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The Marina Beach at Chennai is the longest urban beach in the country and the eleventh longest in the world. Thirteen kilometers long, its main promenade is lined by stately, colonial-era buildings and flanked by the 1644 Fort St. George (the first British-built fort in India) and the 16th century Portuguese-built San Thome church (over the supposed grave of the apostle St. Thomas). The beach falls within one of India’s three nesting grounds for the critically endangered Oliver Ridley turtles. Beach resorts stretch all the way down the coast to Mahabalipuram, with Covelong being the only one on the east coast to offer wind surfing facilities.

More than a dozen beaches dot the Tamil Nadu coast. While it is a typically rough sea at the Marina beach, the ocean at Rameshwarambeach could almost be mistaken for a very wide river (average height of the waves – 3cms!). One of India’s major pilgrim spots, Rameshwaram is only 50 kilometers across the Palk Straits to Sri Lanka.

Kanyakumari is another major tourist and pilgrim spot, at the southernmost tip of the state and the subcontinent itself. From the massive Vivekananda Rock (on which the great sanyasi meditated), one can see the merging of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Mahatma Gandhi, too, had visited Cape Comorin (as the British dubbed it) and his ashes were immersed in the ocean here. The multi hued sand on the beach is a rarity. So, too, the sight, at twilight,on certain clear days of the year, of the sunset and the moonrise simultaneously over the horizons.

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