In India, you get to explore a diverse range of culture, food and spiritual practices. Likewise, there are scores of some breath-taking destinations in India that remains unexplored either due to lack of time or due to lack of proper execution of a travel plan. This post is going to drive you to one of the popular coastal cities in India and the gateway to south India.
Situated on the Bay of Bengal and the capital city of Tamil Nadu, holidaying in Chennai is an absolute delight for all kind of travellers. Before you make your next travel plan to Chennai, let’s catch a glimpse of this cosmopolitan city:
Nestled on the south-eastern coast of India and in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, Chennai is eminent as the “Gateway to the South India”. Once known as Madras, the cosmopolitan city earlier used to be an integral centre of military, administration and financial system. Dates back to decade, Chennai was visited by the Portuguese. During that period, Portuguese settlements were there around Mylapore. The Luz Church of Chennai was built by the Portuguese, which is also known as the Church of Our Lady of Light.
If you plunge into the history of Chennai, the city carries its ancient tales since colonial times. The land of Chennai has witnessed many combats since the time of Mysore kingdom. The city has also served as a base of battle field for the majestic forces of the British and French. Moving ahead with time, the city has further transformed into a key naval base for the British. Today, Chennai has become one of the frequently visited cities in India by foreigners. Rapid evolution in terms of trade and infrastructure turned the city an abode to various leading industries like Information Technology, Automobile and Healthcare. Being one of the growing hubs of automobile and other major sectors, the coastal city of south is also referred as “The Detroit of India”.
Chennai is known for its rich cultural heritage. Thus, when in Chennai, the city takes you through multiple appealing sites that depict its ancient legacy. The people of Chennai are predominantly Tamils and they take great efforts to sustain their religious and cultural practices. The capital city of Tamil Nadu is known for its world famed Bharatanatyam dance. The people here are rich by generosity. You can witness here a diverse range of religion and cultures, which has set one of the best examples of “unity in diversity”. Majority of the population in Chennai are Hindus. Nevertheless, people from other religions like Muslims, Jain and Christians can also be seen here in Chennai. Some of the popular festivals in Chennai are Pongal, Arubathimoovar and Deepavali. In addition, the Chennai Music and Dance Festival are also celebrated here with equal enthusiasm. The official language in Chennai is Tamil. Besides Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and Hindi are also spoken here.
One more addition to the thrill of touring Chennai is its delicious cuisines. When in Chennai, make sure you don’t miss the taste of Dosa, Idli, Rasam rice, Sambar and coconut chutney. Additionally, Mulligatawny Soup, Filter Coffee, Atho, Nethili Fry, complete Meals (blend of common foods) and Sundal are some other popular dishes that you can also try in Chennai.
Be a first timer or a frequent traveller, Chennai boasts a variety of travel inputs to please all kinds of visitors. This is why the city is visited again and again by travellers from all round the globe to explore its spectacular blend of massive beaches, historic memorials, religious sites and captivating museums.
Seasonal Climate of Chennai:
The coastal city of Tamil Nadu is known for its hot and humid weather. Summer hits the region in the month of March and it lasts till May. During summer, Chennai witnesses an extreme temperature that climbs up to 45°C at day time. June-August brings little relief to the scorching land of Chennai, as this is the time when monsoon enters the city. Cyclones from Bay of Bengal often hit coastal city during November-December. Moving ahead, you can’t expect a bone-chilling winter in Chennai. The temperature drops down to 15°C during December-February, which indicates the arrival of winter here.
Best time to visit:
Winter is considered to be the perfect time for revealing the best of out of the city. The reason being, weather is quite favourable for visitors that time. However, avoid holidaying in Chennai from April to July, as summers are extremely adverse that time for faint-hearted.
Places to see in Chennai:
Chennai is laid out with diverse range of attractions. It goes without saying that beaches are undoubtedly the prime tourist puller in Chennai. However, once you step into the coastal city of Chennai, you come to explore some other places of interest as well. Let’s take a look:
Reckoned as the world’s second longest and India’s longest beach, Chennai’s Marina beach is one of the prime attractions for tourists. Though, the site witness a massive footfalls of visitors round the calendar, but the best time to visit here is from November to February.
Offering you a fascinating vista of sunrise and a long trail for walk on the sand, Marina Beach is an absolute delight for visitors. Getting a horseback ride amidst gentle breeze after the dusk is one of the favourite activities for visitors near the seashore. However, considering the consequences against hazardous tides, swimming is not allowed here. One of the most amazing ways of walking around the beach is relishing the taste of different South-Indian snacks on the go. There are various snack stores and vendors near the beach from where you can purchase some eatables like ice-cream, snacks, sundal and murukku. If you want to take a look into the tropical sea fish, there is an aquarium near the beach that you can visit. In addition, there are two memorials as well that pull many visitors near Marina beach. These memorials are dedicated to former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu.
Apart from Marina beach; Breezy Beach, Akkarai Beach, Elliot’s Beach and VGP Golden Beach are some other similar attractions in Chennai.
#Arignar Anna Zoological Park
Spread over 1200 acres of land around 35 km from the city centre, Arignar Anna Zoological Park is an offbeat place to see in Chennai. Housing more than 1500 species of endangered flora and fauna, Anna zoo is quite popular amongst the kids. This zoological park was set up in 1855, which was named after a Tamil Politician, Mr Arinagar Anna. The lush environs of the zoo offer you an exciting jungle safari amidst lion, elephant and deer. Anna zoo is open from 9AM-5PM excluding Tuesday. There is a separate entry fee here for visitors and photographer.
#Fort St George
Chennai has variety of amazing sites for all kind of travellers. Starting from lively beaches to historical monuments, Chennai has no dearth of attractions for you. Fort St. George is one such construction, which carries its historical significance since the time of British rule. Initially the Fort St. George was developed as a trade hub. However, with times the construction became the origin of contemporary Indian Army. The three-storey showroom of Fort Museum exhibits a wide range of ancient artefacts including uniforms of Army officers, rifles, straddling from swords, cannon shots, daggers, pistols, oil paintings, clock stamps and many other imperial articles. The architectural work of Fort St. George is quite captivating. The museum is open from 9AM-5PM excluding Friday. For Indian visitors the entry fee is INR 5 and for foreign visitors the fee is INR 100. If you have zeal of photography, you can capture some striking shots at Fort St George.
The sea facing Ashtalakshmi Temple is a popular religious centre for Hindu devotees. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi resides in this holy shrine. Every day, the worship takes place inside the temple predominantly based on the Vedic rules. Located in Besant Nagar, Ashtalakshmi Temple is also visited for its massive construction, which measures 65ft in length and 45ft in width. If you want to witness the divinely ambience at Ashtalakshmi Temple, visit here on the occasions of Pongal, Navaratri, Deepawali and Kartigai.
#Royapuram Fishing Harbour
During your vacation in Chennai, Royapuram Fishing Harbour is another attraction that you must explore. Nestled at north of the Chennai Port, Royapuram Fishing Harbour is a great place to witness the collection of fishes by the fisherman. This is one of the busiest fish harbours with capacity of accommodating more than 570 fishing boats at a time. After collecting variety of sea fishes, the fisherman tries to set an appealing bid for the buyers who flock the market for buying fishes. If you love photography, the harbour offers you an amazing panorama to capture after the dusk. And for a fish lover, it is advisable to fix the deal at right price.
Sitauted nearly 6 Kms from Chennai, Vivekananda House is one of the popular religious centres for the followers of Swami Vivekananda. With a startling Victorian architecture, the construction of Vivekananda House was set ages back in 1877. It is said that on his way back from the west, Swamiji stayed here for few days. Over the periods of time, this historic site has been transformed into an exhibition centre on the life of Swami Vivekananda. Today, Vivekananda House is also popular as Ice House. The best time to visit here is from 10:00 AM- 12:30 PM and from 3:00 PM- 7:30 PM. The entire ambience inside the house gives you a pious feeling.
#Thousand Lights Mosque
Having depicted the cultural diversity of Chennai, presence of Thousand Lights Mosque justifies its existence in the coastal city. Located at Anna Salai Road, this mosque is reckoned as one of the largest mosques in India. Despite of being a prominent pilgrimage site for the Shiite Muslims, people from other religions also flock here to witness this popular mosque. It is said that there is an assembly hall inside the mosque, which needed 1000 lights to get illuminated. Accordingly, 1000 oil lamps were lit. This is how the label of “Thousand Lights” was added before the name of the mosque. The construction of the mosque was set in medieval style. There are two separate prayer rooms for men and women. Every year during Muharram the mosque witnesses a large footfall of Muslims followers. The best time to visit the mosque is 5.30AM-9PM.
Every single destination in Chennai holds an individual significance to catch the fancy of visitors. Spread with an area of nearly 20 acres, Semmozhi Poonga Park is an amazing place for outing with family and kids. The key attractions of this amazing botanical garden are endangered species of plants, green house, water garden, medicinal herbs and rock garden. This park is also visited by many botanical scholars for undergoing research and studies. After a tiring day out amidst Chennai’s animated beaches, Semmozhi Poonga Park offers you a relaxing shelter amidst greeneries, butterfly garden, a sunken garden, fern garden and different theme gardens. However, entering the park incurs you some fees. When in Chennai, don’t miss this soothing garden for a tranquil experience.
Want to go back to the 19th and 20th centuries? Look no further than Dakshina Chitra. This is a tiny hamlet, which has been transformed to a place that plunges you back to the origin of South Indian culture. Replica of several ancient style houses and artefacts are recreated here to depict the lifestyle and old traditions of South Indian people. Apart from its fascinating artworks and replicas, presence of some scrumptious South Indian platters may add more spice to your visit at Dakshina Chitra. You can visit here from 10AM-6PM except Tuesday. The entry fee for foreigners is INR 250 and for Indian, the fee is INR 100. On the other hand, the entry fee for children who fall under the age group of 5-12 is INR 30. So, what are you waiting for? Take your camera and arrest some spectacular moments of dates back to decades.
#Connemara Public Library
Are you a book worm and want to escape amidst 600,000 books? Connemara Public Library in Chennai is just the place you are looking for. It sounds astounding to witness a treasure house with such huge number of books other than a book fair! Established way back in 1896, earlier the Connemara Public Library used to be a part of cultural complex. Later, a new building was added to this library. Having mentioned its huge array of books, the library also hosts a rich variety of Braille manuscripts, journals and Magazines. Reckoned as one of the largest libraries in Asia, Connemara Public Library complex also boasts a blend of reference room, video room and periodicals hall. The best time to visit here is from 9AM-7.30PM. Entering to the Connemara Public Library incurs no fee. If you are looking for a particular book since long, may be this is the place that culminates your hunt.
#Valluvar Kottam Temple
Located nearly 6 Kms from the city centre, Valluvar Kottam is a spiritual site in Chennai. This temple was built in 1976 by former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi and the temple is dedicated to Saint Thiruvalluvar. The prime attraction of Valluvar Kottam is its giant auditorium that exhibits an array of the great works of saints who has great inputs to the Tamil culture. It is said that the auditorium is as spacious as accommodating 4000 visitors. One of the most interesting facts about this temple is that it was constructed only with the block of stones and not a single pillar was used while structuring the temple. Visitors flock here to witness the inexplicable construction of this temple, which stands pillar less. There lies a sculpture of lion near the main entry, which is beautifully embellished. You can visit the temple throughout the week between 8.30AM-5.30PM. It will hardly consume 1-2 hours time of yours in exploring the entire Valluvar Kottam Temple.
#Santhome Cathedral Basilica
Situated around 7.4Kms from the main town of Chennai, Santhome Cathedral Basilica is a blend of pilgrimage and historical site for visitors. Santhome Cathedral was built way back during 14th Century by the Portuguese ruler. Moving ahead in the 19th Century, a museum was built here in Neo-Gothic style by the British architects. The museum showcases the 16th century map of South Asia. This place is mostly visited by the People with Christian faith from all over the world. It is believed that Santhome Cathedral was named after St Thomas, who was a disciple of Jesus Christ. So, you can expect mass crowd here on the eve of auspicious Christmas.
#Sri Parthasarathy Temple
Chennai is not about beaches and south Indian dishes. Unless you explore the heritage sites of Chennai filled with rich traditions and faith, the city brings full of surprises for you. Sitauted at Tiruvallikeni in Chennai, Sri Parthasarathy Temple is considered as the oldest temples in the cosmopolitan city. This temple was built during 8th century by the Pallavas. If you get into the Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna was also referred as Parthasarathy. This is how this temple was named as Parthasarathy devoted to Lord Krishna. The key attraction of this temple is the two giant pyramidal towers over the entrance facing east and west direction. The startling sculpture on the pillars of the temple leaves you awestruck. Apart from its colourful pyramidal towers, Parthasarathy Temple also features a tank, the water of which is considered as scared. The best time to visit the temple is during day time i.e. between 9AM-11AM. However, the temple is open till 11.30PM. Hopping the entire temple premises will take 2-3 hours time of yours.
#Guindy National Park and Snake Park
One of the smallest National Parks of India, Guindy National Park and Snake Park is situated in the middle of Chennai city. The park houses several birds, reptiles and other wildlife. This place is idyllic for family outing. Kids enjoy being there in the Guindy National Park. Some of the major wild attractions in the National Park are spotted deer, jackals, blackbucks and tortoise. Besides, the Snake Park is popular for boasting cobras and pythons. Guindy National Park is equally pleasurable for birding. Buzzards, partridge, quail and fly catcher are some of the major birds that can be spotted amidst lush bush. If you love wild photography, this is an absolute paradise for you. The park is open from 9AM-5.30PM. The entry fee for adults and children are INR 20 and INR 5 respectively. However, photography and video recording incurs additional charges of INR 20 and INR 100 respectively.
#Cholamandal Artist Village
Do you enjoy illustrating your colourful thoughts into a canvas? If the answer is Yes, Cholamandal Artist Village is a great platform to showcase your creation. Situated in the periphery of Chennai, in Injambakkam village, the Cholamandal Artist Village offers a great opportunity for the local painters and sculptors to exhibit their art and craft works to the visitors. At Artist Village, you will come across a blend of open-air theatre, craft shop, book store and galleries. This place is an amazing destination for an arty evening. If you are still a beginner, visiting Cholamandal Artist Village will leave you a great opportunity to enrich your inventive deliberation. The Artist Village is open from 9AM-6.30PM incurring an entry fee of INR 5 and INR 20 for children and adults respectively.
Chennai has a rich variety of religious sites. Arulmigu Kapaleeshwar Temple is one such holy shrine that attracts lot of visitor right through the year. Built decades back in the seventh century, this temple is devoted to Lord Shiva. There is an idol of Goddess Parvati inside the temple who is also worshipped by the devotees. In addition, a sculpture of Lion, which is believed to be the mount of Goiddess Parvati is also positioned outside the temple. However, the key tourist puller at this temple is its 37 metres high pyramidal towers and Dravidian style architecture. Every day six different kind of worships are done at the temple. The best season to visit Kapaleeshwar Temple is on the eve of Navaratri, Thiruvizha Float Festival, Vasanta Utsavam and Brahmotsavam. The temple is open from 5.30AM-12PM and from 5PM-9PM. The overall ambience and tranquillity inside the temple leaves you spellbound.
How about witnessing the enormous galaxy just before you? That sound wow, isn’t it? Birla Planetarium, Chennai bring this opportunity for you where you can see the world of astronomy under single roof. Located near the Anna University, this Planetarium is an integral part of Chennai’s Periyar Science and Technology Museum. Birla Planetarium showcases a wonderful platform to know about Solar System, Comets, Sky and Seasons, Cycle of Stars and much more. At Planetarium, visitors get to see and know various interesting facts about the giant astronomy through audio-visual shows. This is an amazing place to visit in Chennai, especially for kids and science freaks. Birla Planetarium is open from 10AM-5.45PM, and the entry fee here is INR 25 and INR 40 for children and adults respectively. The glittering show on stars and moon leaves a long lasting learning impact on visitors.
#MGR Film City
Tamil film industry, popularly known as Kollywood needs no further caption for an introduction. One of the favourite tourist hubs in Chennai is MGR Film city, which not only attracts film lovers, the place is equally a spectacular destination for kids as well. Covered with 70 acres areas at Taramani, MGR Film city was established in 1994 in the memory of legendary Tamil actor and former Chief Minister, MG Ramachandran. This film city is administered by the Government of Tamil Nadu. Things that you must explore at MGR Film city are different indoor and outdoor shooting locations, artificial hamlets and temples, manmade urban areas, replicas of police station, prison, courtroom etc. All such artificial sets play a pivotal role in modern cinema. There is also a film school and MGR Knowledge Park at the film city. Besides, a blend of gardens designed in Mughal, Italian and Japanese styles also grab the attention of large crowd at MGR Film city.
# Covelong Beach
Vacation in Chennai seems to be incomplete without exploring few nearby beaches. As already mentioned, the city is encircled with several electrifying beaches. Located nearly 40 Kms from the city centre, Covelong Beach is one more addition to that list. If you are an adventure lover and want to emerge out your daring persona amidst the waves of water, Covelong Beach is a must visit for you. Every day several tourists flock near the seashore to take part in beach activities like swimming and wind surfing. Besides, some of the proximate destinations like religious temples, mosque and forts make this beach more appealing for a day-long outing in Chennai.
#MGM Dizzee World
Amusement park is always an attention grabber to the audience of all age. Situated on the East coast road, MGM Dizzee World has no dearth of delight for you. This amusement park hosts a diverse range of rides for adults, children and family. Some of the key attractions at MGM Dizzee World are Big Wheel, Caribbean Swing, Sky Glider, Jurassic Train, Water Coaster, Rolling Thunder, Granny Bug,Elephant Safari and Boating. If you visit this amusement park on weekdays, the best time is from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. On the other hand, during weekends and holidays you can visit there from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM. Depending on the slides and rides, the charges may vary for adults and children. So, if you want an energetic outing in Chennai, nothing could be better than visiting MGM Dizzee World.
Apart from the above cited places, there are many other attractions that you can explore when in Chennai. Some of these locations are Marundeeswarar Temple, ISKCON (Hare Rama Hare Krishna) Temple, Dash ‘N Splash, Koli Hills, Muttukadu, Crocodile Bank, Besant, Madras High Court, Mylapore and Nettukuppam.
If you travel 50-100Kms further from Chennai, some of the spectacular destinations that you must explore are Mahabalipuram, Sadras, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Tiruttani, Pulicat Lake & Bird Sanctuary and Kanchipuram.
Being renowned as the Gateway to the South India, the coastal city of Chennai is frequently visited by the tourists from all round the sphere. The city is well knitted by various modes of transport. Hence, for travellers getting there is not a fuss. One can access to the capital city of Tamil Nadu through any of the following means of transport:
By Air: Located within 7Kms reach from the city center, Chennai International Airport is the third busiest airport in India. The airport is well-connected to domestic as well as international flyers. If you wish to scale the distance between airport and your destination by road, you can board bus number 18A that will reach you to Central Chennai in around 45 minutes. The bus service is frequent and it is available near the exit gate of airport. You can also hire pre-paid taxis or cabs as per your convenience. It may take around 40 minutes to reach you to Chennai City. You can book the taxi from the counter, which is available near the arrival areas of the terminal. In addition, auto rickshaws can also be an alternate way to commute further.
By Train: Chennai has very good railway connectivity with most of the major cities in India. Presence of three railheads in Chennai makes it more convenient for visitors. The nearest railway station is Chennai Egmore, which is situated just 2Kms from the main city. In addition, Tambaram and Chennai Central (code MAS) are two other railheads in Chennai. From railway station, you can hire taxi, cab or auto rickshaws to commute further.
By Road: Just like railways and airways, Chennai can also be accessed quite conveniently by roadways from its neighbouring cities like Pondicherry, Vellore, Coimbatore, Tirupati, Madurai, Bengaluru etc. Being the home to Asia’s largest bus stations, CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus) offers regular bus services between Chennai and its adjoining cities. In addition, you can also hire a car or cab to enjoy a comfortable ride to Chennai.
Places to Stay in Chennai:
On inquiring about the accommodations, there are number of budget and deluxe hotels that you can easily manage in and around Chennai. The state is laid out with verities of hotels assuring the visitors a comfortable vacation in Chennai. Keeping in mind the basic amenities of visitors, most of the hotels here cater you a blend of excellent service, quality food and heart-winning hospitality. Depending on the type facilities you avail, the charges may range from INR 850-INR 3700 and more.
For your convenience, some of the comfy places to stay in Chennai are listed as follows:
#Fab Hotel Udipi Homes Egmore
34, Police Commissioner Office Road, Egmore,
27/28 V.V. Kovil Street, On the Way to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
Opp Ripon Building, Chennai, India 600003
No10/4, 1 Street, Sripuram, Thiruneermalai Road,
Chrompet, Chennai, India 600044
#Hotel Chandra Park (Opp Railway Station)
9 Gandhi Irwin Road, Egmore
Chennai, India- 600008
#Hotel Pratap Plaza
168, Kodambakkam High Road,
Mahalingapuram, Chennai India 600034
#The Raintree, Annasalai
636, Anna Salai, Teynampet
Chennai, India 600035
#The Iris Hotel
No 2 , Dr Thomas Street, Opposite to Great Grand Hotel,
Pondy Bazaar, T.Nagar Chennai, India 600017
183 Nsk Salai, Arcot Road, Vadapalani
Chennai, India 600026
So, let this vacation drive you to Chennai, the Gateway to South India. Visit Chennai and experience its rich cultural heritage that includes a blend of religious centres, vigorous beaches, luscious platters, colourful artworks, rousing wildlife and amusement park. The diverse range of attractions in Chennai will make you visit this coastal city again and again.
- Collect proper information about the sites you are planning to visit, ways of commutation, the visiting hours etc.
- Depending on the distance and location that you want to explore in one day, plan your trip accordingly.
- When in any religious centre, don’t hurt the spiritual sentiments and culture of Chennai.
- Avoid outing on a humid sunny day. Try to explore the beaches during late afternoon hours.
- Carry sufficient drinking water with you.
- Don’t forget to carry your personal belongings like first aid box, costumes for beach activities, identity proofs etc.
- Keep the important contact numbers with you.
- If you are planning to visit there through any travel agency, make sure you select the reliable one, which caters you hassle-free services.
- Try AC cabs to commute within the city, as during summers buses and auto-rickshaws may be a fuss for you.
HAPPY TRAVELLING !!