Offbeat Travel From Chennai Will Lead You To Hidden Gems

Looking for weekend getaways from Chennai? Ditch the usual tourist spots and visit these fun destinations
Horsley Hills is called the Ooty of Andhra Pradesh
Horsley Hills is called the Ooty of Andhra PradeshWikimedia Commons

Leave behind the tried and tested, and venture forth into offbeat, quirky, insightful and fun new destinations that you can visit from your city. We bring you some offbeat weekend plans out of Chennai. If you're done with a jaunt to Pondicherry or Mahabalipuram, then look no further than these destinations. From the endless panoramas of the Horsley Hills to the heritage of Chidambaram and a few treks in the Nilgiris, here are five weekend breaks from Chennai.

Horsley Hills

There are at least three things that make a visit to Horsley Hills in Andhra Pradesh an ideal weekend getaway --- lush, scenic surroundings, charismatic British Raj-era bungalows and good weather. Leave bustling Chennai behind and head north-west for 276 kms to these highlands located 4,152 feet above sea level.

You will find the usual tourist skitter scatter, but also a bunch of worthwhile attractions such as Gali Bandalu (windy rock). True to its name, it is a perpetually windy rocky slope, known for its splendid hill vistas and sunset sights. Similar is Gurram Kond (horse hill), around 40 kms from Horsley and between the towns Madanapalle and Raichoti, which has a small fort at its foot.

The forests around Horsley are worth exploring on foot and in a vehicle. You can also visit the Yenugu Mallamma Temple near the hills, which is a relic to goddess Mallama.

Stay options: AP Tourism's Haritha Hill Resort Horsley Hills ( and Horsley Hills Holiday Homes (


The 400-year-old Fort Dansborg is built in Indo-European style
The 400-year-old Fort Dansborg is built in Indo-European styleMatthew T Rader/ Wikimedia Commons

Sometime in the 17th century, the Danes anchored their ships along the coast of Tharangambadi or Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu, soon establishing their first-ever presence in India as a colonial power. For the next two centuries, the village, today a town, acquired a very unique Danish-Indian character that is still visible in whatever remains of the townscape and its architecture.

Travel on the famous East Coast Road (ECR) towards Puducherry to reach the hamlet, located 279 kms south of Chennai. An essential highlight is the Fort Dansborg, just by the beach. It is distinctly European, complete with ramparts and an arched gate.

Other gems include the Danish Governor's House with its colonial features, the Zion Church, streets such as King Street and the ruins. If you wish to step back even further in time, you should not miss the Chola temple at Thirukadaiyur and the remains of the Pandya Temple.

Stay option: Bungalow on the Beach, owned by Neemrana, is an 18th-century colonial house (

Muthupet Lagoon

Muthupet lagoon has clean saline water and ample vegetation
Muthupet lagoon has clean saline water and ample vegetationWikimedia Commons

On the southern-most reaches of Tamil Nadu's Cauvery river delta, lies the quaint town of Muthupet, around 360 kms south of Chennai. While the town itself does not offer a whole lot, its surrounding mangroves and lagoon make for quite the weekend getaway.

The groves here are formed by the meeting of multiple tributary rivers which also happen to sandwich the town. Of the thousands of hectares of mangroves, a portion is the Muthupet Lagoon, which is 8 kms from Muthupet town and only accessible by boat.

The beautiful lagoon has clean saline water and ample vegetation. Recreational boat services are available for visitors, who can stop at small islands during the ride. Plenty of birds and marine life are other attractions among the lush surroundings.

Stay option: Star Residency (For details visit

Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu

One of the attractions of Chidambaram Temple is a hall of 1,000 pillars
One of the attractions of Chidambaram Temple is a hall of 1,000 pillarsWikimedia Commons

No weekend getaways from Chennai list is complete without a temple town. South India boasts of many, but there's something about Chidambaram that makes it stand out from the others. It may only be as holy as the others, but architecturally speaking, it is a unique marvel. Nataraja Temples complex is about 40 acres in size and filled with shrines of many deities, numerous temple gopurams and prakarams and other splendid relics of a glorious kingdom past (mostly as an important part of the Chola kingdom).

Around 226 kms south of Chennai via ECR, the temple is primarily a colossal structure with four towers (the tallest being 135 feet), many idols, painted walls and countless tiles. It also has many prakarams and smaller temples within its structure as well. Outside the complex, the Thillai Kali Amman Temple, a temple to goddess Kali, is a popular visit.

Stay options: Hotel Saradharam, a 3-star option ( and Akshaya Hotel (

Trekking The Nilgiris

The Nilgiris, or the blue mountains, is a good trekking option
The Nilgiris, or the blue mountains, is a good trekking optionThavasvi arunachalam/ Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking to escape from the madding crowd by seeking solace in nature? Trek the blue jewel of the Western Ghats, the Nilgiris hill range. There are a few great options --- the three- to four-day Ooty to Mukurthi Lake trek being one. Ooty hill station is about 12 hours from Chennai.

On day one, you trek to Porthimund, which takes about six to eight hours and is reached via Parsons Peak and Parsons Valley. Day two and three are relatively shorter walks, and allow one to explore the scenic Mukurthi Lake and nearby areas. For day trekkers, there's the Conoor-The Droog trek. It takes about 10 hours to reach Conoor, which is known for its Nilgiri tea, from where you begin a trek to The Droog, a 16th century fort that legends say was used by Tipu Sultan. For those looking to rejuvenate, there are hot springs abound here.

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