Blessed with a beautiful coastline, Chennai is one of the most significant cities in India, both for business travellers and the thousands of tourists that flock to it every month. The city itself holds so much to see and experience that you will never be bored here. However, if you are already from Chennai or are willing to explore a bit further, then there are several weekend destinations near Chennai that are more than worth it. The activities are not just limited to beach hopping and temple visits, but also encompass very serene nature treks, exciting adventure experiences, exploring the cultural uniqueness and of course, gorging on the spicy regional food. Here are the top 5 destinations when it comes to planning weekend getaways and heading out of hotels in Chennai.

Pondicherry/Auroville

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Though Pondicherry and Auroville are completely different in experiences these offer, these are usually clubbed together. Everything is fresh about a trip to these places, no matter how many times you have been here. The adventure begins on the road from Chennai to Pondicherry itself, which hugs the palm-lined Coromandel Coast. East Coast Road is one of the most exciting stretches for any traveller to ride on. Even if you are alone, the 150 odd kilometres of the ride will itself be something amazing. When in Pondicherry, don’t miss capturing the morning sunrise at Rock Beach. Spend the rest of your day strolling by the beautiful French colony and churches, and sampling the amazing French-inspired food at cute, little cafés. If you are not traveling on your own vehicle, it is highly recommended that you hire one. Pondicherry isn’t big, but has enough to refresh you for a whole year ahead!

If you are planning a weekend trip, I would suggest you ride a little further and put yourself for the day in Auroville. There are few things touristy about Auroville, which is a world in itself, as it is more about the experience. Nationals of more than 90 countries work and live in this beautiful piece of modern architecture and ideology, and today it’s symbolic of what unity of faith can do. It’s a closely knit community which you can easily become a part of, even for a day. When here, make sure you explore the mind-boggling Matrimandir.

Book hotels in Pondicherry here

Pulicat

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Just 55 kilometres from Chennai, Pulicat is a tranquil seaside township. Small but extremely picturesque, this beach town is located in the Thiruvallur district. This is one of those lesser talked-about destinations that will give you both peace of mind and a chance to rewind after a chaotic week in the city’s chaos. The most talked about places here are Pulicat Lake and Pulicat Bird Sanctuary that attract tens of thousands of birds from across the globe. While winters would be the best bet if you are looking forward to seeing as many species, you can have a gratifying experience all throughout the year. The Flamingo Festival, held in the winter months, is a major crowd puller to this part of the country. Other than the bird sanctuary and lake, you can take a stroll across the Dutch Cemetery, colonial-era churches and forts, and the nearby villages that have a personality of their own. Needless to mention, being a beach destination, you also get to savour amazing seafood here!

Nellore

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Requiring a little bit of a road trip, Nellore is a township in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Located 177 kilometres from Chennai, this part of India is rich in heritage, natural vistas and manmade wonders. It is important to note that Nellore is perhaps one of the few remaining places reminiscent of the glorious Mauryan Age. Today, you will be able to revisit its decorated history at Udayagiri Fort and the several ruined structures around it. Another reason to visit Nellore is the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary. Just like Pulicat Lake, this sanctuary is visited by hordes of birds during the winter months. There are several residents species as well, so you can satisfy your curiosity all-round the year! While you are here, don’t miss out on visiting Somasila Dam.

Yelagiri

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Yelagiri, 227 kilometres from Chennai, offers a complete contrast of the experiences we have talked about till now! It’s a hill station with green terraced plantations, valleys overlooking pristine lakes and clouds almost at your face! Situated in Tamil Nadu, it gives you a tryst with nature, and regardless of who you are traveling with (or if you are traveling alone), it’s a place to get lost in. The Swami Malai Hills are perfect for a respite if you have been looking for a getaway from the city life. When here, make sure, you go on a trek to Jalagamparai Falls. These are majestic, and the cascading waters are both music to the ears and a sight worth capturing in your lens. You may also take a boat ride on Punganoor Lake for a much-needed break.

Mahabalipuram

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If you are a culture enthusiast more than anything, then there are loads of places near the metropolis for you. About 50 kilometres from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is one of those places you have got to check out. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to archaeological wonders like the windswept Shore Temple, amazingly carved Descent of the Ganga monolith and monumental Pancha Ratha rock-cut shrines. If you are religious or at least have interest in Hindu mythology, you will easily be able to relate the carvings of the place with the epic Mahabharata. Mahabalipuram is a town of temples, but you can also go for a rejuvenating spa session or some watersports in the Bay of Bengal.

These aren’t the only options you have! There are a lot of weekend getaways from Chennai that you can cover as per your interest. So, start looking forward to the next weekend for that perfect ‘me’ time!