By Gomathi Shankar
Chennai has sunny hot summers and the heat gets unbearable during May-June. The city becomes a live oven and the people still find the resolve to carry on their routine, telling that this summer is the harshest they have seen in their lives every other year, and re-hydrating themselves with Nimboo Pani and tender coconut.
But Chennai residents also know where to escape in the weekends to find some respite from the summer. This is a list of the top five popular summer escapes from Chennai.
Fondly referred to as Kodai, has been given the title of “Princess of Hill Stations” and this bustling hill station on the Western Ghats is one of the two most prominent summer escapes from Chennai. The hill station is a refreshing weekend visit and an overnight train journey from Chennai (the closest rail station being Kodai Road), lands one to the entry point of Kodai hills. The region has several enchanting waterfalls and viewpoints to make you go wow! Coaker’s Walk, Green Valley Viewpoint and Pillar Rock are the major attractions in Kodaikanal. A must-buy here are the delicious home-made chocolates.
We saw the princess first. Now, it is the queen’s turn. Ooty has long been the primarily sought after hill station in Tamil Nadu and hence called the “Queen of Hills”. Ooty is famous for its tea and peaceful neighbourhoods. The city is dotted with a number of tea estates and is a delight for a tea taster. Ooty is accessible by train (the closest rail station being Ooty railway station) and the city also has a steam engine driven heritage train as a major tourist attraction. The experience is akin to the toy train of Darjeeling in North-east India. The Botanical Gardens and Doddabetta Peak are the must-see places and tea is the must-buy item in Ooty. The twists and turns of the hairpin bends on the road to Ooty are also a great experience if you are not prone to road sickness.
Popularly referred as the “Poor Man’s Ooty” in Tamil Nadu. It is an equally beautiful and serene hill station but comes with a more affordable price tag. Closest railway station to this hill station is Salem railway station and it is only an hour’s drive uphill from Salem. Yercaud has a number of hairpin bends to make for a thrilling ride uphill and is dotted with several viewpoints all around. The Pagoda Point is the best view point to see the sprawling valley beneath and there is also the Lady’s Seat View Point to give an alternative view. The town is more laid-back and calm compared to the hustle and bustle of Ooty and Kodaikanal. So, if you are looking for a quiet escape into nature’s abode, Yercaud is the place for you.
The name, which literally means a “Mountain of Clouds”, is a brilliant and less explored hill station in Tamil Nadu. Meghamalai provides a refreshing escape from the rushes of the city life and makes the clock tick slower. One can simply get lost in the tranquillity here and explore the flora and fauna. The Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary is a treat for wildlife enthusiasts and a perfect location to test your new DSLR cameras. There is also the 190 ft. high Meghamalai Waterfalls that provides a stunning view. Vellimalai is another attraction in these hills known for a brilliant medley of tea estates and wild animals. Meghamalai is accessible by road from Madurai (which is the closest railway station) and an overnight journey from Chennai.
If you are the off-beat person who wants some thrill and adventure in your weekend escape, Masinagudi is the place for you. This mysterious and silent hill town is located in the Nilgiris, the mountain range that also shelters Ooty. This region is known for hosting the largest tiger population of India and is also home to countless species of birds and animals. Masinagudi road is one of the most challenging roads for drivers and it is considered as an achievement if you complete the ride without a flat tyre. The town also allows for adventurous jungle stays to appease your adventure quest. Ooty is the closest railway station to Masinagudi.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick your gear and get out of Chennai to escape the scorching heat.