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What To Do in Madurai, Tamil Nadu in Just One Day!

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Madurai in the far South of India and in the state of Tamil Nadu is not somewhere I initially thought of visiting in India because well, I’d heard nothing about it! But as I started to plan the South India Backpacking section of my trip down the West Coast and up the East Coast of India, it made sense to visit the City of Madurai.

If you’re planning on visiting Sri Lanka after India or visiting India after Sri Lanka, you may find yourself in Madurai as I found that flights to and from India to Sri Lanka were cheapest from Madurai due to its Southern location.

In all honesty, there is not that much to see in Madurai but it’s a pretty fascinating city in India to visit and I would recommend spending at least one day in Madurai. With that one day in Madurai here are the best things to do in Madurai:

To SEE my time in Madurai and why I really liked it, have a watch of my YouTube video here!

Things To Do in Madurai


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1- Go on a Walking Tour with Story Trails

Story Trails run a really great walking tour of Madurai called ‘Once Upon a Madurai’, it runs twice a day, once in the morning from 7:00-10:00 am and once in the evening from 4:00-7:00 pm. I went in the evening and enjoyed it as everything in the City was open and it was cooling down, whereas in the morning more things are closed but it is much quieter and relaxing and would be a great way to start your day in Madurai.

The team tell stories of Madurai and they are incredibly interesting and entertaining. They admit many are stories and myths because who knows what is true and often historians will claim these stories simply cannot be true, but they make up this city and they are great to hear with a passionate guide and group of other tourists.

In addition to this, they also run a Spice Trail, Food Trail and Potters Trail Tour around Madurai which you can view here.

Sri Meenakshi Temple Madurai
The road to Meenakshi temple

2- Marvel at Sri Meenakshi Temple

Sri Meenakshi Temple is certainly the highlight and focal point of Madurai and it really is a beautiful and colourful Hindu Temple with many different buildings. There is a North, South, East & West side and it’s easy to walk around and see all 4 sides.

Going inside Sri Meenakshi Temple is a popular thing to do in Madurai, I went inside although as a non-Hindu it wasn’t the best temple I have seen and so much of the pretty outside buildings can be seen better from the outside. It’s free to enter and there’s a system of needing to leave your shoes, bag and phone in separate lockers before going in.

For extra tips on visiting Sri Meenakshi Temple I say as a women be sure to wear your hair up as the guards didn’t like that my hair was down, dress with your legs and shoulders covered and be prepared to be pushed and shoved a bit when going in as it gets very busy with Indian Tourists and Pilgrimages. The Sri Meenakshi opening times are 5:00am-12:30pm and 4:00pm-9:30pm.

Sri Meenakshi Temple Madurai | best places to visit in India
Sri Meenakshi Temple Madurai

3- See a ceremony at Sri Meenakshi Temple

As Sri Meenakshi Temple temple opens in the morning and closes in the evening there are ceremonies held which are very popular to watch. I believe in the evening Shiva is taken to Meenakshi’s room and in the morning leaves back to his own room..

I have heard these get very busy too and can be a bit stressful as a visitor to Madurai and non-Hindu as we cannot understand everything and there are certain things we cannot see and places we cannot visit but if you can get up early or stay awake late enough it is a unique thing to see in Madurai and a good way to observe Hindu culture.

4- Eat Idli and Dosa in Madurai

Idli and Dosa are very popular South Indian Foods and there are some good local places to eat these in Madurai.

I’d recommend going to Murugan Idli Shop in Madurai and getting the Masala Idli’s, they were literally felt like clouds or pillows in my mouth as I ate them and because it was a very local restaurant in Madurai it was very cheap and I had a feeling the staff like seeing foreigners in there too, they were all very nice and helpful.

For Dosa and a huge range of Dosa go to Ayyappan Dosai Kadai, unfortunately, it was closed when I went as I went at about 3:00 pm, I would think it’s open later on for Dinner and perhaps earlier for Breakfast and Lunch. This is a famous Dosa Restaurant in Madurai selling a huge range including Pizza Dosa.

5- Go to Madurai’s Palace

Thirumalai Nayak Palace in the centre of Madurai is not overly impressive but it passes a bit of time and is not expensive to enter so it is worth it to help fill a day in Madurai.

I’d also recommend getting a fresh coconut outside for just 30Rs!

Madurai Palace
Thirumalai Nayak Palace, one of the best places to visit in Madurai

6- Visit the Banana Market in Madurai

Super Random but this seems to be a popular thing to do for tourists to Madurai. It’s not really on a map so you need to find the East Tower of Sri Meenakshi Temple, go through the market until you see Shiva’s Bull Statue Nandi on the other side, continue up this street across the busy junction and it’s on your left before you get to the next main road. You’ll know you’re near as there are lots of stalls with Bananas in as you get close!

Madurai Streets Nandi
Madurai Streets Nandi
Madurai Banana Market
One of the popular things to do in Madurai is visiting banana market


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7- Wander the Back Streets

I actually really liked the back streets of Madurai. They’re colourful and a little quieter than the main streets. A lot of the streets are residential and it’s interesting to see the local life. Mixed within the streets and the main focal point of Sri Meenakshi Temple is also a Mosque and a few Churches showing just how cultural Madurai is.

Wandering the back streets of Madurai can be really fun thing to do
Madurai Streets
Mosque on Madurai street
Madurai Streets
You get to experience real culture of India on these Madurai streets

If you want to go on a tour around Madurai or the local area to get the most out of your time there, have a look at these options on Viator.

Accommodation in Madurai

The only hostel in Madurai is The Lost Hostel but luckily it’s a good one. It’s a bit far from the walls of the old city where you’ll spend most of your time in Madurai City but it’s easy to get a tuk-tuk in and out for between 80-100Rs.

I stayed in a private room in The Lost Hostel which was really good value and very comfy, they have a range of dorm rooms too, a rooftop and best of all- a kitchen which is really handy!

If you want a hotel in Madurai I’d recommend staying within the 4 walls of the Old City to be in the centre of things, or just outside otherwise you will still need to travel to get in and with limited time in Madurai (because that’s all you need) it will make it much more convenient.

I met a couple who were staying at The Madurai Residency which they said was good and the Kolam Madurai Hotel looks nice too!

Search more hotels in Madurai on here.

How to Get To and From Madurai?

Madurai has its own train station right in the centre of the City called Madurai Junction Train Station. It’s a mainline station. I got a train from there towards Pondicherry and this train also goes from Madurai to Chennai direct.

Getting to and from Madurai by bus is also very popular, I got a direct bus from Thekkady National Park to Madurai in about 4 hours and there are many local buses leaving Madurai Bus Station going elsewhere in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

I hope this helps you spend one day in Madurai and gives you some ideas of what to do in Madurai. It’s worth visiting on your South India itinerary I think but you do not need more than one or two days.

And as I said it’s the perfect place to fly from in India to get to Sri Lanka due to the cheap flights to Sri Lanka from Madurai!


I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!








To SEE my time in Madurai and why I really liked it, have a watch of my YouTube video here!

For more of my posts on India and Travelling see:


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Hey Elle, so as someone who knows Madurai and grew up there during my childhood ..,, the walled city is not the best place to stay in Madurai. You have dingy hotels and the area is too crowded and noisy. It’s been over 28 years for me ( I am settled in the US now) so I had to look up your hostel on the map and that is actually one of the better areas and close to residential neighborhoods.

There may be one or two good hotels on the outer road of the walled city ( where the railway station is) and that may not be that bad as the inner city but still the better hotels in town are to the North and South of the walled city about 5 kms away.

The walled city part is very noisy and crowded and overpriced substandard hotels and the place is bustling 24 hrs a day so there is no abatement of noise at night.

Your hostel location was in a better part of the city and I grew up in the residential neighborhoods not too far from there. The inner city is good for eating and sightseeing or for late night eating out. Not a good place for staying ?


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Ok really good to know! Thank you!


Wednesday 16th of January 2019

Nice vlog. This is the first vlog that I read from yours. Shared tips and suggestions on Chennai to your email. Happy travelling ☺


Thursday 17th of January 2019

Thank you! :)


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

I am in love with how colourful it is! Sounds like the perfect place to explore and eat a banana haha

xoxo Jess


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

I was so surprised by the colour too, and the range of banana’s! Lol. Thanks for reading :)


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Wow Sri Meenakshi Temple looks incredible!! And I bet those fresh bananas are super tasty! Great guide, love how colorful the city looks :)


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Thank you! It is so coloful it really surprised me and they had so many types of bananas! ?