Travel Like A Celeb
Stylish holiday inspiration even on a budget Madurai
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.
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.
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 (famousjigarthanda.com).
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 pandiyanhotel.com), 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!