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Unstained Salem

Synonymous with stainless steel, Salem’s other charms usually go unremarked. About 160 km from Coimbatore, this small city on the route to many better-known getaway destinations is overlooked by tourists. While religious travellers flock here, Salem is as significant for its lush greenery, waterfalls and rich history. Part 9 of an Outlook Special on unknown tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

A bustling modern commercial hub, yet steeped in tradition. An atmosphere of commerce and industry, yet imbued with the fragrance of faith. A testament to man’s skill and achievements and a witness to nature’s bounty. The town of Salem is all this and more. 

The history highway
Evidence of human civilisation in Salem can be traced back to the Stone Age. Salem has seen the rule of the Cholas, Pallavas, Chalukayas and Hoysalas, all of which built imposing forts and temples here that still stand after centuries.

The Sankagiri Fort, about 38 km from Salem, was built in the 15th century by the Vijayanagar Empire. Twelve walls were built on by the British. The fort was an important military base for Tipu Sultan, for the British army later and also as a British tax storage facility for Kongu Nadu. 

Temple tales
The area is home to religious shrines that include the Kottai Mariamman Temple, Siddhar Temple and the famous ISKCON Temple, all ensconced among verdant hills.  About 22 kilometres away is the Sundhara Kandhaswamy Kovil, one of the richest temples in the district. In the extreme northern end of the Jarugu hill, the Adhya-vadhutha Swami temple about 5 kilometres from Salem, is another pilgrimage spot. 

The 1008 lingam temple in Ariyanoor, a suburb of Salem, is one of the most beautiful temples in India. Here, 1007 shiv lingam surround the main temple of Shiva, with the main Shiv linga in the centre. The surrounding mountains and greenery create an ethereal sense of serenity. 

Landscape landmarks
Salem is also blessed with natural beauty and sits at the foot of the Yercaud Hills. Yercaud, 1515 metres above sea level, is a preferred destination and Yercaud Lake, surrounded by dense forests, is serene spot. Adventure lovers can go hiking in these forests, while tourists with gentler interests can enjoy boating on the Emerald lake at the TTDC boat house.  

Other tourist attractions include Kiliyur Falls that drops from a height of 300 feet from Yercaud Lake, Anna Park, home to a range of natural plants and trees. The Lady's Seat, a well-known viewpoint, overlooks the winding ghat road and offers a spectacular view of Mettur Dam and Salem town. A viewing tower with a telescope is open for visitors during the day. The Pyramid or Pagoda Point is another ideal vantage point overlooking the valleys.

The Mettur Dam is a picture-perfect picnic spot. The largest dam in Tamil Nadu, this stretches across the Kaveri. Ellis Park at the base of the dam is a beautiful spot.

Cultivation culture
Salem district is conducive to plantation farming. Coffee plantations, orange groves and orchidarium all offer guided tours to visitors. 

As a city, Salem is a unique blend of nature, culture and pilgrimage at the same time and the traveller is spoilt for choice in terms of the places to explore as much as the things to do. 

Shopping shenanigans
Salem’s distinctive charm makes one forget that Salem is a commercial hub. Salem’s synonymity with steel is well known but Salem is also a centre of textile production. Handloom products in pure cotton or powerloom in polyester and blended fabrics – both are made and sold here. The silverwork of Salem is also famous – especially the silver anklets. 

Getting there
By air: The nearest international airports are Trichy about 135 kilometres away and Coimbatore about 150 kilometres away
By rail: Salem is an important railway junction Salem 
By road: Three important National highways intersect at Salem 

Accommodation
Hotel Tamil Nadu and Youth Hostel, Yercaud
Near Lake, Yercaud - 636 602
Contact : 91 9176995823

TTDC Boat House, Yercaud
Lake Road, Yercaud - 636 602
Contact : 91 4281 222 273

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