Chennai isn’t known as a tourist destination. Rather it’s a place people use as a launching pad to explore the south of India. However we think spending at least a day here is worth it as an introduction to Tamil-Nadu. The city is quite sprawling and upon landing at the airport, I was excited to see Tamil on the signage (the script looks like a cross between Thai and Hindi!) Have as many fruits as possible (safely) – we were bowled over by the deliciousness of the coconuts, pineapples, papayas, and pomegranates here.
You can probably see all the sights in one day, and we had wonderful hospitality at a friend’s place, complete with crowing roosters and delicious home-cooked meals. Thanks Samy!
RECOMMENDED // SEES
- Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple (★★)
- We started seeing a lot of colorful Hindu temples during our time in Tamil Nadu, but this one is quite spectacular. It is a fabulous introduction to Dravidian architecture, with tall rectangular pyramids over the gateways. This temple is located in the neighborhood Mylapore, which means peacock – apt for how colorful these tops were. The street is lined with vendors selling fresh flowers and of course, trinkets.
- We were there on a temple day because several people came in with tributes for blessings. A blessing consists of warming one’s hands over a candle flame and passing them over the forehead and receiving white powder and a flower. The white powder is then dabbed onto the forehead.
- Chennai Lighthouse (★★)
- Fabulous views of Chennai and Marina Beach accompanied with a cool breeze. At the base is a small museum with old relics.
- Marina Beach (★)
- Right after the visit to the lighthouse, we walked a bit and dipped our feet into the Bay of Bengal. It’s a HUGE beach, complete with a a tractor picking up trash. Apparently the beach comes alive at night.
- Santhome Cathedral (★)
- Chennai has such a complex history, even its places of worship are diverse. This is one of only three churches built over a Jesus’s apostle. We had been to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, so this was a very interesting change as I don’t think most know that St. Thomas is here.
RECOMMENDED // SHOPS
- Amethyst (★)
- This Wild Garden cafe is a bit pricey, but really nice ambiance – the inside is nice and air conditioned and the outside is a leafy green oasis. Good filter coffee, the Western food was not bad. There is also a bookshop and boutique upstairs. If you are looking for a beautiful outfit, jewelry, or coffee table book, this is the place to check out.
OTY’s ★ Rating System
Our rating is similar to the Michelin guide, but applied to attractions as well as restaurants. Most places won’t be Michelin-priced as we’re on a budget, and sometimes a star may reflect exceptionally good value (like free!). Since we don’t like to be negative, we don’t include any places that we wouldn’t recommend.
(★★★) Exceptional attraction/cuisine, worth a special journey. Wish we could go back again!
(★★) Delicious and/or delightful, this spot is worth a detour.
(★) Good pitstop, especially if you’re in the area.