Located on the Bay of Bengal, Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is one of the most visited places in India. Its name was changed to Chennai in 1996 and is said to have two different theories of origin. The first is that it derived from the name of a former Nayak ruler who served as a general during the Vjayanagar Empire. The second theory is that it was named after the Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple, the temple regarded as the face of the city. Regardless of which theory you believe, this beautiful coastal city offers visitors stone age structures, intricately designed temples, and, of course, sandy beaches. Take a visit to Chennai and discover why it’s such a popular place in India to visit.
Marina Beach is perhaps the most visited attraction in Chennai. Along with an average width of the beach coming in at 980 feet, it is also the world’s first longest natural urban beach at 4 miles long. Although bathing and swimming at the beach are legally prohibited because of the dangerous undercurrent, Marina Beach still draws over 50,000 visitors a day on the weekends. On the beach promenade, over 1,000 food vendors set up their stalls, memorials and statues give visitors attractions to visit, and two swimming pools await those needing a relief from the heat. The beach has 14 landscaped galleries with public seating and a paved walking, biking, and jogging path was recently added to the beach to give visitors a way to walk along the sandy shores other than trudging through sand. The beach hosts many events throughout the year, including Republic Day parades and airshows, Hindu festivals, and marathons. It’s a great place to check out the sites, get some outdoor time in, and enjoy some sunshine.
To start off your temple visits, head to the Kapaleeswarar Temple. Built in the 7th century as a dedication to a Hindu Goddess, its Dravidian-style architecture makes for an impressive appearance. Every year it holds a 9-day long Spring Festival that brings the neighborhood to life in celebration. Next, check out the Parathasarthy Temple, the famous temple of Lord Krishna. Its stunning structure and style make it one of the best temples to visit while in Chennai. You could also go to Vadapalani Andavar Temple. Although it’s frequently-visited, many couples still find a quiet moment to marry inside the temple. In fact, an estimated 7,000 couples marry there every year! Check out the beautiful stucco images and colorful walls that make this place to beloved in Chennai.
Just over 35 miles south of Chennai is where you’ll find Mahabalipuram. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, also known as the group of sanctuaries, was carved out of rock in the 7th and 8th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is visited by many tourists, the main attractions being its rathas, or temples in the form of chariots, mandapas, or cave sanctuaries, and the Temple of Rivage which has thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. Take a stroll through the inside of some of the monuments and get a feel for how historic and old these structures really are. Religious figures, designs, and much more are etched into the stone of the monument’s interior and exterior, making this stone-aged attraction an incredible example of India’s deep religious roots.
To find your perfect vacation rental, head to Tripping.com. With nearly 1,500 rentals to choose from, there’s a little something for everyone. Rent a seaside villa or house with a backyard garden. Or, choose a modern apartment suite where you can overlook the city. If you plan on spending most of your time near Marina Beach, choose a rental near the water in Pattinapakkam or Royapettah. To be near the Vadapalani Murugan Temple or simply to be near public transit access, stay in T Nagar or Nungambakkam.
Getting to Chennai is best done by flying into Chennai International Airport. There are buses that run from the airport to the city’s center, or you can take a cab or rickshaw if you’re really in the mood for an adventure. There is also a train station located just a few minutes’ walk from the airport gates. Rental cars are available for rental in the airport, but they really aren’t recommended if you haven’t driven in India before. Plus, you’ll need an international driver’s license. Your best bet is taking the bus, train, or taxi and using public transit while in Chennai itself since the city has a pretty well-structure system.
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