Tourists often want to pack as much as they can in a getaway. But some prefer a less packed, more leisurely pace, soaking in the history of bygone eras or the warm sun on sandy beaches. No matter which category you belong to, if you are in Chennai, you have a plethora of exciting places a few hours’ drive from the city to give you the exact holiday vibe you seek. Here’s a round-up of some of the most exciting road trips from Chennai.
Chennai to Pondicherry
Distance from Chennai: 165 km | Best time to visit: October to March
A drive via the East Coast Road (ECR) to Pondicherry or Puducherry is scenic and offers many interesting quick stops along the way such as Kovalam Beach and the limestone structures at Alamparai Fort. Popularly known as the French Riviera of the East, the Union Territory is steeped in French influences, whether it is architecture, cuisines, or customs. For those looking to indulge in a spot of history, there’s the Pondicherry Museum, French War Memorial, and Arikamedu.
Chennai to Mahabalipuram
Distance from Chennai: 56 km | Best time to visit: October to March
The ancient town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, picturesque at every bend in the road. Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, offers visitors a wide range of things to do and explore, depending on what they are looking for. Peppered with beaches along the coastline, and rich heritage and architecture dating back to the 1st century, Mahabalipuram has something for everyone. Get ready for sightseeing, beach camping, surfing, wildlife spotting, fishing, photography, and more!
Chennai to Kanchipuram
Distance from Chennai: 75 km | Best time to visit: March to October
Kanchipuram is one of the most popular temple towns in South India. Rightfully called the Golden City of Thousand Temples, Kanchipuram is also famous for its exquisite silk sarees. Considered one of the seven sacred cities in India, Kanchi is home to several beautiful temples, among which Kailasanathar Temple is the oldest surviving monument, built in the Pallava era. Other highlights of the city include Kamakshi Amman Temple, Varadharaja Perumal Temple, and the Dutch Fort.
Chennai to Vellore
Distance from Chennai: 137 km | Best time to visit: October to March
Sitting pretty on the banks of the Palar River, Vellore is an ancient city. Vellore Fort, built by the Vijayanagara Kings in the 16th Century, is the most prominent landmark of the city. While here, do stop by the Jalakanteswara Temple and the State Government Museum within the fort premises. Another must-see monument is the Srilakshmi Golden Temple. Do stop by Periyar Park for a quiet picnic and visit St John’s Church, built in 1846.
Chennai to Nellore
Distance from Chennai: 174 km | Best time of visit: October to March
Located on the banks of the Penna River, and surrounded by waterfalls and lakes, the city of Nellore is also the land of ancient temples. Do visit the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple while there! The city has been an integral part of several empires and rulers, dating back to the Cholas, the Mauryan dynasty, the Pallavas, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Mughal Empire, and finally the British. While driving down to Nellore from Chennai, make pitstops at the gorgeous Puzhal Lake and the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary.
Chennai to Tirupati
Distance from Chennai: 147 km | Best time to visit: September to March
Sri Venkateswara Temple is one of the most famous temples in India and sits majestically atop one of the seven peaks of Tirumala Hills. After a visit to the temple, make a pit stop to check out the stunning natural arch formed nearly 2.5 million years ago, a National Geo-Heritage Monument. Also not too far away is the beautiful Talakona Waterfall, the tallest in the state. The city has many shopping avenues for great bargains, so keep some time to shop.
Chennai to Villupuram
Distance from Chennai: 157 km | Best time to visit: November to March
Villupuram or Vizhupuram is the second largest district in the state of Tamil Nadu and is home to the Gingee Fort. Originally built in 1190 AD and subsequently fortified in the 13th century, it was known as the Troy of the East, and ranked as the most impregnable fort in India. Home to ancient temples, Villupuram boasts of a 1500-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Thiruvaamathoor. Also, visit the National Fossil Wood Park, a notified National Geo-heritage Monument.
Chennai to Pulicat
Distance from Chennai: 55 km| Best time to visit: October to March
Pulicat is a tranquil seashore town in Tamil Nadu. The Pulicat Lake and the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary attract thousands of birds from across the globe during the migratory season. A popular attraction in the winter months is the Flamingo Festival. Pulicat is a Nature Lover’s paradise and an excellent location for bird watching. Besides birding, you can also stroll around colonial-era churches and forts, unwind by the beaches, and if you’re a seafood lover, there’s plenty of fresh catch for you to try!