Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 3 - A tryst with Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu

We are roadtrippers. We love the freedom road trips provide to stop, look and explore.

With Christmas holidays a month away, we thought of sharing the information on some of the great driving holidays one can do from Bangalore during the Christmas week.

These are comfortable drives, covering not more than 200 KMs in a day on the average. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another two days.

We will be sharing details about ten lovely drives from Bangalore in this blog exploring heritage, western ghats, wild life, beaches etc....... 

Take a look, plan and go! This time to the east coast of south India and hinterland of Tamil Nadu.

Read on.....

(Though this was written with Christmas Holidays in 2012 in mind, you can do these road trips it independently to suit your dates)

The state of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry is notorious for their heat and humidity. Summers are unbearable. Winters are the best time to drive around and explore the east coast of Tamil Nadu and the Cauvery basin. The weather is pleasant. Rains from South east monsoons turn everything green. There is a nip in evening air. Mornings skies are clear of clouds presenting lovely sunrises. Green is the only colour you see as you drive in the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu.

The good thing about this circuit is that all the places are close by giving one an opportunity to explore the French architecture and Auroville in Pondicherry, the UNESCO Heritage sites of great Chola temples in Thanjavur, the magnificent mansions of Chettinad and the lovely beach and 18th century Danish town of Tranquebar.

Here is what we recommend you can do in nine days.....

The Circuit

Bangalore - Pondicherry - Tranquebar - Thanjavur - Karaikkudi - Madurai - Bangalore

Day 1 - 22 Dec 2012 - Saturday - Bangalore - Pondicherry - Distance - 330 KMs

Road condition - Great till Krishnagiri. Average with potholes from Krishnagri to Tiruvannamalai. Very Good from Tiruvannamalai to Pondy

Leave early. Have breakfast in Adyar Ananda Bhavan/Krishna Inn/Kamat Upachar after crossing Hosur. 

Reach Pondy by Lunch. After lunch and relaxing for a while, go to beach by evening. 
Spend the evening by the sea. 

Night stay in Pondy.

Day 2 - 23 Dec 2012 - Sunday - Explore Pondicherry

After breakfast drive to Auroville information centre. Attend short video presentation on Matri Mandir. Obtain passes and visit Matri Mandir. More details can be found in this link here

Visiting Matri Mandir

Spend an hour in the information centre to buy artifacts made in Auroville. Look for lovely pottery and paper lampshades. Of course, the wide array of fragrance and aroma therapy products. 

Leave for Aurobindo Ashram. On the way, visit Auroville bakery for oven fresh bakery products. Visit Aurobindo's samadhi. Have excellent Chettinad lunch in "Appachi" restaurant. 
Matri Mandir, Auroville
Drive back to Hotel. Relax. 

Drive to Pondy and park the car in one of the bye lanes of French quarters. Walk around the marina and enjoy the sea front. Have dinner in the roof top restaurant of Promenade hotel facing the sea. It is lovely. If you don't get a table then go for next option - Rendezvous. 

Night stay in Pondy.

Day 3 - 24 Dec 2012 - Monday - Pondicherry - Tranquebar via Chidambaram and Pichavaram - Distance - 151 KMs
Road condition - Very good

Leave Pondy after early breakfast. On the way visit famous Nataraj temple at Chidambaram and visit the Pichavaram Mangrove forests for a lovely boat ride. 

Mangrove forests, Pichavaram
Nataraja temple, Chidambaram
Reach Tranquebar for late Lunch. Relax.

In the evening, explore the Danish fort - it closes by 6 PM - and the town of Tranquebar. Play in the beach. Have dinner in the hotel.

Night stay in Tranquebar

Day 4 - 25 Dec 2012 - Monday - Explore Tranquebar

Get up early to watch beautiful sunrise. Play on the beach. Have break fast. 

If desired, you can plan a trip to the famous shrine of Annai Velankanni in Nagapattinam and come back for lunch. 
Danish fort, Tranquebar
Relax for the day.

Night stay in Tranquebar.

Day 5 - 26 Dec 2012 - Tuesday - Tranquebar - Thanjavur via Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram - 143 KMs

After early breakfast drive to Gangaikonda Cholapuram to see beautiful Chola temple. Continue to Darasuram for another gem of Chola architecture. 

Have lunch in Indeco Hotels in Swamimalai and head to Thanjavur. Relax in the evening or explore local market.
Tower of Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple
Night stay at Thanjavur.

Day 6 - 27 Dec 2012 - Wednesday - Explore Thanjavur and Trichy - 140 KMs

Get up early morning to witness the fabulous sight of sun-rays bathing the mighty temple of Brihadeshwara. Visit the temple. Come back and have breakfast. After breakfast drive to Srirangam to see the great vaishnava temple - one of the largest in the country. 
Sculptures in Brihadeshwara temple
Tower of Sri Rangam temple as seen from Rock fort
Have lunch in Trichy. After lunch, visit Rock cut temple and Theppakolam. 

Return to Thanjavur. Relax for the day.

Night stay in Thanjavur.

Day 7 - 28 Dec 2012 - Thursday -Thanjavur - Karaikkudi - 116 KMs
Road condition - Very good

After early breakfast, leave for Karaikkudi. Reach Karaikkudi for lunch. 

After lunch and relaxation  drive to Kanadukathan to see Chettinad mansions. Come back and walk around the streets of Karaikkudi to pick up some antiques. Return to hotel for dinner. 
Chettinad Palace - Kanadukathan
Night stay in Karaikkudi.

Day 8 - 29 Dec 2012 - Friday - Karaikkudi - Madurai - 100 KMs
Road condition - Very good

After breakfast, visit the Chettinad mansion in the city. 

The glory of a Chettinad mansion
Come back to hotel, pack your bags and drive to Madurai for lunch. 

Relax and visit the temple in the evening. Have dinner at hotel and relax.

Night stay in Madurai.

Day 9 - 30 Dec 2012 - Saturday - Explore Madurai - 40 KMs

After breakfast, explore temple city of Madurai. Madurai is a crowded and dusty town. 

Visit the hill temple of Tiruppurakundram, palace of Thirumala Nayak and other temples in city. Feast on famed Madurai menus - see details below in Travel Tips - and buy cotton hand loom sarees from Rajmahal Silks in city. If you have missed out on degree coffee in Kumbakonam, try that out in one of the coffee shops in downtown.
Colourful tower of Madurai Meenakshi temple
Night stay in Madurai.

Day 10 - 31 Dec 2012 - Sunday - Madurai - Bangalore - 420 KMs
Road Condition - Excellent

After breakfast, drive back to Bangalore. If you are a non vegetarian and love your Chicken, make sure you stop at Mangalam Mess, - this is not a hi-fi place but clean mess - opposite Salem Bus Stand for a meal of Chicken fry. We took one of our friends there and he feasted on it while we ate Curd rice being Veggies!!

Stay options

Pondicherry - There are host of hotels to chose from. You can either opt for heritage French bungalows converted into lovely hotels or stay in any of the resorts on the outskirts of Pondy. The advantage of resorts is they are next beach where as the french villas are in city. Another excellent option are guest houses in Auroville.

Tranquebar - Choose any of the three properties from Neemrana hotels. "Bungalow on the beach" is the best choice.

Thanjavur - The newly renovated heritage hotel - Tanjore Hi - is a good choice. 

Karaikkudi - Our choice is "The Bangala". Top class. Best Chettinad food in the world!! For more details on the hotel and Chettinad click this post in this blog.

Magnificent mansions of Chettinad

Madurai - Taj Gateway is excellent choice. Perched on a small hill and dpread across more than 100 acres of forest, this is a heritage British bungalow run as a lovely hotel by Taj group. 

Travel Tips

a) Carry hat with rim and sun screen lotion. Afternoon sun in east coat will be harsh even in winter.

b) If you have another day, you can plan a day trip from either Madurai or Karaikkudi to Rameshwaram. If you have two more days, you can add Kodaikanal to this circuit.

c) If you are able to leave early and prepared for late lunch at Pondy or to have lunch in Tindivanam - no great restaurants here - you can visit beautiful temple at Tiruvannamalai and ruins of fort complex at Ginji on the way.

d) Don't miss heritage walk conducted by INTACH, Pondicherry. For more details take a look at this post on French architecture of Pondy here.

Pondicherry French Architecture

e) Spending evening time walking around Marina, eating freshly cut pineapples is a relaxing experience in Pondy. If you are a gourmet, don't miss continental food at Rendezvous.

f) The temples of Tamil Nadu are notorious for closing in the afternoon unless they are managed by Archaeological Survey of India. Make sure you are in Chidambaram temple before noon. Being holiday season expect rush in many temples.

g) Tranquebar is a lazy, small little town. Explore it by walking around. You can also talk to locals to find out the way they live. Tranquebar was devastated in the tsunami of 2004.

h) Chola temples at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram are outstsanding in design, architecture and sculptures. Take time to explore them. Swamimalai which is close to Dharasuram is famous for Chola bronze manufacturing. If you have time do visit any shop to witness how Chola bronzes are manufactured.

i) Indian classical music lovers can take a small detour to visit the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the doyen of Carnatic classical music at Thiruvayyaru.

g) The temple town of Kumbakonam requires a day to explore. Try and taste the  famous Kumbakonam Degree coffee. Read about it here in this link.

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

h) Madurai is known for its delicacies. Enjoy the vegetarian and non vegetarian delicaies of Madurai. Read this interesting article on feasting on Madurai Menus.

Madurai Menus

For other Driving Holidays from Bangalore, Please click on these posts

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 2 - Magical Malnad

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 1 - Karnataka Heritage Trails

Did you like this post? Please share it with friends if it can be of help to them. If you need more information on this roadtrip, please write at

No comments:

Post a Comment