Famed for its production of salt, Marakkanam is a small town on the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu. It’s traversed by part of a 420-kilometre-long canal that was built by the British Raj in the 19th century to transport goods north to Chennai and south to Puducherry. Ancient Hindu temples, mosques and churches cluster in its streets while a sprawling wetland attracts birdlife from near and far.
Things to do
Don’t miss a visit to the Boomieshwarar Temple, which was built around 1,000 years ago by the Chola dynasty kings in dedication to Lord Shiva. Also centuries old is the Varadharaja Perumal Temple, while the Thropadhi Amman Temple is famed for its 25-day festival that ignites Marakkanam each May.
Where the Buckingham Canal meets the Bay of Bengal lie the ruins of Alamparai Fort, a 17th-century Mughal fortification that was constructed using limestone and bricks. It once featured a 100-metre-long dockyard from which ghee, salt and zari cloth were exported, with the fort taken by the French during the Carnatic Wars and destroyed after being captured by the British in 1760.
Just south of Marakkanam sprawls Kaliveli Lake, a seasonal wetland that provides an important habitat for migratory birds. It’s one of the largest wetlands in India and has been identified as globally significant by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with kingfishers and long-legged flamingos regularly spotted wading in its shallow waters.
Marakkanam is just under an hour’s drive from Puducherry and Puducherry Airport, which has regular flights to Bangalore and Hyderabad. The much-larger Chennai International Airport is just over two hours away. Buses travel throughout the region while rickshaws are readily available for getting around the town.