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- 13 May 2021, 3 nights
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The bustling capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, is India's fourth largest city. It's renowned for its fine examples of Raj architecture, and for its fascinating museums and brightly coloured temples. You'll find more culture in the form of the Bharatnatyam, one of the country's oldest classical dance genres, which originated in this region. Chennai is also known for being home to the second-longest urban beach in the world – Marina Beach.
Most hostels in Chennai have free Wi-Fi and several throw in free breakfast too. You can stay in a hostel with a chilled rooftop terrace and then cool down in a lounge area with air con. There are also Chennai hostels with female-only dorms and private rooms, plus a rooftop café. Want some beach time? Try a Chennai hostel near the sea that provides free bottled drinking water and a self-catering kitchen so you can take lunch out.
Triplicane is the old Muslim neighbourhood of Chennai, known for its temple culture and bookshops. You'll find Marina Beach here – spot fishermen at work and locals taking a paddle. It's also a great place for seeing the sunset. Further south on the coast is Mylapore. This former Portuguese district attracts pilgrims and visitors with two main sights: Kapaleeshwarar Temple and Santhome Cathedral. George Town (formerly the British centre for trade in Chennai) is where to see different architecture styles, from ornate temples to 18th-century churches.
The Government Museum is one of Chennai's main attractions. Its Bronze Gallery contains South Indian pieces dating from the 7th century, and in other galleries you'll see 2nd-century BC Buddhist sculptures. For an example of a Tamil Nadu temple with a multi-coloured gopuram (entrance tower), head to Mylapore for the Kapaleeshwarar Temple. This 16th-century architectural feat replaced the 7th-century original destroyed by the Portuguese. Around 8km south of the city is Little Mount Caves. It's believed that two marks in the rock here are the handprints of St Thomas.
From Chennai International Airport, the bus to the city takes 30 to 40 minutes. You can take the Chennai Metro Rail system to certain parts of the city. To travel by train from the airport, reach Tirusulam station via a subway. Trains run from here into Chennai in about 40 minutes. To get around Chennai itself, you can use an auto rickshaw – it's a good idea to haggle and agree on a price first. There is also a useful bus system.