Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu also called Tiruvannamala is located on the foothills of Annamalai hills. A temple town and a major pilgrimage centre; the city is also the administrative headquarter of Tiruvannamalai district. Well connected with major cities by road and rail; Chennai International Airport is the closest airport to the city. The city on the edge of western ghat is famous for Annamalaiyar or Arunachaleswarar Temple, a shiva temple and is named after the main temple deity called Annamalaiyar. The city, once the capital of Hoysala kingdom has been ruled by numerous others kingdoms including Pallavas, Carnatic kingdom, Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire, Tipu Sultan, and even the British.
Beside the four Bhrahmotsavam held in a year, the Karthigai Deepam festival celebrated every year on the full moon day between November and December; is the most important festival in the town that attracts lakhs of devotees and tourists alike when the temple deity is taken out to circumnavigate the temple base and Annamalai hills in a ritual called Girivalam with pilgrims following suit. The festival starts with the lighting of Annamalaiar deepam, a huge beacon atop the Annamalai hill. Tamils celebrate this festival by following the tradition of lighting lamps and bursting firecrackers. A cattle fair is also held on the sidelines of the festival.
The Annamalai hill also known as red mountain or Arunachala, lies behind the Annamalaiyar temple. The nearly 1000 year old town of Tiruvannamalai is also a stopover place for devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Ramana Ashram situated at foothills of the mountain, which is also frequented by tourists. According to legend it’s said that Shiva and Parvati merged together to form the Ardhanishwar avatar on top of the hill.
The city is being a pilgrimage town is mainly known for vegetarian eating practice but there are restaurants that offer quality veg and non veg food for all types of tourist visiting the city. Restaurants like The Dreaming Tree, Shanti Café, Tasty Café, Hotel Sri Arul Jothi, Adyar Ananda Bhavan, Chick Blast, Wangs Kitchen, Vickys Restaurant, Hotel Kanna, Hotel Auro Usha, and German Bakery are the most well known. Being a pilgrimage town frequented by people from all walks of life, the city has number of low cost lodges, hotels for pilgrims and tourist to stay. Most of the city’s hotels are 2 star and 3 star hotels but there a few are 4 star hotels as well. Hotels like RR Residency, Sree Shai International, Arunai Anantha Resort Hotel, Hotel Himalayaa, Aakash inn, Sparsha Resort, Arpanaa Hotel, Arunachala Ramana Home, Hotel Ramakrishna, Ramana Residency, Hotel Nala Residency, Pandurangan Residency, Hotel Arunachala, Lakshmi Residency Inn, Vijaya Guest House, and Hotel Ganesh International are well known places for tourist to stay in town. While there are not many bars, except for TASMAC outlets, for those who want to enjoy drinks; some of the hotels have bars that are frequented by tourists as well as locals.
Cinema is an important part of entertainment for people in Tamil Nadu. Tiruvannamala being a small town compared to metro cities has only a few notable cinema theaters like Sri Balasubramaniar cinema, Annamalai Theater, Anbu Theater, and VBC & VNC Theaters. Apart from numerous temples other prominent places to visit in and around the city are Annamalai hill, Parvathamalai hill, Mamara Guhai, Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, Padaveedu village, Yogi Ram Surathkumar Ashram, Kubera Lingam temple, Carmel Church, and Kali Amman temple.
For sight-seeing around the city tourists can visit the Sathanur dam and reservoir built on the thenpennai or pennaiyar river in thandarampet taluk near Chennakesava hills around 30 km from Tiruvannamala. The dam is home to a large crocodile and fish farm. The impregnable Gingee or Chenji fort (only still intact fort in South India) in Villupuram district around 38 km from Tiruvannamalai is also a must visit site for tourists. The beautiful Javadi or Javadu hills about 75 km from Thiruvannamalai, on the edge of eastern ghats, is another place to visit for tourists and has picturesque locations like Beema falls, Komutteri lake, Kavalur Observatory, Amirthi forest and the British era Glass House. Overall the pilgrimage city with forests and hills is worth a visit.