Travel & Tourism in Tamilnadu

Tamil Nadu's tourism industry is the second largest in India, with an annual growth rate of 16%. Tourism in Tamil Nadu is promoted by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC), a Government of Tamil Nadu undertaking. The tagline adopted for promoting tourism in Tamil Nadu is Enchanting Tamil Nadu. Approximately 1,753,000 foreign and 50,647,000 domestic tourists visited the state in 2007.


Courtallam waterfalls in Tirunelveli district

Tamil Nadu is a land of varied beauty. It boasts some of the grandest Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture in the World. The temples are of a distinct style which are famous for their towering Gopurams. The Brihadishwara Temple in Thanjavur, built by the Cholas, the Airavateswara temple in Darasuram and the Shore Temple, along with the collection of other monuments in Mahabalipuram have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Rajagopuram of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam — the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world — is the tallest temple gopuram in the world Madurai is home to one of the grandest Hindu temples in the World — Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Rameshwaram, Kanchipuram and Palani are important pilgrimage sites for Hindus. The largest Shiva Temple in TamilNadu is Nellaiappar Temple situateed in the heart of Tirunelveli city. Other popular temples in Tamil Nadu include those in Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Chidambaram, Thiruvannaamalai,Tiruchengode, Aragalur, Tiruttani, Swamithoppe, Tiruchendur and Tiruvallur.


Kanyakumari, the Southernmost tip of Mainland India, at sunrise

Tamil Nadu is also home to many beautiful hill stations. Popular among them are Udhagamandalam (Ooty), Kodaikanal, Yercaud, Coonoor, Top Slip and Yelagiri. The Nilgiri hills, Palani hills, Shevaroy hills and Cardamom hills are all abodes of thick forests and wildlife. Mukurthi National Park & Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve are the two tiger reserves in the state. Tamil Nadu has many National Parks, Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Elephant and Bird Sanctuaries, Reserved Forests, Zoos and Crocodile farms. Prominent among them are Mudumalai National Park, The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and Arignar Anna Zoological Park. The mangrove forests in Pichavaram are also eco-tourism spots of importance.

Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of peninsular India, is famous for its distinct and beautiful sunrise, Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar's statue built off the coastline. Marina Beach in Chennai is one of the longest beaches in the world. The stretch of beaches from Chennai to Mahabalipuram are home to many resorts, theme parks and eateries. The Waterfalls in the state include Courtallam, Hogenakal, Papanasam and Manimuthar. The Chettinad region of the state is renowned for its Palatial houses and cuisine. In recent years, Tamil Nadu is also witnessing a growth in Medical tourism, as are many other states in India

Tamil People

Tamil people (also called Tamils) (Tamil: தமிழர், tamiḻar), are an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India, and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. They speak Tamil (தமிழ்), with a recorded history going back two millennia. Emigrant communities are found across the world. The Tamils are mostly Hindus with sizable Christian and Muslim populations. Tamil Jains form a small minority.


Thiruvalluvar • Srinivasa Ramanujan • M.I.A. Viswanathan Anand • Rajaraja Chola • Abdul Kalam A. R. Rahman • C. N. Annadurai
M. S. Subbulakshmi

Tamil was the first Indian language to be given classical status. The art and architecture of the Tamil people encompass some of the notable contributions of India and South-East Asia to the art world. The music, the temple architecture and the stylised sculptures favoured by the Tamil people in their ancient nation are still being learnt and practiced. The classical language of Tamil has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages. Tamils have been referred to as the last surviving classical civilisation on Earth. The Pallava script, a variant of Southern Brahmi used by the Tamil Pallava dynasty, was the basis of several of the writing systems of Southeast Asia, including the Burmese, Khmer, Thai, Lao and Javanese scripts.

Transportation

Tamil Nadu has a well established transportation system that connects all parts of the state. This is partly responsible for the investment growth in the state. Tamil Nadu is served by an extensive road network, providing links between urban centers, agricultural market-places and rural areas. There are 24 national highways in the state, covering a total distance of 2,002 km. The state is also a terminus for the Golden Quadrilateral project that is scheduled to be completed in 2008. The state has a total road length of 167,000 km, of which 60,628 km are maintained by Highways Department. This is nearly 2.5 times higher than the density of all-India road network. It is currently working on upgrading its road network, though the pace of work is considered slow.

Tamil Nadu has a well developed rail network as part of Southern Railway. Headquartered at Chennai, the Southern Railway network extends over a large area of India's Southern Peninsula, covering the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, a small portion of Karnataka and a small portion of Andhra Pradesh. Tamil Nadu has a total railway track length of 5,952 km and there are 532 railway stations in the state. The system connects it with most major cities in India. Main rail junctions in the state include Chennai, Erode, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli Madurai, Tiruchirapalli (Trichy) and Salem. Chennai has a well-established suburban railway network and is in the process of developing a metro.


The Pamban rail and road bridges, across the Palk Strait connects the Pamban Island with the Indian mainland. The rail bridge (right), opened in 1914, is considered to be one of the marvels of modern engineering.

Tamil Nadu has a major international airport, Chennai International Airport, that is connected with 19 countries with more than 169 direct flights every week. This is currently the third largest airport in India after Mumbai and Delhi and has a passenger growth of 18%. Other international airports present in the state are Coimbatore International Airport and Tiruchirapalli International Airport. Madurai Airport and Tuticorin Airport are domestic airports which connect their respective cities to other parts of the country. Apart from these, there are Air Force bases at Thanjavur and Sulur(Suburb of Coimbatore), and a Naval air station at Arakkonam. Increased industrial activity has given rise to an increase in passenger traffic as well as freight movement which has been growing at over 18 per cent per year.

Tamil Nadu has three major ports at Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin, as well as one intermediate port, Nagapattinam, and seven minor ports, Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, Cuddalore, Colachel, Karaikal, Pamban and Valinokkan which are currently capable of handling over 73 million metric tonnes of cargo annually (24 per cent share of India). All the minor ports are managed by the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board. Chennai Port is an artificial harbour situated on the Coromandel Coast in South-East India and it is the second principal port in the country for handling containers. Ennore Port was recently converted from an intermediate port to a major port and handles all the coal and ore traffic in Tamil Nadu. The volume of cargo in the ports grew by 13 per cent during 2005.

India is the land of myriad experiences and exotic locales. It is a world of resplendent colours and rich cultural locales, be it magnificent monuments, heritage temples or tombs. The Country's ancient cultural heritage is inextricably linked to its technology driven present existence. The co-existence of a number of religions and cultures, together with an awe-inspiring topography makes it the perfect place for a complete holiday experience. India has the right tourism potential and attractions to captivate all types of tourists, whether they seek an adventure tour, cultural exploration, pilgrimages, visit to the beautiful beaches or to the scenic mountain resorts.

Travel by Rail

India is a land of diverse culture, and Railways play a key role in not only meeting the transport needs of the country, but also in binding together dispersed areas and promoting national integration. Indian Railways have emerged as the sinews of the Indian economy, and have reached out to bring together the great Indian family.

Indian Railways have been the prime movers to the nation and have the distinction of being one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management. Railways, being the more energy efficient mode of transport, are ideally suited for movement of bulk commodities and for long distance travel. As compared to road transport, the railways have a number of intrinsic advantages. Railways are five to six times more energy efficient, four times more efficient in land use and significantly superior from the standpoints or environment impact and safety. Indian Railways, therefore, rightly occupy pride of place in the growth and development of the nation. Apart from normal trains connecting almost all part of the country, the Indian Railways also runs special luxury trains like the Palace on Wheels, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Fairy Queen etc.


Tamilnadu Railways

International Tourist Bureaus are located at various important cities all over the country. International Tourist Bureaus issue reserved tickets to the Foreign Tourists and NRIs holding valid passport against payment in US dollars, Pounds, Sterling, and in Rupees against Encashment Certificate. These Bureaus also sell Indrail passes, which enable tourists to travel wherever they like, whenever they like, and whichever trains they like within the validity period. Indrail pass however, does not guarantee reserved accommodation.

On the whole, Indian Railways ensure that traveling in India is a cherished experience.

Travel by Road

India has 3.32 million kilometers of road network, which is the second largest in the world. Roads occupy an eminent position in transportation as they, as per the present estimate, carry nearly 65% of freight and 85% of passenger traffic. Traffic on roads is growing at a rate of 7 to 10% per annum, while the vehicle population growth, for the past few years, is of the order of 12% per annum.

If you are new to India, it is important to familiarise yourselves with rules and regulations of the roads if you wish to drive. We drive on the left-hand side of the road, and the cars, including the rental cars are right-hand drive vehicles. All distances, speed limits (and speedometers) are in kilometers. While driving on the road, wearing of seat belts is compulsory and usage of hand-held phones is banned.


Hignway Chennai to Bangalore

Petrol (Gas) stations are situated on both main and country roads. It is advised to fill up the tank before it starts giving warning signals, as sometimes there is a considerable distance between the towns. Indian petrol stations are not self-help. A helper will check tire pressure, oil and water, and fill the car, and if necessary, clean the windscreen.

After the railways, surface transport is the chief means of travel in India. It is a viable option to rent a car in cities, and fares are charged on a kilometer basis. In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and other major cities, metered taxis, as well as luxury cars are easily available on hire. There are many rent-a-car services, with prominent international companies tying up with Indian firms to provide these services. You can hire a car for a full day or for a destination.

The states and union territories of India operate their own road transport corporations and transport undertakings, which run under the care of the respective state governments. Usually, the tickets to travel on the state road transport buses have to be acquired at the ticket counters in the respective bus depots. However, many of the state road transport corporations have their own websites, which provide information to citizens about bus schedules, bus fares, bus routes, etc. and some of them even offer the facility to book tickets online.

Travel by Air

A number of airlines operate in India both in public and private sectors, providing tourists with a plethora of flying options in terms of their time table and also flying rates. In India, a number of airlines offer their services to the people through their competitive quality standards and attractive schemes from time to time.

The field of air travel has seen a number of new players recently. However, the Indian Airlines and Air India, which are the government run airlines still stand strong, and are preferred by many. Indian Airlines offer domestic services, while International flights can be availed at both Air India and Indian Airlines. Some of the private airlines in India include Jet Airways, Air Deccan, Kingfisher Airlines, Sahara Airlines etc. Helicopter services by Pawan Hans Limited (External website that opens in a new window) also function for visiting various places in India.


Chennai Meenambakkam Airport Ramp View

The websites of these airlines provide users with the facility to check flight availability and prices of tickets, and also book their tickets online.

  • Air India (External website that opens in a new window)
  • Indian (Indian Airlines) (External website that opens in a new window)
  • Jet Lite (External website that opens in a new window)
  • Jet Airways (External website that opens in a new window)
  • SpiceJet (External website that opens in a new window)
  • Kingfisher Airlines (External website that opens in a new window)
  • Pawan Hans Helicopter Service

Travel by Sea

India is a large peninsula bounded by sea on three sides, and is blessed with a long coastline extending to more than 7500 kilometres. To the east lies the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea lies to the west, and the Indian Ocean lies to the south.

Some of these States and Union Territories of India, lying along the coast, operate regular transportation services and scenic tours between various points. Traveling on the blue waters enveloping the Indian subcontinent is an experience to be cherished. Regular passenger ships are available in most of the coastal states. Sea journey is mostly used to reach the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Both these islands are a part of the Indian subcontinent, and are also well connected by airways. A sea journey can also be undertaken to travel between the different port cities of the Country. Apart from taking a journey by sea, you can also hire a ship for fun trips in the blue waters.

There are nine Indian states and three Union Territories, which are situated along the coast. These are:

  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Goa
  • Gujarat
  • Kerala
  • Karnataka
  • Maharashtra
  • Orissa
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Puducherry
  • Daman and Diu
  • Lakshadweep Islands

Arts & Dance

Tamils have a large number of folk dances. These are performed for every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, weddings and festivals. Tamil dance is closely intertwined with the Tamil theatrical tradition. The most celebrated of these is karakattam. In its religious form, the dance is performed in front of an image of the goddess Mariamman. The dancer bears on his or her head a brass pot filled with uncooked rice, decorated with flowers and surrounded by a bamboo frame, and tumbles and leaps to the rhythm of a song without spilling a grain. Karakattam is usually performed to a special type of song known as temmanguppāṭṭu or thevar pāṭṭu, a folk song in the mode of a lover speaking to his beloved, to the accompaniment of a nadaswaram and melam. Other Tamil folk dances include mayilāṭṭam, where the dancers tie a string of peacock feathers around their waist; ōyilāttam, danced in a circle while waving small pieces of cloth of various colours; poykkāl kuthiraiyaaṭṭam, where the dancers use dummy horses; mān̲āṭṭam, where the dancers imitate the graceful leaping of deer; par̲aiyāṭṭam, a dance to the sound of rhythmical drumbeats, and thīppandāṭṭam, a dance involving playing with burning wooden torches.


A Bharatanatyam dancer

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating from Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam is thought to have been created by Bharata Muni, a Hindu sage, who wrote the Natya Shastra, the most important ancient treatise on classical Indian dance. In ancient times it was performed in Hindu temples by Devadasis. In this form, it as also been called sadir or chinna melam. Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures. Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. It continues to be a popular and widely performed dance style at present times and is practised by male and female dancers all over India. Therukoothhu (street dance) is a folk tradition of dance-drama.