Madurai is a city steeped in antiquity. The place has been a rich settlement for over 2000 years. As a result, the city is famous for its temples that boast astounding architecture. A number of dynasties have ruled over the place, such as the Pandya, Chola, Vijaynagara empires, and all of them have left their influences upon Madurai. Consequently, the city is renowned for a plethora of monuments.
Catch a glimpse of Goddess Meenakshi at Meenakshi Temple
The historic Meenakshi Amman Temple or Meenakshi-Sundereshwara Temple, dedicated to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva, is a major pilgrimage destination in South India. The contemporary complex was rebuilt in the 14th century and further refurbished and expanded in the 17th century, though it is believed to be as old as Madurai. The temple is adorned with exquisitely sculptured 14 gopuram, the tallest being 49m (160.9 ft.) and several halls with awe-inspiring sculptures from mythological stories. The most astonishing structure of the temple is the Ayiramkaal Mandapam – Hall of Thousand Pillars – with life like sculptures adorning every pillar.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal
Madurai Nayak dynasty ruled over a major chunk of present day Tamil Nadu for over 200 year until 1736. Thirumalai Nayak Palace was built by one of the most notable 17th century Madurai Nayak kings, Thirumalai Nayak, in 1636. The palace complex is an amalgamation of Dravidian and Rajput styles of architecture and is believed to have been at least four times larger. Today, it is under the protection of Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. The grandeur infused by the excellent workmanship can only let us imagine how spectacular it would have been when newly built.
Learn about Mahatma Gandhi at Gandhi Memorial Museum
Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the nation in India, who is respected and loved throughout the world for his lessons on non-violence and integration of communities. His words have inspired many battles against imperialism across many countries. The Gandhi Memorial Museum offers a glimpse into the life and work of the great man. It celebrates his fight against untouchability and the various non-violence movements he organised and led for swaraj – self-governance – from the British imperialists. The museum is housed in Rani Mangammal Palace and also organises activities like yoga classes, pranayama and meditation classes.
Immerse in the celebrations of Chithirai festival
The annual temple festival of Meenakshi Amman Temple is called Chithirai Thiruvizha, when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi (form of Goddess Parvati) and Sundereshwara (Lord Shiva) is celebrated. The festival takes place in Chithirai (April-May) month from the first day of the Tamil New Year. Millions congregate from across the country to take part in this 12 day extravaganza. The celestial marriage (Thirukalyanam) is reenacted on the tenth day. Grand processions of the married couple are held on 11th (Ther Thiruvizha – Chariot procession) and 12th (Theppa Thiruvizha – Float procession) days of the festival.
Gape at the elaborate Madurai Maqbara
Madurai Maqbara, the dargah (shrine) of Madurai Hazrats who were the descendants of Prophet Muhammad, is located inside the Kazimar Periya Pallivasal mosque. The land for the mosque was gifted to Kazi Syed Tajuddin, a descendant of the Prophet, who came from Yemen in the 13th century. Since then, almost all of his descendants have lived in the same locality, Kazimar Street, for more than 700 years, and managed the mosque. Even today, his descendants are appointed as Kazi to the Government of Tamil Nadu.
Join the fervour of Jallikattu
Jallikettu is practiced as part of the Pongal celebrations, the most important festival for the Tamilians. This ancient tradition is practiced with bulls of local breeds being set loose into a crude arena as people watch the spectacle. The objective is for the human participants to grab on to the bull’s hump, survive the bull’s attempt to dislodge them until the bull is subdued and comes to a stop. Sometimes the bull has flags tied onto its horns which have to be retrieved to claim victory. Jallikattu is celebrated annually in January and is a spectacle to behold.
Cool your system with Jil Jil Jigarthanda
A glass of Jil Jil Jigarthanda, the Madurai special cool drink, can calm and cool your entire system from head to toe after a hot day and rejuvenate you. The preparation involves mixing chilled milk, sugar, homemade ice cream and basundi with badam pisin (an edible gum from the almond tree) and nannari (concentrated extract of sarsaparilla herb which is a wonder herb which cools down the body) syrup. The result is topped with almond chips and crushed resin. Some say it arrived with the Mughals, while others say the Muslim settlers from Hyderabad brought it with them.
Visit Thiruparankundram, the Abode of Murugan
Thiruparankundram is a suburb in Madurai district just 9km from Madurai city centre. The place is known for its harmoniously coexisting Muslim and Hindu communities. Thiruparankundram Dargah atop the hill is the tomb of the prominent Islamic saint Sultan Sikandhar Badushah Shaheed which is visited by people from across Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states irrespective of religion. Thiruparankundram Murugan Temple, built in rock-cut architecture is believed to have been built by the Pandyas, and is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan.
Test your taste buds at Amma Mess
The famous Amma Mess started as a nameless roadside eatery with only a handful of regular customers. But their trials with local ingredients dished out some of the most incredible meat dishes that enticed every foodie, spreading their fame far and wide and growing their follower base. Today, Manickam and his wife, lovingly called Amma Thai by their patrons, have successfully expanded their kitchen to two outlets and are spreading their ingenious recipes. Some of the must try dishes from Amma Mess are Bone-Marrow Omelette which is their trademark dish, Ayira Meen Kulambu (a type of fish curry), Mudhal Mariyadai Meen Kulambu (a type of fish curry named after the 1985 Tamil film Mudhal Mariyadai), and Kalli Kattu Koli Choru (a type of chicken curry).
Other visit-worthy places in Madurai
Madurai attracts you with her inter-religious culture and cuisine and is well worth a week of your time where you can experience village life strolling through the various streets; discover unique temple rituals like offering clay dolls to the deity; witness the legacy of Chola dynasty through Ambalakarars and more. While you are here, also visit Pazhamudhir Solai – a temple for Lord Karthikeya tucked in a jungle, Gorippalayam Dargah – with an amazing dome of 70 ft. diameter made out of a single stone, St Mary’s Cathedral, and Vandiyur Mari-Amman Teppakulam – a temple in the middle of a man-made pond.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.