Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is a bustling city known for its ancient temples, vibrant arts scene, natural wonders, and delectable culinary culture. The city is home to some of the most stunning examples of heritage architecture in India, such as the Kapaleeshwarar Temple and Fort St. George. In addition, Chennai is ideally located near some of the most exquisite destinations in Southern India, including Mahabalipuram, Puducherry, and the enchanting Pulicat Lake, making it the perfect base for exploring the rich cultural and historical tapestry of the region.
The neighbouring places of Mahabalipuram and Puducherry offer a diverse range of experiences. Mahabalipuram boasts exquisite rock-cut temples and ancient monuments, while Puducherry uniquely blends French colonial charm and Indian spirituality. From Chennai, you can embark on a journey that unveils the multifaceted beauty of the region.
Explore the top 5 places to visit near Chennai this long weekend that tell you about the rich cultural tapestry of southern India.
Puducherry is a beautiful destination that combines French elegance, spirituality, and pristine beaches. It provides a captivating experience with its famous Auroville and Aurobindo Ashram, which attracts seekers from within 200 km of Chennai. The exquisite cuisine in the French Riviera echoes in the local delicacies. A visit to the Aurobindo Ashram, which was founded in 1926, provides spiritual enlightenment and an opportunity to discover local treasures. Auroville, founded in 1968, is home to the revered Matrimandir and promotes global harmony. The bustling 1.2 km beachfront Promenade beside White Town is a must-visit spot to enjoy French delights and aromatic coffee.
To reach Puducherry from Chennai, you can take a bus, taxi, or drive by car, which usually takes 3-4 hours. Another option is to take a train from Chennai to Puducherry, with a journey time of around 3-4 hours. You can also ride a motorcycle or scooter, covering the approximately 150-kilometre distance at your own pace.
When you hear about Mysore, the first thing that comes to mind is the Mysore Palace. This opulent official residence of the Wadiyar Dynasty was constructed in the 14th century and later rebuilt in 1912. The palace is home to the famous Doll's Pavilion, Gombe Thotti, which features traditional dolls from bygone eras and wooden elephants decorated with gold. Except on Sundays, you can witness the breathtaking Mysore Palace illumination and the captivating light and sound show from 7 p.m. onwards. If you're looking for a nature getaway, you should explore the vast Brindavan Gardens, which cover 150 acres and boast enchanting fountains illuminated at night. And, of course, remember to check out the engineering marvel of Kabini Dam, nestled amidst lush greenery, providing the perfect backdrop for stunning selfies.
The most common way is to travel by train from Chennai to Mysore Junction, with a journey time of approximately 7-10 hours. Alternatively, you can opt for a bus or drive by car, with a road distance of about 480 kilometres, and it can take 7-9 hours. If you prefer flying, the nearest airport to Mysore is the Mandakalli Airport, approximately 12 kilometres from the city centre, and you can book a domestic flight from Chennai to reach there.
Mahabalipuram is a must-visit destination for those who appreciate the architectural wonders of the Pallava dynasty, which dates back to the 7th century. Located within 100 km of Chennai, this site is perfect for a day trip. One of the most captivating sights here is Krishna's Butter Ball, an architectural marvel that defies gravity, with a giant boulder precariously perched atop a hill. Another gem is the Shore Temple, located by the Bay of Bengal. This temple, a dedication to Lord Vishnu and Shiva, is one of seven temples built in its style. It is a UNESCO heritage site that dates back to the 8th century.
Pancha Rathas is another monolithic architectural masterpiece featuring five chariots carved from single stone blocks. Each chariot is named after the Pandava brothers and Draupadi from the Mahabharata. A visit to this site will leave you in awe of our ancestors' architectural prowess. The site is open to visitors from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an entry fee of INR 10 for Indian citizens.
To reach Mahabalipuram from Chennai, you can easily drive or take a short bus ride, as it's approximately 55 kilometres (34 miles) away from Chennai. The most convenient way is to hire a taxi or ride-sharing service for a comfortable and quick journey. It typically takes around 1-2 hours by road, depending on traffic conditions.
Coorg, also known as the Scotland of India, is a peaceful and beautiful retreat surrounded by lush coffee plantations and waterfalls. The town of Madikeri, nestled in the Western Ghats, is a perfect blend of natural beauty and historical charm. Coorg offers many experiences, from tasting some of the best coffee in India to exploring the 17th-century architectural wonders, from enjoying the stunning Abbey Falls to finding inner peace in the serene Bylakuppe. The historic Madikeri Fort, with its unique combination of a temple, a church, a prison, and a museum, provides an excellent viewpoint to witness breathtaking sunsets. A trek through the verdant trail leading up to Abbey Falls builds excitement before experiencing the exhilarating sight of water flowing from a height of 70 feet.
In Nagarhole National Park, which is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and Project Tiger, visitors can encounter majestic tigers, Asiatic elephants, and a diverse range of wildlife, including over 250 species of birds, making it a paradise for bird enthusiasts. Bylakuppe, the second-largest Tibetan settlement after Dharamsala, is home to the captivating Namdroling Monastery, also known as the Golden Temple. This cultural masterpiece attracts visitors all year round, especially during the festivities of Losar, the Tibetan New Year.
The most direct way is by car, covering a distance of about 600 kilometres, which takes approximately 10-12 hours on the road. Another option is taking a flight from Chennai to Mangalore, the nearest major airport to Coorg, and then proceeding by road for about 4-6 hours. Bus services are also available but can be time-consuming, taking around 12-14 hours.
Pulicat is a serene coastal town within the Thiruvallur district, only an hour and a half drive from Chennai. Despite its modest size, this picturesque beach town offers an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The town's star attractions are the Pulicat Lake and its accompanying Bird Sanctuary, which attract an array of migratory birds worldwide and make it a year-round delight for nature enthusiasts. It's a trendy destination during the vibrant Flamingo Festival in the winter months. Visitors can also explore the Dutch Cemetery, colonial-era churches, forts, and nearby villages to add a historical touch to their visit. The delectable seafood further enhances the experience of this coastal retreat.
If you're driving, the Chennai-Kolkata Highway (NH16) offers a straightforward route, covering a distance of 60-70 kilometres, typically taking about 1.5 to 2 hours. Alternatively, you can opt for a bus ride, with several local and state-run services connecting Chennai to Pulicat, generally taking 2-3 hours. However, there's no direct train route, and the nearest railway station is Sulurpeta, located around 12 kilometres from Pulicat.