With its intricate ancient temples, mouthwatering cuisines, fascinating museums, and urban beaches, Chennai is known to attract visitors all year round. But if you choose to hit the southern routes branching out of Tamil Nadu’s metropolitan capital, its diverse neighbourhoods will leave you pleasantly surprised. We bring to you our favourite road trips from Chennai. By Sushmita Srivastav
Best road trips from Chennai you can go for –
Chennai to Yercaud
The only thing better than a six-hour-long southern sojourn through the breathtaking Shevaroy Hills in the Eastern Ghats is ending it in a quaint former British colony. The moment your wheels leave the urban jungle and whoosh past pit-stops like Kanchipuram, Vellore, and Dharmapuri, the air becomes mistier, the route smoother, and the woods thicker. An hour’s uphill drive ahead of Salem and 20 hairpin bends bring you to Yercaud. Here, farms teeming with coffee and aromatic spices, and colonial structures offering history lessons, call for walking trails.
Duration of the trip: 6 hours 45 minutes (373 km)
Best time to visit: January to December
Where to stay: Grand Palace Hotel & Spa Yercaud
Where to eat: The Sweet Rascal Cafe (+91 4281 223722)
Things to remember: Once done visiting its coffee and spice plantations, make sure to head to other farms like guava, orange, and jackfruit. Take home some homemade Yercaud chocolates as souvenirs.
Chennai to Pichavaram Mangroves
Sure, Pondy’s bougainvillaea-draped colonial villas, bohemian vibe, and delectable French cuisine are ever-so-alluring. But in case you are in a mood for something that brings in more nature and quietude, keep driving down the East Coast Road and NH32 to arrive at Pichavaram Mangroves. The second-largest mangrove forest in the world is home to over 20 varieties of groves and 200 species of migratory and native birds. Hop on a country-boat to ride alongside this natural wonder, and ask your boatman to take you inside one of those narrower canals to spot birds like egrets, spoonbills, and pelicans basking in the sun. Once done, try exploring the popular sub-culture of shrimp farming that has been prevalent here for ages.
Duration of the trip: 5 hours
Best time to visit: November to February
Where to stay: Pichavaram Adventure Resort (+91 9442591466)
Where to eat: The only resort here (Pichavaram Adventure Resort) also has a restaurant that serves great seafood.
Things to remember: If you continue driving for another hour on the same route, you will reach Chidambaram, which is home to the ancient 10th-century Nataraja Temple, one of the few temples in India where God Shiva is worshipped in his dancing form called Nataraja. The huge temple complex is spread over 50 acres and has shrines made for various other Hindu gods.
Chennai to Kodaikanal
The swathes of green at the Green Valley, the calm that envelops the Kodai Lake, and attractions like Silver Cascade Falls, Dolphins’ Valley, and Silent Valley do call for a weekend getaway from Chennai. But it is certainly the drive that makes a trip to Kodaikanal memorable. The silken roads are lined with evergreen broadleaf trees while the eponymous star-shaped lake can be seen through the patches of virgin forests upon arrival.
Duration of the trip: 9 hours 45 minutes (529 km)
Best time to visit: October to March
Where to stay: Tamara Kodai
Where to eat: Cloud Street Cafe
Things to remember: While Kodai is popular for its trekking trails, venturing into the protected Palani Hills would require permission from the District Office.
Chennai to Yelagiri
With a consistent pre-monsoon like weather, the route from Chennai to Yelagiri is truly a paradise for bikers and road trippers. River Attaru flows through mountain creeks across the town before breaking into the breathtaking Jalagamparai Falls. Visit the Swami Malai Hills to witness a surreal sunset and the Velavan Temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan.
Duration of the trip: 4 hours 35 minutes (230 km)
Best time to visit: November to February
Where to stay: Sterling Yelagiri
Where to eat: Anthurium, the in-house restaurant at Sterling Yelagiri, serves authentic regional delicacies.
Things to remember: Make time for paragliding and camping. The Yelagiri Adventure Camp has been set up by the government to promote the two adventures here.
Chennai to Tranquebar
When you wish to move away from the sweltering heat of the south, take the road to the French Quarters of Puducherry but do not just end your road trip from Chennai yet. Glide further through the mangroves of Pinchavaram and finally, arrive at the ‘land of singing waves’. Much popular as Tranquebar, Tharangambadi served as the only Danish outpost in India for over 200 years. Today, ruins of grand colonial structures and an eponymous tranquil beach stand reminiscent of the glorious past of this sleepy ozone-rich town. Visit the beach-facing Fort Dansborg (locally called as Danish Fort), which was built in 1620 and is the second-largest Danish castle in the world. Zion Church and New Jerusalem Church are a must-visit too.
Duration of the trip: 6 hours (270 km)
Best time to visit: December to April
Where to stay: The Bungalow on the Beach
Where to eat: Enjoy Chettinad cuisine and continental food at the only restaurant in town at The Bungalow on the Beach.
Things to remember: There might be lack of too many attractions, but the East Coast Road, taken to reach Tranquebar never drifts away from the Bay of Bengal coastline, making the drive all the more surreal.