Thanjavur, India

India has earmarked Thanjavur as a site for protecting the nation’s heritage: the southern city is a pilgrimage spot for both the artistically and spiritually inclined. The major draw are the three Great Living Chola Temples, in particular Brihadeeswarar temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The most spectacular of the trio, it’s one of the oldest temples in India – go to admire the 1,000-year-old frescoes and stone-carved, life-size deities. For a mixed-bag of ancient and modern, head to the royal palace, which will occupy you for an afternoon or two: you’ll need three different tickets to get into all seven wings. For tired, sightseeing-worn feet, find a shady spot in the Sivaganga park for a quiet moment under the trees, before heading back into the bustling streets in search of a traditional lunchtime thali.

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When to go

Visit between October and March to avoid the summer heat, which makes most outdoor excursions impossibly scorching. Autumn and spring are, by contrast, pleasantly balmy and perfect for city sojourns.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    The nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli International Airport, which is just over an hour away by car. There are no direct flights from the UK, but it’s only a short connecting plane from Chennai.
  • Boats

    For more adventurous souls, there is the option to pull in by boat to Karaikal Port, from where it’s a two-and-a-half hour drive to Thanjavur.
  • Trains

    Thanjavur Junction Station is large and well-served, and is right in the heart of the city: perfect if you’re only visiting for a whistle-stop tour.
  • Automobiles

    Driving in India isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you’re brave enough (and not fond of taking too many flights), fly direct to Chennai and rent a car for the six-hour drive to Thanjavur from the airport branch of Avis (www.avis.co.in).