One day Itineraries (Chennai - India)

More than once it so happened, that my non-Indian (also non-south Indian) acquaintances, when they visit Chennai, esp on work, they'd have a weekend free here. Asking the local colleagues, they'd visit any of those newly built, popular temples or go to the huge shopping malls. When I come to know of it, I always get depressed!!! When someone new to this city, infact, new to this culture, goes on such a day trip, they'd have a skewed opinion about our heritage!!! Here's a bunch of 1 day itineraries that I could come up with to help out. Its NOT very unknown, road less travelled places, coz on a daytrip, for a newbie, going to tiny little places wouldn't make much sense. But here are those authentic places that give a flavour of Chennai and an outlook into its history, heritage & geography! 
If you're a westerner reading this, here's an example to make you feel, how I feel: If someone who has no knowledge of western art, sees a painting of Andy Warhol or Pablo Picasso and thinks, all western art is like that, and assumes, how Last Supper or Mona Lisa would look like, even without seeing one da Vinci, would that make sense???!!!!! If you're a North Indian reading this: how would you feel if someone who has eaten Chatpata Channa Sub in Subway says he knows how your authentic home cooked Punjabi Rajma Masala tastes like, even without tasting it!!!
All links below are to my earlier posts in detail about the place.
1. Hitting the East Coast - Begin early morning sunrise at Elliots Beach and check out Schmidt's Memorial & Broken Bridge. Next stop at Thiuruvanmiyur Marundeeswarar Temple, Cholamandal Artists' Village and Dakshina Chitra (Part 1Part 2). As you cross a back waters, stop by and do some bird watching. You'll spot Egrets, Cormorants, Pelicans, Painted storks and many more and if you're lucky, Flamingoes as well! If there are kids, Crocodile bank (created by Romulus Whitaker) is a good stop. By noon reach Mahabalipuram (Part 1Part 2Part 3), a UNESCO protected site, a collection of rock-cut monuments built in 6th-7th C CE, which ideally needs atleast 4 days to see if you're into art, sculpture & heritage, and the least of half a day to get the mildest essence of it. Sunset on the beach here with Seashore temple backdrop is just mesmerizing! From Thiruvanmiyur Hop-in Hop-off bus service is available! Share autos are always available.
2. Get the British & Dutch flavour - Being named Madras by the British, being a colony of British for such a long time, Chennai has its own share of centuries old Churches and colonial buildings. Begin with the oldest operational railway station of India (obviously built by British) at Royapuram. Walk to Armenian Church and have a look at Madras High Court as well. Then go along the coast and visit Santhome Cathedral. Take the ECR and check out the ruins of Alhambra (Alamparai) & Sadras (Sadurangapattinam) Dutch Forts.
3. For the Nature Lover - Begin early morning to see the birds wake up and leave their nests at Pallikkaranai Marsh Lands. Get to Kalakshetra to do some more bird watching & Theosophical Society to see one of world's largest & oldest banyan tree. By dusk be at Adyar Estuary or Kelambakkam to see more birds returning to their nests. Head over to the Sholinganallur Beach to enjoy the sea (its not as crowded as Marina or Besant nagar) as night falls. If you're there in a weekend between Jan-Mar, head over to Neelankarai by late night and participate in the Turtle Walk, to protect the eggs of the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles  

4. For the Active & Adventurous Opt 1 - Though Chennai isn't blessed with too many trekking spots there are a few - Tada or Nagari or Nagala. All these places are in outskirts of Chennai and each and every place would take the whole day by itself.
5. For the Active & Adventurous Opt 2 - Climb Pallavaram Hill and watch the flights take off at Chennai International Airport. Head over to Ottiyambakkam for open-air open-water swim in the abandoned yet picturesque stone quarry. Finally go Speed Boating & Kayaking at Mudaliyarkuppam.
6. Going Southwards - Visit Aringnar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur esp for its Lion & Deer safari where you get to drive in an enclosed van in the acres & acres of free habitat of lions (yes, lions do get very close to the van to check out who you are, but don't worry, 'you' are inside a cage)!! Check out Madambakkam Dhenupurishwarar Temple and the 10th C CE political inscriptions at Uthiramerur. Head over to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary by sunset to watch the migratory birds returning to their nests.
7. Going Northwards - Have a look at the Madras High Court building for its Colonial Architecture and visit Armenian Church. Head straight ahead to Pulicat where you can go boating on the in the backwaters to the secret little islands in them. There's a Dutch Cemetry as well and if you're there in Nov-Mar, its perfect to do some birding. Don't forget to stop over at Annamalaicheri to watch Flamingoes!!! If you're lucky enough, from here, you might spot a rocket launching from our missile launching station at Sriharikota!
8. Going the Mylapore direction - Begin at Marina Beach near Kamarajar Promenade (nature & people watching) then Marina Light House (city & sea view). Over to Santhome Cathedral (Christianity), Kapaleeswarar Temple (Part 1, Part 2) (Hinduism) and Sri Ramakrishna Math (modern monastery building whose ideologies root from Swami Vivekananda). If you're in Mylapore in Dec-Jan, you're in for a dance, drama, music, art feast of Margazhi Festival!!!
9. All about Food & Shopping (in Chennai style) - Begin the day with a combo breakfast at Saravana Bhavan in Mylapore. Check out some like glass bangles, beaded necklaces and traditional hair accessories in the street side shops. May be you can get some sculptures of Gods as well. Bargaining is necessary. If heat goes up, have a fresh tender coconut water! Head over to Vijaya or Shanti for some gorgeous temple jewelry (obviously, fake). Head to Rangachari or Radha Silks (Rasi) for some gorgeous sarees, half sarees or salwars. Next go to Thyagaraya Nagar (T Nagar) and head to Grand Sweets & Snacks or Adyar Ananda Bhavan for lunch. A 5 storey building in Pondy Bazaar has been newly built to accommodate all the street hawkers. The ground floor is for fresh flowers. Get to 1st floor & upwards and you can find everything from hairpins to clothing to books to jewelry to bags to shoes - what not!!! Again bargaining is necessary. Cash is needed as none here would have card machine, but be careful with your purse & gold jewelry. Go over to Besant Nagar by sunset and enjoy some street side Groundnuts savoury mix & raw mango with chilli powder and jalapeno & plantain bajji. If you're still hungry head to Murugan Idli Kadai for dinner. (Yes, to begin with I wrote 'in Chennai Style'. That's exactly why I skipped all shopping malls, branded stores and multi-cuisine hotels which can be found in any other city as well. Its not special to Chennai).
10. Day out to Kanchipuram - Seen much of Chennai? Why not head to Kanchipuram and get doused in the traditional beauty of the temple town. Here are a few of the more than 50 temples there - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. If you're planning to get Silk Sarees head over to one of the cooperative societies' outlets in MG Road (Mahatma Gandhi) Road to get authentic silk and not to get cheated with price as well. 
11. Day out to Pondicherry - Seen much of Chennai? Why not head to Pondicherry and get a bit of French flavour - Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

From points 2-3; 5-9, buses & trains are available if you wanna try that out (google maps would help you out in that)! If not, on points 3, 6, 8, 9 Ola, Uber, Autos or share autos can be taken. Rest, the best is to hire a car for the whole day (packages for 8 hrs, 80 kms are available with several operators incl Fastrack, NTL etc).

Bhushavali N

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

24 comments:

  1. Ola has also included 4/6 hour packages recently and there are Ola Outstation cabs too.

    BTW, there is an excellent place opened recently in Chennai called Click Art Museum. It's a must visit too - http://chennai.buzz/2016/09/05/click-art-museum-best-place-to-take-photos-in-chennai/

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  2. It's nice that they have UNESCO protected sites here. It would be nice to visit the old churches and natural attractions here.

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  3. I am not sure if I will ever get the chance to visit this city so I am thankful to have read this article and see these photos. Interesting that Madras is the British name of Chennai. Also interesting that Pondicherry is nearby for a daytrip.

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  4. every activity sounds so fun! i would surely love to join the turtle walk! other than protecting their eggs, we will also get to see the turtles, right?

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    1. Depends. You won't get to see the adult turtles. When you're going to pick up eggs, you cant see turtles. However when going to leave the hatchlings back to see, you'll handle the tiny little ones in your hands!

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    2. Depends. You won't get to see the adult turtles. When you're going to pick up eggs, you cant see turtles. However when going to leave the hatchlings back to see, you'll handle the tiny little ones in your hands!

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  5. The photo of the snake though lol. It's not venomous obviously. I'd love to see these places someday :D

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  6. Great options to head out to from Chennai.

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  7. For one day, I think these are activities that will surely tire me out. However, they seem very enjoyable. I don`t think I really know what the tastes of foods in Chennai are like. It would be nice to try out the foods.

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  8. Chennai is a beautiful place and you got to explore variety of authentic food. Nothing can beat that traditional silk sarees.

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  9. Chennai has so much sightseeing and shopping. Not to forget awesome food.

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  10. I don't think I've been to this part of the world before. Truly, it's perfect for people who enjoys the great outdoors! I love the views here too!

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  11. I get what you are saying. But unfortunately, that is how most travelers roll. They check the guides and most of them, whether online or in books, are mostly the popular ones. Tourist traps, if you will. And that is why bloggers have become important, it is because of people like you who write about places and destinations that otherwise, might have remained hidden.

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  12. It's so interesting to read about different parts of India. I have been there 3 times already, but only to the North, and I have seen how different places are one from another. You are so right when you say that people shouldn't assume that everything is the same, especially in a country so big and so cultural as India. I would love to visit Chennai and do some of the outdoor one day activities that you suggested. However, I have to ask, what happened in that photo where the snake bites the hand? That scares me to death!

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  13. For a traveler and a true wanderlust by heart, Chennai will be a place of discovery and adventure, I guess. I haven't been able to go to any place in India as I've not traveled overseas yet. But seeing those photos you've shared, I think there is a lot of things to see and appreciate in Chennai. The temples look like a solemn place and perfect for some internalization (which I love doing, by the way). I would keep your itineraries in mind if ever I will be able to visit Chennai in the future! But no, I wouldn't want to try to have my hands bitten by the snake just like the one in the photo above. Haha! Thanks for sharing this! :)

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  14. I am a blogger from the Philippines. I usually write about Beauty and Lifestyle, but I also write about my travels once in awhile. I haven't been in India, but it's on my list! Thank you for sharing this. I will bookmark this post so I have future reference when I finally get the chance, and save up money to see India!

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  15. I can't believe that you'll be able to see a lot of varying places in just a day! Imagine, you'll be able to see culture, history, nature, food and so much more! I believe that India is a beautiful place. I hope I'll be able to visit it in the future.

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  16. This is one hectic day! :) It's nice to cover as many tourist spots as possible in one day. But it can also be exhausting. I prefer my travels to be relaxed. :)

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  17. Chennai looks like a beautiful place. I would love to visit the place if given the chance. Planning for a whole day trip with a lot of itinerary feels like super productive. I would love to arrange my day of travel like you did.

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  18. India's culture is really rich and begs to be visited more than once for sure. I've never been to India and I long to visit it one day. I'd love to visit my friends in Chennai and Bangalore as well. My husband and I love trekking so thanks for including a trekking activity in your itinerary. We would love to hike on hills too because there's not many hilly spots in Denmark to discover.

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  19. I can understand that's t frustrating that people think they know it all after they've seen a small part. Great list of 1 day itineraries. I'm Dutch, but I didn't know there were Dutch forts in Chennai. Interesting to know! I do love nature and activeness, so this list is great for me.

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  20. India is a beautiful place, this made me realize that India is not just all about Hinduism like Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. India has a rich history and I would love to know about the Dutch and British influences in the country.

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