Travel

Soak up the sun in Chennai

There are few simple pleasures that meet the joy of packing a picnic basket filled with sandwiches and lemonade on a sunny day, playing frisbee under the canopy of trees, and spending time with family. 
Vaishali VIjaykumar lists out summer picnic spots to rest, relax and rejuvenate. 

CHEMBARAMBAKAM 
Why should you go: Lakes are the new favourites among vacation seekers. Chennai boasts three lakes that are a must visit. Situated near the central prison is Puzhal, which has a huge dam and lake. Red Hills lake is another name to it. It is one of the two rain-fed reservoirs in the city while the other ones are Porur and Chembarambakam lake. This is a great time of the year to go catch the sunset. A quick picnic won’t cost much of your time and effort.  History: The Puzhal reservoir was built in 1976. 
How to reach there: Puzhal is 14 km, and Chembarambakam is 25 km from Chennai.

Sadras fort
Why should you go: There are quite a few chances of missing out the Sadras fort, located on the outskirts of the atomic research centre near Kalpakkam. The fort has a huge tomb and also houses a cemetery. While it might not be on the top of your list to visit a cemetry, the green goodness in the area is enough to sedate your senses. A one-day picnic here is sure to give you enough rest and relaxation. 

History: Modern Sadras was established as a part of the Dutch Coromandel in the 17th century. It was earlier a centre for weaving muslin cloth, which was exported, besides pearl and oil. It was built by the Dutch for commercial purposes. According to historians, the fort takes its name after a Vishnu temple, Sadurangapattinam, and was later shortened as Sadras. 
How to reach there: It is 70 km from Chennai. Buses are available. 

Dakshinachitra 
Why should you go: If you want to study South Indian heritage and culture then DakshinaChitra is a museum solely dedicated to it. It has a variety of displays and live house models that depict the lives of Indians in south India, particularly the art, architecture, and craft of India. From Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh, the museum has models of 18 heritage houses. It is a treasure house to about 1,000s of artifacts, journals, and craft pieces pertaining to the anthropology and folklore of India. While you are here catch one of their puppet shows, pottery workshops, art exhibitions, dying techniques and weaving classes. There are also classical dance and musical programs. 

History: The museum was built on a 10-acre land in 1966 and managed by Madras Craft Foundation. Now, the contributors to the foundation include Prakriti Foundation, Amethyst and Crafts Council of India. How to reach there: It is located 25 km south of Chennai. You can either drive down the Old Mahabalipuram Road or take one of the buses. It’s a one-hour ride. 

Pulicat lake
Why should you go: Pulicat is considered to be the second largest brackish water lake in the country. With about 186 species of fishes reported, this place is a major hub for fishing. If you’re a seafood and crustacean lover then you have more reasons to visit this lake. This wetland is also one of the most important migratory routes for birds. The Wildlife Division of ths state has listed about 115 varieties of birds. The Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary is also located in this catchment area. This is one of the best spots for birdwatchers. 

History: Pulicat was said to be one of the three ports on the east coast of India. Later in the 16th century, the port was captured by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch. It is one of the few Dutch colonies in town.How to reach there: Pulicat lake is 60 km from Chennai. You can either take the road from Chennai to Nellore or take a bus from Periyampet. The lake is about 10 kms from the Sullurpet railway station. 

Mahabalipuram shore temple
Why should you go: The shore temple is an architectural marvel. It’s a favourite among tourists, archaeologists, and expats. While you are here, don’t miss the inscriptions on every stone here. Seventy kilometres further down will take you to Puducherry. And a few kilometres before you hit Mahabalipuram is the Tiger Cave. It’s a common sight to find families enjoying their packed meals here on their day out.

History: Once a navigation port, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its origin dates back to 700 AD. Most of us would have read about the Pallavas and the Cholas in our history textbooks. The shore temple is one of their creations. Every granite piece of stone here has carvings of mythological deities. Pancha Rathas and Descent of the Ganges are the standalone pieces; it’s hard to miss them. 
How to reach: Mahabalipuram is 60 km southwest of Chennai on the Coromandel Coast. You can either drive or take one of the frequent buses by the East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi State Highway.

Covelong
Why should you go: If you’re a water baby, a sports enthusiast, and love surfing then Covelong is where you should be at, this summer. The beach is one of the few places in the city where you can try wind surfing. And if surfing doesn’t interest you, check out kayaking, boating and  other water sports activities. 

History: Covelong was earlier a port, founded by Saadat Ali, the Nawab of Carnatic. It was taken over by the French in 1746 and later conquered by the British by 1752. The Dutch fort here is a landmark. 
How to reach: This fishing hamlet is about 40 km from the city on the East Cost Road en route Mahabalipuram. It is an hour journey from Chennai. You can either drive or take a bus on the Old Mahabalipuram Road and East Coast Road. 

Vandalur zoo
Why should you go: Known to be the first zoo in India, you need a whole day to explore. You can spot 170 species of animals, and varieties of birds. Spread over an area of 602 hectares, the zoo is known for its green cover, rich flora and fauna. You can either rent a cycle, take a battery car or choose to walk. Watch out for the crowd during weekends. 

History: The Madras Zoo was founded first in 1855. After shuttling within various localities in the city, it was finally open to public in 1985. The zoo is named after Aringar Anna, a former Tamil Nadu politician.How to reach here: It is about 31 km from the city. You can either drive or take a bus from Koyambedu. There are frequent suburban trains to Vandalur.

Madras Crocodile Bank
Why should you go: Commonly referred to as Croc Bank, the Madras Crocodile Bank is a delightful getaway for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. The 10-acre park houses numerous species of snakes, crocodile, gharial, mugger and also a few birds. If you’re lucky then you might get a chance to meet the founder, and world-famous herpetologist Romulus Whitaker. Kids love to watch him pull a cobra out of his jar. 

There are also frequent turtle walks and conservation programmes. Check out their website for interesting programs and camps. The Bank is closed on Mondays. History: The Madras Crocodile Bank was started in 1976 by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker with an aim to control the dwindling crocodile population and to preserve the art of snake catching. How to reach there: The Croc Bank is situated 40 km south of Chennai on the East Coast Road near Vadanemmeli. It is an hour and a half drive from the city by car. This is just a few kilometres ahead of Mahabalipuram, so there are frequent buses.

Vedanthangal O bird sanctuary
Why should you go: Vendanthangal is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in the country. If you’re a bird watcher then ask no questions, and head over. More than 40,000 birds visit the park during the migratory seasons. Plan a nice lunch and take a stroll, drink in nature’s goodness. Visit the watch tower; binoculars are available for rent to spot the birds. Known for its huge spread of trees and chirping of birds, this sanctuary is one of the finest to rest and rejuvenate. From Grey Pelicans to Spoonbills, it is a treat to watch the birds flocking around the water bodies. 

History: True to its meaning, hamlet of the hunters, this area was a favourite hunting spot among the landlords of the 18th century. The lake was established in 1936 but the area was declared as Vedanthangal Lake Bird Sanctuary in 1988. How to reach there: The 30-hectare area is 75 km from Chennai towards the south of Chengalpattu. It comes under the Kancheepuram district. You can either take a bus or drive. 


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