Top 12 must-visit places & must-do things in Chennai

Chennai is my hometown, a beautiful city where I lived a major portion of my life. And I've roamed extensively all over Chennai and all its surrounding places... Here's a suggestion of 12 roads less travelled or unusual places / things to do in Chennai for the explorer or traveler (not tourist) in you...
1. UNESCO World Heritage at Mahabalipuram: Tamil Nadu boasts ownership to 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites - Mahabalipuram complex and 4 major Chola Temples in Thanjavur. Mahabalipuram is very close to Chennai and it takes less than an hour to reach there from the outskirts of Chennai. You could see the place for minimum an entire day or upto a week if you enjoy each and every sculpture! 
2. Bird watching & some back waters: Chennai's green lungs are in quite a few places. There's Pallikaranai Marsh Land, Kelambakkam Back water, Perungudi lake and Pulicat aka Pazhaverkadu which are major spots for bird watching. Infact birds from all over the world come here in winters incl flamingos, pelicans, jacquanas and several hundred more species. These also visit Siruthavur lake. 
3. Trekking anyone? Though Chennai isn't as blessed as Bangalore when it comes to its hills, but there are a few like Pallavaram hills. However the major hills to trek is the Nagalapuram range which includes Nagala, Tada, Nagari etc. One of virgin range of hills, its a haven for trekking and camping (ofcourse, risks involved, it isn't a picnic).
4. Secluded beaches & sea adventures: Chennai boasts owning the world's 2nd largest beach Marina, which is always crowded. Then there are Elliots beach & Thiruvanmiyur beach which are somewhat lesser crowded. However, with the entire stretch of East Coast Road, from Thiruvanmiyur to Mahabalipuram, going along the sea line, its beach everywhere. Stop your vehicle wherever you want to and get going... Check out the Sozhinganallur Beach which was absolutely serene a few years back but pretty much buzzing of late.
5. Pre-historic spots: Not just historic, there are a few pre-historic spots around Chennai as well. Megalithic burials, cysts, and dolmens can be seen at Thiruporur and Siruthavur on the ECR, a bit before Mahabalipuram.
6. Attend a couple of cultural events: Chennai isn't considered the cultural capital of India for nothing. Carnatic music, Bharathanatyam dance mostly, but also tons of folk performances, North Indian classical music, instrumental music, Kuchupudi, Mohiniattam, Kathak, and many many many more performances plus religious celebrations happen throughout the year, but way too many in the months of December and January. The best part, a bulk participation of lively young crowd is present!
7. Visit a few temples: Chennai and temples, are kinda synonymous. Everyone knows Mylapore Kapalishwara Temple and Triplicane Parthasarathy Temple. However, every village around Chennai has its own age old Shiva Temple & Vishnu Temple. Visit Madambakkam Dhenupurishwarar Temple, Mambakkam Sathyapurishwarar Temple, Ponneri Agasthiswarar Temple, Thirumazhisai & Thirunindravur Temples, Magaralishwarar Temple etc. 
8. Eat a South Indian food: Idli or Dosa with 3-4 chutneys & podi for breakfast, proper south Indian Thali meals with rice, sambar, rasam, appalam, avakkai pickle for lunch, all eaten with hands than spoon or fork or knife is a must to complete the experience.
9. Shop at T.Nagar: Chennai experience can be complete only after you try to wear a saree and feel the crowd of Chennai and for both Thyagaraya Nagar is a great option. Try to go on a weekend before a major festival like Diwali to experience the Mad-rush!
10. Experience Green lungs: Greenery is also an integral part of Chennai. Not just the wild trekking trails and water bodies, there are some green spaces in Chennai as well like Adyar Estuary, Kalakshetra, Nanmangalam forest etc.
11. Art Attack: Art also has its own space in Chennai. No. I'm not talking about the galleries, but about the spaces where they explore their skills & passions and network as well - Cholamandal Artists Village and Dakshinachitra.
12. Forts of Chennai: Ofcourse there is the famous Fort St.George and Madras High Court which are some amazing British structures. But there are some lesser known forts, some in ruins, mostly built by Dutch - Pulicat Cemetry, Alamparai Fort and Sadras Fort

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

19 comments:

  1. hey you left out Marundeeshwar (& Valmiki temple) temple at Thiruvanmiyur and surf and turf at kovalam

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  2. Thanks for the list. Looks like I have a few more places to visit in Chennai, esp. Temples. Here is my list (for tourist places only) -

    http://www.destinationinfinity.org/2012/05/06/tourist-places-to-seevisit-in-and-around-chennai-tn-excluding-ecr/

    Destination Infinity

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  3. It's always awesome to see temples, such sacred and beautiful places! Very relaxing! I love that you can go bird watching too, that's a good break from all the walking and the commuting. Thanks for sharing these!

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  4. i've been to mahabalipuram and just loved the whole experience! :D

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  5. I will definitely be keeping these things in mind. Sounds like there's quite a variety of things to do here.

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  6. What a wonderful place. I'd like to visit this in the future. :-)

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  7. Chennai is one of the most happening metros in India. Wow food and Wow shopping! Great list you have mentioned.

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  8. I think I'll go for the temples, beaches and nature. Chennai looks like a really scenic vacation place.

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  9. I think Chennai has the things I am looking for places I want to visit. Thanks for sharing this. I am really planning to go to India soon, I hope i will have a chance to visit Chennai.

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  10. I didn't know they had the worlds 2nd largest beach marina! I would love to visit one of the secluded beaches.

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  11. I am fascinated by the beautiful foliage there is to see in Chennai. It is wonderful to learn about those less traveled roads so one can discover these sights on their own.

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  12. Wonderful compilation of must see places in and around Chennai.

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  13. Nice post.
    I have only been to Chennai once. It was 11 years ago. A long time, yes. I remember going to the Marina beach, a very large museum and Vailankanni, at the cathedral of Our Lady of Good Health.

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  14. I am not sure I will ever have the chance to visit India, or Chennai in particular. Thank you for this short introduction as to what this city is all about. Interesting to learn that it is a centre for culture.

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  15. Oh your city looks delightful. I love seeing and reading posts like this so if I'm ever visiting I can have an idea of what to do.

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  16. Thanks will take note of this because I plan to go to Chennai soon. There are lots of temples and spices to buy. I do like Indian food also.

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  17. I have been to Chennai few times and loved it for its food and beautiful scenic breathtaking places.

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  18. The secluded beaches look amazingly beautiful! Only thing is, I wonder if they are dangerous, as in if people do get lost there!

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