We took the overnight train from Villuparum to Madurai, arriving at 6am. After having breakfast and leaving our bags at our hotel, we headed to Meenakshi temple, which is the main reason to visit Madurai.
This is a massive temple with four huge towers intricately decorated and lots to see around. There are many different areas in the building with different rituals taking place, intricate sculptures with offerings, and the occasional elephant. There are also stalls selling praying beads and other items and a museum (entry for 50 rupees).
We visited early in the day, which was good as we could explore at our own pace and it wasn’t too hot – we left at about 11 when it was already much busier.
There weren’t many other tourists, so we got a lot of attention as people kept asking to take our photo. There were a few touts around, but they weren’t too pushy.
Right next to the temple is Puthu Mandapan, an old market with stalls selling sarees, dothis, jewellery and all sorts of handicraft. This is a good place to visit not only because of the cheap prices, but also because it’s an interesting building an a unique shopping experience.
We went to Madhuram for lunch, a hotel restaurant which served nice food and, most importantly, beers (lunch and drinks for 1100 for three).
By that time it was really hot and we were exhausted, so we checked into our hotel for much needed showers and some rest.
In the evening we had dinner at Surya, a rooftop place with great views over the city. They serve yummy North Indian food and also had beers (dinner and drinks for 1130 for three), which is probably why it was popular with the tourists.
We were searching for a tuk-tuk back to the hotel when we stumbled upon Chennai Silks, a massive shop with an insane collection of sarees fromm 300 rupees, so we did some shopping before getting back for an early night in.
We had a long train journey in the afternoon, so we started the day lazily at our hotel.
For lunch we visited the beautiful Gateway All Day, a resort outside Madurai where you can get a delicious lunch with amazing views over the city (lunch for three with drinks and tip for 3000 rupees).
Then it was time to get to the station and catch the train to Kayankulam, a sleeper train where you could chill with a book with the indian countryside at your window).
HOW TO DO IT:
- Go: The train from Villuparum takes six hours. It leaves just before midnight so you get to Madurai nice and early.
- Stay: We stayed at Hotel Astoria, which was centrally located close to the train station. The hotel was very nice and they also offered a good breakfast for 200 rupees.
- Weather: Madurai was quite hot during the day (over 35 degrees) but the evenings and mornings were surprisingly mild and the best time for exploring.
- Getting around: Madurai’s centre can be explored on foot, which is really helpful and not always the case in India. Because the distances are small, tuk-tuks are cheap and most rides cost around 60 rupees.
- Going to Madurai: You only really go to Madurai to see the impressive Meenakshi temple, otherwise there isn’t that much to do. But it’s a nice little city, so spending a day around is definitely a good experience.