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Best Places To Visit Near Chennai - Weekend Getaways
Chennai, one of India’s main metros and South India’s most significant economic and social centre, made for the hub of the British Presidency too at one point in time. Erstwhile called the Madras Presidency, later Madras, and now Chennai, this city is a mix of coasts, beaches, temples and ancient colonial structures. But of course, who can ever stop with new places and new experiences? That’s how we have derived this listing for you, so that you can explore not only Chennai but the beautiful places and weekend getaways that branch out of its heart. From hill stations to beach towns, temple towns to ruins, there is much to be fancied when starting for a weekend outing from Chennai.
Yelagiri is a hill station, about 227 km from Chennai’s city centre. Stationed in the district of Vellore, Yelagiri is a charming little town with lush green sceneries, tribal villages, boats bobbing up and down in man-made lakes and hills that are cooling to the eye. This is a perfect weekend escapade as you get to relax, enjoy some time out picnicking by the waterfalls, go boating, try some hikes and return completely rejuvenated.
One of the chicest, most beautiful cities of India, Pondicherry is really a Union Territory and a must-visit, not only as a weekend getaway from Chennai but also as a nice long holiday in its own right. It used to be a French Colony before independence, and now stands testament to a hybrid of Tamil and French cultures, with architecture, food, languages and mood of the two mixing seamlessly. Since it is only 161 km away from Chennai, Pondicherry can be easily reached for a weekend off. With its chic cafes, pastel and yellow coloured buildings, cobble stone streets and rock-shingle beaches, Pondicherry is amazing for getting those swoon-worthy Instagram photos.
Popularly called the ‘Silk City,’ Kanchipuram is renowned world over for its gorgeous silk sarees called the ‘Kanjivaram.’ These are all the rage currently, with designers going gaga over the weave and its bright colours woven with gold threads. So that’s one incentive to take a trip to Kanchipuram, ladies! It is only 72 km from Chennai and is best visited through the winter months. What more can you do here (that’s if you get your head out of its gorgeous shopping experiences!)? Well, there are temples with soulful Dravidian architecture - Devarajaswami, Kailasanathar, Ekambareswarar and the Kamakshi Amman Temple. You can also take an afternoon to bird-watch at the Vedanthangla Bird Sanctuary.
A lush beautiful town in the Eastern Ghats, Nagalapuram is around 70 km from Chennai. It is home to thick waterfalls and sparkling natural pools, trekking trails and forest covers in the ghats. This is the best place for undulating treks and hikes, as well as for relaxation in the lap of nature. The town was established by King Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire, built in the memory of his mother. The Nagalapuram Falls are the most famous around here, and a must-see.
Nellore, birthplace of the great Telugu poet Tikkana Somayaji, who was credited with translation of 15 latter chapters of Mahabharata to Telugu, is still just as revered. Located 177 km away from Chennai, Nellore is home to the Penna River as well as paddy fields on its banks. From rice and sugarcane to prawns and shrimps, this place produces crops and seafood that is relished all over the country. The temples here are just as beautiful and revered, along with the Pulicat Lake and Somasila Dam attracting nature lovers in hoards. Other places to enjoy around include the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary and Udaygiri Fort.
The village of Chandragiri, 145 km away from Chennai, is home to the massive Chandragiri Fort. This 11th Century fort ensconces within its boundaries the palaces, chambers, royal structures and ruins today. You can also visit the Sri Venkateswara National Park, Zoological Park and the Archeological Museum nearby to enjoy your weekend off. A nice place for archeology enthusiasts and lovers of ancient history, as well as nature.
This town is located on the Coromandel Coast, around 280 km from Chennai. With its stunning colonial houses, forts, coasts and churches, Tranquebar is a heritage town through and through. Here you will get to explore the huge Dansborg Fort, New Jerusalem Church, Zion Church and the Danish influence of its history.
Also called Mamallapuram, this temple town is all about the five stone-carved chariots and Arjuna’s penance. With the stunning Mahabalipuram Beach, the beautiful Shore Temple and the Tiger Caves, you will be in for the time of your life while escaping Chennai’s city madness. Mahabalipuram is only 52 km from Chennai, which means it can be a great day trip too! You can take bicycle tours of the neighbouring hamlets, enjoy water sports by the beach and take your time absorbing all the brilliant rock carvings and temples.
Pulicat, a seaside town in Tamil Nadu, located 55 km away from Chennai on the island of Sriharikota, is a covetable weekend getaway for many reasons. One, being the massive Pulicat Lake, two being the famous beach. Of course, there’s a lot more here, from the bird sanctuary to the Dutch cemetery, the Fort to the nearby villages (Nelapattu and Vedurupattu). People also happen to wander down here to watch birds, domestic as well as some migratory species that throng the place during winters.
Tirumala, as the temple town of Tirupati is also called, is one of the most integral pilgrimage spots in South India. Dedicated to Lord Venkateshwar, an incarnation of Vishnu, this temple is one of the most visited pilgrimages in the country. And also one of the richest, with daily offerings of jewellery, precious stones, gold, cash and more coming in from the devotees so that Lord Vishnu can repay Kuber’s debt and return home to Vaikunth while granting devotees' boons. Tirupati is 135 km from Chennai, and is frequented by one and all.
136 km away from Chennai, Vellore is also called a ‘Fort City.’ The culture of Vellore is a throwback to its history and you get a taste of the Dravidian way of life in the architecture and heritage that endures in this place. Visit the Vellore Fort, check out the Jalakanteswara Temple and the gold-coated Srilakshmi Golden Temple. There are also lakes and waterfalls and hills for the nature-hungry souls here.
260 km from Chennai, Horsley Hills makes for a long weekend getaway, seeing as it has a plethora of activities for one and all. Situated on the border of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Horsley Hills has virgin mountain forests and beautiful thickets of Eucalyptus and Banyans, along with Wildlife Sanctuaries that are home to more than a hundred bird species. Visit Gali Bandalu, Horsley Hills Zoo, the Horsley Hills View Point and Gangotri Lake. You can go trekking, ride elephants, go zorbing and swimming too.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Vedanthangal, literally translated, means the hamlet of a hunter. And it was that once, but not today; instead, made into a protective Bird Sanctuary. It is the oldest of its kind, and is home to innumerable birds, local and migratory. Ornithologists, bird-watchers and photographers find this place a haven. From Chennai, Vedanthangal is 87 km away, and makes for a great day or two-day trip. Stroll through Barringtonia mangroves and see birds like blue-winged teal, garganey, pintail, grey wagtail and common sandpipe. It's marvellous, and more importantly, extremely relaxing.
Thekkady is a nice little cozy town in the Periyar National Park region. It is an overnight train or road journey from Chennai but totally worth it. Perched in the midst of coffee and cinnamon plantations on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Thekkady becomes highly coveted to escape in summers. The national park, along with the many little lakes and waterfalls ensure you get to soak in as much outdoorsy fun as possible. Deer, bisons, elephants… they tramp down roads as you pass, giving you a unique experience. You can stay in home-stays and treehouses, enjoy the eerie quiet of the jungles and feel like you were born wild here!
A long 335 km drive from Chennai, Chindambaram is another location that may take an overnight journey by road or train. But it is still a great deal interesting and worth every minute. From the glorious heritage of Chola dynasty to the busy local markets, from the magnificent Chidambaram Temple to the Annamalai University, which is the centre of Tamil studies; Chindambaram is rife with places to see over a weekend. The vibrant town beckons you with open arms, and this is the kind of town that you will surely want to return to!
Munnar is probably South India’s best hill station. The rolling tea estates, rising meadows and scattered diffused sunlight that filters through cottony clouds… heavenly indeed. Although Munnar is an overnight journey from Chennai, and not reached by train either, it still makes for a very coveted weekend getaway. A long weekend probably, because you wouldn’t want to returning in just 2 days. Take strolls through tea gardens, go for tea-tastings, enjoy the weather (in any season it is bound to be amazing), and visit the viewpoints to soak in what nature so generously bestows upon this place.