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The Kathipara flyover near Chennai Airport is one of Asia's largest clover-leaf flyovers | © Pratik Gupte/WikiCommons
The Kathipara flyover near Chennai Airport is one of Asia's largest clover-leaf flyovers | © Pratik Gupte/WikiCommons
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What to Do On a Layover in Chennai, India

Picture of Arun Venkatraman
Updated: 5 January 2018
Layovers aren’t often enough to get a decent experience of any city. This is especially true for culturally rich Chennai, which is a destination that grows on you the longer you stay. However, that doesn’t mean Chennai isn’t any fun if you’re on a short layover here. From medieval churches and temples to colonial-era landmarks, here’s everything you can do to put your layover to good use.

If you’re on a three-hour layover…

A three-hour layover is always tight, but if budgeted the right way it can be ample time to check out some great must-visit attractions in Chennai. The airport isn’t in the centre of the city, but thanks to recent improvements in infrastructure, connectivity between the city and the airport has become much easier and faster. Still, getting to most popular landmarks can take a minimum of half-an-hour, or even more for destinations such as the Marina Beach, which is at the northern end of the city.

The old church atop the St. Thomas Mount Hillock
The old church atop the St. Thomas Mount Hillock | © jenith/WikiCommons

The closest must-visit attraction from the airport is St. Thomas Mount, which is located just a few kilometres away. Apart from being a great vantage point for viewing the city, the St. Thomas Mount is also steeped in history. It was on this hillock that St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus held his sermons and is believed to have died. The hill-top still houses a centuries-old church and a cave shrine in honour of St. Thomas. If you don’t want to exert yourself on a three-hour layover by climbing a hill, other fun options to do include spending some time at popular bars and restaurants near the airport such as the Irish House or Salt Company 531 Kitchen and Bar.

The Chennai airport is in itself quite an architectural landmark and has a number of great options of food and drink
The Chennai airport is in itself quite an architectural landmark and has a number of great options of food and drink | © T Shrinivasan/WikiCommons

If you’re on a six-hour layover…

While getting a holistic experience of Chennai may take longer, there is still a lot you can do with six hours in Chennai. To budget it right, it would be wise to pick places close to the airport. While relaxing at the Marina Beach might not be feasible, Chennai’s other popular beach, the Besant Nagar Beach is fairly close to the airport and is only a 30-minute drive away with favourable traffic.

Sunrise at Besant Nagar Beach in Chennai
Sunrise at Besant Nagar Beach in Chennai | ©Destination8infinity/Wiki Commons

Other popular options include the Pheonix Marketcity Mall, one of the largest shopping complexes in Chennai, which is just about 10km away and provides a great shopping experience. Also just a few kilometres away from the airport are green spaces such as the Guindy National Park, one of the few national parks in India located within the limits of a major city, and the Theosophical Society International Headquarters, which also features a fully-fledged library.

The Guindy National Park is one of the few national parks located within city limits