If you are a tourist to Madurai, Tamilnadu, India on a pilgrimage to visit important temples of the South, or a pleasure seeker by visiting attractive tourist spots – both of you have many options. There are a lot of places in and around Madurai to visit and enjoy your time.
On a broad division, you can have two itineraries to follow – 1) Visit the temple towns of Srivilliputhur, Palani, and Rameswaram which are most important pilgrimage temples of the South; or 2) visit the picnic spots of Vaigai Dam; Kumbakkarai Water falls; Suruli Water falls; Kodaikanal hill resort; Megamalai and Pazhamuthircholai; About 10km southwest of Madurai on the way to Tirumangalam is Thiruparankundram, popular for the ancient Muruga Temple and the hilltop darga.
While the first option - to visit popular temples near Madurai, you can have regular bus services to go there, spend time as you like at the temples and return back to Madurai even late night and hit the sack, the second option is different.
A picnic should be hassle-free and you should have a vehicle at your disposal, to embark from the hotel steps and after going round the places, get dropped again at the hotel. So engage a tourist car at Madurai (you can bargain and arrive at a rate mutually agreed) depending upon the distance run, at the kilometer rent (Rs.6 per KM is the norm).
In the case of Kodaikanal, it is a hill resort with so much of things to do – boating in the lake; walking in the trails; riding the pony for fun; seeing round the botanical garden; visiting Kurinji Andavar Temple of Lord Murugan; Pillar Rocks; Suicidal point (just to peep and get back of course!) Brynt Park; Museum etc. So it would be advisable to allot 3 full days, having a separate schedule, stay there and enjoy everything. As Kodaikanal is situated at an altitude of 2,133 meters, the weather will be a very pleasant one - as opposed to the hot and sultry tropical Madurai weather.
Madurai to Kodaikanal is 120 KMs and all the busses heading to Chennai, have to pass through Kodai Road (bottom of Kodaikanal hill) on the National Highway NH-7. You can catch a regular shuttle bus to go uphill (Rs.15) and settle down in any of the hotels around the Bus stand.
Vaigai dam is 70 KMs away from Madurai, on the Vaigai River for irrigation purposes. It has been beautified with a lucrative garden, to attract tourists to spend their time leisurely.
Kumbakkarai Water falls is 105 KMs from Madurai and is amidst the scenic beauty of Kodai Hills with thick forest. Water falls from a height of 87 ft. and it is the base camp for trekkers.
Suruli Water Falls is 120 KMs on the way to Thekkadi, where you will enjoy a beautiful waterfalls – falling in two stages - one from 150 feet, running as a pool and again falling from 40 feet. Megamalai is on the slopes of Western Ghats (130 KMs) with tea-plantations. Pazhamuthicholai is just 20 KMs from Madurai to spend time in enjoying the hill-top surroundings with a stream, Lord Murugan Temple, and lush greenery around.
Srivilliputhur Andal Temple is one of the 108 Special abodes of Lord Vishnu (74 KMs); Palani hill temple is popular all over India, as one of the Six abodes of Lord Murugan (120 KMs) and Rameswaram is on the seashore (164 KMs), drawing devotees in thousands, to visit two Lord Siva temples and the sculptured marvel of Third Caridor standing on 1212 stone pillars.