Image courtesy: Joseph Jayanth.
Like any other coastal city, upon arrival, Chennai greets you with all its heated glory. Previously known as Madras, Chennai is a melting pot of various cultures that are reminiscent of the past and also embraces modernism with open arms. Though Chennai has its fair share of tourist sites, for those who are locals, summertime escape from the metropolitan city offers some much-needed respite. So here is a list of the top 10 weekend getaways from Chennai.
The French left the country, but what they left behind in the process, was the quaint town of Puducherry. Popularly referred to as “Pondy”, Puducherry is divided into two parts, the French quarters, displaying vintage style colonial buildings mostly painted in white and mustard and the Tamil quarters, representing an older vibe with its customary air of gajras and mogra flowers, elaborate Nagada style temples and it’s smaller and more populated roads.
- Pondicherry is recognized for the existence of the Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s Ashram which are characterized by the color grey, in the French quarters. Pondy serves as a great holiday for budget travelers because there is so much to see, and almost everything is just a hop skip and a jump away from each other.
Yercaud Meaning “Lake Forest” is a popular hill station located in the Eastern Ghats. When one thinks of Yercaud, all that comes to mind, are the mountains of verdant green upon which one can take numerous treks to find hidden natural trekking paths. Speaking of natural treasures, the Yercaud Lake is another noteworthy tourist destination along the Killiyur falls and Lady’s seat, which is one of the many viewpoints that provide panoramic views of the surrounding undulating hills.
- This small town is also a major source of Coffee (first grown in Grange estate, another place worth visiting) various fruits, spices and wood.
Much like its other hilly counterpart (Yercaud), all you see is green all around. Green, dew-kissed hills going on all the way till the eyes can see. Coorg serves as one of the most popular hill stations of India and it’s probably because of its tranquil environs, amalgamated with an element of adventure-read trekking across the verdant never-ending hills.
- Thinking about trekking in Coorg? Thadiyandamol, the district’s highest peak with its surrounding vistas is where you must go for sure.
Thekkady is located on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala Border, is considered a heaven for coffee and natural spices. Thekkady is also known for its proximity to Chellar Kovil which has a lot of picturesque waterfalls and cascades. Thekkady is, however, more popular because it is the location of Periyar National park. The wildlife sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 1978.
- The greatest attractions of Periyar are the herds of wild elephants, deer and bison that come down to drink in the Mullaperiyar Lake. The sanctuary can be accessed through a trekking, boating or jeep safari.
Rameshwaram is considered one of the holiest sites for pilgrimage in India and is a part of the Char Dham Yatra(Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka, Rameshwaram). Legend says that Rameshwaram was the point of conjunction where Lord Ram built a bridge to Sri Lanka to save Sita. In modern times, Rameshwaram is known for the esteemed Ramanathaswamy temple which has the largest temple corridor in India.
- When driving across the Pamban Bridge to Rameshwaram, one must stop just to enjoy the cool sea breeze which is sure to re-energise you to return to the city after a much needed holiday.
Another colonial favorite, Udhagamandalam or Ooty is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country and you will see why. Cradled in the Nilgiri Hills, Ooty makes the viewer breathless with spectacular green vistas as far as the eyes can see, while the cool breeze is a refreshing change from the city’s dust and smog.
- This previously British town still carries constant reminders of the inhabitants of the past. Said to be the Birthplace of Snooker, Ooty offers travellers plenty of recreational activities such as horse-riding, cricket and an array of adventure sports including hang-gliding and trekking. There are many tourist sites to visit but rest assured, if it’s a peaceful, relaxing holiday you want, that is what you’ll get in Ooty.
The legendary city of Chidambaram is a melting pot of various cultures and the city surely looks like it. Most popularly known for the Chidambaram temple in the heart of the city, which is a testament to the glory of the Chola dynasty. Few of the fifty maths (monasteries) that once stood there remain, but the temple itself is still a hub for activity and hosts numerous festivals.
- Chidambaram revolves around the Chidambaram Temple and the busy market area that surrounds it. The town also has a large student population, because of the Annamalai University, a centre of Tamil studies. Decked with grand temples which display sculptural and architectural splendour, this town perfectly captures the colours and the vibrancy of South India.
8. Kolli Hills:
Haven’t heard of it? Well, that’s because it’s one of the most beautiful, but unheard of places in the South. The lack of commercialization ensures that travelers get a taste of peace and serenity, away from the crowd. Kolli hills are replete with all things characteristically south Indian, from the coffee and spice plantations to the emerald green valleys accompanied by the dark hills and the cool weather.
- A must-see tourist spot is the Agaya-Gangai Falls near the Arappaleeswarar Temple, a walk to which is pretty steep – 1000 steps steep to be precise! But it is totally worth the effort. Kolli Hills thrives on its unexploited beauty that ensures you leave feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
Previously a princely state, Mysore still embodies the royal and cultural abundance of Karnataka, earning it the title of the “Cultural Capital of Karnataka.” Mysore is known for its palaces, the most famous being the Mysore palace, the residence of the erstwhile emperor of Mysore. Palaces aren’t all this city has to offer in terms of tourist attractions and there are many more attractions.
- Mysore is the home of Mysore paintings which are an elaborate representation of Mysore’s cultured royalty. Those with a sweet tooth will especially enjoy what Mysore has to offer in terms of mithai. The Mysore Pak is a famous sweet dish that will leave you wanting more with each ghee and jaggery filled bite. For those on a budget, there’s a lot to experience in Mysore.
Munnar meaning “three rivers” is quite literally cradled between the rivers, Kundala, Mudrapuzha and Nallathanni, ensuring that it is a splendidly refreshing little hill station on the Western Ghats. Munnar serves as a popular centre of adventure sports like trekking, paragliding, rock-climbing and hang-gliding. Don’t be surprised if, in one of your nature walks, you happen to come across some wildlife.
- Nothing dangerous but Munnar is home to various endemic species like the Sambhar Deer, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr and the Wood-Pigeon, making it a haven for bird-watchers as well. Munnar and its lush environs prove to be a brilliant weekend destination from Chennai.
Chennai is a gateway to an array of beautiful and breath-taking destinations. So you choose, what’s better, staying in over the weekend, or going on the adventure of a lifetime? And no, a light pocket should never hold you back!
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