Chennai’s Marina Promenade is the perfect combination of everything that one can look for in a walking trail. Not only does it have great views and ambience, it is also one of the most culturally important places in a city rich in history. One of the longest promenades in the entire country, the Marina Promenade is flanked by historic heritage buildings and statues on one side, and the Bay of Bengal on the other. While it can get a little crowded in the evenings, the promenade more than makes up for it with its atmosphere and street food options. Walkers at the Marina also have the option of climbing up the Marina Lighthouse to get some of the best views of the city and the sea.
Chennai has the rare distinction of being one of the few cities in the country with a full-fledged national park located within its limits: the Guindy National Park. Carved out of what was originally a sprawling forest area known as the Guindy Lodge, the park is the perfect destination for walkers who want to feel closer to nature. More than 200 species of animals, insects, and birds call the park home. While it is one of the smallest national parks in the country, it is also one of Chennai’s greenest areas, and probably the city’s greatest natural treasure.
The Pallikaranai Marshland is a delicate ecosystem, and one of Chennai’s most important sites for birding. It’s home to some rare migratory birds, and even boasts more species of bird than the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, located 88 kilometres from the city. For anyone who is a birding or nature enthusiast, the marshland is one of the best places to go for a walk without leaving the city limits.
The Adyar River estuary was another delicate and threatened ecosystem until it was converted into an eco-park a few years ago. While the park is still a work in progress, it is one of the most beautiful green spaces in the city. It is best known for its scenic walking trails that present amazing views of the Adyar River and the Bay of Bengal. Apart from its greenery, the park is also a nature hot-spot, and is home to several species of birds and butterflies. One of the largest parks in the city, the eco-park consists of 358 acres, with well-defined walking trails and several viewing points.
A neighbourhood that predates the birth of modern Chennai by more than 1500 years, Mylapore is one of the most historically and culturally rich parts of Chennai. It’s home to the Kapaleeswarar Temple; the area around the temple is a cultural centre that routinely hosts cultural, musical and dance presentations. The streets of Mylapore are also great for food, as it is home to some of the most popular and authentic South Indian restaurants, street food markets and messes.
George Town is the centre of Chennai’s British heritage, and is one of the best places to walk if you are a history buff. The region is home to some of the oldest and most important heritage buildings in the city, such as the High Court Complex, Fort Museum, St. Mary’s Church and the Armenian Church. The region has been the power centre of Chennai since the birth of the city, and still houses the Tamil Nadu Government. As well as heritage buildings, George Town is also known for its roadside markets, such as Burma Bazaar, and several popular street food stalls serving everything from authentic North and South Indian to Burmese cuisine.
Marina might be Chennai’s most visited beach, but Besant Nagar in South Chennai is one of the most happening beaches in the city. It’s home to several cafes, bars and restaurants. It is also popular among walkers, with a well-defined promenade lined with street food stalls. Just south of Besant Beach is the neighbourhood of Thiruvanmiyur, home to the lesser-known Thiruvanmiyur Beach, also good for a walk. The Thiruvanmiyur Beach is far less commercialised than others, and is perfect for a peaceful evening walk.
When it comes to picturesque walking routes with stunning views of the city, it definitely doesn’t get any better than the famous St. Thomas Mount in South Chennai. While the route up this relatively small hill isn’t steep enough to be called a hike, it does make for a great walking trail, with the added bonus of 360-degree views of the city. The top of the hill is also home to the famous St. Thomas Shrine, built at the spot where St. Thomas is said to have preached.