Driving Holidays from Bangalore

Bangalore to Pondicherry, Chettinad, Madurai – A Road trip guide

Written by Poorna & Brinda
Bangalore to Pondicherry, Chettinad, Madurai is a lovely road trip covering the core of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. This is the third in our “road trip guide series”of “Road Trips from Bangalore – Exciting Options with Detailed Itinerary”
Yes, as road trippers we love to drive to destinations. We love the freedom road trips provide us to stop, look and explore. These drives, cover not more than 300 KMs in a day. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another two days. It also provide you an option to just plan for as many number of days you wish to.
 
This is the third in the series covering the fabulous French town of Pondicherry, UNESCO Heritage site of Thanjavur, lovely beach at Tranquebar and more……
Take a look, plan and go!

Read on…..

The good thing about this circuit is that all the places are close by giving one an opportunity to explore the French architecture and Auroville in Pondicherry, the UNESCO Heritage sites of great Chola temples in Thanjavur, the magnificent mansions of Chettinad and the lovely beach and 18th century Danish town of Tranquebar.

 
Here is what we recommend you can do in nine days….. 
(Please on the pictures to see them in original size and resolution)
 
The Circuit 
 
Bangalore – Pondicherry – Tranquebar – Thanjavur – Karaikkudi – Madurai – Bangalore
 
Day 1 Saturday – Bangalore – Pondicherry – Distance – 330 KMs
 
Road condition – Great till Krishnagiri. The road from Krishnagiri to Thiruvannamalai be avoided due to road widening and bad road condition. Alternate route is Krishnagiri – Arcot – Vandivasai – Tindivanam – Pondicherry.
 
Leave early. Have breakfast in Saravana Bhavan which is after crossing the Krishnagiri toll gate. This is bang opposite the boat house. Dont be misled by another Saravan Bhavan which comes earlier.
 
Reach Pondy by Lunch. After lunch and relaxing for a while, go to beach by evening. 
Spend the evening by the sea on the marina. Taste the juicy pineapples which are cut frsh on the marina! 
 
Night stay in Pondy.
 
Day 2 – Sunday – Explore Pondicherry
 
After breakfast drive to Auroville information centre. Attend short video presentation on Matri Mandir. Obtain passes and visit Matri Mandir. More details can be found in this link here

Visiting Matri Mandir

Spend an hour in the information centre to buy artefacts made in Auroville. Look for lovely pottery and paper lampshades. Of course, the wide array of fragrance and aroma therapy products. 
Leave for Aurobindo Ashram. On the way, visit Auroville bakery for oven fresh bakery products. Visit Aurobindo’s samadhi. Have excellent Chettinad lunch in “Appachi” restaurant. 
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Matri Mandir, Auroville
Drive back to Hotel. Relax. 
 
Drive to Pondy and park the car in one of the bye lanes of French quarters. Walk around the french quarters and appreciate the heritage of the place. In the evening, go to marina and enjoy the sea front. Have dinner in “Bay of Buddha” roof top restaurant of Promenade hotel facing the sea. It is lovely. If you don’t get a table then go for next option – Rendezvous
 
Night stay in Pondy.
Day 3 – Monday – Pondicherry – Tranquebar via Chidambaram and Pichavaram – Distance – 151 KMs
 
Leave Pondy after early breakfast. On the way visit famous Nataraj temple at Chidambaram and visit the Pichavaram Mangrove forests for a lovely boat ride. 

road trips from Bangalore
Mangrove forests, Pichavaram


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Nataraja temple, Chidambaram
Reach Tranquebar for late Lunch. Relax.
 
In the evening, explore the Danish fort – it closes by 6 PM – and the town of Tranquebar. Play on the beach. Have dinner in the hotel.
 
Night stay in Tranquebar
 
Day 4 – Tuesday – Explore Tranquebar
 
Get up early to watch beautiful sunrise. Play on the beach. Have break fast. 
 
If desired, you can plan a trip to the famous shrine at Velankanni and Dargah at Nagapattinam and come back for lunch. 
road trips from Bangalore
Danish fort, Tranquebar
Relax for the day.
 
Night stay in Tranquebar.
 
Day 5 – Wednesday – Tranquebar – Thanjavur via Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram – 143 KMs
 
After early breakfast drive to Gangaikonda Cholapuram to see beautiful Chola temple. Continue to Darasuram for another gem of Chola architecture.

Have lunch in Indeco Hotels in Swamimalai or in any good restaurant Kumbakonam and head to Thanjavur. Relax in the evening or explore local market.

road trips from Bangalore
Tower of Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple
Night stay at Thanjavur.
 
Day 6 – Thursday – Explore Thanjavur and Trichy – 140 KMs

Get up early morning to witness the fabulous sight of sun-rays bathing the mighty temple of Brihadeshwara. Visit the temple. Come back and have breakfast. After breakfast drive to Srirangam to see the great vaishnava temple – one of the largest in the country. 

road trips from Bangalore
Sculptures in Brihadeshwara temple
road trips from Bangalore
Tower of Sri Rangam temple as seen from Rock fort
Have lunch in Trichy. After lunch, visit Rock cut temple and Theppakolam. 
Return to Thanjavur. Relax for the day.
 
Night stay in Thanjavur.
For more details on Thanjavur and Brihadeeswara temple, please look at this post on this blog – Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple – Big, Beautiful, Divine! 
 
Day 7 – Friday -Thanjavur – Karaikkudi – 116 KMs
 
After early breakfast, leave for Karaikkudi. Reach Karaikkudi for lunch. 
 
After lunch and relaxation  drive to Kanadukathan to see Chettinad mansions. Come back and walk around the streets of Karaikkudi to pick up some antiques. Return to hotel for dinner. 
road trips from Bangalore
Chettinad Palace – Kanadukathan
Night stay in Karaikkudi.
 
Day 8 – Saturday – Karaikkudi – Madurai – 100 KMs
 
After breakfast, visit the Chettinad mansions in the city. 
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The glory of a Chettinad mansion
Come back to hotel, pack your bags and drive to Madurai for lunch. 
 
Relax and visit the temple in the evening. Have dinner at hotel and relax.
 
Night stay in Madurai.
 
Day 9 – Sunday – Explore Madurai before Lunch. Leave for Bangalore after lunch – 400 KMs
After breakfast, explore temple city of Madurai. Madurai is a crowded and dusty town. 

Visit the hill temple of Tiruppurakundram, palace of Thirumala Nayak and other temples in city. Feast on famed Madurai menus – see details below in Travel Tips – and buy cotton hand loom sarees from Rajmahal Silks in city. If you have missed out on degree coffee in Kumbakonam, try that out in one of the coffee shops in downtown.
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Colourful tower of Madurai Meenakshi temple
After Lunch, drive back to Bangalore. You can have snacks/early dinner in any of the restaurants on the highway near Hosur – Adyar Anand Bhavan, Kamat or Krishna
 
Stay options
 
Pondicherry – There are host of hotels to chose from. You can either opt for heritage French bungalows converted into lovely hotels or stay in any of the resorts on the outskirts of Pondy. The advantage of resorts is they are next beach where as the french villas are in city. Another excellent option are guest houses in Auroville.
 
Tranquebar – Choose any of the three properties from Neemrana hotels. “Bungalow on the beach” is the best choice.
 
Thanjavur – The newly renovated heritage hotel – Tanjore Hi and top end Svatma – is a good choice. 
 
Karaikkudi – Our choice is “The Bangala”. Top class. Best Chettinad food in the world!! For more details on the hotel and Chettinad click this post in this blog.

Chettinad Charms!
 
Madurai – Taj Gateway is excellent choice. Perched on a small hill and dpread across more than 100 acres of forest, this is a heritage British bungalow run as a lovely hotel by Taj group. 
 
Travel Tips
 
a) Carry hat with rim and sun screen lotion. Afternoon sun in east coat will be harsh even in winter.
 
b) If you have another day, you can plan a day trip from either Madurai or Karaikkudi to Rameshwaram. If you have two more days, you can add Kodaikanal to this circuit.
 
c) Don’t miss heritage walk conducted by INTACH, Pondicherry. For more details take a look at this 

INTACH Pondicherry Heritage Walks

d) Spending evening time walking around Marina, eating freshly cut pineapples is a relaxing experience in Pondy. If you are a gourmet, don’t miss continental food at Rendezvous and many lovely restuarants in French area..

e) The temples of Tamil Nadu are notorious for closing in the afternoon unless they are managed by Archaeological Survey of India. Make sure you are in Chidambaram temple before noon. 

f) Tranquebar is a lazy, small little town. Explore it by walking around. You can also talk to locals to find out the way they live. Tranquebar was devastated in the tsunami of 2004.

g) Chola temples at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram are outstanding in design, architecture and sculptures. Take time to explore them. Swamimalai which is close to Dharasuram is famous for Chola bronze manufacturing. If you have time do visit any shop to witness how Chola bronzes are manufactured.

h) Indian classical music lovers can take a small detour to visit the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the doyen of Carnatic classical music at Thiruvayyaru.
i) If one is interested in doing a Navagraha Temples tour, add two more days to this itinerary. All details can be read here in this post.
Navagraha Temples tour – A Step by step guide

j) The temple town of Kumbakonam requires a day to explore. Try and taste the  famous Kumbakonam Degree coffee. Read about it here in this link.

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee 
Madurai is known for its delicacies. Enjoy the vegetarian and non vegetarian delicious of Madurai. Read this interesting article on feasting on Madurai Menus.

Madurai Menus
Lastly, the road conditions may change due to various factors. It will be good to join a road trip enthusiasts’ FB group HVK Forum managed by H V Kumar, the doyen of road trip in India. You can get the latest updates on the road conditions in this very active group.

We strongly suggest that you download customised Routo app from H V Kumar. HVK as he is fondly called, provides you customised route maps, live support on the road trip and will also help you with hotel accommodation as well. Check out all details here.

Routo – The Right Route & Travel Support For The Motorist Traveller

We encourage you to explore more around Bangalore! Do check these posts below.

10 Wonderful Weeklong Road Trips from Bangalore with Day Wise Itinerary! – http://traveltwosome.com/exciting-road-trips-from-bangalore/ 

7 Wonderful Weekend Trips from Bangalore (Covers Saturday & Sunday) with Day Wise Itinerary – http://traveltwosome.com/weekend-getaways-from-bangalore/

What has been your experience of Pondy and TN? We would like to hear from you. Please share it in the comments below.

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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