Amid a landscape of palm trees, rice fields, temple towns and feisty seas, southern India requires time and effort to really delve beneath its surface and uncover its distinctive culture. One of the most visited cities in the country, Chennai is south India’s gateway city and its cultural capital. Food and culture is aplenty in this city that dates back to 4,000 years ago. Its sheer number of historical, cultural and architectural sites makes it a gem.
There’s a lot to explore in Chennai but that holds true for its surrounding destinations as well. Once things settle down and you find yourself in this city, consider taking a trip to these weekend getaway destinations for a much-needed relaxing break.
This former French colony has the heart of everyone who steps into ‘Pondi’ as it is endearingly called. Its distinctive French-style houses, perfect drivable roads flanked by trees and a beachy vibe is what make up this quirky place. Puducherry is located on the east coast of India, a separate union territory. The Promenade beach and Paradise Beach is where all the cool kids hang but you can also explore this picturesque city by renting a cycle and indulging in beach-side activities like scuba diving, scuba jumping and surfing. If it's spirituality that you seek, head to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a relaxing time away from the stresses of life.
Does the name ring a bell? Also known as Kanchi, this tiny but beautiful city is popularly known as Silk City for its gorgeous and well-made silk sarees. Not only that, this sacred city is also labeled as the ‘city of a thousand temples’ for its architectural marvels such as the Ekambareswarar Temple, a visually stunning temple that dates as far back as the 2nd century. You can observe the traditional style of architecture in Kanchikudil, a 90-year-old ancestral home which retains the old-world charm of ancient South India. Birds lovers would love to flock to the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary which also happens to be one of the oldest sanctuaries in India, stretching over 74 acres.
Just an hour south of Chennai on the East Coast Road, this idyllic coastal town of Kovalam in Kerala is where you can get your fix of sand and surf. One of the best surf schools in India, the Covelong Point Social Surf School is located here. This beach town is famous for three spectacular crescent-shaped, low tidal beaches. The largest is aptly named Lighthouse Beach for its 30-metre lighthouse. If you’re not a fan of crowds (all of us, these days), take a trip to Samudra Beach with its ample coconut trees and great views. This fishing village shot to fame in the 70s, with an influx of foreign tourists from Europe. Ayurvedic treatments and massages are one of its most popular indulgences along with yoga, meditation and other cultural activities.
History, archaeology and a bit of tradition — that's what makes up this important pilgrim town. Located in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati is enveloped in a layer of spirituality which extends to its architectural beauty as well. Despite the crowds, a sense of order, serenity and ease mostly prevails, and a trip to Tirupati can be fulfilling even if you’re not a pilgrim. Tirumala Hill’s Venkateswara temple is thronged by devotees from all over and is one of the richest pilgrimage centers of India, set amidst lush greenery and an enticing landscape.
A hill station with a pleasant climate which lasts the entire year, Yelagiri comprises 14 different quaint hamlets all nestled together with stunning hills enveloping it in its arms. Slowly turning into a holiday destination, Yelagiri has breathtaking views full of tea estates, vibrant gardens, green valleys and a scenic drive with multiple hairpin bends. The trekking trails lead you up to the top of Swami Malai Hill that passes through dense forests. Swami Malai Hills is one of the highest peaks in Yelagiri where it seems like the sky is reaching out for the earth.
Today a modern, hectic town, Thanjavur boasts of a dizzying legacy which has laid the foundation of Dravidian history. The past often bleeds out into the present and this is true for this culture-rich city. Every day thousands of people worship at the grand Brihadishwara Temple built by the Cholas. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city's labyrinthine royal palace preserve memories of other, later powerful dynasties. Labeled the ‘Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu’, it is said to have acquired its name from Than-sei-oor which literally means a place full of paddy fields and rivers.