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Places near Chennai to visit

Discussion in 'Tamil Nadu' started by Sumati, May 17, 2017.

  1. Sumati

    Sumati New Member

    We are a family of five myself, my wife and three teenage children. As the school holidays have started we would like some help in finding a good place to visit. We don't want to go out too far and would like the destination to be close to Chennai so need some suggestions to places near Chennai to visit.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Sumati, welcome to the forum!

    Chennai Places Near.jpg
    (Images from Jean Pierre, Kalyan, Rue, McKay and Vinbhan)


    The city life can be very hectic and nerve wracking, especially for families who alternate between home and school or work. Most have routine schedules that they have to follow everyday, leading to a mundane lifestyle. Once in a while, it's important that city dwellers take some time out from their busy daily lives. Weekdays are for work which can enhance their career growth while weekends are for exploring nearby destinations that can expose them to a different side of living. For the locals of Chennai, there's no dearth of getaways that they can explore even with just a day or two to spare. But for those who aren't familiar with such places near the city, this guide is for you. Read on and find out which are the best places to visit near Chennai where you can rejuvenate, have that dose of thrill or just be away from the city life for a few hours.

    Places Near Chennai to Visit (Under 200 Kilometres)

    For the history buffs...

    1. Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu) - Under two hours of driving to the south of Chennai is the coastal town of Mahabalipuram. The history of the ancient town can be traced back to the 1st century as several references point to it as a flourishing harbour point during that time. Mahabalipuram's glorious era can be attributed during the rule of the Pallava dynasty though, around the 7th century. A fine example of the architectural style of this dynasty is the Shore Temple, built around the 8th century during the rule of Narasimhavarman II. Once upon a time, the temple was known as the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram, a complex comprised of seven temples dedicated to the Hindu deities, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Its beauty is known worldwide, its size so remarkable that it guided seafarers to the port during that time. Now though, only one of these seven temples remain, with intricate carvings of both deities carved upon a monolithic rock. The truly astonishing and magnificent Arjuna's Penance is a depiction of the scene from the Hindu mythology, the Mahabharata, when Arjuna did his penance to obtain the weapon of Shiva, the Pashupatastra. Carvings were engraved in two large boulders, replete with numerous scenes that it's hard to focus on just one section. The Pancha Rathas are also rock-cut carvings but this time, of the chariots or vehicles of various Hindu deities. The name can be confusing as they were named after the Pandavas although these rock-cut chariots are not really related to them. Do visit the cave temples of the town which are also designated as heritage sites like the Varaha Cave Temple, Krishna Cave Temple, Pancha Pandava Cave Temple and Mahishasuramardiri Cave Temple. Was it mentioned that all of these sites were given the UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition as well? If you're fond of unique phenomenon, a visit to Krishna's Butter Ball would complete your tour of Mahabalipuram, a huge boulder standing steadily on a sloping position for many years now.
    • Distance from Chennai - 56 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance, Pancha Rathas, Varaha Cave Temple, Krishna Cave Temple, Pancha Pandava Cave Temple, Mahishasuramardiri Cave Temple and Krishna's Butter Ball
    2. Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) - Kanchipuram is about two to three hours of driving to the southwest of Chennai. It is mostly known historically as the capital of the Pallava dynasty but the city was also ruled over by other empires such as the Cholas, Vijayanagars and even the Mughals. It has earned the nickname of City of a Thousand Temples, owing to the fact that it was once home to a thousand temples and more. The most popular and most visited religious site here is none other than the Ekambareshwar Temple. It is not known exactly when the temple was built but scholars have found references to this temple as early as the 6th century. The present structure built around the 9th century though can be attributed to the Chola dynasty. A unique temple with four very ornate gopurams and a shivalinga made from sand, it's a must visit for devout Hindus as it is one of the only five Pancha Bhoota Stalam temples. In contrast, the Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple was built during the 7th century during the Pallava rule. The temple was built using sandstone and signs of its age is already showing but you can still see the very intricate carvings on almost all of its walls and pillars. This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva and within the sanctum, there's this small space where devotees can crawl in to rid themselves of sins. A temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, also built during the Pallava rule in the 10th century, is known as the Varadharaja Perumal Temple. Again, the carvings here are intricate but the showstopper is the realistic chain carving hanging outside the main temple. The wooden idol of the main deity is also kept here in a small pond and only taken out once every 40 years for 10 days for poojas. Other ancient temples worth visiting here are the Kamakshi Amman Temple and Vaikunda Perumal Temple.
    • Distance from Chennai - 75 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Ekambareshwar Temple, Kanchi Kailasanathar Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple and Vaikunda Perumal Temple
    Ekambareshwar Temple in Kanchipuram (Image from Amiya)

    Enriching your spiritual side...

    3. Srikalahasti (Andhra Pradesh) - Srikalahasti is around a three-hour drive to the northwest of Chennai. A pilgrimage site mainly because it is home to the Sri Kalahasteeshwar Temple, also one of the five Pancha Bhoota Stalam temples. Originally, the temple was built during the 5th century by the Pallava dynasty but was renovated to its present structure by the Chola dynasty many years later in the 10th century. The temple has a pure white gopuram and is famed for its 100 pillars leading to the main sanctum. Here, Lord Shiva is known as Kalahasteeshwar while his consort, Parvati, is known as Gnana Prasunamba. Another temple worth visiting here is the Bhakta Kannappa Temple, a Shiva temple named after his staunch devotee, Kannappa. The temple can only be reached after an uphill climb of around 250 steps. It is a very simple white-washed temple which has shrines for both Shiva and Kannappa. Where Vishnu resides, that's the Prasanna Varadaraja Swamywaru Temple, which lies under the shadow of the Shiva temple that was first mentioned. It has the same South Indian style of architecture, with an ornate gopuram and pillared halls. You can enjoy a quicker darshan here since this temple isn't as frequented by devotees. Last but not the least is the Sahasra Linga Temple, located about 10 kilometres from the centre of the town. Its location is very picturesque, amidst the backdrop of hillocks and on the banks of the Swarnamukhi River. Within the temple, you would find around 1,000 shivalingams which are believed to have been carved out of a single stone. It requires a bit of an effort to reach the temple, with an uphill and downhill climb of around 200 steps.
    • Distance from Chennai - 116 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Sri Kalahasteeshwar Temple, Bhakta Kannappa Temple, Prasanna Varadaraja Swamywaru Temple and Sahasra Linga Temple
    4. Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) - Tirupati is a three to four hours journey to the northwest of Chennai. It sure doesn't need any introduction as many people know that it is home to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, one of the richest temples in the world. The temple was built around the 10th century during the rule of the Pallava dynasty. Its immense wealth can be attributed to all the other empires who reigned supreme during that time including the Cholas and the Vijayanagars. The temple is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara or Lord Vishnu, along with the various incarnations of the deity. It has two gopurams, one in a pure white facade and the other in a gold-gilded facade. While in here, you also need to visit and pay your respects to Goddess Padmavathi, an incarnation of Goddess Bhudevi. Her abode here is the Padmavathi Ammavari Temple, a large and busy temple with colourful entrances and a pure white gopuram. The temple is also a favourite amongst couples who choose the premises as their wedding rituals venue. The Govindarajaswamy Temple, dedicated to the deity of the eponymous name, who is believed to be the brother of Lord Venkateswara. Scholars say that the temple was built around the 12th century but evidences reveal that the temple might have been built even earlier than that. Here, Lord Govindarajaswamy is depicted on a reclining position, exuding a sense of calm and spirituality at the same time. Other temples that you can't miss to complete your Tirupati pilgrimage circuit are the Varaha Swamy Temple and Sri Kalyana Venkateshwara Swamy Temple.
    • Distance from Chennai - 133 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Padmavathi Ammavari Temple, Govindarajaswamy Temple, Varaha Swamy Temple and Sri Kalyana Venkateshwara Swamy Temple
    Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati (Image from Vimalkalyan)

    Beaches galore...

    5. Pondicherry (Union Territory) - To the south of Chennai, around 3 hours and 30 minutes of driving away, is the union territory of Pondicherry. With its French-inspired streets, residential areas and even cuisine, it's a little bit of Europe right in India. But what makes it a great weekend getaway is the variety of beaches here that are sure to mesmerise the beach bums. At the heart of the town is the Promenade Beach, also known as Rock Beach. As the name suggests, this beach has rocky shores interspersed with golden sands. The waves here are very rough, not suitable for swimming, but as a beach located in the main centre of the town, it remains fairly clean and well maintained. It also has a number of cafes, resorts and restaurants around so it is highly commercialised. A more serene alternative is the Paradise Beach, approachable after a boat ride from the Chunnambar Boat House. The beach has golden fine sands and calmer water that is impeccably clean. However, there is no commercial infrastructures here so it's best to make it a day trip from the town and return the same day. About 10 kilometres from the centre is the Serenity Beach, another golden shore beach that is mostly frequented by locals instead of tourists. It is mildly developed meaning there are a few beach shacks around but resorts and changing areas are still not available. It is known for its rough waves suitable for surfing pros and enthusiasts. If you want more serene options for beaches near Pondicherry, then venture into Karaikal Beach and Mahe Beach, which are both further from the town centre.
    • Distance from Chennai - 155 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach, Karaikal Beach and Mahe Beach
    6. Covelong (Tamil Nadu) - Covelong is just a short 1 hour and 30 minutes drive to the south of Chennai. Covelong is a small town, mainly a fishing village which boasts of one beautiful beach. This is known as the Covelong Beach, a vast expanse of creamy hued shores, with some rocky portions. The water is undeniably clear but has this roughness to it. This beach is frequented by both amateur and professional surfers, having two surfing schools within its shores. It isn't as busy as the beaches of Chennai, nor as crowded or polluted, so you can enjoy the vast difference in the scenic beauty of this beach. If you're lucky, you can even participate in the annual Covelong Point Classic Surf and Music Festival, usually held after the monsoon season. The main highlight of this festival is the surfing competition but there are also musical performances, games, yoga sessions and more that tourists can enjoy witnessing or even being a part of. The beach isn't that developed but there's a good number of food stalls close to the shores in case you do get hungry or thirsty.
    • Distance from Chennai - 38 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Covelong Beach
    Covelong Beach (Image from Vijayaraghavan)

    Wildlife getaways...

    7. Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh) - The Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary is spread around two districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. It takes around two hours of driving from Chennai to reach this sanctuary. The Pulicat Lake is one of the largest brackish water reservoirs of the country. It is home to a number of resident bird species and during winter, the peak tourist season, the sanctuary becomes home to a larger number of migratory bird species. The pink-feathered greater flamingoes and lesser flamingoes are the main stars in the sanctuary. These bird species migrate from faraway regions such as Africa and Europe, into India for the cold winter season. Of the two, the latter is considered as the near threatened species, due to the decreasing number of the species which can be attributed to their lost of breeding habitats. To get a complete tour of the sanctuary, you would need to ride a boat which would take you to the brackish water and even to the confluence of the sea with the lake. Other commonly spotted bird species here are egrets, herons, white-breasted kingfishers, house swifts, rock pigeons, sandpipers, black kites and cormorants.
    • Distance from Chennai - 93 Kilometres
    • Must Spot Birds - Greater Flamingoes, Lesser Flamingoes, Egrets, Herons, White-Breasted Kingfishers, House Swifts, Rock Pigeons, Sandpipers, Black Kites and Cormorants
    8. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu) - The Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is just a two-hour drive from Chennai and can be combined with a trip to Kanchipuram, since the two are within close distance with one another. It is considered as one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in India, which started out as a hunting ground for the royals of course. Unlike the former sanctuary, you won't need to ride a boat to tour the premises, as there are walkways and platforms designated for bird watching instead. The sanctuary is famed for being home to a huge number of painted storks and open-billed storks. Aside from that, during migratory winter season, you would also find other bird species such as spot-billed pelicans, African darters, black-crowned night herons and black-headed ibises. Do keep in mind that the sanctuary remains closed from June to October each year and only opens from November until May or beginning of June. Entry fee is very nominal and you do need to pay an additional charge for bringing of your camera inside.
    • Distance from Chennai - 89 Kilometres
    • Must Spot Birds - Painted Storks, Open-Billed Storks, Spot-Billed Pelicans, African Darters, Black-Crowned Night Herons and Black-Headed Ibises
    Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary (Image from Vinoth)

    Offbeat is the way to go...

    9. Villupuram (Tamil Nadu) - Next we have Villupuram, a small town three to four hours of driving to the south of Chennai. If you love history and adventure combined, then a trip to the Gingee Fort is certainly a must. As you might have noticed, most of the grand forts of India are located in the north and the grand temples are located in the south. The fort is that exception, a huge fort built upon three hillocks, designated by even the Maratha ruler Shivaji as an impregnable fortification. It is not known exactly when the fort was built, though scholars say that it was during the rule of the Chola dynasty in the 9th century that it was established. This is a bit of a contradiction since the Cholas were known for building temples and not really fortifications. Thereafter, the fort was ruled over by many other rules including the Vijayanagars, Mughals and Marathas. The fortification is set amidst boulders and shrubs, it takes more than a day or two to fully explore its vast area. It is not a trek for the faint-hearted individuals as you would climb up and down to reach the structures within the fort. While most of the structures within the fort are already in ruins, they still exude that ancient vibe, speak of volumes of stories just by their forms. If you only have a short time to spare, then opt for the Rajagiri Hill trek, which has the main fort. You would get to explore the ruins of ancient temples and royal palaces in this portion. You would also find old cannons, granaries and tanks within this section.
    • Distance from Chennai - 170 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Gingee Fort
    10. Nagalapuram (Andhra Pradesh) - Last on this list is Nagalapuram, located around two hours of driving to the northwest of Chennai. For the adventure seekers, the trek to reach the Nagalapuram Waterfalls is every bit scenic as it is adrenaline pumping. The trek is around 13 kilometres long and starts from Arai Village. It can be completed within a day but make sure you start early on and hire a guide to help you. For others, they opt to complete the trek within two days, camping during the night in the jungle near the waterfall. The trek would take you through lush forests but do be prepared as it is not an easy one, perhaps moderate would be a better term. You would be starting out with straight paths, then leading unto rocky terrains, then slippery ones and a lot more before you reach the waterfalls. Specifically, there are three sections of pools where you can bathe but the latter two have deeper water not suitable for those who doesn't known how to swim. If you're looking for an offbeat adventure that would take you closer to nature, then you won't regret visiting Nagalapuram.
    • Distance from Chennai - 71 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Nagalapuram Waterfalls
    Nagalapuram Waterfalls (Image from Mouth Shut)


    With this guide, you can easily plan your trip away from Chennai. For under four hours of driving away, you have tons of destinations to tick off your list from Chennai. Whether you are a history buff, a religious individual, a beach bum, a wildlife lover or even a certified offbeat traveller, this list is for you. Do not let the hectic city life take away your light and your spirit, make sure you get out once in a while to experience what life is all about. And no, it's not about just work or career expansion, because life is all about being happy and fulfilled. Travelling can give you all that and more.

    Good luck and I hope this helps you!:)