Unless you’re a practitioner of the faith, it’s not often you get an up-close look at the oldest religion in the world. Your journey begins as you enter the central courtyard, passing through a gateway under the complex’s tallest gopuram. Step inside the Main Temple, home to four shrines dedicated to Shiva, Meenakshi, Vishnu and Lakshmi. Watch as someone presents an offering of jewelry, fruit or flowers, and take a moment of your own to meditate.
Find your way back to the courtyard to see vibrant chalk art (kolam), a distinctive South-Indian style of painting that utilizes geometrical lines and curved loops drawn around a grid pattern of dots. In the Ayyappa Sanctum, you’ll see The Holy 18 Steps that can only be ascended by those who have taken the 41 days of penance. Travel outside the temple walls to see the national bird of India in the Peacock Sanctuary, just one of the many other things you can see at the temple.
Although you can visit the temple every day of the year, you won’t want to miss out on such major events as the Chithirai Mahotsavam festival in April and Diwali in October.