Chennai city is well-connected to some of the most iconic destinations of the south – making it a great base for exploration. From sandy beaches and colonial towns to richly carved temples and mountain scenery, there is a lot that can be experienced in a well-planned weekend trip. Nowadays, one can easily rent a car and head to the countryside. Here are some recommended destinations.
A lot has been written about Pondicherry, a town that blends the idyllic union territory vibes with a unique colonial aesthetic and vibrant local culture. Yet, the place is full of surprises. Many love to explore the French quarters – leafy neighbourhoods with the imposing promenade and its many monuments just beyond. One can tuck into a fresh baguette or relish some delicious idlis – such is the harmony of Pondicherry’s identity reflected in its wide range of cuisines.
When in Pondicherry, one must visit some of the popular beaches – Auroville Beach and Paradise Beach are two of the popular ones. The region around the university is home to many fishing villages and serene resorts – perfect places to enjoy an evening beer as the sea breeze blows. Auroville township is not just a bohemian recluse – some of the best green innovations in the country are unfolding here. Enjoy a drive around the coastal hillocks and catch mesmerizing views of the Bay of Bengal.
Chennai may boast all the contemporary and modern attractions but Tamil Nadu’s cultural heart resides in Madurai, a town famous for its temples and its food. The 460-km journey charts almost the entire length of the state and stops along the way can include Tiruchirapalli, an ancient city famous for the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.
Madurai’s biggest attraction is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is in the centre of the old town. It is a prime example of quintessential South Indian temple architecture, complete with its massive tower (gopuram) and intricate sculptures. The Thirumalai Nayakar Palace is another famous historical landmark while tourists can also head over to the Gandhi Memorial Museum.
The steamy heat of Chennai can take its toll, which is why holidaymakers enjoy the 7-hour drive east into the misty heights of Yercaud. Situated at a lofty 1500 metres above sea level, this quaint hill town offers not just recluse from the hot weather but also mesmerizing views and a chance to get up close to nature. Apart from hiking in the Shevaroy Hills, one can enjoy some boating on the placid currents of the Yercaud Lake. The Kiliyur Falls are a popular monsoon attraction here. Other places of interest include the Pagoda Point and the Rose Garden.
Travellers who value privacy, comfort and freedom to explore are opting for a car rental in Chennai instead of regular cabs. App-based platforms like Zoomcar offer a wide range of vehicles – from hatchbacks and sedans to sturdy SUVs that are perfect for large groups. Assurances like 24/7 on-road support add a layer of security to the road trip experience.