Home to many of India’s manufacturing plants and IT companies, Chennai, the country’s fourth largest city, makes a great home base for a handful of excellent excursions in the area. When you’re not day tripping around Tamil Nadu, there’s plenty within the city itself to keep you occupied.
Day 1: History & Religion
Despite its rapid growth, Chennai has managed to retain much of its rich cultural and religious heritage. Many of the city’s most important religious sites, both Hindu and Christian, are located in the south, including the San Thome Cathedral and Kapaleshwar Temple. Fort St George, located in northern Chennai, was the birthplace of the British Raj, and the Fort Museum’s collection of memorabilia takes you back in time to colonial Madras. For a taste of art history, contemplate the collections at the Government Museum in Central Chennai.
Day 2: Understanding South India
The city of Chennai offers a dizzying example of modern Indian life, but to dig deeper into South Indian culture, spend the day at Dakshinachitra. This heritage village near Chennai is made up of several rural, open-air structures complete with artisans using traditional methods to make everything from ceramics to puppets. The village hosts regular dance and musical performances and operates a restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisine. After shopping the craft market of Dakshinachitra, head back into the city center for more modern retail therapy along Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Chennai’s ‘Golden Mile.’
Day 3: Day Trips
It would be a shame to visit Chennai without taking at least a day to visit some of the nearby attractions. For a taste of colonial France in the middle of bustling India, spend the day in Pondicherry meditating at the local ashram or munching on French cuisine. Alternately, visit Kanchipuram, The City of 1,000 Temples and one of Hinduism’s seven holiest pilgrimage sites.