Pazhaverkadu aka Pulicat Lake (Thiruvallur - Tamil Nadu)


Pulicat lake or Pazhaverkadu as it is called in Tamil, is one of the ideal day trips from Chennai and was one place where I wanted to go so badly. And finally, on one Saturday, I declared, “Tomorrow, I’m going there”. My mom said that she would love to come as well. Why not, the more the merrier. Next day, early morning, we started at about 7:30AM. If you depend of public transport from Chennai, Pulicat cannot be reached in a single stroke; a couple of changes are necessary. It was 11:00AM by the time we reached Pulicat. 

An important tip here, the locals do not relate to Pulicat. If you’re asking the locals for direction, refer to the place as Pazhaverkadu (Palaverkadu), not Pulicat. Pulicat is a Dutchized term of the original Tamil name Palaverkadu, because this region was a Dutch colony a couple centuries ago. Read on to know more about it. 

Fishermen in Pulicat Pazhaverkadu

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Fort Geldria Dutch Cemetery

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Fort Geldria Dutch Cemetery

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Fort Geldria Dutch Cemetery

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Fort Geldria Dutch Cemetery

As soon as we reached the first thing I spotted was the Dutch Cemetery. Just as the name suggests, the Dutch Cemetery is the final resting place of the Dutch people who lived here a couple centuries ago. They too reached India as traders and formed the 'Dutch East India Company' which later became a ruling power. During the colonial period, though a major part of India was under British Raj, there were some places which were under  others like Pondicherry under French, Goa under Portuguese, Tranquebar under Danish etc. And this part of India, in and around Pulicat were under the Dutch Rule. 
The Dutch colonies in India were segregated into 4 regions and this region was called Dutch Coromandal. Infact even Golkonda, Machilipatnam & Pondicherry came under them! In Dutch language, the Dutch East India Company was called Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC in short. Many ships that sailed here have been restored and are used for various purposes currently in the Netherlands. Infact it is even possible to stay overnight in a couple of such restored VOC ships, in Pampus Island near Amsterdam.

So out of the several things left behind by them, the Fort Geldria, built in 1613 CE holds a great importance. Visiting Fort Geldria is one of the most popular things to do in Pulicat. Presently this place is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The gate was closed and locked. So we enquired the nearby shop about the whereabouts of the key and surprisingly it was with him. The door was opened for us especially and we went in. 
Also Read: Other Dutch forts in Chennai - Alamparai FortSadras Fort
Most portions of Fort Geldria were demolished during various minor battles with local kings as well as Portugal colonizers. One of the most important and still surviving part of Fort Geldria is the Dutch Cemetery. The gateway was an arch and on either sides was a pillar with a skeletal shaped relief. Inside there were a few large domes and several engraved tomb stones. All of these 76 tomb stones were engraved in Netherlands & brought here. Currently efforts are being taken by both Indian & Dutch governments to restore this fort to its original glory! Btw, did any of my readers came here from the  Netherlands, searching for this cemetery, because your grandparents or great grandparents were buried here? If you did, leave a comment below and let me know.

Soon, we came out of Fort Geldria & Dutch Cemetery and headed to the lake right ahead of us. A boatman came to us, with a proposal to go the islands in the locality and a beach on the other side of the island. Ofcourse, we had to bargain. The prices are anywhere from 450 bucks to anything upwards. The price varies with the number of people, and the age-group. For a gang of adult friends its higher than family, even if the number of people might be the same, coz they might booze and go out of control. The cost given, is not just for the boat, but also the risk and responsibility taken by the boatman. For higher number of people, he’s accompanied by an assistant. In case of any mishap, it is he who rushes first to help out the people and save them.
Soon we headed off to the sea in our boat. We were given an option of having or not having a life jacket. Another tip here, go for it. Yes, the boatsmen here, do not give the option immediately. It’s given only when asked for. It was Rs.30 per piece. But it’s definitely worth it, than to risk your life. This is sea-water and the depth is too much! Even if you know the basics of swimming in a pool, it may not be enough in this deep sea!

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Fort Geldria Dutch Cemetery

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Boating

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Boating Ilayaraja

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Bird Sanctuary

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Dutch Toll Gate

From there, we boarded the boat and headed to our first stop. Actually, we diverted a bit to check out Annamalaicheri. This place can be reached on road, even by bus and is a few stops before Pazhaverkadu, but much after Ponneri. Better still, it can be reached by boat. So why is visiting Annamalaicheri a part of Pulicat lake tourism? For a visual delight, might be an apt answer. Pulicat Bird Sanctuary is mostly in Annamalaicheri! This is the very place where hundreds of birds visit every year for migration. We didn’t plan to visit Annamalaicheri, as this would be a very wrong season to venture there. However, we do hope to come here again, just to visit the birds, once again in season (October-March).
However, our dear Ilayaraja, the boatman, was nice enough to show us a teaser of the place. We just checked out the starting point of Annamalaicheri. Just there at the starting point itself, in an absolute off-season, I was lucky enough to spot a couple of flamingos, a few painted storks some pelicans, several cormorants and darters. Awesome! I was lucky, I must say...

Any guess what this construction is it in the last pic above? Any wild guesses? This is the toll gate where the Dutch collected taxes for the incoming ships.

Then we diverted to check out our original destination, one of the top places to visit in Palaverkadu - the Irukkam island beach. This was on the other side of the island, and the sweet Mr.Ilayaraja offered to accompany us there.
Here, I could give several tips. Its always better to take the fisherman/boatman with you to the sea, the sea is so damn rough, than I have seen anywhere else. If you plan to venture into the sea for a dip, just don’t forget the lifejacket, even if you get drifted into the sea, atleast you’ll be floating and someone can spot you. There have been several deaths that have happened here. Even the previous day, to the day we visited, a young man had lost his life there. It is also very lonely. While solitude in beach is great, safety is also a concern, so have the boatman by your side. 
And on a different note, I request you not to booze here, and even if you do, please don’t leave the trash here. On a lighter note, who said you loose your mind when you booze? See (1st pic below) how creative & organized some boozers were... The place was cultivated with casuarinas. But unfortunately, thanks to the regular boozers, the place filled with trash.

About the sea, it was way too rough. At a point, the waves rose to about 5 feet and I was taken aback, thinking it could be a tsunami. However, it was not. Ilayaraja, informed me, that this was how regularly the sea is here. Rough. Rough. Risky rough. This beach was in total solitude. Just we 3 and the empty beach. Very similar to Manori, here too the sand was filled with shells. Its not the sand you’re stepping on, its the shells!!!

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Beach Irukkam Island

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Beach Irukkam Island

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Beach Irukkam Island

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Beach Irukkam Island

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Beach Irukkam Island

Shooting location of Tamil movie Citizen starring Ajith Kumar
From there, out next stop was at the Mugadhvaram, which means Estuary. Many of the Tamil Movie buffs would have already seen this place. Any guesses where? This was the very place which served as Athippatti in the Tamil Movie Citizen, starring Ajith Kumar, who sports 9 different looks in the movie. This is also the very place where the lake mixes with the sea, Bay of Bengal.
Unlike the other Irukkam beach, this Pulicat beach is absolutely desolate, thanks to the scorching sun and just no trees. A blessing in disguise, I must say. Or else, this too would have been left with trash as the other one.

In short this place is a vast expanse of water with few islands here and there. One of it leads to Sriharikota as well... Sriharikota is barrier island, and is the home of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, one of the two satellite launch centres in India under ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). Whenever a rocket launch happens at Sriharikota, Pulicat is one of the best places to watch a rocket launch at Sriharikota, from afar but pretty close!

Other places to visit in Pulicat include Andikuppam Madha Church, Periya Pallivasal, and a few temples including Adi Narayana, Samayaeeswarar, Subramaniyaswamy, Palaivana Nathar, Chinthamaneeswarar, Chinnakavanam temples. When you board or alight the boat, don't forget the spot the Pulicat Light House & Pulicat Bridge.

From there, we returned back to Pazhaverkadu mainland. It was 2:30pm by then. We were in water for almost 3 solid hours. Great indeed. But I was god damn tired and thirsty. My 3 litres of water had got over already and I was still thirsty. But then, there was bus waiting for me, to Red Hills and we hopped into it, and of the several hotels in Red Hills, I hopped into one and had a sumptuous meal & loads of water..

  • Locals call it Pazhaverkadu (Palaverkadu) not Pulicat.
  • As mentioned above, opt for the life-jacket. Ask for it.
  • Take heck-a-lot-of drinking water, more so in summer. 3 litres was not enough for 2 people!!!
  • Where to eat in Pazhaverkadu? This is a very small fisherman village, which has no big restaurant or hotel. Of course, there were a couple of messes, which served fresh seafood. Nothing for a veggie like me. But if you do eat sea food, Ilayaraja's family is ready to serve you the delicacies made with the fresh catch, prepared at his home, if informed in advance. His phone number is below, call him!
  • Take enough cash. ATM is nowhere in vicinity...
  • How many days do you need in Pazhaverkadu? Is one day in Pulicat enough? Absolutely not! A day has to be dedicated for the Heritage Tour to visit the temples, churches & mosque as well as Dutch Fort ruins... And birding in Pulicat needs another full day in the right season!!! If you're into trekking, set aside a day for Tada Hills.
  • The best time to visit Pulicat lake, for birding in Pazhaverkadu is October to February.
  • Tada hills, one of the best location for trekking in Chennai, is located very very close to Pazhaverkadu/Pulicat

Fishermen in Pulicat Pazhaverkadu

Pulicat Pazhaverkadu Boating to Irukkam Island

Chennai to Pulicat Lake distance – 55km (Koyembedu to Redhills (18.5km) to Ponneri (20km) to Pulicat (18.5km)).
How to reach Pulicat from Bangalore – Bangalore to Kolar (67km) to Chittoor (112km) to Puttur (67km) to Ponneri (85km) to Pulicat (18.5km)

The Government’s Forest Guest House is available at Pulicat. But it has to be reserved in advance from the Wildlife Warden in Chennai or Bangalore.
Contact of Wildlife Warden, Chennai: +91 44 2432 1471
Several small to medium end hotels are available at Ponneri & Red Hills. Pulicat lake resorts are pretty much out of question! If you're interested in authentic home stays, again contact Mr.Ilayaraja and you could probably stay at one of the fishermen huts here with exactly the same facilities as they live with (that would also mean no wifi, using their bathrooms & toilets etc). You'd be their house-guest.

Contact of Boatman /Fisherman Mr.Ilayaraja: +91 98425 86363 / +91 89397 24227
Contact of Keyholder of Dutch Cemetery Mr.Hussain: +91 97868 67210

Pazhaverkadu things to do pulicat pinterest Pazhaverkadu things to do pulicat pinterest


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. hi bushavali

    nice place to visit...

    thanks for sharing...

  2. Awesome place , would love visit some day .

  3. Have heard a lot about this place. Would definitely head there the next time am in Chennai.

  4. Bhusha you are a traveler, i am just a nomad. :)
    Wonderful post, just loved reading it.

  5. I was in Tamilnadu last month and i must say that the place is so awesome and beautiful. And the pics are so beautiful loved them so much.

  6. Wonderful images of Cemetery and the lake.

    Check out Arjunas Penance - Mahabalipuram

  7. I have seen some old British graves in my home town- Bellary. Well built, I wanted to speand time time photoraph and put up in case some one is searching for them. I hear somebody doing it already.

  8. @Krishna,
    Thanks dear.. :)

    @Team G & Raj,
    Do visit and am expecting your version of the writeup on this place.. :)

    And I expect a great blog filled with several trips of the nomad. :)

    Glad you liked my state.. :)
    Thanks for the appreciation love.. :)

    Thanks dear.. :)

    I'd love to visit Bellary to see this place I'm just hearing about thru you. Do put up the pics in your blog and I'll be delighted to see them... :)

  9. hi bushavali,

    thanks for the info!!!!!

    providing boatman's ph no was very useful!!!!!

  10. thanks for the info!!!!

    Providing boatman's ph no was very useful!!!!

  11. @Bharath,
    U r welcome. Hope you enjoyed Pazhaverkadu. Do share your experiences!

  12. worth reading and informative travelogue intending to go this weekend, will contact the boat man.

  13. Hi bhusavali...its good here that you were in Pulicat which is my mom native place and there is more histoy behind of the shipslist and the kings who ruled pulicat ...there was a fort called Geldria opp to the cemetry which was later demolished by british...if u want to know more about pulicat...pls browse the site Aarde foundation

    1. Oh. I didn't know about the fort! Thanks for letting me know! :)

  14. Guys any one having the boat man contact number? We are planned to go for this weekend.

  15. Hi, you have missed to mention there is also a Lighthouse situated there but people are not allowed to get in also with a wonderful sea shore..
    One more main thing is it is very much famous for sea food industry most of the sea foods in chennai are from Pahavarkadu,,, But u should be good in bargaining to get a better price.

  16. One more info, there is no much medical facility there, one more wonderful info is there is some people who can cook wonderful seafood lunch for money, try that too..

  17. Hello Bhushavali.
    Our recent trip to Pulicat was completely guided by this article of yours. Thank you so much for the amazing detailed write up and especially for explaining the history of the place. I made a travel vlog on Pazhaverkadu trip. I will be very happy if you watch it here.


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