In Partnership with Tamil Nadu Tourism

Weekend Getaways From Chennai

Three destinations steeped in nature, culture and heritage for a quick weekend escape in Tamil Nadu.

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At a distance of an hour and half, Mahabalipuram’s cultural effervescence is an easy weekend catch. Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Tourism

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Vellore

 

Weekend Getaways From Chennai

The walls of the Vellore Fort remembers the First War of Independence against the British rule. Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Tourism

 

Popularly known as the Fort City of Tamil Nadu, Vellore’s cultural heritage traces back to centuries of colonial and regional rule. The current architectural marvel and the urban cityscape can be well credited to the influences left by the British, Pallavas, Cholas, Nayaks, Marathas, the Carnatic Nawabs and the Bijapur Sultanate.

Steeped in history, the Vellore Fort is a must-visit heritage icon from the 16th century. Situated in the heart of the city built by Vijayanagara kings, the First War of Independence against the British Raj is known to have sparked inside its walls. The fort houses the Jalakanteswarar Hindu temple known for magnificent carvings, the Christian St. John’s Church and the Nawab Chanda Sahib Mosque. Nearby attractions include the State Government Museum, Lakshmi Narayani temple, the Roman Catholic Diocese, the French Bungalow and the Pearl Palace or Muthu Mandapam by the river Palar. As a leading leather exporter of the country, the bazaars are a hub for extravagant shopping while offering delightful bites. Try salt biscuits from Dawn bakery, hot jalebis, samosa and masala chat along Gandhi Road, and a three-course meal at Hundred’s Heritage. The best time to visit these is from October to March.

 

Yelagiri

Nestled in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, Yelagiri is a scenic hill station and treasured as the district’s best-kept secret. Verdant valleys, rose gardens and orchard fields dot the hill station as if painted by divine hands. At a height of 1410 metres above sea level, an array of adventurous activities seeks out trekkers and climbers. Hairpin bends across hilly routes and spectacular views en route Yelagiri from Chennai make for an exciting road trip to kick start the weekend. Pleasant temperatures make summers a suitable period for a visit. However, Yelagiri is a winter wonderland. Cloud-like fog blankets the hilltops for breath-taking spectacles through November to mid-February.

A heavenly abode for nature lovers, breathtaking attractions freckle the quaint hill station. The Jalagamparai waterfalls lure tourists from within the woods. A five-kilometre downhill trek from Yelagiri leads into the pristine waterfalls surrounded by the towering Yelagiri hills. Lend your ears to the soft humming of lapping waters at the Punganur lake. Boating facilities are available on the lake for a relaxed outing. A three-kilometre trek from the lake leads to the highest point of Yelagiri in Swamimalai Hills for a sunny day amidst vast green valleys.

Honey extracted from wild bee hives on rocks and trees of Yelagiri cannot be compromised. The deep sticky liquid gold is the finest in Tamil Nadu and a jar to carry home is the sweetest souvenir. The best of this pure syrupy goodness can be purchased from the Friday weekly market in Athanavoor.

 

Mahabalipuram

 

Weekend Getaways From Chennai

The Shore temple is a complex of shrines exemplary of the architectural brilliance of the Pallava dynasty. Photo courtesy: Tamil Nadu Tourism

 

Perched on the Coromandel Coast along the Bay of Bengal, an hour-long drive on the East Coast Road south from Tamil Nadu’s capital lands you in the historic port town of Mahabalipuram. It rests as a cauldron of history and architectural marvels as the ancient town boasts intricately carved temples, standing since the rule of the Pallavas between the 6th-9th centuries CE.

Mahabalipuram’s archaeological treasures are the tourist headliners. Dubbed the ‘Seven Pagodas’, the town earns the alternate name pertaining to a group of monuments consisting of rock-cut cave temples, monolithic temples, bas-relief sculptures as well as temple ruins. The famous myths and folklore suggest the existence of seven temples of which only the Shore temple survives. Yet another historical landmark is the Panch Ratha which encapsulates the brilliance of stone-cut structures of antique India. The five rathas and the Shore temple earned the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Casuarina trees ornament the town’s white sandy beaches for a relaxing rewind while the Crocodile Bank houses some magnificent species of crocodilians.

Renowned for carefully etched wood and stone artefacts and seashell decorations, Mount Road market is the place to be a handicraft haul. Rare showpieces primarily of gods and goddesses are displayed in shops for tourists with an appreciation for ancient art and sculptures. While in Mahabalipuram, let the flavours of fresh seafood such as grilled fish, prawns and lobsters in traditional spices burst in your mouth. An exciting vegetarian spread stacked with idlis, dosa, appam, vada, upma sambar, sweet pongal and kesari payasam awaits your arrival.

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