A week with Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Heritage(7 Nights)

Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Chettinadu, Madurai

for Inbound Traveller, Heritage Traveller

Holiday Overview

Entrance to the Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple
Chettinadu Mansion (Nivalink Trip Dated - 2 May 2009)
Brihadeeswarar Temple (Nivalink Trip Dated - 2 May 2009)
Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Sacred Heart Church Pondicherry
Pondicherry Promenade
Cycle Rickshaw Heritage Ride in morning
French Quarters
Aurobindo Ashram
Krishnas Butterball (Nivalink Trip Dated - 25 July 2016)
View of Shore Temple from Sea Breeze
Shore Temple (Nivalink Trip Dated - 25 July 2016)

A week with Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Heritage itinerary looks to explore best of temple heritage and experiences in what is termed as the heritage circuit of Tamilnadu.


Mahabalipuram(1) - Pondicherry(2) - Thanjavur(2) - Chettinadu(1) - Madurai(1)

Summarised Itinerary
  • Day-1 Arrival at Mahabalipuram
  • Day-2 Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Visit to the French Quarters
  • Day-3 Pondicherry
  • Day-4 Pondichery - Thanjavur via Chidambaram. Visit UNESCO World heritage site temple
  • Day-5 In and around Thanjavur or Kumbakonam Temples visit
  • Day-6 Thanjavur - Chettinadu. Heritage walk and sightseeing
  • Day-7 Thanjavur - Madurai
  • Day-8 Departure
Sightseeing Summary

Chettinadu - Kanadukathan Village (1.00 kms), Thirumayam Fort (11.00 kms)

Madurai - Meenakshi Amman Temple (1.00 kms), Gandhi Memorial Museum Madurai (3.00 kms)

Mahabalipuram - Crocodile Bank (14.00 kms), Dakshinachitra (30.00 kms)

Pondicherry - Aurobindo Ashram (0.50 kms), French Quarters (1.00 kms), Botanical Garden Pondicherry (4.50 kms), Sacred Heart Church Pondicherry (5.00 kms), Anglo French Textile (5.00 kms), Manakula Vinayagar Temple (6.00 kms), Pondicherry Museum (6.00 kms), Varadaraja Perumal Temple (6.00 kms), Auroville (8.00 kms), Chunnambar Boat House (8.00 kms)

Thanjavur - Brihadeeswarar Temple (1.00 kms), Saraswathi Mahal Library (1.00 kms), Tanjore Palace (1.00 kms), Sangeetha Mahal (2.00 kms), Adi Kumbeswarar Temple (40.00 kms)

Preferred Arrival /Departure Destination
Arrival - Chennai Departure - Madurai
Best Season to Travel
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Popular Extensions to the Itinerary

Guests looking to visit Navagraha temples around Kumbakonam may plan an additional night stay at Kumbakonam (after Pondicherry).

  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Chettinadu -108 kms (2.5 hrs)
  • Chettinadu to Madurai -100 kms (2.5 hrs)

Chennai - Mahabalipuram(1) - Pondicherry(2) - Thanjavur(2) - Chettinadu(1) - Madurai(1)

Detailed Itinerary

Day-1 Arrival at Mahabalipuram Arrival to Mahabalipuram. Enroute its possible to visit Crocodile Farm and Dakshinachitra (Craft village). Visit Shore Temple (UNESCO World heritage site) and other heritage sites (Pancha Ratha, Varaha Cave Temple, Tiger Cave, Krishna Mandapam, Balancing rock, Arjuna's Penance, all within 1-2 km radius) in the evening.

Day-2 Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry. Visit to the French Quarters Proceed to Pondicherry (100 kms - 2.5 hours). In the evening enjoy a walk on the french quarters heritage area of Pondicherry and the promenade in the evening. A romantic evening meal at a restaurant serving French, European or Chettinad cuisine could be a good experience.

Day-3 Pondicherry During first half sightseeing options in and around Pondicherry town comprise Aurobindo Ashram, Ashram's handmade paper factory, Varadaraja Perumal Temple, Manakula Vinayagar Koil, Pondicherry Musuem, the Botanical Gardens and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Afternoon visit to Auroville commune (15 kms North of Pondicherry). Matrimandir at the commune is a renowned architectural masterpiece. In the evening visit the Anglo-French Textiles showroom for a bit of shopping. Those looking at a bit of Boating can also head for Chunnambar (8 kms South of Pondicherry).

Day-4 Pondichery - Thanjavur via Chidambaram. Visit UNESCO World heritage site temple Proceed to Thanjavur (175 kms - 4 hrs) via Chidambaram (58 kms). Chidambaram is home to Nataraja Temple (17th century temple renowned for its architectural and religious significance) and a major pilgrim centre. Evening visit Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, a Chola Period (9th - 13th century) Temple and a UNESCO World heritage site.

Day-5 In and around Thanjavur or Kumbakonam Temples visit Visit Vijayanagar fort (2 kms from Brahadeeswara Temple), a 16th century fort. Inside the fort is the Tanjore Palace, Sangeetha Mahal, Saraswathi Mahal Library and Art Gallery having a collection of sculptures and paintings OR undertake excursion to Kumbakonam (41 kms) to visit Adi Kumbeswara Temple, Darasuram temple and other temples of Kumbakonam, which not only have architectural significance but also are pilgrim centres on their own.

Day-6 Thanjavur - Chettinadu. Heritage walk and sightseeing Thanjavur to Kanadukathan (100 kms - 2.5 hrs). Kanadukathan is a heritage village of Chettiars of Chettinadu. Heritage walk here is recommended. Guests have options Stay in one of the heritage type hotels and enjoy ethnic cuisine. Guests also visit Thirumayam Fort.

Day-7 Thanjavur - Madurai Proceed to Madurai (95 kms - 2.5 hrs). Visit the Meenakshi Temple complex at Madurai. Given time guests have option to visit Aarupadaiveedu Temples (2 temples within 10 km radius), Gandhi Museum and experiential traveller have option for foodies walk (Optional extra).

Day-8 Departure Depart for onward journey.

Detailed Sightseeing

Chettinadu :

  • Kanadukathan Village - Kanadukathan is mainly famous for big heritage mansions of the Chettiar community and authentic Chettinad cuisine. Palace of the Chettinad royal family and other prominent bungalows are popular with heritage travellers. Guests are even able to stay here and experience the area.

  • Thirumayam Fort - The Thirumayam Fort is a 40-acre fortress built in late 17th century on Pudukkottai-Karaikudi Highway. The fort has been extensively renovated by Archaeological Survey of India in 2012

Madurai :

  • Meenakshi Amman Temple - Meenakshi Amman Temple is a 17th century temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati known as Meenakshi and her consort, Lord Shiva as Sundareswarar. It is most prominent landmark of the city. The complex houses 14 gopurams, highest being about 52 meters. Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the most visited temples of Tamilnadu and must visit for any traveller.

  • Gandhi Memorial Museum Madurai - Gandhi Memorial Museum was established in 1959 is one of the five Gandhi Museums in the country. Collection on display includes photos, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, quotations and some of the selected Photostat copies of many of Gandhiji's letters

Mahabalipuram :

  • Crocodile Bank - The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBT) is a reptile zoo and herpetology research station on outskirts of Chennai and is the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia. It was established with the aim of saving three Indian endangered species of crocodile, the marsh crocodile, the saltwater crocodile and the Gharial (Alligator). The CrocBank grounds are covered by coastal dune forest providing a haven for native wildlife, including large breeding colonies of water birds and a secure nesting beach for Olive Ridley sea turtles. The centre is the biggest crocodile sanctuary in India and is home to over 5000 crocodiles.

  • Dakshinachitra - Dakshinachitra is a Craft village on east coast road where one can purchase authentic handcrafts from artisans.

Pondicherry :

  • Aurobindo Ashram - The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a well known ashram in Pondicherry with devotees from India and all over the world. The Ashram was founded by Sri Aurobindo, great philospoher and it represents a combination of yoga and modern science.

  • French Quarters - French quarters is a colony of residential buildings with distinct colonial era french architecture. These are quiet bylanes that end up at the promenade. A morning or evening walk through these lanes can be very interesting and best way to explore French quarters.

  • Botanical Garden Pondicherry - Botanical Gardens in Pondicherry were laid out in 1826 in the French style with pruned trees, flower beds etc. The French introduced many exotic plants here later from all over the world. Botanical Gardens is a popular tourist visit option.

  • Sacred Heart Church Pondicherry - Sacred Heart Church is a Roman Catholic Church in Pondicherry that is visited for its Gothic architecture besides its Pilgrimage importance. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and saints of the catholic church.

  • Anglo French Textile - Anglo French Textiles, a Govt of Puducherry Undertaking is one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of 100% cotton. Anglo French Textiles are good for guests looking to purchase export quality cotton.

  • Manakula Vinayagar Temple - Manakula Vinayagar Temple is an ancient Lord Ganesha temple and is said to have been in existence before the French settled in Pondicherry. Its a popular visit option for locals and guests to Pondicherry.

  • Pondicherry Museum - Pondicherry Museum has a gallery with sculptures and has the remains of archaeological findings from the Arikamedu Roman settlement. The museum also has a collection of rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties and artifacts excavated from Arikamedu (7 kms)

  • Varadaraja Perumal Temple - Varadaraja Perumal Temple is a Dravidan style ancient temple located centrally in Pondicherry and is believed to be the oldest temple in town dating back to 600 AD

  • Auroville - Auroville is an experimental township situated 8 km north of Pondicherry off East Coast Road. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Richard (also known as The Mother), the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. The dome here is an architectural marvel and overall spread of the area and its character means that interested tourists and devotees arrive here all through the year.

  • Chunnambar Boat House - Chunnambar is a local backwater stretch where a boat house has been setup where guests can do a bit of boating. Popular with locals and tourists who are not looking heritage elements of pondicherry.

Thanjavur :

  • Brihadeeswarar Temple - Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur is an ancient Lord Shiva temple Shiva and is considered Landmark in South Indian temple architecture. It has a massive 66 meter temple tower and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a must visit for any heritage traveller.

  • Saraswathi Mahal Library - The Saraswathi Mahal Library established around 1700 AD and located in the premises of a palace, contains over 30,000 Indian and European manuscripts written on palm leaf and paper.

  • Tanjore Palace - The Thanjavur Maratha Palace Complex, known locally as Aranmanai, is the official residence of the Bhonsle family who ruled over the Tanjore region from 1674 to 1855. The palace complex consists of the queens courtyard and the Durbar Hall. The Raja Serfoji Memorial Hall and the Royal Palace Museum are situated in the Sadar Mahal Palace. The Saraswathi Mahal Library is situated with the Thanjavur palace complex.

  • Sangeetha Mahal - Sangeetha Mahal is Handicraft Gallery offering wide ranging authentic handicrafts from local artisans.

  • Adi Kumbeswarar Temple - Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is a 7th century Lord Shiva temple in Kumbakonam. The Mahamaham Festivl is associated with this temple.

Destination Overview

Chennai - Located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Chennai is a metro city of India and the largest in South India. Chennai is starting point for many itineraries of Taminadu and South India.

Mahabalipuram - Mahabalipuram also known as Mamallapuram is situated 60 km south Chennai on the famous East Coast Road. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th century, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pondicherry - Pondicherry is a popular destination in South India for Inbound guests on the heritage itinerary covering other areas like Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Madurai etc. Pondicherry is a popular weekend getaway ex-Chennai and Bangalore.

Thanjavur - Thanjavur is an important center of South Indian art and architecture. The Brihadeeswara Temple is located in the center of the town, which is UNESCO World Heritage site.

Chettinadu - Karaikudi is known as the base town for the area of Chettinad. Chettinad is well known for its Chettinad cuisine, Mansions, and Temples. The villages around are rich in cultural heritage, art and architecture, and is well known for its 18th century mansions

Madurai - Madurai today is one of the busiest towns in Tamilnadu. The Meenakshi temple is awe-inspiring and is a must visit for any South India itinerary for both Indian as well as Overseas guests

Prefered Arrival : No ImageChennaiNo ImageChennai
Prefered Departure : No ImageMaduraiNo ImageMadurai
  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Chettinadu -108 kms (2.5 hrs)
  • Chettinadu to Madurai -100 kms (2.5 hrs)

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Travel Ideas incorporated in the itinerary

Lines indicate the best available driving routes.
Arrows indicate connectivity other than Road (e.g. Waterways or Air).
Please click on the markers for more detailed Information.

  • Chennai to Mahabalipuram -60 kms (1 hrs)
  • Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry -100 kms (2 hrs)
  • Pondicherry to Thanjavur -176 kms (4 hrs)
  • Thanjavur to Chettinadu -108 kms (2.5 hrs)
  • Chettinadu to Madurai -100 kms (2.5 hrs)

Expert Speak

A week with Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Heritage is a very popular all-season itinerary with winters offering better weather over Summer / Monsoon. The itinerary just skims through most visited and largest of temples. Heritage / Pilgrim traveller with deeper interest and looking for comprehensive converage could opt for a custom itinerary of Tamilnadu that includes Kancheepuram, Tiruvarur, Thirunelveli, Tiruchendur, Thiruvannamalai etc. Experiential traveller may opt for a visit to musical instruments factory in Thanjavur.

Expert Connect

Nivalink has taken over 300 trips across India and select destinations overseas over last 10 years to verify hotels, evaluate destinations and understand its suitability with different profiles of customers across different seasons.

At Nivalink you are able to connect directly with experts who have travelled to these destinations and are able to offer novel ideas, honest perspectives and help you narrow down choices.

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