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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Not enough Weekend destinations from Chennai?

Many of my friends in Chennai go to Bengaluru, as they've exhausted all weekend options in and around Chennai. Greg Moran, co-founder of Zoomcars said they've deferred opening a branch in Chennai as they feel Chennai doesn't have too many weekend destinations, that could ensure sustained demand for self-drive rental cars.  Relatives who visit Chennai often cut short their trip, as they feel there’s nothing else to see and if I ask them to come again, they often say No, saying “We've seen everything No?”.

I am publishing below my own list of weekend destinations ex-Chennai, though there’re plenty of such lists already available on the net. So far I could list 25 places within city, 10 places within some 100kms distance and 20 destinations which are little further but can be covered in a 2-3 days trip.

Are below places good enough to keep people engaged weekend after weekend? So is it true that Chennai doesn’t have enough weekend destinations? Let us say compared to Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and other cities? Prima-facie it feels so. But if you feel there’s more one can explore, please do comment.

Type 1: 25 Places within city limits of Chennai (Few hours/30-40 kms )
#
Destination
Description
Recommended time of visit
1
Kapaleeshwar Temple
Religious place
Early morning
2
Marina Beach
Beach
Early morning/ Evening
3
Besant Nagar Beach
Beach
Early morning/ Evening
4
VGP
Beach/entertainment
Normal business hours
5
MGM
Amusement park
Normal business hours
6
T Nagar/Pondy Bazaar
Shopping area
Evening
7
Anna Memorial
Monument
Any
8
Guindy National Park, Snake Park
Zoo
Normal business hours- 8AM onwards
9
Nehru Planetarium
Museum and Planetarium
Any
10
Anna Library
Library
Normal business hours
11
Gandhi Mandapam
Monument
Any
12
Vandaloor Zoo
Zoo
Normal business hours (9AM onwards
13
Theosophical society
Scenic avenue
Not open on Sundays, check their site for access information
14
Music Academy/
Egmore theater
Cultural activities
Depending on program
15
Light house at Marina
View of the beach
10 Am to 1 PM, 3PM to 5PM
16
Alliance Francis
Cultural activities
Depending on program
17
Valluvar Kottam
Monument
Any
18
Astalakshmi temple, Besant Nagar
Religious place
Any
19
Santhome Church
Religious place
Any
20
Cholamandal Artist Village, ECR
Art & Culture
Normal business hours
21
ISKCON Temple, Sholinganallur
Religious place
Any
22
Jagannath Temple, Kanathur ECR
Religious place
Any
23
Queensland amusement park, Bangalore road
Amusement park
Normal business hours
24
Semmozhi Poonga (Theme park on Cathedral road
Park
Any
25
Rajiv Gandhi Memorial
Monument
Any
Type 2: Nearby destinations from Chennai (Short visits-half day or 1 day, 100kms)
#
Destination
Distance from Chennai
What to expect/do?
Season
1
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
100
Bird watching
Mid November to Mid Feb
2
Pulicat Lake
100
Bird watching, boat ride
Mid November to Mid Feb
3
Mahabalipuram
60
Temples, beaches
Any
4
Alamparai
100
Fort, backwaters
Any
5
Dakshin Chitra
20
Cultural experience, handicrafts, South Indian tradition etc
Any day, afternoon is better
6
ATV Ride near Mahabs
50
Polaris Offroad ATV ride centre

Detailed review here
Any
7
Visit Royal Enfield Factory
50
Guided tour of the legendary factory.

Detailed review here
Check on RE website for fees and appointment
8
Muttukadu boat ride, Crocodile bank
50
Entertainment

Sunset at Muttukadu
Normal business hours
9
Kovalam
40
Beach
Any
10
Kancheepuram
80
Temples
Any

Type 3: Weekend destinations (Approx 200-800kms round trip, one or more night stay, often clubbed with other nearby places)


#
Destinations
Total Round Trip Distance
What to expect
Season

1
Chandragiri-Talakona-Horsley Hills
650-700kms
Waterfalls, hill station, fort
Any
Chennai is very close to Andhra Pradesh and above destinations, all located in AP state, can be explored in 24 hours if you’re pressed for time or in 48 hours in a relaxed mode.

24 hour plan:
Start from Chennai very early in the morning, take the route towards Tirupati, breakfast on the way and reach Chandragiri fort (170kms) by 9AM (its opening time). Spend 1 hour here exploring the fort & museum, leave for Talakona waterfalls, another 50kms from Chandragiri fort. Reach by 11.30 AM, spend time at the falls till 1PM, lunch at the community cottage and head towards Madanapalle. Reach Horsley hills (130kms from Talakona) by evening, spend a few hours, leave for Chennai by 6.30PM. Chennai is 300kms from Horsley hills and you may reach home/hotel by midnight.

48 hours plan
While above plan can get very hectic, you can do the same in a relaxed mode, by spending a night either in Tirupati or Talakona or Horsley hills. Adequate accommodation options are available here. This will give you more time at each of the places and can avoid continuous/night driving, you may even include visit to Tirupati temple if interested.

Related posts:  Talakona * Horsley Hills * Chandragiri 
2
Pondy-Pichavaram-Tranquebar
600kms
Scenery, Mangrove forests, Danish fort
Any
Leave from Chennai early in the morning, spend an hour or two in Mahabalipuram if you’ve not been there, then head to Pondicherry. (you are recommended to take a quick diversion to check out Alamparai fort)

Spend few hours in Pondy exploring rock beach, Ashrama, drive further to Pichavaram near Chidambaram. Target to reach by noon or 2PM. At Pichavaram take a boat ride into Mangrove forests to explore the scenery and birds.

Once done, you may head towards Tranquebar. Depending on your budget and comfort zone, you may opt to stay either at Chidambaram town or Neemrana Bungalow on the beach at Tranquebar or Karaikal town. If daylight permits explore Tranquebar, else relax for the day

Day 2: Explore Tranquebar and Danish fort (Try visiting it Day 1 itself if possible. Fort opens at 10AM, little too late if you wish to start early and explore other places)

Once done with Tranquebar, you may either head to Velankani (a popular church town) or return towards Chennai. With small deviations you will be able to explore Gingee fort and or Vedanthangal, depending on how much time is left and the interest levels of the group.

Add Point Calimere if you have time and if it is a season of birds (Nov-Feb)

More details on Pichavaram * Neemrana Bungalow on the beach, Tranquebar * Danish Fort 
3
Salem, Yercaud, Kolli Hills
800kms
Hill stations, view points
Any
You may either drive down all the way to Salem or take a bus/train to Salem and then hire a cab there. If you start on Friday night, you may reach Salem on Saturday early morning. Drive uphill to Yercaud. Yercaud is poor man’s ooty and offers lots of view-points, few temples, caves and boat rides. Lots of accommodation options are available in Yercaud, including multi star resorts. You may opt to stay here in Yercaud or drive down to Salem town and spend the night there

On Day 2, drive towards Kolli hills. Kolli hills offers a bunch of view-points, a temple and more than that, you’ll enjoy driving through the hair pin bends.

Related posts: Yarcaud * Kolli Malai
4
Vellore, Yelagiri, Hogenakkal
500kms
Waterfalls, hill station
Any
Leave from Chennai early in the morning, head to Vellore. Spend some time visiting the Golden temple in Vellore and then head to Yelagiri. Yelagiri is a small hill station and offers nice viewpoints and a temple. With some local help you can also do some trekking around the hills

Basic accommodation available on top of Yelagiri- if you like the place and wish to spend a night, you can opt to stay here, else get down and drive towards Krishnagiri. You can stay at any hotel in Krishnagiri or Dharmagiri

Day 2: Head to Hogenakkal falls. Water level and activities may vary depending on what time of the year you visit the falls. Try coracle ride in the waters, swim where it is safe to.

Start return journey by noon, to reach Chennai by evening time.

Related: Yelagiri bike trip  * Hogenakkal
5
Tada, Nagala, Nagari
100kms towards AP
Trekking
Any
Trekking destinations- go with expert trekkers or join treks organized by Chennai Trekkers Club. Can be one day activity or multi day trek with overnight camping in the hills
6
Gingee Fort
250kms
Fort
Any
Can be explored off GST road while returning from Pondy or a dedicated day could be spent to explore this ancient fort. More details here
7
Bangalore and nearby
800kms
Multiple
Any
Drive towards Bangalore and explore Antaragange in Kolar, Nandi hills, Bannerghatta and other places in and around Bangalore
8
Velankani, Tanjavur
800kms
Religious
Any
Velankani shrine is very popular amount the Chirstians and short distance from there is Tanjavur with its popular Bruhadeeshwar temple.

Type 4: Super long Weekend destinations (Approx 600kms + oneway, 1000kms+ round trip, 3-4 days recommended).

Some of these involve very long drive or could be covered by flight for part of the distance to save time. Some of these can be visited directly from other towns like Bengaluru/Hyd etc as well with less travel.
#
Destinations
Total Round Trip Distance
What to expect
Season
1
Kadapa, Gandikota, Belum caves (AP/ Telangana)
1200kms
Caves, valley, monuments

Leave from Chennai on Friday night, reach Kadapa by Saturday morning. You can keep this town as your base for this trip. Refresh, have breakfast and then drive to Gandikota. You can have lunch here and then leave for Belum caves

Back in Kadapa and rest for the day

Day 2: You may visit Talakona & Horsley hills and return to Chennai
Alternatively you may leave on Saturday morning, reach Kadapa by noon and visit Belum caves and Gandikota in leisure, return to Chennai by Sunday evening, without deviating to Talakona

Related: Belum Caves * Gandikota 
2
Ooty
1200kms
Hill station
Any
Ooty needs no introduction. This queen of hills is 600kms from Chennai. You can leave on Friday night, spend 2 days in Ooty and come back by Monday morning, or take few days off and extend your stay.
3
Kodaikanal
1200kms
Hill station
Any
Another popular hill station similar to Ooty
4
Valparai, Athirapalli falls
1200kms
Hill station
Any
Scenic hill station, less crowded that Ooty and Kodaikanal- scenic drive, less stay options and close to Athirapally waterfalls, Kerala.
5
Munnar
1200kms
Hill station
Any
Scenic hill station, just across Kerala border. Read my travelogue on Munnar
6
Vishakapattanam (Vizag)
1700kms
Beach, valley
Any
800 kms from Chennai, Vizag can be reached by flight or by road/train. Once there, explore RK beach, Araku valley, caves, Kailasagiri, Submarine museum and other places of interest

Add Simhachalam if you have some more time
7
Rameshwaram
1200kms
Temple, Scenery
Any
Visit Rameshwaram for religious purpose or to explore the popular Pamban bridge and Dhanushkodi villages.
8
Madhumalai Wildlife Reserve
1200kms
Wildlife
Any
Again the closer route is via Bangalore & Mysore, Bandipur & Nagarahole can be added to plan if you have few extra days.
9
Palani, Srirangam
1400 kms
Temples
Any
Palani can be added to plan while visiting Munnar/Valparai etc as it is closer
10
Kanyakumari
1400kms
Monument, beaches

At the other extreme of TN, Kanyakumari is popular for its scenary, monument in the sea among other things
11
Badhrachalam Telangala
1400kms
Temple and Scenic drive
Any
Add it to plan along with Hyd/Vizag, since traveling just for Badhrachalam might not make sense. It offers nice drive and temples
12
Hyderabad
1400kms
Multiple
Any
Visit for Golconda fort, Charminar, Ramoji film city and many other attractions

Update, 17 Sep:
Few more destinations: 
1. Lepakshi, AP, 350kms from Chennai
2. Thandikudi, TN, 400kms from Chennai
3. Nellore-ongole-jonnavada (suggested by a reader- Balasubramanian
4. Vellore-amirthy-jamnamaruthur trip/trek.
5. Tiruvannaamalai 

Distances are indicative. Depending on where you're staying, actual distance may vary. Also read: Places to explore near Chennai- Early morning and late evening *

19 comments :

Anuradha Shankar said...

Nice lists, Shrinidhi! I havent been in Chennai much, but apart from these, there are also a huge number of ancient temples and caves near chennai, which can also be considered weekend destinations.... maybe they arent of interest to everyone, which is probably why they arent usually counted, but some of them have some very interesting stories, carvings or history attached to them...

R Niranjan Das said...

Comprehensive list! Should be of great help for weekend travellers.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Anuradha: Thanks. yes, there're numerous temples of various gods- usually not really unique and doesn't qualify as tourist place, except for devotees or those interested very much about temples.

Anything particular you have in mind? And where are the caves? haven't heard of any...


@Niranjan: Thanks

Lakshmi said...

Very comprehensive...did you add Gingee, Tiruvannaamalai - I havent been there though

Shrinidhi Hande said...

THanks Lakshmi... Gingee I've added

Thiruvamnalai is more of a temple, of which there's already good list.. so wasn't sure.

Ashwini C N said...

A very nice list. A few places which I myself was not aware of. Thanks for sharing :-)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Ashwini

I original intention was to trigger a debate if there're enough weekend destinations in Chennai or not.. But I see that everyone are using this post as a reference...

Anyway good to see the response

Balasubramanian Chandrasekar said...

why no mention about srisailam, nagarjunasagar,kurnool town as a weekend getaway from chennai? also, trip to krishnapatnam (via nellore) and the krishna basin town-Vijayawada?
another weekend getaway is vellore-amirthy-jamnamaruthur trip/trek.
There is that sathanur dam, parvatha malai week end destinations. on the AP side, pulicat,tada and sri harikota for backwaters/estuary/angling. people can combine srikalahasthi,nellore and jonnavada for pilgrimage cum heritage visit. then the ever popular gingee fort-tvmalai-vellore circuit?

Balasubramanian Chandrasekar said...

there are more to it than it meets the eye.there is a kadapa-kurnool-srisailam dam/temple circuit. there is madhanapalee-horseley hills-ananthapur-puttaparthy circuit. there is kadapa-nagarjuna saagar week end escape.ofcourse, the pulicat-sriharikota-bird sanctuary is a day's escape route on weekends. the ever popular gingee-tvmalai-sathanur dam, nellore-ongole-jonnavada, the krishna basin town-vijayawada are few more weekend trips fit for inclusion in the menu

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Balasubramanian

Kadapa, Horsley Hills, Gingee, Pulicat etc are already listed.But yes, thanks for these tips. Will try to add these additional places

letzstepout said...

Great List...Thanks for sharing

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks

Diakui.com said...

This article is nice and I really like, thank you for sharing!

Otobuku said...

thank you for your sharing,, This article is very nice ,, I like it,,

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks

kothai said...

include gudiyam caves in your list for trekking near chennai

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Kothai

Cara Pendaftaran said...

thx very much is the best

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Cara- you're welcome.