Chennai, the gracious capital city of Tamil Nadu is a metropolitan city that also carries the culture and tradition of the region with grace. The vibrance of this city is something that cannot be undermined. Popularly regarded as the “Gateway to the South”, Chennai presents a culture that is distinctly different from northern, eastern, and western India. Chennai is said to be a city full of historic tales and modern trails. As soon as I landed at the airport, I opted to rent a reliable and affordable car in Chennai with an experienced driver. It is indeed the best and safest way to move around the city. Graced by a beautiful coastline, the drive to Mahabalipuram via the East Coast Route was the most scenic route I have taken in any metropolitan city. With a plethora of beaches, art galleries, museums, monuments, parks, and historic places, there is no dearth of things to do in Chennai. Let us now look at some of the attractions that are not only explored by the tourists but also visited by the locals.
Arulmigu Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Temple
I visited the Parthasarathy temple at Triplicane, which is one of the oldest temples in the city. This temple is dedicated to Lord Parthasarathy, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu. There is a sacred tank near the temple consisting of five holy wells and it is said that the water is more pious than the water of the river Ganges. The sacred tank is called Kairavani and is surrounded by five holy teerthams (referred to as holy water associated with a temple or deity). I was awestruck by its sheer structure, and owing to its religious significance, Parthasarathy Temple receives several pilgrims and visitors every year.
The Thousand Lights Mosque
The Thousand Lights Mosque is a multi-domed mosque. It is one of the largest mosques in the country and is a revered place of worship for Shia Muslims. The interiors are adorned with verses from the Holy Quran. It is said that a thousand lamps are needed to illuminate its large assembly hall, hence the name- Thousand Lights Mosque. Today, the Thousand Lights Mosque is a common mosque for all Muslims. Muharram is the most important day and the mosque is all lit up during the revered month. Unless you see it, you cannot imagine the amazing sight of the beautiful outline of the mosque against the dark sky.
Shopping in Parry’s Corner
Parry’s corner is the quintessential shopping district in Chennai. It is a wholesale shopping market dealing in a variety of products ranging from clothes, cosmetics, utensils, etc. I visited Parry’s at dusk and the cool sea breeze made my walk through the small crowded lanes bearable. To get a sense of the variety of products that are available here, I had to explore the shopping market several times. Chennaites flock to this area during the Diwali, Navratri, and Christmas festivals.
Places to Eat
Head to Hotel Saravana Bhavan for a scrumptious south Indian vegetarian meal. This place is visited not only by tourists but locals too. Served on a banana leaf, this place has been feeding hungry stomachs since 1981. There is more to Chennai than Pongal, idlis, and dosas. Royal sandwich in Alwarpet boasts of serving more than 200 varieties of sandwiches and is pocket-friendly too. For those who love burgers, dig into Brick House Bistro in Anna Nagar, for some juicy and mouth-watering burgers. Finally, to satiate any sweet cravings head to Gangotree in Adayar and gorge on the chocolate burfi and kalakand.
Walk by the beach
Besant Nagar Beach is among the most popular beaches to visit in Chennai. While locals use it as a recreational space like Marina Beach, it is less crowded and less polluted in comparison to Marina. An evening stroll by the beach and its stillness was truly relaxing and calmed my senses. Moreover, the site is perfect for the ones who want to soak their feet in the splashing sea water and lose themselves entirely in the arms of nature.
Monuments at Mahabalipuram
My trip to Chennai could not be completed without visiting one of the oldest cities in India – Mahabalipuram. Known for its great monuments, cave sanctuaries, and sculptures, Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO world site. Mahabalipuram is about 56 km from Chennai, and as mentioned earlier, one of the most scenic routes that runs along the Bay of Bengal. The drive to Mahabalipuram is worth it. Once there, I visited the stunning Shore Temple that stands facing the sea. The Panch Rathas (five chariots) are magnificent stone structures, each carved out of a single boulder. The famous Mahabalipuram lighthouse stands near the shore giving a panoramic view of the sea.
My trip to Chennai has been one of the most exhilarating experiences, which I had not expected in the least. There’s a lot more to see and explore in Chennai and I know it will get me back here soon. I booked a safe and trusted Call Taxi in Chennai to head to the airport and get back to Mumbai to my regular life. I came back with some lovely Chennai memories and hoping to go back for more!