ECR Experience -
Starting from Chennai
and moving southwards, you hit what is known as the ECR (East Coast Road). ECR
is now a toll road runs parallel to the coast line and has some wonderful homes,
cafes and a few resorts on it. There are also a couple of theme Parks (VGP and
MGM) and a crocodile farm few kms off the road. Guests here stay anywhere from
1 night to 3 months and few who have liked it so much that made ECR their home!.
ECR eventually leads to the famous shore temples of Mahabalipuram.
options here at Mahabalipuram are all 3-star to 5-star large format resorts
or budget options. Nestled close to the legendary Shore Temple and the popular
7th century monoliths, is Sterling
Mahabalipuram, the town's only boutique hotel having a deliberate ethnic and
old world character. However being a world renowned monument the area can be a
little crowded and so ones who want to enjoy absolute peace of a tranquil beach
resort prefer Ideal Beach Resort.For
High end Beach Retreat options there is Chariot
Beach Resort, GRT Temple Bay and
Fisherman's Cove, both offering a wide beach
front and rooms with very good sea views topped with luxuries and amenities of
a high end resort.
Heritage - From
Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry is an extension of the ECR. There are some
interesting points enroute where there are backwater formations a la ones in Kerala.
Pondicherry being an erstwhile french colony, one expects to be around the French
One finds it big time in the heritage walk area around the Sea
face. Hotel De Lorient, Le
are delightful heritage hotels located on the heritage bylanes. CGH
Maison Perumal is an experience in
Heritage and Cuisine.
inn is an all suite budget accommodation in the area recommended if you stay
is going to be a little long. One finds best of eateries around the area and area
enjoys a degree of night life.
the new Hotel overlooking the Sea face is where there is a lounge bar with contemporary
music, overlooks the terrace, the pool and the sea where you can find best of
wine and dine. Besides promenade there are many standalone Bars, restaurants and
eateries that would delight Indian as well as overseas guests.
If all this is
little too noisy and touristy then there are a few options like Kailash Beach
Resort which cater to a classy sophisticated segment of travellers its like
a beach resort with sensibilities
& charm of a boutique homestay. Guests typically stay here for two days to a week.
The Dune Eco Village Resort, is something a 25-acre
thematic village, 15 kms North of Pondicherry, designed to cater to the growing
demand for long stay destinations with soul and comfort. [All
options at Pondicherry]
Pondicherry one moves on to the "Other" Pondicherry i.e. Karikal,
120 kms south of Pondicherry. This is part of union territory of Pondicherry and
home to famous Shaneshwar Temple. Just before Karikal is a charming Heritage Homestay
- Bungalow on the Beach right opposite the
Danish fort. This is a kind of place which is recommended if only thing you want
to do is chill out and relax. Now the establishment has few more bungalows
in the same area with a swimming pool as well. Guests typically stay here for two days.
Territory - From
Karikal you move inland to Kumbakonam for about 60 kms. 4 kms from Kumbakonam
what could be the highlight of your trip is Anandham.
Anandham is a recreation of Tamil Brahmin Village while
maintaining modern room amenities like AC and TV. Accommodation is in form of
cottages similar to found in Tamilnadu Villages. All guests are served Veg. Only
Cuisine (Eggs and Beer Served but no Alcohol) in the traditional Tamilnadu Style
(On a Plantain leaf). There is a temple next to which is a Swimming Pool is like
a Temple Pond and an arena for traditional dance performance (which are typically
devotional in nature and performed next to a temple in Tamilnadu). The Resort
is full of trees and water stream passes right through the resort. Deers, Rabbits
and host of farm animals are all over the resort. At one end of the resort are
a set of craftsmen, who indulge in exquisite Pottery and other crafts. All in
all Anandham is a rare and unique experiential resort which takes to
back to the Culture and Traditions of Tamilnadu. Swamimalai is also located very
well for visiting the Navagraha Temples and is just a few kilometers away from
Thanjavur and its handicraft centres. Guests typically stay here for two to three
to Anandham is Mantra Veppathur, a
more luxurious and newer resort offering a comprehensive ethnic experience to
Swamimalai you move southwards towards Karaikudi. Karaikudi is a bastion
of Chettinads and now home to some of the exquisite awe inspiring heritage homes.
One such home is now Chettinadu Mansion,
a delightful owner managed Homestay. CGH Visalam
is an experience in Heritage and Cuisine. A lot of Group visitors stop
over enroute to Madurai at Chettinadu Mansion for Tamilnadu Traditional Lunch
which need to be ordered in advance. Guests typically stay here for two days.
Karaikudi, Madurai is only 90 kms away which is the next stop. Hustle bustle
of Temple town of Madurai has left little room for anything away from the regular
touristy stuff. However Taj Garden Retreat
on the Pasumalai Hills rises above everything. Spread over 70 acres of greenery,
its accommodation comprises cottages and offers a view of the hills around and
the entire Madurai town. Heritance
Madurai, an erstwhile British Club takes colonial charm to another level Guests typically stay here for two days.
Madurai you move northwards towards Kodaikanal (112 kms) and 20 kms after Kodaikanal
you reach Elephant Valley. Elephant Valley is a 100 acre nature reserve
and organic farm welcoming eco-tourists. Elephant
Valley you can get the pleasure of gardening and discover an outstanding collection
of vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes. Here orchards of lime, orange,
avocados, guavas and amla are intercropped with coffee, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon,
nutmeg, mangoes, jack fruit, pomegranate, guavas and bananas. This is a
complete contrast from the touristy Kodaikanal. A
Elephant Valley to Dindigul is only about 80 kms (2 hours). Cardamom
House at Dindigul used to be Private residence of the English Airline Retiree
who eventually opened it for other guests. Its a lakeside farm with waterfalls
and hills around at a short walking distance. What is striking here is that the
owner has employed all locals and trained them wonderfully. This is a kind of
model in rural tourism others may want to emulate. The highlight here is the owner
himself whose charming and affable ways can only be admired. Meals offered vary
from Indian to Continental to almost anything and everything possible, surely
and achievement for something that's supposed to be only a lakeside farm. Guests
stay here for anything ranging from Two days to a month.
Dindigul one idea is to proceed westwards towards Topslip (100-120 kms)
on the Kerala-Tamilnadu Border near Indira
Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and visit Banyan
Tree Homestay. Banyan tree provides a plantation stay in a 200 acre cocoa
plantation on the outskirts of the wildlife sanctuary where one can enjoy hospitality
and authentic Tamil cuisine served by Mr. Prabhu and is family, take jeep drives
in the sanctuary for birding and indulge in wildlife sightings. If idea is to
get a feel of a colonial plantation bungalow then Stanmore
Bungalow is an option. Shenbaga
Vilasam is a luxury homestay.
Dindigul other idea is to proceed to Salem which is 180 kms northwards and from
there to Yercaud which is another 25 kms uphill. Yercaud is situated at
3500 ft above sea level and a quaint little hill station 235 kms south of Bangalore.
Lake Forest here is one of the lakeside
bungalows here with heritage feel and charm. Guests stay here for Two
days to three days.