You’d be hard-pushed to find a more diverse, vibrant destination than Tamil Nadu, India’s most south-easterly state. Like a microcosm of India as a whole, Tamil Nadu has a bit of everything: ancient temples, palatial mansions, ocean views, mountaintop hotels and a rich, cultural history.
Think of the city of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry) as the New Orleans of India. Lovingly referred to as ‘Pondy’, it was sporadically under French rule from the 1600s until 1954, and today its colonial French architecture still stands tall. In the old ‘French’ part of town, the buildings are painted in bright colours – yellow, orange, pink and red – and dressed in vivid pink bougainvillea.
Hotels like Palais de Mahé, with its grand, yellow-toned colonnades so reminiscent of French colonialist architecture, reflect the cultural depth of the city. Pondy is known for its laid-back, bohemian-chic vibes, with people still speaking French and signs still partly in the language. Even the local accent has a French twang. The quiet streets make it perfect for exploring via pushbike, and a guided tour is a must. For a more bustling atmosphere, make sure you head into the new part of town.
The state capital of Chennai is where old and new collide. It has vigour, vitality and is jam-packed with some of the most beautiful and elaborate Hindu temples on Earth. For example, you have to witness the overwhelmingly ornate Kapaleeshwarar Temple on the outskirts of the city, and if you can make it farther out, the monuments at Mahabalipuram date back as far as 1AD and constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Back in town and it’s time to take in the dazzling city lights of this vibrant city.
Dine at a rooftop restaurant, letting a cooling breeze wash over you as you eat, and be sure to finish with a cocktail overlooking the city – you can’t beat the pool bar at The Park hotel. If you are looking for accommodation in and around Chennai Tourism India has a very helpful search engine Hotel Cloud.
If you’re looking for a holiday that involves culture, adventure and incredible landscapes, then Tamil Nadu is one you shouldn’t overlook. Situated in South India, but still incredibly close to Asia, this is a truly unique area, filled with incredible monuments and temples, history and culture. It’s a place to experience wanderlust, to find yourself and appreciate a part of the world entirely different to your own.