 mins walk between sites.