Chennai, otherwise known as the “The Gateway to South India” and “Tourist pride” is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal in India. It is India’s largest cultural, economic and educational centre. The traditional and de facto Gateway of South India. Chennai is the one of the most viewed Indian city by tourists. Chennai is divided into four broad regions: North, Central, South and West.
- Chennai, originally known as “Madras” was located in the province of Tondaimandalam, an area lying between Penna River of Nellore and the Ponaiyar River of Cuddalore. The capital of the Province was Kancheepuram.
- The name Madras was derived from Madrasan, a fisherman head who lived in coastal area of madras.
- In the 2nd century, Chennai was ruled by Illam Tiraiyan who was a representative of the Chola family at Kancheepuram.
- Subsequent to Illam Tiraiyan, the region was ruled by the Chola Prince Illam Killi.
- The Chola occupation of Tondaimandalam was put to an end by the Andhra Satavahana incursions from the north under their King Pulumayi 2. They appointed chieftains to look after the province.
- After that Pallavas became viceroys and ruled the province from 3rd to 9th century. The modern city “Chennai” arose from the British settlement of Fort St.George and its subsequent expansion through merging numerous native villages and European settlements around the Fort St. George into the city of Madras.
- After India became independent in 1947, Chennai became the Administrative and Legislative Capital of Tamilnadu in 1968.
Chennai, a pearl located on the coromandel coast of the Bay of Bengal in India, is a major tourist attraction for domestic and foreign tourists as well. Chennai is the capital of south Indian state Tamilnadu. It is the largest city of India with an area of 426 sq. km.
- Chennai is well connected by airline services to most major cities in india. All flights, national and international to and from Chennai, operate from the Chennai International Airport in Tirusulam 21km from the city centre.
- Air India, Air Asia operate International flights to Singapore and other foreign countries.
- Chennai Central Railway Station is the old and famous railway station in operation to various states of India from the year 1873. Other than that 4 Railway stations are there in the Chennai connected with rest part of India.
- The trains to central railway station halts for a few minutes at a number of other small stations in Chennai.
- The Chennai metro train is a transit system serving the city of Chennai, Tamilnadu and it is the third-largest metro system.
- Well connected with all major states in India via the National highways NH 32, NH 47, NH 42, NH 65 etc. Highways roads are in excellent condition and vehicles can go at fairly good speeds.
- Bus services operating to most towns and cities in neighbouring states at fairly regular intervals throughout the day.
- Bus service operated by the state: Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Green and brown buses).
- In every important part of the city, buses are operating by inter-city bus terminus.
- Private bus companies operating deluxe AC to sleeper coaches along these routes.
When to visit
- Chennai is a 365 days destination, yet November to February is the best time to visit Chennai.
- Between November and February, there are events like Christmas celebration, Diwali, New Year celebration, Carnival etc.
- Moreover, this season (November-February) is also climatically cool when there is Humidity at its lowest and it is not too hot either. Hence, it is more preferred time to visit Chennai.
The official language of Chennai is Tamil. Telugu, Malayalam, Urdu and English are also spoken by a minority of the population.
- Summer Season: March to June
- Average Temperature: 27 to 32-degree Celcius.
- Winter Season: November to February
- Average Temperature: 24 to 25-degree Celcius.
- Monsoon season: July to September
- Average Temperature: 29 to 30-degree Celcius.
Fairs & Festivals
India, the land of cultures, traditions and diversity has yet another facet of its varying nature hidden in Chennai, the Gateway of South. Chennai has marvellous traditional culture marked by commemoration of several festivals and fairs. The most famous are Pongal and Natyanjali Dance Festival.
Pongal: The harvest festival of South India, known as ‘Thanksgiving’ festival to thank Farmers, Cattles and Lord Sun. It is celebrated as “State Festival” in the Chennai city of India. Commemorated in the month of January, the festival marks the end of the traditional farming season and represents reverence from the beginning.
Natyanjali Dance Festival
Natyanjali Dance Festival: The ‘Cosmic Dancer’ Lord Nataraja is paid special tribute, every year on the tremendous occasion of Natyanjali Festival held in Chidambaram, near the city of Chennai for five days in the month of February to March.
Other Festivals: Chennai, the Capital city of Tamil Nadu celebrates several other festivals like Navratri, Mahamagam, Saral-Vizha and many others.
Transportation/Stay to prefer
Every year, lakh of tourists visit Chennai both from India and from other countries. But one can easily find a place for themselves and their interests in this metropolitan city. Chennai acts as a prime tourism spot as it offers glorious beaches, happy lifestyle, minimal pollution, manageable traffic and crowds, adventurous activities, spicy cuisine, ECR drive and rich cultural heritage etc.
But to explore every possible opportunity you need a perfect location to stay so that there would neither be a burden on your budget nor waste of time which is a most precious thing of vacation.
The most popular beaches are Marina Beach, Besant Nagar Beach, Santhome Beach. Close to the airport, at walking distance from the main road and availability of public transportation adds up to the reason behind their popularity. Hotels and resorts are easily available near the beach for both luxurious and budget tourists. Ashwem (particularly wide and appealing area), Mandrem (comparatively remote but popular for yoga and meditation). These are few more destinations that one can opt as per their choice.
A notable tourist attraction in Chennai is actually in the neighbouring town of Mahabalipuram, with its ancient temples and rock carvings of the 7th century Pallava kingdom is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chennai was ranked 9th in travel guide Lonely Planet’s 2015 top 10 cities ranking. Chennai had been the most visited city in India by foreign tourists consecutively from 2010 to 2012, overtaking New Delhi and Mumbai with visitors to heritage sites in Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram and medical tourists making up the largest numbers.
Marina beach is the world’s second-largest beach located in Chennai and attracts around 50,000 visitors during weekends. The Marina’s 6km promenade includes statues of several historical figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Annie Besant, Robert Caldwell, Thiruvalluvar, Bharathiyar and Kamarajar. There is a Government Museum in Egmore established in 1851 consisting of six buildings and 46 galleries covers an area around 16.25 acres of land.
For local transportation, there is a wide range of choices available for tourists such as-
- Buses: The green and brown coloured bus can be easily seen on the roads of Chennai which offers cheap and affordable services.
- Cycles/Bikes: Tourists who really wish to see the authenticity of Chennai and feel the each and every moment of their stay can choose cycle or bikes available at agencies. Available for few hours, or for full day.
- Taxi: Sharing as well as personal taxies can be hired for visiting the city. Packages of different ranges are available to choose.
Places to visit in Chennai
Government Museum: Established in 1851, this is one of the most important places in Chennai which highlight the significance of South India. Being the second most established gallery of India, this is the best historical place you can visit in Chennai.
The entire museum’s structure is divided into 6 segments which are:
- main building
- front building
- Children’s Museum
- Bronze Gallery
- National Art Gallery and
- Contemporary Art Gallery
Valluvar Kottam: This is one of the popular monument which you can visit in Chennai. The spot got this name to remember one of the great writers and the logician called Thiruvalluvar. Few of his fine works can be seen engraved on this famous landmark. Other than that many other best works can also be seen here in the 35 meters of Goliath which is the main attraction of this place.
Fort St. George
Fort St. George: It was founded in 1644 and also known as the White Town, Fort St. George is the place where British East India Company used to work. One of the top places to know the past of Old Madras, this is one of the must-visit places for the history lovers in Chennai.
Alamparai Fort: It was built in the 17th century when Mughals were ruling the country. The Alampari Fort lies on a land that is overlooking the sea. Once this place was a spot from where zari cloth, ghee, and salt used to export from a stretched 100 meters dockyard. The Fort has a long history shows how French captured the fort from Mughals and then lost to Britishers who destroyed the construction in 1790 AD after capturing it. The remaining structure gives an amazing sightseeing experience to the visitors.
Santhome Cathedral: San Thome Cathedral is known as the most popular religious destination of Chennai. The Architectural design of this church is the most amazing attraction of this beautifully constructed structure which travellers notice. The place was constructed over the grave of Saint Thomas in 16th Century by the Portuguese. The current version of this holy place was again rebuilt by the Britishers in the year of 1893.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park
Arignar Anna Zoological Park: Established in the year of 1855, the most interesting fact about Arignar Anna Zoological Park is that it is the first-ever Zoo in India. This is a massive zoo which covers 510 hectares of land where 170 different species of wildlife can be seen. There are battery-operated vehicles and bicycles for those who don’t want to walk around the park.
Connemara Public Library
Connemara Public Library: This is a wonderful place for the readers and established in 1896. Here we can find a wide variety of rare books and many other books on different subjects and topics. If you are one of those who wants to explore the impressive rare book collection then it the right place for you.
Kapaleeshwarar Temple: The Kapaleeshwarar temple is located in the Mylapore area of Chennai, which was named after Lord Shiva himself. Historically, people of this region worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a peacock. Being one of the most ancient temples in Chennai, it is also one of the most visited temples in the city.
Parthasarathy Temple: Built in the 8th century, this temple is one of the oldest temples in Chennai. This temple is named after Lord Krishna to remember us about the Epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna act as the charioteer for the Pandava prince Arjuna.
Vadapalani Andavar Temple
Vadapalani Andavar Temple: This temple was built in honour of Lord Muruga or Kartikeya as many Indians knew him. He was the son of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati and the brother of Lord Ganesha. In southern parts of India, Lord Muruga is worshipped as the God of War.
St. Mary Church
St. Mary Church: It was constructed in 1712 and reconstructed in 1772, is one of the oldest churches of the Indian Subcontinent, located in Chennai. It is famous for its belfry of six. The church also called the Armenian church of VirginMary, is located on the Armenian Street in the neighbourhood of the George Town.
Wallajah Mosque: Also known as the Triplicane Big Mosque located in Triplicane High road Chennai. It was constructed in the Mughal Architectural style, the mosque was built in 1795 by the family of Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah, the Nawab of Arcot.
National Art Gallery
National Art Gallery: It was established in 1907. The influence of Indo-Saracenic architecture is evident in the red sandstone construction, which has four sections namely Tanjore Painting Gallery, Ravi Verma painting gallery, Indian traditional art gallery and decorative art gallery. The rock and cave art gallery here offers interesting moments with the setting caves looking natural.
Marina Beach: It is naturally the instant choice of everyone that visits Chennai. This is the second-longest beach in the world. The large expanse of silver sand allows for a great walk along the seashore. Sunrise and sunset views are perfect scenery to watch.
Semmozhi Poonga: It offers a visual delight for your eyes tired seeing manmade buildings. The well-maintained gardens have over 500 varieties of trees and plants from all parts of the world. Elders can go for a walk and several seating arrangements are provided to stretch.
Huddleston garden: The 260 acre Huddleston garden is a bird watchers’ paradise and you will find a wide range of migratory birds here. The trees cover a massive 59500 sq. ft area of land. There is a banyan tree in the centre of the garden which is 450 years old.
Pulicat Lake: Pulicat Lake is a ‘must-watch’ place if you are going to Chennai. The atmosphere is serene and you can have a relaxed day here. Boat rides are very popular here.
Breezy Beach: It holds attraction for the unpolluted atmosphere and situated in Valmiki Nagar Chennai. This is small beach remains untouched by commercialization and hence very serene and it is the perfect place for a breezy walk and the sunsets are picturesque.
Kovalam Beach: It is away from the heat and rush of the main city, it can be an ideal destination for tourists looking for a day out on a beach of repute. It is one of the best family beaches in Chennai and offers tremendous opportunity for adventure sports and water sports like paragliding, parasailing, scuba diving, windsurfing etc.
Elliot’s Beach: It is located near Besant Nagar and preferred destination to people who to soak in the evening breeze of the sea. The young crowd often gathers on evenings and enjoy. There is a temple near the beach and it is built on sand and that is one of the main attractions of that beach. There is a church on the beach and it is known as the church of Madonna.
Cuisines to taste in Chennai
- Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu and an important part of south India is home to vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian cuisines and it is famous for its exclusive south Indian food.
- An actual south Indian person starts the day with a cup of hot filtered coffee and it is signature beverage of the city & for south Indian regions.
- In breakfast, people prefer to have Idli(Steamed rice cakes) and Dosa along with coconut chutney or tomato chutney.
- In lunch they prefer to have sambar, rice, rasam, kootu, buttermilk, chutney and curry. The non-vegetarian meal includes curry or dish made up of chicken, mutton or fish.
- In the evening snacks they love to have chilly or onion pakoda, vada, samosa, murukku along with filtered coffee.
- In the night they prefer to have Idli, dosa, upma (made of Rava), chapati or paratha.
- In most of the food items fresh or dried curry leaves are added for a special taste and aroma. It is widely used across south India. According to south Indian food always compared with medicine and also have medicinal qualities in the spices and masala added for cooking.
- But what is most surprising to know is that the south India art of culinary is a blend of six different tastes which includes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent.
Popular Cuisines of Chennai
Idli Sambar: It is the common food of south India. It is a delicacy made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils and rice. Sambar is a lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind popular in south India. It is also served with coconut chutney.
Dosa: It is a type of pancake made from a fermented batter. It is somewhat similar to a crepe but its main ingredients are rice and black gram. Dosa is a typical part of south Indian diet and popular all over the Indian subcontinent.
Uttapam: It is a dosa-like dish made by cooking ingredients in a batter. Uttapam is traditionally made with toppings such as tomatoes, onion, chillies, capsicum and cabbage mix. It is often eaten with sambar or chutney and it is popular in south India.
Biryani: It is a hugely popular food in Chennai and other parts of south India. It is mixed rice food with vegetables or chicken or mutton(several variants of the biryani available) and popular among Muslims, there is theory Mughals brought it with them. However, this is unclear and there are other theories that suggest that the biryani is an Indian invention.
Jigarthanda: It is a cold milk beverage and cold dessert that originated in the south Indian city of Madurai in Tamilnadu. It translates to “cool heart” in English. It is generally prepared and served at roadside shops as a refreshment drink during Summer season.
Boli: It is a golden yellow sweet pancake from south India and it is eaten during a traditional Sadhya along with payasam. Several varieties of boli are prepared including coconut boli and jaggery, sugar. Boli is eaten mostly after lunch or as an evening snack.
Parotta: A parotta, porotta or barotta, is a layered flat-bread of parts and made up of maida flour. There are different varieties of parotta available like kothu parotta, Mutta parotta, chilli parotta etc.
Bhaji: otherwise known as bajji is a spicy Indian snack made with bajji mix and stuffed chilli or with vegetables. It is often served with chutney.
Things to do in Chennai
Chennai has been blessed with a scenic landscape, mouthwatering cuisine, and an incredibly rich time-honoured history. It would be an important statement to say that Chennai is among the best destinations to explore in India. The capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai has many attractions and the first time visitors will get confused that where to begin and what to see first!
The tourists will really enjoy the trip to Chennai as it has all the facilities and many historical, natural places to visit. Everyone who knows about Chennai will say this word It gives life to those whoever coming there. People from all stay will feel comfortable and stay there. It has many industries and IT companies. Every person should visit Chennai at least once in their lifetime.
Activities to do in Chennai
- Revel around the Marina Beach
- Take a walk through Thalankuppam Pier
- Stroll around Elliot’s Beach
- Water sports in Muttukadu
- Visit Mahabalipuram
- Beachside camping
- Tada waterfall trek with camping
- Fun rides in MGM Dizzee World
- Witness the Lords in Puri Jagannath Temple
- Visit San Thome Cathedral
- Bird watching near Pulicat lake
- Have a Glimpse of the space in Birla Planetarium
Souvenir to buy in Chennai
Artefacts: The kind of artefacts which you can find in Chennai is whopping especially from the region of Mahabalipuram. They come in a lot of different designs and the kind of variety which you will find in these sculptures is unbelievable.
Sandalwood Stuff: The whole south India is famous for different kinds of sandalwood stuff. If you are looking to buy some of the Authentic sandalwood products, you should check out the best places.
Traditional Chennai sarees and clothes: If you love clothes and would like to dress the way people in Chennai does, the best thing you could buy as a souvenir would be the Traditional Chennai sarees and clothing.
Kanchipuram Sarees: Chennai is the home to some of the best Kanchipuram sarees. These sarees are known to be symbolic of grace and legacy. Buying a piece of this traditional Indian clothing is surely a great souvenir!
Tanjore Paintings: These paintings are mainly known to hail from the district of Thanjavur and they are so beautiful in their imagery and colour that it is going to make you speechless. They are amazing home décor and gives charismatic look to your home.
So, these are the some of the best souvenirs you can buy from Chennai. Taking them to your home will remember you good times you had on that vacation. These Souvenir defines define cultural and historical pride of Chennai.