Chennai was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2015. Chennai is not only an epitome of beauty with its heritage temples but also serves as a gateway to the places that will give you ultimate respite during the much awaited weekend. There are times when you get caught up in the flow of busy, hard life and the feeling to escape into another time, another place, to be on your own for a while reaches its pinnacle. Here is a list of ten places for weekend getaways from charming Chennai. Whether you want to explore the cultural heritage, drift away to the scenic view of misty forests, walk along the vast stretches of the pearly beaches, you can be assured of that perfect getaway to relax and unwind.
Distance from Chennai – 52 kms (approx)
The Land Of Mamalla, where rocks come alive will leave no stone unturned to beckon you with its splendid Sunrise at Shore temple, scenic views from Mahabalipuram Light House and the famous Krishna’s Butter Ball. This renowned UNESCO world heritage site was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram once upon a time. Known as “Seven Pagodas”, pointing to the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram, one that has stood the test of time is the Shore temple. Panoramic view of sculptures, which depict scenes of day-to-day life through rock-cut art where there is poetry in every stone, is what makes it architecturally attractive. Other important sites include the Five Rathas (set of rock temples), Trimurti Cave Temple, Vahara Cave Temple, Sculpture museum, Krishna Mandapa and Arjuna’s Penance. A colorful dance festival also is held in the month of December and is a great time to visit the place.
Distance from Chennai – 72 kms (approx)
Immerse yourself in the combination of calm, serene environment as well as the attractive scenery of Kanchipuram, one of the most pious destinations of South India. Located on western bank of the Palar River, it was once the centre of education and served as the capital of Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Vijaynagar kingdom. Also known as, the “Golden City of a Thousand Temples”, it boasts of 14 temples of the Hindu God-Vishnu out of 108 in total. Kailasanathar Temple with 7th century heritage values, Ekambaranatha Temple (largest temple with “hall of a thousand pillars”), Vaikunda Perumal Temple, Kanchi Kamakshi Temple, Devarajaswami Temple with its wonderful marriage hall are some of the popular temples you cannot miss. You can also witness the manual intricate weaving of the famous Kanchipuram silk saris. The tourist circuit which connects Chennai, Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram is called the “Tamil’s Golden Triangle”.
3. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Distance from Chennai – 82 kms (approx)
For those who are passionate to escape into the wilderness and just cannot get enough of it, the oldest water bird sanctuary in India will satisfy their quest. Spread over 34 hectares of protected area, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is home to 1,00,000 birds which includes migratory birds like pintail, blue-winged teal, open-billed stork and many more that flock from various parts of the world. Apart from its ornithological importance, the panoramic view (overhead flight of birds) offered by the twin towers and other vantage points will simply take your breath away. Nowhere will you see so many different birds of so many different kinds.
Distance from Chennai – 135 kms (approx)
If you want to witness temples with magnificent artistic features, the most visited temple in the world, Tirupati welcomes you. This temple town hub is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India. The Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, located at an elevation of 853 meters, attracts a flock of 50,000 to 80,000 pilgrims every day. The power of the verses described in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu is profound. One of the most beautiful sightseeing places is Silathoranam, naturally formed rock bridge. ISKCON Krishna Temple, Kapila Teerthdham, Padmavati Temple, Govindraja Swami Temple, Alipiri Ghat road are some of the places to explore nearby. There is a divine song in the air, rocks, trees, rivers encompassing heaven on earth.
Distance from Chennai – 136 kms (approx)
Pack your bags and head off into the lush green countryside with temples and paddy fields of serene and simple “Fort City” of Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of Palar River, Vellore which means “City of Spears” was once a battlefield with inspiring and glorious past. Vellore Fort has witnessed the first rebellion against the British Rule in 1806. This historical place is made of granite blocks which houses Jalakanteswara Temple and Government Museum. This glorious city is blessed with numerous attractions – Clock Tower, Nature Park, Sripuram Golden Temple and Church of South India.
Distance from Chennai – 161 kms (approx)
Walking along the perpendicular streets of French Quarter in Pondicherry, you cannot help yourself marvelling at the French influence in architectural styles and legacy that will take you centuries back in time. A one stop destination for the young and old alike, it unfolds endless stretches of beaches (Promenade beach), backwaters and spiritual sceneries (Aurobindo Ashram). A number of religious sights adorn this place – Sacred Heart Basilica, Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Norte Dam des Anges, Thirukaameeswarar Temple.
7. Cuddalore Beach
Distance from Chennai – 183 kms (approx)
If you want to take the pace of life down a few notches, the silver beach of Cuddalore, the 2nd longest beach in Tamil Nadu, offers an endless dose of serenity and calmness with its tree lined boulevards. With the ideal combination of the sun and sand, you can spend hours while sun-bathing or sitting in front of the beach. This Sea Town of Tamil Nadu will grip you with magical mesmerising sceneries and coveted tranquillity. Verratteswarar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Thiruvanthipuram Temple made in traditional Dravidian architectural style, Pitchavaram backwaters with rare species of flora and fauna are the prominent places to visit nearby.
Distance from Chennai – 227 kms (approx)
Cold winds, chirping birds in orchards, Rose gardens, misty green valleys, twisting and turning roads and gorgeous landscapes, you can have it all in this hill station, dotted by a cluster of 14 villages and temples. You can experience village life at its best in solitude. On the trek to the highest peak in Yelgiri at 4,338 ft (Swamimalai hill), you will witness unforgettable moments of life and reminisce the poem by Robert Frost-“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” You will fall in love with the Punganoor artificial lake-cum-park, a popular landmark, where a walk or boating could be enjoyed. River Attaru plummets down to form the magnificent Jalagamparai waterfalls.
Distance from Chennai – 232 kms (approx)
Tall and towering shrines against the backdrop of this spiritual and industrial city, Chidambaram is considered one of the most pious cities in Tamil Nadu. This mythological place is famous for the Thillai Nataraja Temple, which showcases the art of Bharatnatyam and the annual chariot festival held in month of April. This temple, spread over 40 acres area, depicts bronze Shiva as the celestial dancer through the Chola art. Thillai Kali Amman Temple located to the north of Chidambaram temple is one of the known temple of Goddess Kali.
Distance from Chennai – 283 kms (approx)
If it has always been your dream to walk down the Coromandel coastline and lose yourself in the rhythm of the singing waves, this “Place of the Dancing Waves” is exactly where you need to be. Also known as Tharangambadi, Tranquebar lies near the Kavery River. Buried in the sands of the time, Danish Museum and Danish Fort contain the historical treasures. The Zion Church, the oldest protestant church in India, among other churches are a must visit here. Snuggle your toes in the sand and indulge in the sightseeing of rich colonial heritage while you are here.
Forget your weekend woes, pack your bags and head out for these places that will assure you leisure justified in the words of W.H. Davies
“What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”