Tiruvannamalai is situated 185 km from the capital Chennai, located to the east of Eastern Ghats.
Tiruvannamalai is named after the central deity of the Annamalaiyar Temple, Annamalaiyar. The Karthigai Deepam festival is celebrated during the day of the full moon between November and December, and a huge beacon( approximately with 3 tons of ghee) is lit atop the Annamalai hill. The height of the Annamalai hill is approximately 2,669 ft.

The temple complex covers an area of 10 ha, and is one of the largest temples in India. It houses four gopurams, the tallest is the eastern tower, with 11 stories and a height of 66 m, making it one of the tallest temple towers in India. The temple has numerous shrines, with those of Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most prominent. The temple complex houses many halls; the most notable is the thousand-pillared hall built during the Vijayanagar period.

In Annamalaiyar temple, Shiva is said to have manifested himself as a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet could not be found by the Hindu gods, Brahma and Vishnu.

The recorded history of the town dates back to the ninth century, as seen from a Chola inscriptions in the temple. The seventh century Nayanar saints Sambandar and Appar wrote of the temple in their poetic work, Tevaram. There are inscriptions that show the area as an urban center before the precolonial period, with the city developing around the temple.

Tirumalai is an ancient Jain temple complex in the outskirts of Tirvannamalai that houses three Jain caves, four Jain temples and a 16ft high sculpture of Neminatha dated from the 12th century and the tallest Jain image in Tamil Nadu.

The Ramana Ashram and ashram of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, located around the Annamalai hill are popular visitor attractions of Tiruvannamalai. The Sathanur Dam over the Thenpennair river located 20km southwest of the town is a prominent picnic spot. A scenic park is also present adjacent to this dam. Ulagalantha Perumal Temple in Tirukoyilur and Thiruvarangam, situated 20km south of Tiruvannamalai are prominent Vishnu temples that are located around Tiruvannamalai.