Chennai is a city of many guises. Formerly Madras, the sprawling mass of villages and neighbourhoods join to form the capital of Tamil Nadu. Known as the gateway to southern India, the up-and-coming city is fast moving into the 21st Century, while simultaneously preserving the cultural, religious and artistic traditions of the region. Since the 17th Century, Chennai has seen numerous settlers, starting with the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and British. The result is a fusion of romantic Indian heritage and opulent colonialism, which transports Chennai’s visitors to bygone eras. Chennai is often considered the poor relation of India’s major cities, but its welcoming inhabitants, rich history and recent addition of modern hotels and restaurants offer the perfect combination of a genuine Indian experience and a touch of luxury.
Direct flights to Chennai will bring you to Chennai Airport (MAA), India’s fourth busiest passenger airport, approximately 12 miles south-west of the city.
Situated on the south-east coast of India, Chennai experiences a tropical climate. Temperatures are consistently warm, seldom dropping below 20°C in winter, and reaching over 45°C in the summer. Evenings remain warm, and heavy rainfall in spring and early summer result in humidity. Unless you are able to cope with high temperatures and humidity, the best time to visit Chennai is in winter, from November – February, when daytime temperatures hover at around 28°C, dropping slightly in the evening. During winter, Chennai is also home to a number of festivals. While these are spectacular to behold, they can make it harder to find accommodation, so it is best to book well in advance. If you are looking for cheap flights to Chennai, plan your trip slightly out of high season, in the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, when the city will be less busy and the temperatures aren’t as stifling as they are in summer.
On your trip to Chennai, you will discover a dazzling array of classic South Indian architecture, typical of Tamil. There are a host of temples in the area, including the Varadaraja Temple, Parthasarthy Temple and Tiruporur Temple. Whet your appetite for majestic architecture with the Kapaleeswarar Temple, which offers a delightful insight into Tamil culture and is considered the cultural hub of the area. The original temple was built in the 7th Century by the Pallavas, and subsequently destroyed by the Portuguese. Today the temple is situated in Mylapore (Town of Peacocks) and was built in 1566 to replace the destroyed original. The Kapaleeswarar Temple is a classic example of Tamil Nadu architecture, featuring a beautifully coloured gateway tower and pillared pavilions, with intricate carvings adorning the walls. Visitors are likely to experience one of six daily rituals, performed throughout the day from 5.30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Senate House was built in the late 19th Century and is widely considered to be one of India’s finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The centre of the University of Madras, the Senate House boasts a vast central hall, built upon six massive stone pillars. As with many colonised areas, Chennai’s history was not officially documented until it was inhabited by European colonists. Fort St George represents an important part of the area’s most recent history, serving as a symbol of English settlers’ occupation. Today the 17th Century fort is home to a wealth of historical and cultural artefacts, offering a valuable insight into Chennai’s past.
The cool breeze and rolling waves make Chennai’s beaches irresistible to locals and visitors alike. Chennai’s Marina Beach is the second longest beach in the world, stretching more than 8 miles from Fort St George to Mahabalipuram. Take a horse ride along the golden shores, promenade in the balmy shade of palm trees, or simply relax and watch the sun set from one of the world’s most spectacular beaches. Be aware that swimming at Marina beach can be dangerous, so check before you take the plunge! As with many tropical cities, Marina Beach has become a hub of relaxation and activity. Aside from a vast array of water sports and activities, the beach is lined with delicious food stalls, where you can snack on local delicacies as you relax and take in your stunning surroundings. Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar is named for the former colonial governor of Madras, Edward Elliot. Known locally as Besant Nagar Beach, or Bessie, the long beach is lined with restaurants and food stalls. If you are an early riser, hire a bicycle and cycle to Elliot’s Beach for sunrise: there is something magical about witnessing the dawn of a new day from this exquisite shore.
There is no doubt that nothing tastes more delicious than a freshly cooked bajji or refreshing sugar cane juice bought from one of the ubiquitous street stalls. With almost limitless choice and low prices, you can snack wherever you go, trying as many local delicacies as you can. Traditional Chennai cuisine is typical of South Indian food, offering an irresistible array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The food and drink staples of Chennai cuisine are coffee and rice; it is rare for a day to go by without both appearing on the menu at some point. However, it is the spice blends that are most memorable about South Indian dishes, which are derived from the delicate fusion of all flavours: salt, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent and sweet. This blend creates an explosion of flavours, utilising every element of our taste buds in a way that is rarely experienced in any other part of the world. Aside from traditional cuisine and plentiful food stalls, on your trip to Chennai you will be confronted with a broad choice of culinary fusions, both from around India and further afield. Thus, on your trip to Chennai, you will be spoilt for choice: the city will take you on a culinary journey, the possibilities of which are limited only by your appetite and your sense of adventure! Beneath Chennai’s undemanding exterior, you will discover the very best of South India. From the friendly people, to the rich arts and culture scene, and delectable food, your trip to Chennai is sure to be truly unforgettable. If you are looking for cheap flights to Chennai, let Travangelo help.