A Travel Guide to Madurai

Madurai Airport Directory (IXM)
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Madurai, located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is a city steeped in history and culture. Known as the "Athens of the East," Madurai is famous for its magnificent Meenakshi Amman Temple, a sprawling complex adorned with intricate carvings and colourful sculptures. The city's rich heritage can be experienced in its bustling streets, where traditional music, dance, and art thrive. Madurai is also renowned for its vibrant festivals, with the annual Meenakshi Tirukalyanam attracting thousands of devotees and tourists. From its ancient temples to its delicious street food, Madurai offers a delightful blend of spirituality, tradition, and authentic Tamil culture.

Best time to visit Madurai

Madurai is a year-round destination. However, December to February are the best time to visit the city.

Most spoken languages in Madurai

  • Tamil
  • English

How to reach Madurai

  • By air: You can book flights to Madurai and arrive at the Madurai International Airport. It is the nearest airport located 13 km away from the city. IndiGo operates more than 30 weekly, non-stop flights between Madurai and Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kozhikode.
  • By train: Madurai Railway Station connects the city to all major parts of the country through several prime trains such as Chennai Express, Bangalore Express and Punalur Express.
  • By bus:The city is well-connected with all other towns and cities in the country through buses run by the government and private agencies.

Getting around Madurai

Madurai has a vast network of local buses that run by government agencies and few private companies. Auto-rickshaws are another popular means to travel across the city along with private taxis.

Baggage Allowance
15Kg
7Kg
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Max °

Places to visit in Madurai

  • Meenakshi Amman Temple: Just like the Parthenon dominates the skyline of the Greek city of Athens, the 14 gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple can be viewed from any part of Madurai, earning the town the befitting title - Athens of the East. Located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River, the 45-acre Hindu temple is a must visit. Dedicated to Goddess Parvati, Meenakshi, and her consort Shiva also called Sundareswarar, the complex attracts thousands of devotees in a day, reaching its peak during the 10 day long festival of Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, celebrated in April every year. Luckily, the temple celebrates a significant festival every month of the Tamil calendar, so make sure to align your visit with one to watch it come alive in full glory.
  • Koodal Azhagar Temple: Another major religious site is the Koodal Azhagar Temple, situated in the vicinity of the railway junction. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the golden sthupi guides the pilgrims to its door. The Hindu temple is dedicated to God Vishnu, worshipped as Koodal Azhagar, and his consort Lakshmi, known as Maragathavalli. Other famous temples in the region include the Vaishnava Kallazhagar Temple in Alagar Koyil and Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple, known to be one of the six abodes of god Murugan.
  • Thirumalai Nayak Palace: The 17th century Thirumalai Nayak Palace is another place that transports you back in time. Its grand courtyards, sunlit corridors and giant pillars offer a glimpse into Madurai’s Nayak dynasty, renowned for their unique architecture that blends native Dravidian with influences from Islamic styles.

Places to eat in Madurai

Sree Sabarees
Sree Sabarees

Be prepared to brave the crowds at this vegetarian eatery, located close to the temple, that dishes out piping hot dosas, idlis and pongal. You can also dig into equally favourite North Indian snacks which include samosas, kachoris, chole pooris, and more.

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Murugan Idli Shop
Murugan Idli Shop

Chennai’s favourite idli centre, Murugan Idli Shop, has an outpost in Madurai. Locals swear by their fluffy idlis and podi idlis, served with five different varieties of chutney and gunpowder.

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Famous Jigarthanda
Famous Jigarthanda

Madurai’s famous drink, jigarthanda, comes handy when the sun offers no sign of mercy. Drop by at this small institution whose reputation relies on two beverages—the original jigarthanda prepared with milk, almond pisin, basundi and sherbet, and the special jigarthanda with the extra goodness of khoya. Slurp!

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Kumar Mess and Amma Mess
Kumar Mess and Amma Mess

Among the rare escapes for a meat lover in Madurai are these two restaurants, located on Alagar Kovil Main Road. Between a helping of viraal fish roast and mutton curry dosa, crab cutlets and chicken chettinad, no surprise that you won’t stop asking for me.

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Phil’s Bistro
Phil’s Bistro

If you’re missing the good ol’ continental fare (without any frills), head to Phil’s Bistro which opens doors for lunch and dinner. Here, take a break from the spice with a selection of pizzas, pasta and salads.

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GAD
GAD

For stunning views of the temple town’s landscape, in the lap of Kodai hills, head to GAD (Gateway All Day), Taj Gateway’s multi-cuisine, all-day restaurant. Savour regional delicacies as well as international flavours, best enjoyed in the company of peacocks in the outdoor seating area.

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Shopping in Madurai

  • Madurai Mart
  • Vishaal De Mall
  • Milan’em Shopping Mall
  • Cottage Arts Emporium

Markets in Madurai

On your trip to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, make sure to halt at Prithu Mandapam, an old pillared hall near the eastern entrance. It is known to be the best place for your cotton fabric loot in Madurai. For hand-woven silk and batik textiles, head to East Masi Street, South Avani Moola Street and Town Hall Road. And since you’re in Madurai, don’t forget to pick a gorgeous silk saree from any of these shopping hubs. From bell-metal lamps to bronze idols, bookmark the government-run Poompuhar handicraft store, and the Cottage Arts Emporium if you’re looking for traditional handicrafts.

Where to stay in Madurai

Heritage

Heritage As the name suggests, this 17-acre resort has a historic charm of its own, which echoes in its spacious marble and wood-floored rooms, an Olympic-size temple tank pool, and a 200-year-old banyan tree under which you can enjoy your Sunday brunch. Head to the Heritage Spa to luxuriate in a Swedish or Ayurvedic massage, much needed after a long day of temple hopping.

TheGateway

The Gateway Pick from three categories of well-appointed rooms—Standard, Superior and Executive. The two suites, Sir William Harvey Suite and Sir James Doak Suite, feature a charming touch of colonial décor. Both come with a large, private sit-out that serves as an ideal setting for your morning breakfast.

Fortune

Fortune Pandiyan Hotel From former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to Mother Teresa, Fortune Pandiyan has hosted a range of distinguished guests. Its 57 rooms boast of modern amenities—free wi-fi, coffee maker, complimentary breakfast, and more. The hotel also offers two-day Madurai-Rameswaram tour packages which include transfers and local sightseeing.

Nightlife in Madurai

  • Ecstasy Bar
  • Impala Bar
  • Harveys Lounge Bar
  • Freedom Bar

More reasons to visit Madurai

  • Gandhi Memorial Museum: History enthusiasts must bookmark the Gandhi Memorial Museum, among the five Gandhi Museums in the country, built- in 1959. The museum acts as a repository of Gandhi’s personal life, with articles ranging from a blood-stained cloth worn by him on his assassination to a long series of illustrations depicting the freedom struggle.
  • The Elephant Hill: Madurai has a lot to offer beyond temples, too. The city’s scenic outskirts are home to beautiful hills, so a drive to the vantage points is never a bad idea. Head out to Yanai Malai, a protected monument and tourist attraction that’s often called ‘The Elephant Hill’, or make your way to Samanar Malai, home to 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and sculptures.
  • Vilacheri: The village of Vilacheri, an hour-long drive away from Madurai, is a unique world in itself. The entire town is dedicated to the craft of making papier-mache dolls, used in traditional Hindu households during the festive season of Navratri. Several guided tours in and around the city offer a day trip to the village, where you can peek into the lives of generations of potters and, in the process, step in their shoes and get your hands soiled, too.

Places to visit near Madurai

  • Rameswaram: Options are plenty, that too only a few hours away if you wish to escape the city of Madurai. A three-hour drive away lies the holy town of Rameswaram; its Ramanathaswamy Temple is considered to be among the most sacred places for Hindus and part of the Chaar Dhaam pilgrimage. It is believed that Rameswaram is the place where god Rama built a bridge across the sea to reach Lanka, to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana.
  • Kodaikanal: The ‘Princess of Hill Stations’, Kodaikanal, also lies just over 100km from Madurai. It’s hard not to miss its lush green valleys and pleasant weather once you’re back from your trip.
  • Kanyakumari: A four-hour drive south of Madurai leads you to the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, Kanyakumari. Its beaches attract tourists from across the country, who also make sure to catch the famed ferry ride to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, built in honour of the Indian guru.

Festivals in Maduraii

  • Pongal Festival: Pongal festival is most commonly known as the Harvest Festival. The three-day festival is rejoiced to thank the Sun, nature, and cattle for giving the farmers a good harvest. Pongal is one of the famous festivals of Madurai and is celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm.
  • Jallikattu: Jallikattu is part of the Pongal celebrations. This is more of a sport involving courage and bravery than a festival held primarily in villages. People in huge numbers throng the open grounds to witness the game of strength.
  • Chithirai Festival: Chithirai Festival is celebrated for 10 days, starting on the full moon day of the Tamil month of Chithirai, i.e. in April or May. The festival marks the wedding of Goddess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarer. A procession of a gold idol of Lord Azaghar, seated on a horse, is carried out by the devotees from Azaghar Koil to Madurai.

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