How often do you hear water sports, ghost towns and mythology in the same line?
Not so often, right?
Well, these are exactly what comes to my mind when I think about Rameshwaram.
A famous temple town located in Tamil Nadu, Rameshwaram is an important pilgrimage centre for the Hindu religion, much like Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.
However, Rameshwaram is anything but a temple town.
From white beaches to turquoise-blue waters to ruined buildings, Rameshwaram is perfect for anyone who leaves beaches and history. This place has got a very laid-back vibe and is ideal for a weekend getaway.
I went on a road trip with my friends from Trivandrum to Rameshwaram. In this article, I share with you some of the best places to visit in Rameshwaram and some history behind them that will make Rameshwaram worth your time.
- Where is Rameshwaram?
- 7 best places to visit in Rameshwaram
- How to reach Rameshwaram
- How to travel in Rameshwaram
- Where to stay in Rameshwaram
- Best restaurants in Rameshwaram
- Travel tips for Rameshwaram
- Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Rameshwaram?
Rameshwaram, also known as Pamban Island, is located on the south-eastern tip of Tamil Nadu. It is separated from mainland India by the Pamban bridge. Dhanushkodi is another famous town that lies on this island.
At a distance of 174 km, Madurai is the nearest major town to Rameshwaram.
Rameshwaram is close to the border of Sri Lanka and is a distance of 40 km from Mannar Island, which is the north-western tip of Sri Lanka.
7 best places to visit in Rameshwaram
Popularly known as the Rameshwaram temple, the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the most sacred temples in the country. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located just 2 km from the Rameshwaram railway station.
The vast complex has four main entrances and 22 wells. Every devotee is supposed to bathe in these 22 wells. This practice is done to atone them for their past sins before entering the sanctum sanctorum.
Even if you are not religious, you should still visit this temple due to its impressive architecture. This place is an architectural marvel with its majestic gopurams, vast corridors flanked by pillars with intricate work and beautifully painted ceilings. This temple has the largest corridor among all the temples in India.
The timings for the temple are from 5:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Bags, cameras and phones are not allowed and can be kept in a cloakroom near the temple.
Pamban bridge/Annai Indira Gandhi road bridge
Pamban bridge, also known as the Rameshwaram bridge, is another historical architectural wonder that should be on your list. It was inaugurated in 1914 as India’s first sea bridge and is the second-longest sea bridge in India at present.
It connects Pamban Island that consists of towns like Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi, to mainland India. Built at a length of more than 2 km, the centre of the railway bridge opens up vertically to allow ships to pass through it.
The history behind this bridge is quite fascinating.
The Pamban bridge used to connect mainland India to Dhanushkodi until 1964. However, on 23rd December 1964, a powerful cyclone swept away the town of Dhanushkodi, overturning the Pamban-Dhanuskodi passenger train and destroying the bridge.
Henceforth, as the cyclone ravaged the town of Dhanushkodi, the Pamban bridge had to be reconstructed but only till Rameshwaram.
The road bridge that we see today running parallel to this sea bridge was constructed and opened only in 1988.
The best time to visit this bridge would be during sunrise or sunset when you can see the reflection of the sunlight falling on the turquoise blue sea alongside the bridge. If you are coming by your transport, there is no place to park your vehicle on the road bridge. However, you can briefly stop your vehicle on the side and take some pictures (as we did).
Kalam National Memorial
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was one of the few personalities of India who was revered not only in his motherland but also around the world for his contributions to society. He started his career as a scientist before joining politics to become the 11th President of India.
But what not many people know is the fact that he was a native of Rameshwaram. Born in 1931, he was raised in a Tamil Muslim family with four brothers and one sister. His house (known as ‘House of Kalam’) currently exists as a small museum in Rameshwaram.
After he died in 2015, the Kalam National Memorial was inaugurated in 2017 in Rameshwaram and opened to the public. This memorial pays homage to the life of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and his achievements and is probably one of the best memorials you will visit in India.
The entire journey in the museum takes you through his life as a child to how he became one of the most eminent personalities of his generation. You will find his personal belongings, replicas, awards, medals and photos in the gallery. The museum records every aspect of his life in great detail, and as a whole, it is well-maintained.
The Kalam National Memorial is easily one of the most underrated places to visit in Rameshwaram; so make sure you take some time out for it. The museum is open from 9-6 pm. You need to remove your footwear and switch off your phones before entering the museum.
The Ghost town of Dhanushkodi
A trip to Rameshwaram is incomplete without exploring Dhanushkodi. Dhanushkodi is a ‘ghost town’ at a distance of 18 km from Rameshwaram, and it takes close to half an hour to travel from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi.
It was once a thriving fishing town in Pamban Island located on the south-easternmost tip of India, and it shares the water borders between India and Sri Lanka. It was an important trade centre between both the countries as it used to run ferry services from India to Sri Lanka and vice versa.
However, what you see today are the ruins of a town that got destroyed in a natural calamity.
In December 1964, a powerful cyclone struck Pamban Island and Ceylon (presently Sri Lanka), killing over 1800 people in Dhanushkodi alone. The Pamban bridge (which connected Dhanushkodi to mainland India), Dhanushkodi railway station and the entire town of Dhanushkodi, including a school, hospital, post office, church and a port, got washed away.
Dhanushkodi was declared unfit for habitation by the Government of Madras henceforth and has remained a ghost town ever since, much like Hampi in Karnataka. Apart from a few fishermen and their families who reside here, you will hardly see anyone after sunset.
Today, Dhanushkodi is a popular tourist destination thanks to its unique landscape.
Before 2017, you had to hire a jeep/tempo to visit Dhanushkodi as there was no concrete road. But in 2017, a newly constructed road was built, making it convenient to drive your vehicle to Dhanushkodi.
The drive to Dhanushkodi on this road is a dream for people who like road trips as you see the Indian Ocean on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other. Vast stretches of white sands neighbouring the road flanked by blue skies greet you on both sides, and you feel as if you are nearing the end of the world!
Once you reach Dhanushkodi, you have transported back in time to a different place altogether. Nature has taken over this town and what remains today are the ruins of a railway station, a church and a post office. Several other ruins are present across the white beaches of Dhanushkodi, but the ones mentioned above stand out the most.
You will find some roadside stalls where you can buy refreshments, but there are no places to stay here. So make sure you reach your Dhanushkodi well before sunset to spend some time here.
Dhanushkodi Point/Dhanushkodi Beach Point
Dhanushkodi means ‘end of the bow’. And the end of Dhanushkodi looks exactly like the shape of a bow.
The distance from Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka from this point is close to 30 km. Not only that, you see the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal from this point. The waters are calm on one side and constantly flowing on the other side.
This point has both mythological and historical importance in terms of the Rama Sethu bridge that connected Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka.
According to mythology, Lord Rama built this bridge to Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the demon Ravana.
And according to history, this bridge, also known as Adam’s bridge, was formed naturally by limestone shoals over some time. It is said that this particular bridge was above sea level and walkable till the 15th century.
In any case, the bridge is no longer visible as it is submerged under the sea.
Ariyaman beach is a white sandy beach that stretches for more than 2 km. It is located on Mandapam, which is 21 km before Rameshwaram. You can stop by this beach while on the way to Rameshwaram or while coming back from Rameshwaram.
As this place is less touristy, you can have a peaceful time here and even go swimming as the depth of the water is shallow and the tides are generally low. The beach is clean, and the water is crystal clear.
A forest cover provides ample shade and also a place for parking your vehicle. The best time to visit this beach is in the morning or evening as it generally gets hot otherwise.
Beware of the jellyfishes that can be seen sometimes on the shores!
Water sports at Quest Academy
Another lesser-known fact about this part of India is that the southeast coast is one of the best locations in the country to indulge in water sports.
Quest Adventure Sports Academy (QASA), located close to the Ariyaman beach, is an academy that teaches water sports like kayaking, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing and scuba diving, to name a few. A few passionate and professional folks from Mumbai provide industry-recognised certifications ranging from a beginner level to an expert level in various water sports.
People from different parts of the country and even foreigners come here to indulge in water sports. You can try out their ‘Discover’ packages if you have no experience but would like to try out a watersport for the first time.
The academy provides various accommodation options and locally sourced food. Their property, known as Kathadi North, is built on a beautiful beach with white sands and covered with palm trees.
You can visit their website for more details. I am pretty sure that even if you don’t plan to indulge in water sports, your mind will change once you visit their property.
How to reach Rameshwaram
Madurai is the nearest airport to Rameshwaram, located at a distance of 70 km. Many flights operate from cities like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai to Madurai.
To continue with your journey, you can get buses and even trains from Madurai to Rameshwaram.
Travelling by train to Rameshwaram is one of the best ways to experience your journey on the Pamban Bridge. Rameshwaram is a significant railhead connected to major cities like Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi. There are no direct trains from Bangalore to Rameshwaram, unfortunately.
If you are coming from within Tamil Nadu, there are buses run by Tamil Nadu Road Transport Corporation (TNSRTC) that regularly ply from different cities of Tamil Nadu like Kanyakumari, Chennai and Madurai to Rameshwaram. There are also overnight buses from Bangalore to Rameshwaram. However, there are no direct buses from Kochi.
How to travel in Rameshwaram
An ideal way to travel around Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi is by driving your vehicle because the roads are excellent and the landscape you see as you go along is beautiful.
If you don’t have any vehicle, you can still hire a taxi and roam around these places. While you are at it, make sure that you take breaks between your journey instead of just getting down to the final destination because you will find many opportunities for photography.
Where to stay in Rameshwaram
Kathadi North is the homestay property of Quest Academy.
It is one of the best places to stay at Rameshwaram to enjoy the calm and peaceful vibe of staying on a beach. The stay is inside a remote village away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The hosts are amicable and welcoming and will make sure that you have a good time here. Make the most of your stay by indulging in some water sports.
The accommodation options involve cottages, dorms and tents with complimentary breakfasts. They serve wholesome, healthy and fresh food.
Please note that as the weather is generally hot during the day, it becomes difficult to stay in tents for a long time (as we experienced). Unless you are prepared to face the heat, a better option would be to go for dorms or cottages.
Some other places to stay in Rameshwaram:
Bhoomi Kumudu is a beautifully built homestay surrounded by pine trees close to the Quest Academy. They have an attached pool and an outdoor shower as well. The beach is a short walk away from this property, and you can swim there as well.
Kushi Beach Resort
Kushi Beach Resort is located on Ariyaman beach. Despite being a resort, it provides dorms as well at very reasonable rates. You can indulge in seafood at their property. They have their swimming pool as well.
Note: The properties listed above are close to Mandapam, which lies before Rameshwaram. Although you can find many hotels and homestays in Rameshwaram, it is preferable to stay before Rameshwaram to avoid the crowds and enjoy a peaceful ambience.
Best restaurants in Rameshwaram
There are a lot of restaurants in Rameshwaram, especially around Ramanathaswamy temple. Following are a couple of places you can visit:
Sri Murugan Mess
It is a budget-friendly, vegetarian restaurant close to 100 metres from the Ramanathaswamy temple. They provide traditional South Indian cuisine on a banana leaf. The prices are very reasonable considering the quality that you get.
Ahaan Restaurant (Daiwik Hotel)
Ahaan Restaurant is a multi-cuisine restaurant close to the railway station. If you want to have North Indian food with some ambience, you should consider Ahaan Restaurant. They are a multicuisine restaurant with a buffet and a la carte options available.
Travel tips for Rameshwaram
- Wear a hat and hydrate yourself regularly as it becomes hot during the daytime.
- Carry a towel and swimwear if you plan to get drenched.
- If you can’t bear the summer heat, try to cover as many destinations as you can during sunrise or sunset.
- Apart from a few roadside stalls, there are no restaurants or places to stay in Dhanushkodi. Also, you can’t stay in Dhanushkodi beyond sunset.
- Stay in Rameshwaram town only if you want to save some time. Else it’s always better to stay on the outskirts of Rameshwaram for a better ambience and experience.
- The majority of the cuisine in Rameshwaram is South-Indian. Seafood is also an option here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Rameshwaram famous for?
Rameshwaram temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of India and the southernmost out of all. Lord Rama is believed to have offered his prayers to Lord Shiva here before he started his journey to Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from Ravana.
What is the best time to visit Rameshwaram?
Being a tropical place, the weather in Rameshwaram is generally hot and humid. Especially during the daytime, it becomes difficult to stay outdoors for a long time with the harsh sunlight. Therefore the months from October to March are generally a better time to visit Rameshwaram when the temperature becomes better.
Is Sri Lanka visible from Rameshwaram?
Although Sri Lanka is close to 30 km away from the tip of Dhanushkodi, you cannot see Sri Lanka from there.
Can we see Rama Setu?
According to geology experts, Rama Setu was a chain of limestone shoals that used to connect Dhanushkodi to Mannar Island in Sri Lanka up until the 15th century. Subsequent storms have however deepened the path and it is no longer visible.
Rameshwaram has always been famous as a destination for religious tourism. But as I figured out, this place has so much to offer in historical and water tourism as well. The fact that it is not very commercialised right now is only a good thing for us.
The only drawback of this place is its location. As it is situated on the south-eastern tip of Tamil Nadu, it is not close to any of the major cities in South India. However, the journey you undertake will be worth it once you experience Rameshwaram.
Have you visited Rameshwaram? Do you have any experience to share or any suggestions/recommendations? Do let me know in the comments below, and I will be happy to have a look.