Many guests in Auroville also want to explore and familiarize themselves with the region in which the Auroville is located. We therefore offer several options for shorter outings and trips in the surrounding area, giving you insight into the cultural and geographical features of a fascinating land. The descriptions below give you an idea of the many attractions waiting to be discovered in Auroville’s South Indian surroundings. These can be combined to create a short trip based on your preferences.
We will gladly help you with hotel and transport bookings to organize short trips through the wider region around Auroville.
An early start and a beautiful drive cutting through paddy fields, 85kms from Auroville, Chidambaram is best known for the Thillai Nataraja Temple – one of the holiest and unique temple of Shiva in the form of the “Cosmic Dancer”- the ‘Lord of dance’. He is commonly worshipped as the ‘Shivalinga’ in most places.
Another unique feature of the temple is that both Lord Shiva and Mahavishnu are worshipped alongside each other. Step into the gigantic temple complex through imposing 43 m high Gopurams or temple towers, and walk through the main complex of the temple where the ‘Kanakasabha’ or the hall canopied in solid Gold stands; dedicated to Shiva Nataraja in the enthralling form of the cosmic dancer.
The Gopurams on the east and west entrances of the temple complex are carved with the entire 108 basic positions of the South Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam. The tour is over by noon at which time the temple closes down for lunch break. From here the next stop could be Pichavaram.
Moving roughly 10 kms east from Chidambaram will land you at a very uncommon local destination – Pichavaram.
Visit to this impressive backwater mangrove habitat, with its variety of animals and over 170 species of birds, will fill your day with delight.
Hire a boat and glide under a canopy of leaves so thick that at places the sunlight does not filter through and in the muted atmosphere watch crabs scuttling along the roots, an occasional fish jumping out of the water and a variety of water birds that this eco-system hosts.
130 kms south of Auroville, a sleepy-spruce town on the Coromandel Coast, is Tranquebar, a former Danish colony, which was eventually sold to the British in the mid-19th century.
Laze or sunbathe at the beach and watch the fisher-folk sort out their nets or prepare to set out for the day.
Alternately explore some of the several heritage buildings in the town, of which two have been converted into Hotels. Other heritage spots to explore, that mark the town with its Danish/ British antecedents, are the Danish cemetery, fort Dansborg, the Church of Zion and the New Jerusalem Church.
Thiruvannamalai is the place to go if you are spiritually inclined and looking for the Indian Ashram experience. Located at the foot of the holy Arunachala Mountain where one of the most widely recognized masters of ‘Advaita Vedanta’ in the 20th century, Sri Ramana Maharshi, lived.
For a dash of physical action, take a morning trek to the Skandashram and Virupaksha Cave on the Arunachala or circumambulate the hill along what is called the ‘Yellow Path’ which is another interesting trek although a bit more strenuous. It is a good hike and offers scenic views not usually accessible otherwise.
Another must-visit destination is the Arunachaleswara Temple, said to be about 2000 years old and one of the largest temples in South India.
The small town of Gingee is a hop and a skip away from Thiruvannamalai. A historic fortress stands tall, extending its ramparts across three large hills in a picturesque rocky landscape.
It’s a place for those interested in treks on hills that have a rocky but verdant landscape while exploring the ruins of a 13th century fortress. The climbs are particularly worthwhile for the wonderful views they present at the end of it.
Mahabalipuram, an hour and a half’s comfortable panoramic drive to – “an open air museum”, where rock-cut caves, temples carved out of a single rock and bas-reliefs, artistic and enthralling, relate to myriad Indian mythologies.
Not for nothing is the place referred to as the ‘cradle of South-Indian culture’. A lovely walk through the silvery beach will reveal the remains of the elegant Shore temple, the oldest structure there. These monuments served as the architectural model, based on which the fundamental elements of Dravidian temple construction were developed. Traditional sculptures are still hand-made here in small family business units.
A reptile enthusiast’s paradise, you can’t but stop at the next point of interest, located about 15 kms from Mahabalipuram towards Chennai – the Madras Crocodile Bank.
It is a reptile zoo, home to over 2500 reptiles. Make their day, feed these majestic crocodiles and watch them transform from being a frozen artefact to their true selves. Also, observe how poisonous snakes are milked for their venom at the ‘Irula Snake Catchers Cooperative Society’ – used for production of anti-venom.
15 km down the road from Mahabalipuram and up about 500 granite steps and you reach the charming Vedagiriswarar temple in Thirukalikundram.
There, atop a hill, Lord Shiva awaits his visitors. Another temple at the base of the hill is dedicated to his consort Parvathi. The beautiful views and a distinctive South-Indian sunset from the temple terrace are unmissable.
Another 25 kms away from Mahabalipuram on the highway to Chennai is Dakshinachitra – an interesting project of the Madras Craft foundation.
A not-to-be-missed destination for the culturally inclined. A centre for art, architecture, crafts and the performing arts in South India; it also serves as a retreat for artists, an exhibition space and a learning centre for students.
For bird-lovers a simple yet appealing bird sanctuary is about 90kms from Auroville. One of the oldest sanctuaries in the country, Vedanthangal attracts hordes of different species of birds.
Spread over a marshy area of 30 hectares, it is a paradise for bird watchers. Best time to visit is between November and January – the breeding season – when the weather is cooler and more than 100,000 native and migratory birds converge here.
Considered as one of the seven most important pilgrimage destinations in India, Kanchipuram is about 120 kms. or two half hours on the road from Auroville. It was the capital of the ruling dynasty between 6th and 9th centuries, when the Pallavas made the great stone monuments of Mahabalipuram.
Admire the ancient Dravidian architecture here, known in archaic times as the city of a thousand temples, it still holds numerous important and vibrant temples dating back to various South Indian cultural epochs and built by various dynasties that ruled the land.
Kanchipuram is also known for its hand woven Silk industry on which the economy of the place depends. The silk sarees made here are famous across the globe.
Referred to as the ‘Gateway of the South’, Chennai is the arrival and departure point, if your destination is in South-east India. One of the major and modern Metropolises of India, it offers excellent air and rail links besides great scope for shopping.
Founded as a base for the British East India Company who built their first fort in India here – Fort St. George in 1644 – the town soon expanded as settlements arose around it.
One can enjoy an interesting stroll on its extensive beach or visit the Museums, Churches and Cathedrals, Temples or tour through Fort St. George which now serves as the headquarters for Tamil Nadu’s legislative assembly.