Gangaikondacholapuram (35 km): Gangaikondacholapuram was the capital of Rajendra Chola (1012-1044 AD), the son of the great Chola king Raja Raja. According to history, Rajendra Chola had conquered several northern kingdoms in order to bring the holy waters of river Ganges to his kingdom. As a mark of celebration, he created a "liquid pillar of victory" (Jalamaya Sthambha), a tank where the vassal kings contributed Ganga water as tribute to the conqueror. Hence he was called Gangaikondahola, the Chola king who brought the Ganga -- and the town was named after him. The Shiva temple here, dedicated to Lord Brihadeeshwara, is similar in many aspects to the temple in Tanjore. There are some striking sculptures of Mahisasuramardini, Nataraja, Ardhanariswara, Chandikeshwara, etc.
Darasuram (3 km): Situated on the outskirts of Kumbakonam, Darasuram contains ancient temples of great architectural merit. The Airavateswara temple is the most important of them all. According to the Puranas, Shiva is said to have appeared here in the form of a Rudraksha (holy beads) tree. Yama, the god of death, did a long penance to Shiva at this spot to cure himself of an ailment and then obtained permission to build a temple and observe a festival (Mahotsavam) annually for 10 days which is still celebrated in the months of August-September.
The temple is said to have been constructed originally by the celestial architect Vishwakarma. The present temple, however, was built by the Chola King Raja Raja II, in the 12th century.
Karaikal (55 km): A French territory till 1949, Karaikal is a small seaport town named after Karaikal Ammaiyar, the only woman among all the Saivite saints. The Ammaiyar temple in the heart of the town attracts large crowds during the annual Mangani (mango) festival. There are some old churches and mosques of importance in Karaikal.
Swamimalai (8 km): This is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya. The temple has been built at an elevation of 30 m (100 ft). Lord Subramanya is called Swaminatha, because he initiated his father Lord Shiva, into the mysterious significance of the divine "Pranava Mantra". The shrine to the Lord Subramanya is situated on top of the hill and the shrine of Shiva is situated below, indicating the fact that the son and father stood here as master and disciple.
Tirubhuvanam (5 km): The deity in this temple is called Kampahareswara, since Shiva was said to have removed the quaking (kampa) of a certain king who was haunted by evil spirit. The architecture is similar to the Tanjore, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram temples. Tirubhuvanam is named after Kulothunga Chola III who called himself
Tirubhuvana Chakravarthi and was responsible for building the temple.
Tirunallar (50 km): Tirunallar is important for the Darbhareneswara temple. A legend says that king Nala was relieved of the affliction of Saturn (Sanneeswaran), after worshipping Lord Shiva in this temple. Among the Navagrahas (nine planets), Saturn occupies an important place. The Sani Peyarchi festival, held once in two-and-a-half years to propitiate the malefic effect of Saturn is attended by large crowds.
Tranquebar (Tarangambadi) (65 km): The brick wall which encircled this town is now in ruins. The river fortifications of this town were found by Ore Gedde on behalf of the Danish East India Company in 1620 AD. Built close to the sea in gothic style, it became the property of the King of Denmark in 1624 AD. In 1825, it was ceded to the English East India Company.