Travel Like A Celeb

Stylish hol­i­day in­spi­ra­tion even on a bud­get Madu­rai

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Who goes there?

This South In­dian city in the state of Tamil Nadu is se­ri­ously un­der the radar. But if you’re after a trip that’s a lit­tle more cul­tural and a whole lot more mag­i­cal, with some in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences thrown in, make like Katy Perry and Priyanka Cho­pra, who’ve both headed here in re­cent years. You won’t be dis­ap­pointed, as long as you’re will­ing to step out­side your com­fort zone.

What to do…

As one of the old­est cities in In­dia, Madu­rai im­presses with its im­mense his­tory and awe­some tem­ples. You don’t have to be an ar­chi­tec­ture geek to ap­pre­ci­ate the Meenakshi Am­man tem­ple, ded­i­cated to a form of the Hindu god­dess Par­vati. This mes­meris­ing pil­grim­age site fea­tures shrines, se­cret cham­bers and thou­sands of in­tri­cately carved pil­lars spread over a whop­ping 17 acres. Walk around, soak up the mys­te­ri­ous at­mos­phere and ob­serve fam­i­lies be­ing blessed by holy men. The fruit and flower mar­kets, slightly out of town, will give you a to­tally dif­fer­ent view of the city, so take a rick­shaw and spend a few hours ex­plor­ing. The huge mounds of jas­mine and bas­kets

But for a lot LESS!

of wa­ter lilies make for some bril­liant snaps. Don’t miss a trip to the Gandhi Memo­rial Mu­seum, a small free ex­hi­bi­tion with over 100 rare pho­tos, hand­writ­ten let­ters and lots of in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion about the man him­self, plus a great bookshop.

Eat this…

When in South In­dia, eat­ing dosas will be­come part of your daily rou­tine. They’re great for break­fast or for a light lunch. Like an over­sized, crunchy crepe, there are loads of vari­a­tions avail­able, each filled with some­thing de­li­cious. Try the masala dosa at Mu­ru­gan Idli Shop – it’s a ba­sic place but the food is spot on. Sree Saba­rees is a veg­e­tar­ian res­tau­rant that is al­ways packed out be­cause the food is in­cred­i­ble and noth­ing costs more than £1.50 – try the set lunch, served on a ba­nana leaf. The Sri Prema Vilas Tirunelvelilala Sweet Shop serves the best halwa you’ll ever eat. Don’t miss it – and stock up on lots to take home too.

On a bud­get? The sweet jack­fruit on sale at many street-side stalls makes the per­fect snack and costs pence, so don’t walk by with­out try­ing it out.

Drink at…

South In­dian fil­ter cof­fee is sweet and frothy, and of­ten comes served in a metal tum­bler and small dish. You pour the cof­fee from the tum­bler to the dish and back again un­til it’s cool enough to drink. Try it at least once any­where in town, as it will set you back no more than 40p and is se­ri­ously ad­dic­tive. Madu­rai is fa­mous for a drink called ji­garthanda; a pop­u­lar sum­mer drink made of sweet­ened re­duced milk, mixed with pearls of jelly and sweet syrup, and fin­ished off with a dol­lop of home­made ice cream. It’s to­tally de­li­cious, un­like any­thing you’ll have ever tasted be­fore, and will cost you less than 60p! There’s just one place to get the real deal and that’s Fa­mous Ji­garthanda (fa­mousji­

Sleep here…

Pretty much all of Madu­rai’s sleep­ing op­tions are good if you’re on a bud­get. You can spend any­thing from £20 to £90 a night for a dou­ble room in a clean and well-lo­cated ho­tel. This isn’t the city for five-star lux­ury re­sorts or In­sta-wor­thy in­te­ri­ors, so if that’s more your style you’re bet­ter off head­ing to a dif­fer­ent part of In­dia. The ho­tels here are great value, though, and there are plenty to chose from. Our fave is For­tune Pandiyan Ho­tel (for­tune pandiyan­ho­, which has a pool and spa to re­lax in after all that sight­see­ing. Dou­ble rooms cost from £44 a night.

The Meenakshi Am­man tem­ple is one of the most im­pres­sive build­ings in In­dia

Ex­plore the bustling mar­kets

Stop for a frothy cof­fee Priyanka Cho­pra Katy Perry

Madu­rai’s fruit mar­ket sells the sweet­est ba­nanas!

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