As the gateway to India's tropical south, Chennai offers easy access to various destinations like ancient temple towns, coastal nature reserves, colonial outposts, and beach resorts renowned for their monsoon views. If you are looking to go on a day trip near the city, here are some suggestions.
Try Surfing At Kovalam
Kovalam, a fishing village located 30km south of Chennai, has become Tamil Nadu's favourite surf spot thanks to its beach and reef breaks, which are best from June to September. The village is also known for its calm atmosphere and beach during the winter. The informal surf scene at Kovalam can be attributed to Murthy Megavan, an Indian surfing pioneer, who learned to surf on old wooden planks before borrowing his first board from Jack Hebner. Megavan now runs the Covelong Point surf school, offering surf classes, paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing lessons.
How to reach: You can take the hourly 599 city bus from Chennai's T Nagar Bus Depot (which takes one hour) and continues to Mamallapuram.
Indulge In Temple Hopping In Kanchipuram
Kanchipuram, the capital of the Pallava kings located 80km southwest of Chennai, is a temple town overflowing with intricately carved temples. These temples were built by Hindu dynasties between the 4th and 11th centuries. You can see the grand Kailasanantha Temple on the outskirts of town, which features the same style as Mamallapuram's Shore Temple but on a larger scale. The Kamakshi Amman Temple and Ekambareshwara Temple in the centre are classic examples of the Dravidian temple style.
How to reach: Trains run from Chennai's Egmore station every hour until the early evening, and public buses are also available from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus.
Discover Carvings At Mahabalipuram
Mamallapuram, located south of Chennai, was once the primary seaport of the Pallava kingdom and is now a lively centre for stone carving and a popular pilgrimage site, tourist destination, and beach retreat. You can explore the town's impressive collection of temples and shrines, including the Shore Temple and Arjuna's Penance. Mamallapuram Hill is worth visiting for its temples, carvings, and boulders. Afterwards, you can cool down with a surf class at Mumu Surf School or grab a bite at Le Yogi before taking the bus back to Chennai.
How to reach: Bus number 599 operates hourly from Chennai's T Nagar Bus Depot throughout the day, with the travel time taking up to two hours, depending on the traffic.
Explore Forts In Vellore
European colonial powers built forts all over southern India to consolidate their control, and Vellore's fort is an excellent example of this. Various rulers controlled the fort, including Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Today, you can wander around the fort's interior and see Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and the Jalakantesvara Temple with its gleaming white gopuram.
How to reach: There are several transportation options between Chennai and Vellore, including regular buses from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, air-conditioned Volvo buses, and fast trains from Chennai Central.
Indulge In Everything French In Pondicherry
Puducherry, a former French colonial outpost in Tamil Nadu, is known for its European-style villas, coffee shops and cathedrals. It is a popular place to wander around, relax in cafes, and explore French-era churches. Many visitors take a side trip to Auroville Ashram, which is located 12 km away from the town and hosts more than 1500 foreign devotees.
How to reach: Puducherry can be reached by two daily trains from Chennai's Egmore station or by regular buses from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus, taking around four hours.
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