As the week’s hustle takes its toll, our tired spirits yearn for moments of tranquility. A perfect weekend is synonymous with spontaneity and indulgence, where guilt takes a back seat. Fortunately, numerous options beckon near Chennai, providing the perfect canvas for a brief escape.
1. Mahabalipuram- 56 Km
Renowned for its temples and architectural marvels crafted by the Pallava dynasty from the 7th century onward, Mahabalipuram stands out as a highly sought-after tourist destination near Chennai making it perfect for a day excursion. Best time to visit is between November to February.
Among the captivating sites Krishna’s Butter Ball takes center stage. This colossal boulder, precariously positioned on a steep rock incline, defies the pull of gravity. Officially named Vaan Irai Kal, translating to Sky God’s Stone, local lore suggests it to be a colossal dollop of butter dropped by Lord Krishna.
Recognized as one of the few surviving temples among the original seven built in its style, the Shore Temple, dating back to the 8th century, holds UNESCO heritage status. Pancha Rathas, an exemplary showcase of monolithic architecture from the Pallava dynasty, adds to the allure. Carved from individual stone blocks, the five chariots or rathas bear the names of the Pandava brothers and their spouse Draupadi. Enjoy various activities like surfing at Mahabalipuram Beach, boat rides and turtle walks.
2. Pulicat- 55 Km
Discover the serenity of Pulicat, a seaside township nestled in the Thiruvallur district. Despite its small size, this picturesque beach town offers a perfect escape, providing both tranquility and an opportunity to unwind from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Among the attractions are Pulicat Lake and Pulicat Bird Sanctuary, drawing myriad avian visitors from around the world. While winter unveils a diverse array of bird species, the town offers a gratifying experience throughout the year. The Flamingo Festival, a winter extravaganza, stands out as a major attraction, captivating crowds and adding vibrancy to the region. Explore the Dutch Cemetery, colonial-era churches, historic forts and the distinctive villages that exude their unique charm. As a coastal haven, Pulicat doesn’t disappoint seafood lovers either. Best time to visit is between October to March.
3. Nellore- 175 Km
This town stands as a testament to the glorious Mauryan Age, preserving its historical charm. Embark on a journey through time at Udayagiri Fort, where echoes of the past resonate through well-preserved ruins. Nature enthusiasts will find solace at Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary reminiscent of Pulicat Lake’s allure. Witness the vibrant spectacle of migratory birds during the winter months, while resident species provide year-round fascination. Adding to Nellore’s allure is the majestic Somasila Dam offering panoramic views. Whether delving into history at Udayagiri Fort, marveling at avian wonders in Nelapattu, or embracing the scenic grandeur around Somasila Dam, Nellore promises a tapestry of experiences for every traveller. Best time to visit Nellore is between October to April although summers should be avoided.
4. Kanchipuram- 75 Km
Known as the Golden City of Temples, Kanchipuram stands as a paramount Hindu pilgrimage site, captivating spiritual souls with its resplendent temples and architectural grandeur. Nestled in Tamil Nadu, this city claims its place as the second holiest after Varanasi, drawing thousands with Kamakshi Amman, Varadharaja, Ekambareswarar, Kailasanathar and many more temples.
An erstwhile capital of the Pallava Dynasty, Kanchipuram carries the echoes of a glorious past, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a journey through India’s cultural and historical tapestry. As a renowned center for silk weaving, Kanchipuram Sarees, crafted from pure mulberry silk, stand as a testament to the city’s artistic legacy.
Beyond its spiritual significance, it has been a vital hub for Tamil learning, showcasing the rich tapestry of Dravidian heritage. Remnants of Buddhist stupas hint at the city’s prolonged association with Buddhism, adding layers to its diverse cultural history. The city’s allure extends beyond temples to encompass a bird sanctuary, scenic gardens, and tranquil lakes, providing a refreshing escape closer to nature. Best time to visit Kanchipuram falls between October to May.
5. Vellore- 138 Km
Revered as Tamil Nadu’s Fort City, Vellore stands as a prominent tourist destination in the state, boasting an array of pilgrimage sites and historical landmarks. Among its notable attractions are the Goddess Mahalakshmi Temple, Government Museum, Vainu Bappu Observatory, Science Park, and Yelagiri Hills. The State Government Museum showcases an impressive collection spanning botany, geology, prehistory, archaeology, and anthropology. Meanwhile, the Kavalur Observatory boasts Asia’s largest telescopes, dedicated to astronomical observations. For adventure enthusiasts, Yelagiri Hills and Swamimalai Hills beckon with popular hiking trails. Wildlife spotting, archaeological surveys, Periyar Park bird watching, and boat rides are cherished activities among visitors.
6. Tirupati- 147 Km
Nestled in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati stands tall as the spiritual capital of the state. Situated at the foothills of the Seshachalam hills, Tirupati is graced by the gifts of nature, including lush hills and flowing rivers. The town boasts a National Park, sharing its name with the renowned temple, which serves as a sanctuary for diverse flora and fauna. Critically endangered bird species like the yellow-throated bulbul, oriental white-backed vulture, and grey-fronted green pigeon find refuge here. The park also houses 1500 plant species, featuring rare treasures such as red sanders and sandalwood.
The archaeological museum showcases a rich collection of Hindu deities and cultural artifacts gathered from various sites. The town experiences a pleasantly snug climate during winter and early spring, offering visitors breathtaking views amid Andhra’s natural splendor. The revered Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple, along with other historic sites, adds to the wonders waiting to be explored in Tirupati. The Best time to visit Tirupati is between September to March.
7. Madurai- 462 Km
Madurai, revered as the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, dons several titles such as “The Athens of the East,” “Sleepless City,” and “The City of Temples.” With roots embedded in history, this ancient city is a prominent destination in Tamil Nadu and a revered pilgrimage site in India.
Madurai, a repository of traditional Tamil culture, beckons with its mythical, lively, and soulful ambiance. Among its historical monuments, the world-renowned Meenakshi Amman Temple, Idaikattur Church, The Pudhu Mandapam, and The Thirumalai Nayakar Palace stand as iconic symbols of Madurai.
Delve deeper into its rich cultural heritage by exploring places like the Gandhi Museum, Vaigai Dam, Villacherry Pottery Village, Teppakulam tank, and Madurai Kamaraj University. Wander through vibrant marketplaces, negotiating with local vendors, or immerse yourself in the city’s festivities during December- February.
8. Pondicherry- 152 Km
Puducherry, or Pondicherry, is a captivating blend of French sophistication, spiritual serenity, and pristine beaches, making it a magnetic destination among those seeking an escape within 200 km of Chennai. Beyond its spiritual allure, this beach-side town, often dubbed the French Riviera of the East, beckons with an array of authentic French culinary delights.
A pivotal visit in Puducherry is to The Aurobindo Ashram, established in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother). Drawing visitors globally, the ashram offers a serene space where you can procure handmade paper articles, ayurvedic medicines, and perfumes. Venture into the experimental township of Auroville, founded in 1968 by The Mother, Mirra Alfassa. It hosts individuals from diverse cultures and nationalities. Dominating the landscape is the majestic Matrimandir, holding special significance for yoga practitioners.
Adding vibrancy to Puducherry is the bustling Promenade, a popular 1.2 km beachfront along the Bay of Bengal, adjacent to White Town. Indulge in a cup of coffee or savor the finest French cuisine at the numerous cafés lining this picturesque stretch. You can enjoy water sports & sailing here. The Best time to visit Pondicherry is between October to March.
9. Kolli Hills- 400 Km
Emerging as a hidden gem for a day trip near Chennai, Kolli Hills welcomes you with a perfect blend of nature and tranquility. Limited accommodation options contribute to the charm of this destination, offering a genuine escape from civilization. If you’re yearning for an offbeat, non-touristy experience, Kolli Hills is your ideal choice.
Be sure to explore the mesmerizing Agaya-Gangai Falls near the Arappaleeswarar Temple, and delve into the lush coffee and spice plantations that adorn the hills.
10. Mysore- 482 Km
When you envision Mysore, the magnificent Mysore Palace immediately comes to mind. Serving as the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty, this sprawling palace stands proudly in the heart of Mysore. Constructed in the 14th century, with re-construction initiated in 1912, the palace boasts captivating features, including the Doll’s Pavilion, Gombe Thotti, showcasing traditional dolls from the 19th and early 20th centuries. A highlight not to be missed is the wooden elephants adorned with a staggering 84 kg of gold.
Experience the enchanting Mysore Palace illumination and the nightly ‘light and sound show’.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of vibrant flowers that stretch as far as the eye can see at Brindavan Gardens. Encompassing over 150 acres, the gardens offer a delightful evening experience, especially when the water fountains come to life. For an encounter with an engineering marvel, a visit to Kabini Dam is a must. Nestled at an elevation of 2,284 feet on the Kabini River, this dam promises a captivating experience.
These weekend getaways not only provide a break from routine but also weave memories of scenic landscapes, architectural marvels and the warmth of South Indian hospitality. So, as you plan your next weekend retreat, let the allure of these nearby places guide you towards rejuvenating experiences, making every escape a cherished journey.