MY CITY

WHY WAIT FOR THAT LONG, EX­PEN­SIVE VA­CA­TION WHEN ALL YOU NEED IS SOME FUEL AND A FEW GOOD HOURS TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE BEAUTY OF BEACHES, HILLS AND GET A TASTE OF HIS­TORY. SIM­PLY CHEN­NAI GIVES YOU A LIST OF GET­AWAYS CLOSE TO HOME THAT NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE

India Today - - INSIDE - BY SARANYA CHAKRA­PANI

Vis­ages of the past, by Shy­laja Chetlur.

Long, breezy shores, misty idyl­lic hills, fas­ci­nat­ing his­toric rem­nants and sleepy beach towns—Chen­nai and its sur­round­ings area is blessed with some of

In­dia’s most gor­geous travel des­ti­na­tions wait­ing to be ex­plored. Be it the an­cient Dutch ar­chi­tec­ture of Tranquebar or the vi­brant mi­gra­tory birds lin­ing the Vedan­than­gal sky, the city is ev­ery res­i­dent’s pride, as it al­lows you to ex­plore the best get­aways in just a day or two.

TRANQUEBAR

Here’s one place that gives you the plea­sure of a smooth Sun­day drive as well as a scenic lo­ca­tion. Along the clear, sunny skies and the breezy shores of Bay of Ben­gal lies Tranquebar—the charm­ing lit­tle Pan­chayat town that has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in Chen­nai’s evo­lu­tion. A Dan­ish Colony from 1620 to 1845, Tranquebar in Nagapattinam has its own place in his­tory. You en­ter it through the town gate, Land­porten, which is a part of the for­ti­fi­ca­tions that were built around the town in the 1660’s. A must-see is Fort Dans­borg. In­ter­est­ingly, un­til the end of the 17th century, the fort was used for res­i­den­tial and stor­age pur­poses. It also houses a small mu­seum where you can find ar­ti­facts pre­served from the Dan­ish set­tle­ment.

While here, do to visit the town’s gor­geous churches that are cul­tural and ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders. The Zion Church on King’s Street was built in 1701 and is said to be the old­est Protes­tant church in In­dia. Fur­ther down on the same street is the New Jerusalem Church, which was built in 1718 af­ter the ar­rival of Ger­man mis­sion­ar­ies. Find­ing its own lit­tle space in the Chris­tian her­itage of this town is the Masil­a­mani Nathar

Tem­ple on the beach. This shrine dates fur­ther back than all oth­ers in the town to 1306, the Pan­dian era. If you’re crav­ing for some more his­tory, the Ziegen­balg Mu­seum Com­plex on Ad­mi­ral Street will make your day. Un­like a con­ven­tional tourist get­away, Tranquebar gives you a rare glimpse of the civil­i­sa­tions gone by. Best time to visit July to Oc­to­ber

Dis­tance from Chen­nai 232 kms Time taken by road 5 hours

POOM­PUHAR

This his­toric town is where the surg­ing Cau­very drains into the Bay of Ben­gal. It is also where the re­mark­able Chola dy­nasty had once es­tab­lished its cap­i­tal. Poom­puhar, one of Tamil Nadu’s lesser-known beach towns, is lo­cated in Nagapattinam district and has nu­mer­ous cre­den­tials to earn it a spot in his­tory books.

It is said to be the erst­while city of Kaveri­pat­ti­nam, which, ma­rine arche­ol­o­gists be­lieve, was washed away by a tsunami in 300 BC. It is where the an­cient Tamil Bud­dhist poem, Manimekalai is set; ru­ins of a 4th-5th century Bud­dhist monastery and a statue of the Buddha have also been dis­cov­ered here. The city is de­scrip­tively men­tioned in one of Tamil lit­er­a­ture’s great­est epics, Si­la­p­athikaram. A ref­er­ence to this is the Si­la­p­athikara Art Gallery, where scenes from the epic adorn the walls and have been sculpted by the Ma­mal­la­pu­ram Art Col­lege.

The beach here is rough and pow­er­ful, and per­fect to watch the sun­rise and sun­set. With all its his­toric rel­e­vance, Poom­puhar is best ex­plored in a day, when you can ex­plore the life and times of people who had flour­ished here and the foot­prints of whom have been left be­hind in the town’s glo­ri­ous mon­u­ments.

Best time to visit Septem­ber

to March

Dis­tance from Chen­nai 222 kms Time taken by road 4 hours

COVE­LONG (KO­VALAM)

This lit­tle fish­ing vil­lage is best known as the place where the Taj Fish­er­man’s Cove—a lux­ury beach re­sort is lo­cated. Orig­i­nally a port town de­vel­oped by the Nawab of Car­natic, Cove­long was taken over by the French and then de­stroyed by the Bri­tish in 1752.

But even if you don’t in­tend to go to the Taj, you can treat yourself to some freshly pre­pared and mouth­wa­ter­ing seafood here,

which is avail­able in the lit­tle shops and restaurants. The beach, back­wa­ters, tall palm trees, re­fresh­ing breeze, ex­cel­lent co­conut wa­ter and beach food make for a pic­turesque short va­ca­tion. This is also one of the few places in Tamil Nadu where wind surf­ing takes place. If a beach re­treat is what you have in mind, the pri­vate beach at Taj Fish­er­man’s Cove is ideal for a lazy sun­bath and some cock­tails. You could even book one of their pre­mium cot­tages and vil­las and spend the day at the spa and evening by the sea. While you’re here, you must visit the beau­ti­ful Catholic church and the re­mains of an an­cient Dutch fort that was built dur­ing the colo­nial times. This sleepy beach town is per­fect for a quick one-day get­away af­ter a hec­tic week.

Best time to visit Septem­ber to Jan­uary (morn­ings and early evenings)

Dis­tance from Chen­nai 40 kms Time taken by road 1 hour

YER­CAUD

Not too many tourists flock to this lush, bloom­ing hill town on the East­ern Ghats, which is why it is one of the most pris­tine get­aways from Chen­nai. With its crys­tal clear wa­ters and ver­dant green­ery, the ‘Yer’ or the lake that it gets its name from, is a breath­tak­ing emer­ald coloured fresh­wa­ter with a gor­geous land­scaped gar­den on one bank and an ar­ti­fi­cial float­ing foun­tain in the cen­tre. Boat­ing is the most pop­u­lar

With its crys­tal clear wa­ters and ver­dant green­ery, Yer­caud is a breath­tak­ing emer­ald, of­fer­ing scenic views of golden sun­rises and flam­ing sun­sets from nu­mer­ous van­tage points and hills sur­round­ing the town.

ac­tiv­ity here and you can choose from a row boat and a pedal boat to go on a half-hour cruise on the lake. Also take time out to spend a few mo­ments by the smoky Kil­lyur Falls, which are about 3 kms from the lake.

Most re­sorts at Yer­caud rent out bi­cy­cles and there’s no bet­ter way to ex­plore its idyl­lic lo­cales than bik­ing. With the ma­jes­tic She­varoy hills sur­round­ing the town, there are nu­mer­ous van­tage points, from where you can watch the golden sun­rises and the flam­ing sun­sets. The best of them is the Lady’s Seat—a clus­ter of rocks be­lieved to have de­rived their name from an English lady who spent her evenings here ad­mir­ing the land­scape. The Pagoda Point— lit­er­ally mean­ing ‘Pyramid Point’— gives you a spec­tac­u­lar view and scenic view of a small Ram tem­ple is an added at­trac­tion.

While Yer­caud’s no-fuss beauty makes it a trekker’s par­adise, it is also a great choice for fam­ily pic­nics with chil­dren-friendly lo­ca­tions like the Deer Park and the Anna Park. The Na­tional Or­chi­dar­ium

here has 30 species of orchid and is said to be the third largest or­chi­dar­ium in In­dia.

With all that na­ture to be ex­plored, this lit­tle hill town takes you off the beaten path and gives you the time of your life.

Best time to visit De­cem­ber to June Dis­tance from Chen­nai 340 kms Time taken by road 5 hours 30 min­utes

YE­LA­GIRI

Though not as sprawl­ing as Ooty or Ko­daikanal, Ye­la­giri can al­most ef­fort­lessly re­fresh your senses like a true na­ture re­treat should, with its misty hills, placid lakes and no ob­vi­ous dis­trac­tions like tech­nol­ogy and shop­ping.

Spread across an area of 30 sq km and an al­ti­tude of 920 me­tres above sea level, Ye­la­giri is the pret­ti­est hills sta­tion on the East­ern Ghats’ Jawadh Hill ranges. Its high­est point, the Swami­malai Hill (4338 ft), is a place trekkers will love. The start­ing point of the trek is the east­ern side of the lake and it takes about an hour of climb­ing to reach the peak. It’s best to start early in the morn­ing and reach the peak when the sun is still mild. Spend some time on top and take in the breath­tak­ing view of the en­tire val­ley from here. If you’re look­ing for rel­a­tively sim­pler treks, we rec­om­mend you try the smaller peaks like Javadhu and Pala­mathi Hills. An­other idyl­lic place to spend your af­ter­noons and evenings is the

beau­ti­ful Jalagam­parai Wa­ter­falls , formed by the gush­ing At­taru River. But they are de­pen­dent on the mon­soons and may be drier dur­ing the non-mon­soon sea­son.

Also close by is the ar­ti­fi­cial lake of Pu­ga­nur, which is ideal for boat­ing. Ye­la­giri may lack swanky tourism fa­cil­i­ties, but it is a beau­ti­ful place to visit if you’re still in the mood for some ac­tion. Head to this town dur­ing May, when the govern­ment hosts the an­nual Sum­mer Fes­ti­val, which in­cludes vi­brant cul­tural pro­grammes, and a show­case of tribal tra­di­tions, mu­sic and art.

While it’s fun to ex­plore Ye­la­giri as a hill sta­tion, you could dou­ble it up as an ad­ven­ture trip too. The Ye­la­giri Ad­ven­ture Sports As­so­ci­a­tion (YASA) reg­u­larly or­gan­ises paraglid­ing, rock climb­ing, trekking and cy­cling ac­tiv­i­ties here. For de­tails of their up­com­ing events, check out yasa.co.in.

Best time to visit Septem­ber to

Jan­uary Dis­tance from Chen­nai 258 kms Time taken by road 3 hours 30 min­utes

VEDAN­THAN­GAL

Lit­er­ally mean­ing ‘the hunter’s ham­let’, Vedan­than­gal has one of In­dia’s old­est bird sanc­tu­ar­ies, which dates back to the time of the Bri­tish, when the govern­ment set it up as a des­ti­na­tion for bird watch­ers. It re­mains so till date, host­ing over 40,000 birds from around the world ev­ery year, out of which at least 26 are rare species.

On a lucky day, you can find ex­otic mi­grants like gar­ganey teal which flies in from Canada, snake bird from Sri Lanka, grey pel­i­can from Aus­tralia, grey heron from Bangladesh, glossy ibis from Sri Lanka, painted stork from Siberia and spoon­bill from Burma. The sanc­tu­ary, which was de­clared a re­served for­est in 1962, is also a splen­did ex­am­ple of the breath­tak­ing South In­dian coun­try­side with its muddy trails, beau­ti­ful lakes, cool breeze, lush green pas­tures and clear skies.

Best time to visit Novm­ber

to March Dis­tance from Chen­nai78 kms Time taken by road 1 hour

Pho­to­graph by

The his­toric ham­let of Poom­puhar

AP

Pho­to­graph by

Cove­long is all about beaches, back­wa­ters and ex­cel­lent seafood

SUMANTH KU­MAR

Pho­to­graph by

BHUSHAVALI The crys­tal clear wa­ters and ver­dant green­ery of Yer­caud

Photo Cour­tesy:

Ye­la­giri is a true na­ture’s re­treat

TTDC

Pho­to­graph by

HK RA­JASHEKAR Vedan­than­gal is a bird watch­ers’ par­adise

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