Taj Connemara, Chennai
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India's south eastern state has much for the visitor to explore, including colonial history, beaches, ancient temples and National Parks.
Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. The city was previously known as Madras, but changed its name in 1996. The city was the first settlement of the British East India company in India, founded in 1639 when Fort St. George, built in 1644 was constructed. It is now a museum detailing the city’s roots as a British military garrison and East India Company trading outpost. Other attractions in Chennai include the Kapaleeshwarar Temple which is adorned with carved and painted gods, and the 17th century St. Mary’s Anglican church. An hour from Chennai you will find some excellent beach resorts, perhaps the most popular being Mahabalipuram beach.
If you are travelling in Tamil Nadu in the summer months, a stay in one of the hill stations established by the British Raj is a good way to keep cool and understand the history of the British East India company. Kodaikanal, Ooty and Coonoor all retain a colonial charm and are excellent places for trekking.
But Chennai is really the gateway to the attractions of Tamil Nadu state. Kanchipuram is known as the 'city of a thousand temples' and once the capital of the Pallava dynasty. with over 100 Shiva and Vishnu temples in one incredible archeological site.
Pondicherry (south of Chennai) is a former 18th century French colony, providing a slice of Europe in the part of India. Located on the Bay of Bengal it is a delightful place to visit. The city is also well known for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which attracts visitors from around the world.
Madurai is over 4000 years old and the centre of the old town is the most impressive temple in South India, the Meenakashi Temple built in 1623. The temple remains a major centre for Tamil culture and learning and is very popular with Pilgrims coming from all over India. In April, there is a 12 day Chithirai festival in Madurai which features a celestial wedding.
Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Gangaikonda Cholapuram offer a glimpse into the Chola era. The temples that remain are very impressive and now protected by UNESCO.
If you are interested in nature and wildlife, the Pichavaram mangrove forest is one of the world's largest areas of virgin mangroves in over 1100 hectares on the Bay of Bengal coastline. Mudumalai National Park is home to elephants, tigers, deer, monkeys, wild boar, bison and leopards - as well as over 250 species of birds.
Tamil Nadu is an ideal destination for vegetarians, with a wide choice of cuisine available as most Tamils are vegetarian.
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