Head inland to Tanjore, the former capital of the Chola Empire. Here they built over 70 temples, including the finest of them all, the must-visit Brihadishvara Temple. The spectacular Airavateshvara Temple at nearby Darasuram is also well worth visiting. Built by the Cholas in the 12th century, its four-tiered temple contains fine friezes and numerous intricate stone carvings. A traditional silk weaver’s village is located nearby, where you can see old pit looms being used to weave saris while colourful threads are dyed in the streets.
Then take a break from temples with a tranquil stay in the rural Chettinad region, the ancestral home of the Tamil Nadu’s merchant and banking community. Characterised by internal courtyards, marble floors and Burmese teak, while here you can explore the 18th century mansions they left behind. You can also go antique shopping, visit local craftsmen and sample the renowned (and fiery) Chettinad cuisine.
In Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s holiest city, join the endless stream of pilgrims at the enormous Meenakshi Temple. We’ll make sure you don’t miss the lively evening procession, when the gods are carried to rest as the sound of conch shells fill the air.