Rameshwaram is a temple town located in Pamban Island, Tamil Nadu and is separated from mainland India by the Pamban bridge. It is an important pilgrimage centre for the Hindu religion and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.
But Rameshwaram is more than just a temple town.
From white beaches to turquoise blue waters to ruined towns, Rameshwaram is perfect for anyone who leaves beaches and history. This place has got a very laid-back vibe and is perfect for a weekend getaway.
In this article, I share with you some of the best places to visit in Rameshwaram and some history behind them that will make these places worth your time.
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. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located just 2 kms from the Rameshwaram railway station.
The huge complex has four main entrances and 22 wells each with a different water taste. Every devotee is supposed to bathe in these 22 wells to atone 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. In fact, 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.
The best time to visit the place would be early morning especially if you want to take bath in the 22 wells. You need to pay a nominal fee to the people designated to guide you around these wells. Carry dry clothes as well in case you plan to do so. Changing rooms are also available.
Pamban bridge/Annai Indira Gandhi road bridge
Pamban bridge also known as Rameshwaram bridge is another historical architectural marvel that is not to be missed. It is the first sea bridge of India opened in 1914 and also the second-longest sea bridge in India. It connects the Pamban Island that consists of towns like Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi to mainland India.
This railway bridge is built at a length of more than 2 kms and the centre of the 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 completely destroying the bridge.
After this event, the Pamban bridge had to be reconstructed but only till Rameshwaram as the town of Dhanushkodi was completely destroyed.
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 own vehicle, there is no place to park your vehicle on the bridge. However, you can briefly stop your vehicle on the side and take some pictures.
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 the 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. During his childhood, he had to resort to selling newspapers to raise income for his family that was going through financial hardships.
After his death 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 museum. Everything about his life is captured in great detail and the museum as a whole is well-maintained.
The one common theme that you come across in his well-documented life in the museum is that he was a very simple and selfless man. He wanted to do greater good to the society and always had a smile on his face. You are bound to feel inspired and emotional once you are done visiting the museum.
So if you are visiting Rameshwaram, make sure you take some time out for the Kalam National Memorial. 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
Dhanushkodi was once a thriving port town in Pamban Island located on the south-easternmost tip of India. The distance from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi is 18 kms and it shares the border between India and Sri Lanka. It used to be 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 office were completely 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.
Prior to 2017, you had to hire a jeep/tempo to visit Dhanushkodi as there was no road. But in 2017, a newly constructed road was built thereby making it convenient to drive your own vehicle to Dhanushkodi.
The drive to Dhanushkodi on this road is pretty scenic as you see Indian Ocean on one side and Bay of Bengal on the other. Vast stretches of white sands neighbouring the seas and 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 are transported back in time to a different place altogether. The entire town has been taken over by nature and what remains today are the ruins of a railway station, a church and a post office. There are several other ruins scattered across the white beaches of Dhanushkodi but the ones mentioned above stand out the most.
You are not supposed to stay back after sunset in Dhanushkodi so make sure that you visit it before sunset.
Dhanushkodi Point/Dhanushkodi Beach Point
Dhanushkodi literally means ‘end of the bow’. And the end of Dhanushkodi looks exactly like the shape of a bow.
This is the tip of Dhanushkodi where land meets water. The beautiful white beach that accompanied you on your journey to Dhanushkodi ends here.
The distance from Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka from this point is close to 30 kms.
Not only that, you see the confluence of Indian Ocean and 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 exists here which used to connect Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka.
According to mythology, Lord Rama built this bridge from this point 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 a period of time. In fact, 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 and is completely submerged under the sea. It can, however, be seen from an aerial perspective especially from a satellite view.
Ariyaman beach is a white sandy beach that stretches for more than 2 kms. It is located on Mandapam which is 21km away from 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 for 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.
The beach is surrounded by a forest that provides ample shade and also a place for parking your vehicle.
The best time to visit this beach would be in the morning or evening as it gets generally 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 south-east coast is one of the best locations in the country to indulge in water sports. Quest Adventure Sports Academy (QASA), which is located just before the Ariyaman beach, is an academy that teaches water sports like kayaking, kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing and scuba diving to name a few.
It is run by a bunch of passionate and professional folks from Mumbai. They provide industry-recognized certifications ranging from a beginner level to an expert level in various water sports.
Even if you don’t want to indulge in water sports, you can still stay at their academy as they provide various accommodation options and homely food as well. Their property, known as Kathadi North, is built on a beautiful beach with white sands and covered with palm trees.
They have hammocks, open-air showers and swimming pool within their property.
You can visit https://www.quest-asia.com/ 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 kms. 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.
Rameshwaram is a major railhead and is 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 to Rameshwaram.
There are also overnight buses from Bangalore to Rameshwaram. However, there are no direct buses from Kochi.
How to travel in Rameshwaram
The most ideal way to travel around Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi is by driving your own vehicle because the roads are really good and the landscape that you see as you drive 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, just make sure that you take breaks in between your journey instead of just getting down at the final destination because the journey is equally important.
Where to stay in Rameshwaram
Kathadi North (Quest Academy)
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 life. So as a bonus, not only will you get a chance to learn water sports but you will also learn more about the different aspects of a village life.
The accommodation options involve cottages, dorms and tents with complimentary breakfasts. They serve wholesome, healthy and fresh food.
The hosts are very friendly and welcoming and will make sure that you have a good time here. To make the most of the stay, it is recommended that you indulge in some water sports.
Bhoomi Kumudu is quite an interesting concept and is definitely one to keep in mind if you want to live close to nature. It is located 30 km before Rameshwaram in a small fishing hamlet.
It is basically one house built in an open area surrounded by pine trees. They have an attached swimming pool and an outdoor shower as well.
You can camp outside and cook your own food. The beach is a short walk away from this property and you can swim there.
The interior of the house is just as open as the exterior. The ground floor has all the common amenities and the first floor has the bedroom.
Kushi Beach Resort
Kushi Beach Resort is located on the Ariyaman beach. Despite being a resort, it provides dorms as well at very reasonable rates.
The staff is very friendly and the food is great. They provide seafood as well.
The location of the resort is quite peaceful since it is on the Ariyaman beach and the rooms and bathrooms are kept clean. They have their own swimming pool in case you want to swim.
Best time to visit Rameshwaram
Being a tropical place, the weather in Rameshwaram is generally hot and humid. Especially during 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 good time to visit Rameshwaram when the temperature cools down. But even otherwise, you can visit this place anytime you want.
Best restaurants in Rameshwaram
You will find quite a few restaurants in Rameshwaram town. Here are some of them:
Sri Murugan Mess
This restaurant is located close to the Ramanathaswamy temple. It is more like a small house with basic tables and chairs but don’t be fooled by the ambience because this place is always crowded.
Their food is known for being healthy and tasty. They provide traditional South Indian cuisine on a banana leaf. The prices are also very reasonable considering the quality that you get.
Ahaan Restaurant (Daiwik Hotel)
If you want to have North Indian food with some ambience, you should consider Ahaan Restaurant. They are a multicuisine restaurant and they have both buffet and a la carte options available.
The quality of their food is great irrespective of the cuisine. The staff is well-mannered and the prices are reasonable.
Ahaan Restaurant is close to the railway station.
ABS – A Barbeque Shop
ABS has non-vegetarian and seafood options apart from providing barbeques. The food is tasty and the prices are reasonable. There is no dine-in option available as it is a takeaway place. If you are staying in Rameshwaram town, you can also order food from them.
Although being a tiny island that is connected to mainland India only by a bridge, Rameshwaram is still a very important town of India. During my visit, I realised that this town has a lot of potential especially in terms of historical and water tourism. The fact that it is not very commercialised right now is only a good thing for us.
If you have visited this tiny island, do let me know what you liked the most about Rameshwaram in the comments.