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Tamil Nadu temple trail logistics

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Hi All,

We just got back from a trip to Cambodia. Angkor Wat lives up to the hype, and it whets our appetite for ancient temples. We have been contemplating a trip to South India for a while. Although there is no definite date, it is never too early to get into the research/planning mode. We are fully aware that traveling in India is challenging and rewarding at the same time. I have been to Bangalore on business trips, and taken a day trip to see the small but exquisite Hoysala temples near Hassan. My wife has not been to India before. The current plan is to focus on Tamil Nadu temple trail and Kerala. I have been following a recent thread that has a wealth of information. Tamil Nadu is particularly challenging logistically for a couple of reasons:

- We are fairly slow travelers. Normally we would like to stay put somewhere for 3 nights and take day trips to minimize packing/unpacking. However the sights on the temple trail are spread out, with considerable distance between major sights.
- We would like to do sightseeing when it is relatively cool in the early morning and late afternoon. That is workable only if we stay close by, as everyone advises us not to be on the road when it is dark.

Clearly we need to prioritize. Based on initial research, we want to visit (from North to South), with a 2-night stay each at:

- Mahabalipuram
- Pondicherry
- Thanjor
- Chettinad
- Madurai

We will have a car, with driver. The ambitious side of us wants to see more, at least as options. This is where we need input on feasibilities:

- I understand Kanchipuram can be visited as a day trip from Mahabalipuram. Is it workable to leave Mahabalipuram early, visit Kanchipuram, and continue to Pondicherry for overnight before it is dark?
- Now it is pretty far from Pondicherry to Thanjor (5+ hours?). There are temples on the way, at Chidambaram and Kumbakonam. Do we have time to visit one (or two) on the way? If so, which temple is more interesting? Again we want to be off road when it gets dark.
- There are some important temples in Trichy. It is viable (and advisable) to visit Trichy from Thanjor as a day trip?

In comparison, Kerala is relatively straightforward logistically. We will tackle it after we have a realistic understanding of Tamil Nadu portion of the trip.

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