Chennai is one of the most visited cities of India and a major reason behind this is the cultural heritage of places around the city. Chennai had recently also made it to the list of the best tourist destinations of India. The Ministry of Tourism had recently released a data that said that Tamil Nadu had left several stated behind based on the number of both foreign and domestic visitors. This city had a rich cultural heritage that dates back to at least 4000 years old. So if you are in Chennai and have a day or two to spare, you must visit some of these wonderful destinations. From the natural beauty of Kodaikanal and Yelagiri to the religious hot spots Mahabalipuram and Tirupati, every getaway from Chennai will take your breath away! Most travelers prefer visiting Chennai not just because it is an ideal getaway spot but also because it also offers these beautiful holiday locations around that should be explored on a weekday. Everybody once a while wishes to get away from cities to calmer places. And Chennai has many weekend getaways that will give you the much needed relaxation and break and also an insight into India’s rich heritage and many architectural marvels.
If you love history, archaeology and a little bit of tradition, Tirupati is the place to be. One of the most important pilgrim centers, Tirupati is situated in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati had recorded a population of 374,260 that makes it the ninth most populous city in the state. The Spiritual Capital of Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati has also been enlisted to be developed under the Smart Cities Mission by the Indian Government. If you are not really fond of visiting places of worship, you can still explore Tirupati for the architectural beauty.
Best time to visit: September to March is the best time to visit Tirupati when the heat is not much and exploring can be done comfortably.
Sightseeing Attractions: One of the biggest attractions is the Tirumala’s Venkatesawara temple that s visited the most by devotes from all over. It is also one of the richest pilgrimage centers of India and was made in dedication to Venkatesawara who is a form of Vishnu. Located on the beautiful Tirumala Hill, the lush greenery around and the landscapes makes the temple look even more enticing. You will also find a beautiful and naturally formed rock bridge known as Silathoranam.
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Another most visited temple is the Tirupati Balaji. This place of worship is visited by people from all over the world. Approximately 1, 00,000 are estimated annually and during special occasions the number of pilgrims rises to 5, 00,000 making it the most visited spiritual place in the world.
A visit to temple of Padmavati/Tiruchanur is said to be a must when you visit Tirupati. This temple was built in dedication to Padmavati who is Venkateshwara’s wife.
Where to stay: Tirupati has many accommodation options ranging from budget to luxurious hotels. Fortune Select Grand Ridge(0877 222 1818, Tariff- Rs 3700 approx), Fortune Kences(0877 225 5855, Tariff-Rs 3400 approx), Hotel Raj Park(0877 222 3666, Tariff- Rs 2200 approx) and Hotel Bliss(0877 223 7773, Tariff- Rs 2400). Book your rooms in advance since being one of the biggest pilgrimage places, it is always full.
Distance from Chennai: 135 km( 2 hours approx)
Pondicherry also called Puducherry is a former French colony. However, even after the French left, Pondicherry still carries the French aura and look. Situated on the east coast of India, Pondicherry has been people’s favorite getaway spot for many years. The beautiful lanes flanked by trees and French style houses makes this place an absolute must visit. The best way to explore this place is by renting a cycle and riding around the city. You can also indulge in many adventure activities like Scuba diving, surfing and also scuba jumping.
Best time to visit: You can visit Pondicherry at any time of the year. Avoid summers because Pondicherry can be unbearable during this time of the year.
Sightseeing Attractions: Of all the major attractions that Pondicherry has, The Promenade Beach is one of the most preferred one. The beach is 1.5 km long and a stroll along the beach is all it requires for you to feel refreshed. You can also visit the old light house which is another major attraction.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is another must visit place in Pondicherry. Built in 126 by Aurobindo Ghose, this ashram is open between 8 am and 12 pm and from 2 am to 6 pm. Visit this ashram for some spiritual time that will let you relax away from your mundane life. Take walk in the French colony that houses some pretty French quarters. French architecture in its best is what you get to witness here. It will no longer feel like it is Pondicherry once in this town.
Another great attraction that you must not miss out on visiting is the Paradise beach that is no less than paradise. Alluring blue waters and white sand does make this beach look like a little piece of heaven on earth.
Where to stay: Pondicherry being a beach town, there are not just hotels for accommodation but you can also stay in many beautiful resorts.Pondicherry Promenade (0413 222 7750, Tariff- Rs 6700 approx), Accord Puducherry(0413 229 9000, Tariff- Rs 3300 approx) and Le Royal Park(0413 223 1500, Tariff-Rs 3100 approx) are some of the best hotels in Pondicherry. And for resorts, you have The Windflower Resort & Spa (+91 99014 46666, Tariff- Rs 6200 approx), Nature Loft Beach Resort (+9195009 00998, Tariff- Rs 2100 approx) and also the Beach View Resort( +91 97906 18579, Tariff- Rs 750 approx).
Distance from Chennai: 170.8 km (3 hours 19 min approx)
Located in Vellore district is the beautiful Yelagiri that is also one of the most popular trekking destinations. Situated at an elevation of 4626 feet above, this hill station may not be as popular as other hill stations, but that doesn’t make it any less of a holiday spot. Yelagiri which is also known as Elagiri is a small town that has 14 different quaint hamlets all nestled midst dense and stunning four hills. Well known for their vastly spread out tea estates, vibrant gardens, green valleys and also picturesque landscapes adorn this place. And if you love driving or riding, you will enjoy driving down the roads leading to Yelagiri that has 14 hairpin bends testing every biker’s abilities. But the ride will be a scenic one since the views are breathtaking. To make Yelagiri as popular as Ooty and Kodaikanal, the government is making considerable efforts to ensure they promote this place by proving many adventure activities like trekking, paragliding and also rock climbing. The trekking trails lead you up to the top of Swami Malai Hill that passes through dense forests.
Best time to visit: October to February is the perfect time to visit Yelagiri.
Sightseeing Attractions: Swami malai hills in Yelagiri is where you should be for magnificence and grandeur. Located at 4626 feet above sea level, this is one of the highest peaks in Yelagiri. The peak of this hill looks like it is touching the sky and the hill has a shape of cake. For some time amidst nature, this is where you should be at. When in Yelagiri, the one attraction that no tourist should miss out on is the nature park that is vastly spread across 12 acres.
Nature Park is home to myriad species of plants, cascading waterfalls, a charming fountain and a perfect lighting set up. People love visiting this park for the vibrant ambiance that it has. A day spend in this park is an ideal way to relax. There is also a fish aquarium, a bamboo house and a telescope that can keep the little ones engaged.
Another attraction that you must visit is the famous Punganur Lake that is an artificial lake. People who love simple rowing or even boating can come here. Additionally there is also the Mughal Garden which is right next to the lake. Nature and some fun, this attraction has everything that you wish for.
Where to stay: Yelagiri does have many hotels and few resorts for accommodation. Each of them provides the best facilities and amenities.Yelagiri Residency (+9196006 84369,Tariff- Rs 1000 approx), Hotel Landmark(04179 245 335, Tariff- Rs 3100 approx), Hotel Kumararraja Palace(04179 245 325, Tariff- Rs 3300 approx) and Rhythms Lake View Resorts( +9194866 77461, Tariff- Rs 1600 approx).
Distance from Chennai: 230.3 km (4 hours 35 min approx)
Thanjavur is known to be the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu. It was first known as Tanjore before it became Thanjavur. This city is well known for its South Indian culture, art and also architecture. Several of the Living Chola temples are located in Thanjavur which are also UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. For people who love art, this city is an absolute visual delight. Out of the many temples that are popular in Thanjavur, the Brihadeeswara temple is the most popular and revered one. Because Thanjavur is also famously known for its rice cultivation, it is also called as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu. The interesting part about Thanjavur is that this city was named after a demon called Tanjan who was believed to be killed by Vishnu. Another popular folklore is that the city got its name from Than-sei-oor which literally means a place full of paddy fields and rivers.
During the 11th and 14th century Thanjavur shot to fame as the capital of Cholas. The Cholas in those times built several beautiful temples and made this city the main centre for culture and art. And the Brihadeeswara temple is one of the finest examples of their might. However after the fall of Cholas, it no longer was the capital, but the historical significance and prominence didn’t diminish. Currently, the culture and music of this traditional city is popular all across the globe. Apart from this, Thanjavur is also known to be paradise for shoppers who are looking to buy some quality handloom sarees and also brass and bronze idols and also intricate jewelry. If Thanjavur stands in pride it is owing to the Cholas who ensured they bring this city all the glory and fame it deserves.
Best time to visit: October to April is probably the best time to explore Thanjavur.
Sightseeing Attractions: Vijaynagar Fort is located very close to Brihadeeswarar temple and is one of the most visited attractions of Thanjavur. Built by the Nayak King, the construction was however finished by the Maratha rulers. Inside the fort you will find the beautiful Thanjavur Palace, Sangeetha Mahal and also the colorful and full of life Siva Ganga Garden. To explore Vijaynagara fort, you will have to pay an entry fee of Rs 20 for Indian adults and Rs 100 for foreigners.
Brihadeeswarar temple is one of the largest temples in India and symbolized a perfect example of Tamil architecture that was used during the Chola reign. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple turned a 1000 years old in 2010. The beauty and architecture of this temple remains unparalleled and if you love monuments, you should visit this temple. It is said that the Chola King had seen it in his dreams to build this temple and that is how this was made.
The Thanjavur Royal palace is another magnificent historical monument that you must visit. The palace is inside the Vijaynagara fort and used to be the residence of the Nayak Kings. It was built in the 16th century and then it was taken over by Maratha rulers. The royal family of this palace still lives here and on your visit to this palace, you will see many other attractions within the palace.
Where to stay: Lakshmi Hotel(04362 278 161, Tariff- Rs 3400 approx), Tanjore Hi Hotel(04362 252 111, Tariff-Rs 6300 approx), Hotel Gnanam(04362 278 503, Tariff-Rs 2800 approx) and Hotel Parisutham(04362 231 801, Tariff-Rs 3900 approx) are the many accommodation options in Thanjavur. They are all located Thanjavur’s main attraction spots.
Distance from Chennai: 383.3 km (6 hours 33 min approx)
Yercaud is a charming hill station located in Salem district in Tamil Nadu. And because it is also situated in the stunning Shevaroys range of hills, the scenic beauty is what attracts most people to this place. Though Yercaud is not as popularized and commercialized as the country’s other hill stations, it definitely should go in tour bucket list. On your next weekend getaway, make sure you visit any this place that is situated at an elevation of 4970 m above sea level. This hill stations is filled with forests and lakes and hence it is also known as the Jewel of the South. Renowned for its coffee plantations and also orange groves, Yercaud is where you should be if you love pristine surroundings and picturesque landscapes along with some adventurous activities.
Best time to visit: October- June is the best time to visit Yercaud when the weather is pleasant. You can explore the city without bearing the scorching heat during this time.
Sightseeing Attractions: Yercaud has many tourist attractions that one must definitely explore. Big Lake is one attraction that offers boating amidst scenic landscapes. You can also enjoy the views of sunset from Big Lake. The fountain right in the centre of this beautiful lake adds beauty to the already charming lake.
Another great attraction is the Pagoda Point that offers stunning views of Salem town and also the nearby quaint villages.If in Yercaud, head to the Pagoda point which is also known as the Pyramid point. The four stones that forms the shape of a pyramid is the reason why it is called Pyramid point and the temple of Rama amidst the stones can also be explored.
Located on the Shevaroy hills is the beautiful Servarayan temple that is dedicated to the deity of Shervaroyan. One of the most ancient temples, you can visit this temple even if you are not a believer for the beauty and allure. The temple is a dark cave which also has the idol of Kaveri.
If you are looking for serenity on your vacation to Yercaud, then you must visit Anna Park that has a wide variety of plants and trees with also a fascinating Japanese Park inside. This park is famous among children and adults alike. And if you happen to visit in May, you will also be treated to a spectacular flower show.
Where to stay: A weekend getaway trip to Yeracud will be even better if you choose to stay in any of these hotels. These hotels are ranging from mid range to budget. Grand Estancia(0427 277 7770, Tariff- Rs 3300 approx), GRT Nature Trails Sky Rocca (04281 225 100, Tariff- Rs 6300 approx), Wellington Hill Resort(04281 223 377, Tariff- Rs 1700 approx) and Golden Nest Resorts(081440 81440, Tariff- Rs 2600 approx).
Distance from Chennai: 358 kms (7 hours approx)
Perhaps the shortest getaway from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is an excellent option for those who like history and nature. Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World heritage site and its monuments are what make your visit to this ancient place worth your time. Most of it was built between the 7th and 9th centuries making it a place of great historic and archaeological significance. The Mahabalipuram beach is a popular tourist attraction visited by a large number of people on a daily basis. It is also known for the water sporting activities offered here.
Best time to visit: Summers in Mahabalipuram are very harsh so it is best to avoid this place during that time. The best time to visit Mahabalipuram is from November to March, the months of winter. The days are pleasant and the nights are cool during this time.
Sightseeing attractions: The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram is its primary tourist attraction. From the open sculpture called Arjuna’s penance to the 5 rock-cut chariots called the Panch ratnas, Mahabalipuram is full of stunning archaeological delights. It is truly a history lover’s paradise.
Mahabalipuram beach is another prominent place to visit in Mahabalipuram. It is a golden sandy beach and its rock-cut sculptures are extremely famous for its water sports like motor boating, wind surfing and diving. Mahabalipuram is also home to several temples, the most popular one being the Shore temple or the 7 pagodas carved out of granite.
Other sight-seeing attractions in Mahabalipuram include a school of art and sculpture, a snake venom extracting center and also a crocodile bank.
Where to stay: There are plenty of accommodation options in Mahabalipuram. The 3-star options cost Rs 2,200 per night on an average while the 5-star ones cost around Rs 8,500 a night. Hotel Mammalla heritage is a good 2-star option costing Rs 2,700 a night. The Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay (044 2744 3636) is a good choice for a luxurious stay.
Distance from Chennai: 56 km (1 hour and 30 minutes approx)
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Another great historical city located close to Chennai in south India is Vellore, a place that has a long history of rulers. At various points in time, Vellore has been ruled by the Pallavas, the Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, the Vijayanagar Empire, Rashtrakutas, Carnatic kingdom, and finally the British. Vellore is also one of the culturally active places in south India. Festivals like Pongal are celebrated with great fervour here. Despite a history which is filled with battles and bloodshed, Vellore today is a calm and simple place which is perfect for a rejuvenating getaway from Chennai
Best time to visit: Vellore, like most of Tamil Nadu, gets extremely hot during the summer months and therefore is best avoided during this time. During the monsoon, Vellore does not receive heavy rainfall which means that it is still a decent time for sightseeing. However, the best time to visit Vellore is during the winter months – November to February. During this time, the weather is Vellore is extremely pleasant throughout the day.
Sightseeing attractions: Vellore has some amazing tourist attractions worth visiting. The most famous landmark is Vellore is the Vellore fort which was used as prison for Tipu Sultan’s family and Vikram Rajasinha (Sri Lanka’s last king) by the British.
Vellore is also famous for its wonderful temples like the Jalakandeswarar temple and the Srilakshmi golden temple, both of which are located at beautiful spots.
Where to stay: Darling residency (0416 221 3001, Tariff- Rs 2,700 ) is a great choice for a budget stay in Vellore. The Regency Sameera Vellore by GRT hotels (0416 220 6466) is another good choice for a comfortable stay costing around Rs 4800 a night.
Distance from Chennai: 140 km (3 hours approx)
Kanchipuram known as Kanchi is a small yet a very beautiful city in Tamil Nadu. Fondly called as the golden city of a thousand temples and also popularly known as Silk City, this place is popular for their well crafted and beautiful silk sarees. Also because Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India, it also has a historical significance. Keep aside whatever religious beliefs you may have and just visit this city for the architectural wonders. The temples of Kanchipuram are a proof that this city was dominated by Dravidian heritage at a time when this place was ruled by Kings and rulers.
Best Time to Visit: September- March is the best time to visit Kaanchipuram. It is highly advisable to not visit Kanchipuram during summers.
Sightseeing attractions: Ekambareswarar Temple was built in dedication to Shiva in the 2nd century. Since then this temple has undergone many improvisations and now it is a visual spectacle. Enormously huge with big doors that are approximately 40 feet tall, this temple is one of the finest examples of Indian ancient architecture of the bygone times. It also has a mango tree which is believed to be 3500 years old.
Kanchikudil is a 90 year old ancestral home which is another must visit of Kanchipuram. If you love architecture, this temple is sure to impress you especially because of traditional style of architecture they used to use in those times. You will get to experience and understand the life and culture of this town. They organize cultural programs in the evenings which you can be a part of to learn a little more about the city’s art.
Another great attraction is the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary which is paradise for bird watchers. And if you love photography, this sanctuary will leave you delighted. One among the oldest sanctuaries in India, this place stretches over 74 acres of land offering breathtaking views of different species of birds- both domestic and migratory. Any time between October and March is an ideal time to visit the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary.
Kailasanathar temple is another oldest building in the city dedicated to Shiva. Built by the Pallavas who loved architecture, this temple in on glance will definitely leave you stunned. The intricately done stone carvings will prove the dedication of skilled artisans and also the importantce of architecture and arts during that period.
Where to stay: Kanchipuram sees many tourists every year and hence there is no dearth of accommodation options. Regency Kanchipuram by GRT Hotels(044 2722 5250, Tariff-Rs 4000 approx), M.M.Hotels(044 2722 7250, Tariff- Rs 1300 approx), Hotel Baboo Soorya(044 2722 2556, Tariff- Rs 1900 approx) and Sree Sakthi Residency (044 2723 3799, Tariff- Rs 2000 approx). These are the many options that one can consider for a comfortable stay in Kanchipuram.
Distance from Chennai: 72 km (One hour 30 minutes approx)