4 great day trips from Chennai
Chennai is not known for being a tourist hub – various writers have described it as “hot as hell” or an “overgrown village”. However those in the know are aware of a couple of hot spots around Chennai that make it easy to escape the city – even if just for a day!
Here, in no particular order, are my four favourite day trips from Chennai!
1. Mahabalipuram – 1.5 hours from Chennai Central
Mahabalipuram is no Angkor Wat – instead, just a handful of temples lie in ruin by the beachside. They are certainly worth a visit however, and the small township has enough souvenir shops to hold one’s interest, and eateries dish up a bunch of Tamil specialties. Meanwhile the Radisson Blu has a huge pool, a pleasant cafe, and a health spa to while away the hours.
2. Sriperumbedur – 1.5 hours from Chennai Central
Sriperumbedur is known as the place where former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991. A solemn memorial garden now exists on the site, with stone inlay retracing the politician’s final steps. A few temples exist nearby, but the main point of interest is the garden where history was made that fateful night.
3. Kanchipuram – 2 hours from Chennai Central
Shopping time! Get your rupees at the ready, because it’s time to buy up big at this centre for silken saris! Shopping aside, Kanchipuram boasts a glut of important temples, including Ekambareswarar temple, whose gateway tower is one of the tallest in India, at 59 metres.
4. Pondicherry – 3 hours from Chennai Central
It’s a long day trip, but if you’re in the mood, there’s nothing quite like Pondicherry. Officially called Puducherry, but often just referred to as “Pondy”, this former French enclave still hums to a slightly different beat to the rest of India. Streets are named “Rue”, architecture is a throwback to colonial yesteryear, European cuisine is available and the waterfront is sunny and pleasant (if not quite the Côte d’Azur). Don’t forget to visit the Aurobindo Ashram as well as Auroville’s utopian social project – it’s unusual, but undeniably Pondy.