Tranquebar (or Tharangambadi) is a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The best way of getting to Tranquebar is by bus. Bus route 324 runs all the way from CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal) in Madras along the coast to Nagapattinam south of Tranquebar. The bus will make stops in Pondicherry, Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Tranquebar and Karaikal on the way to Nagapattinam, so it is perfect if you already are in one of these cities. From Madras the trip will take around 7-8 hours, from Pondicherry around 4 hours, from Karikal around 30 minutes and from Nagapattinam around one hour. The busses come in three different classes: Regular, UD (ultra deluxe) and AC (Air Conditioning). Regular busses are bad even by Indian standards, Ultra deluxe busses are bad by western standards (no A/C or reclining seats) while AC busses (blue and white with closed windows) are really good. A trip from Madras to Nagapattinam on AC bus is less than ₹300, so unless you are on a really tight budget AC is the way to go.
Tranquebar is better known with its local name, Tharangambadi, so ask for bus/taxi for the same.
Tranquebar is small enough for you to easily be able to walk around and the entire area can be covered in 3-4 hours. If you are a true history buff and want to see all the sites like the remains of Peter Anker’s country house and gardens or the Governor’s Mansion in nearby Porayar, it may make sense to hire a pedal bike. If you’re starting from Pondicherry, its possible to start and return from Tranquebar the same day.
- Fort Dansborg. Is a Danish 17th century fort facing the coast. The construction of the fort began immediately after the arrival of the first Danish trading expedition and the establishment of a treaty regulating trading rights between the Nayak Raghunatha in Thanjavur and the Danish East India Company in 1620. Until the end of the 17th century the fort was used for residential and storage purposes; subsequent increase in population forced the Danes to move out and occupy surrounding areas as well. While it was previously crumbling away, the Fort has received substantial renovation efforts recently, by both Indian volunteers and Danish non profit organisations. It houses a small museum inside that has some artifacts and a history of the Danish Settlement. Entry fee is ₹5 per person. 10-30 AM to 5 PM
- The Masilamani Nathar Temple, On the beach (Near the Bungalow on the Beach). Dating back to the Pandian era, this temple was erected in 1306. An inscription to this effect is exhibited in the Dansborg Museum. The temple was dilapidated and heavily eroded by the sea but thanks to restoration undertaken by INTACH, the temple is now as good as new and is worth a visit.
- The New Jerusalem Church, King Street. Built in 1718 after the arrival of German missionaries, when the existing church proved too small for the growing Christian population.
- The Old Danish Cemetery, Kavalamettu Street. Small cemetery that holds the whitewashed graves of several Danish colonial officials and tradesmen. Don’t expect a Danish style cemetery as found in Copenhagen. It is a small compound with a locked gate and several headstones standing forlornly in a barren patch of land.
- The Town Gate, King’s Street. ‘Landporten’ as the Town Gate is called in Danish forms part of the fortifications that were built around Tranquebar in the 1660s. In 1791 the original gate was destroyed and the existing one constructed in its place.
- The Ziegenbalg Museum Complex, Admiral Street. Interesting to see a building here marked the “First Printing Press” though the first printing press in India was originally housed in the Mission House on King’s Street. Bibliophiles would know that the first book to be published in India was the Bible in Tamil.
- The Zion Church, King Street. Consecrated in 1701, it is the oldest protestant Church in India. Prominent with its combination of colonial and Indian architectural features, its construction together with the fortification of the town marked the moving out and spreading of the Danish population into the surrounding settlement. The structure went through many reconstructions before it reached its present form.