visit to thiruvannamalai

Visit to Thiruvannamalai-Travel guide

My visit to Thiruvannamalai was completely unexpected. It’s been a long since I travelled alone. I travel with my friends most of the time nowadays. There was a comfort zone created around me which restricted me from many things. I needed to break that, to experience the joy of solo travel again. I was thinking such a journey for some days. But the initial hurdle to break out of my comforts pulls me back all the time. Overcoming that is pretty difficult. One side of our mind tells us to go but the other side wins most of the time. But this time I was determined.

In my opinion, it is the strong urge to get out of our comforts that make us a good traveller. We should have the mind to accept whatever comes in our path, take everything positively. Nobody travels for nothing, everyone needs something. And if what we are looking for is experiences and can be happy in our own company, then we should try travelling alone sometimes. I assure you, the difference it makes is amazing.

Coming back to my visit to Thiruvannamalai, I was in my room without any plans on a Friday evening. I was thinking what to do for the weekend, so many thoughts went through my mind. After some time, I took my bag and left my room to catch the bus to Thiruvannamalai. I had read about this place in the newspaper couple of days back. That was my first information about the place. Also did some search on google before going. Tiruvannamalai offered me more than I expected. A town with hundreds of temples, good people, saffron-clad sadhus, peaceful ashrams and the beautiful Arunachala hill which is visible from kilometres away.


How to reach Thiruvannamalai

The best way to reach Thiruvannamalai is by bus. Buses are available every 30 minutes from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal (CMBT), Koyambedu. The journey will take about 5 hours. I started my journey around 11.30 PM and reached Thiruvannamalai around 4 AM in the morning. Buses are also available from other major cities of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There are frequent buses between Bangalore also.

Travelling in and around Thiruvannamalai

Once you reach Thiruvannamalai bus stand, the Arunachala temple is just 15 minutes walk from the bus stand.

Girivalam is a circuit around the Arunachala hill. You can hire bicycles or motorcycles to travel around. Or else, you can hire an autorickshaw, that will take you around the hill. They will stop at all the important temples. The auto rickshaw fare is 300 INR.

You will get bikes and bicycles for rent near Ramanashrmam.

Trekking Arunachala hill

When I asked the local people about trekking the Arunachala hill, the response was negative. They told that trekking is only possible during the “Karthikai Deepam” festival. I was little disappointed. The Arunachala hill looked very charming. Even though it is not a big mountain (800 meters), there were clouds on its top. It looked different and I fell in love at the first glance.

Arunachala hill
View from the Arunachala hill

Trekking to the Arunachala hill was allowed earlier. But later it is prohibited due to forest fire caused by the sadhus burning wood for their rituals. There is a trekking route through the back entrance of the temple. But it is open only during the festival time. A giant flame is erected on the top of the hill during this time. Devotees hike the hill to be a part of this ritual. It is estimated that around 20 lakh people come to Tiruvannamalai during this time.

Later, I found out a way to trek to Arunachala hill by an alternate route which starts from the Ramanasramam. A sadhu informed me about this route. The trail leads to Skandasramam and Virupaksha cave. If you continue trekking up from Skandasramam, you can reach Arunachala hill. The trek will take about 30 minutes to reach Skandasramam ( the trail is clear and well paved) and another 2 hours from there to reach the top. There are markings throughout the trail, so don’t worry about losing the direction. You have to climb over the rocks to reach the top, so be prepared to put some effort. It is better to trek during the early hours of the day, it will be hot and you need to spend a lot of energy.

Things to do in Thiruvannamalai

Annamalaiyar temple

thiruvannamalai temple

Annamalaiyar temple is the prime attraction of Thiruvannamalai. It is one of the most important Shiva temples in the world, visited by thousands daily. It is a major spiritual centre for Shiva devotees. You can see many sadhus walking around the streets and foreigners who come here to learn about eastern spirituality and philosophy.

The temple is built by Chola dynasty in the 9th century. It is one of the largest temples in the country.

The temple opens at around 5 AM. It was my first destination. The atmosphere in the temple at dawn was amazing. I spend some time inside, watching the sunrise. The Arunachala hill slowly appeared in front of me.



Girivalam is the 12 km circuit which goes around the Arunachala hill. Often the pilgrims circumnavigate the hill by foot. There are eight Shiva lingams en route, sacred for the devotees. A lot of Sadhus live around the hill. The route is scenic, gives a 360-degree view of the hill. You can hire an autorickshaw or a bicycle also to complete the circuit.

Sri Ramana Ashram

This ashram of Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi is one of the most visited places in Thiruvannamalai. It is about 2 km from the Arunachala temple. Local buses are available from the bus stand or else you can hire an autorickshaw.

The atmosphere in the ashram is so peaceful. It is a centre of spiritual teaching and meditation. People from all around the world come here and stay for days to learn about the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. You can meet and interact with many people from different parts of the world.

Skandasramam and Virupaksha cave

arunachala hill trekking
the trail to Skandhasramam

As I mentioned earlier, a small hike to the hill behind the ashram will take you to Skandasramam and Virupaksha cave. Shri Ramana Maharshi meditated in these two places for years. The hike is through the forest. The trail is clear with proper markings. The walk is refreshing. These two places are very sacred for the devotees. People come here to meditate. So you have to be little careful not to disturb others.

Accommodation in Thiruvannamalai

There are many lodges in and around the temple. You can also stay in Ramanashram. Contact the administrative office to check the availability of the room once you reach there or check their website in advance to book your accommodation.


Few things to know about the visit to Thiruvannamalai
  • Thiruvannamalai is a religious place. So don’t expect any kind of tourist attraction here.
  • The climate here is generally hot, so the best time to visit Thiruvannamalai is during winter months. The temperature will be good.
  • The main festival here is “ Karthikai Deepam”, an auspicious day in the Tamil month Karthigai ( often comes on a full moon day between November or December).
  • You can find a lot of Sadhus around asking for alms. So be a little wise in giving them money.
  • There are few restaurants and art shops run by foreigners in the town, do check them.
  • Gingee fort is around 39 km before Tiruvannamalai when coming from Chennai. You can plan for Gingee fort.

As I said earlier, I fell in love with the vibe of the place. The ashram and the trek Arunachala hill was my best experience there. A weekend is enough to explore the place. I would suggest, instead of going to the same weekend getaways all the time, try something different, visit this little temple town.

Read Kanchipuram: City of thousand temples” , another temple town in Tamil Nadu which is very close to Chennai.

Hope you liked the post. Feel free to share it to reach more people.

Let me know your suggestions or queries, use the comment section below.

Keep travelling…

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thiruvannamalai travel guide

  1. […] are many places in Tamil Nadu to explore, read about Thiruvannamalai and […]

  2. I love how conscious you are about being respectful at places of worship and mediation. Sometimes it’s so easy to treat religious sites like tourist attractions and forget their true significance. Also like how you are upfront that there aren’t many tourist attractions in Thiruvannamalai. Sometimes the vibe of the place is all that matters, even though most blogs are obsessed with saying that every single location has amazing attractions.

    1. Thanks Zac

  3. Wow, I could almost feel the vibe of this place from your text. It must be amazing to be in those temples and just relax your soul. And the hike up to the hill was absolutely worth it! Will put this place on my future bucket list.

    1. Thanks Michael, glad that you liked the post. Waiting to know about your visit to India.

  4. The view from Arunachala hill looks amazing. Such a bummer that you can no longer go up there unless it’s for special occasions. And those temples! Wow…

    1. Thanks Victoria, the restriction to climb the Arunachala hills is actually for good purpose. Authorities want to prevent the forest and the wild life.

  5. This is a stunning temple! I’d like to see it one day, and that incredible structure for myself!

    1. Yes, it is a stunning temple. The view of the temple from top of Arunachala mountain is more beautiful.

  6. The architectural design of the temple looks stunning as are many others in India. The view from the peak of the Arunachala Mountain is amazing, would love to capture some shots from that vantage point! 🙂

    1. Thanks Nathan, Thiruvannamalai is a less explored place in Tamil Nadu. It is mainly a spiritual place.

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