CHENNAI (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore a segment of India’s Coromandel Coast? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay in the area overlooking the Bay of Bengal, near the city of Chennai.
8 a.m. - Kick off the weekend with breakfast at Murugan Idli Shop, Chennai’s favorite breakfast haunt located at a stone’s throw away from the Besant Nagar beach. Feast on steamed idlis, masala dosas and vadas, while taking in the traditional Tamil ambience. Wash it down with south Indian filter coffee.
10.30 a.m. - For the quintessential south Indian experience, drive 25 kms (15 miles) south of Chennai on the East Coast Road to Dakshin Chitra, a “living” museum that recreates traditional villages from the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The sights, sounds, smells and even the unique vegetation of each state are there. You can also find ethnic handicrafts.
2 p.m. - A late lunch at Bayview Point, the sea-side restaurant at the Taj Fishermen’s Cove resort on Cove Long or Kovalam as the local fishing community calls it. The fresh catch is prepared to suit all palates and the bar is well stocked.
4 p.m. - The clear and cool Bay of Bengal water is inviting. Enjoy a swim but be wary of the strong winds coming in from the east. Most lifeguards will have one tale or other from the 2004 tsunami. There’s a treasure trove of sea shells during low tide.
8 p.m. - Want to do your part to help endangered wildlife? The smallest species of sea turtles, the Olive Ridley, return to nest on the same beach they are hatched and you can go on a walk to protect them from crabs, sea gulls and other predators. If you’re lucky enough to see some eggs hatch on a moonlit night, you can steer the babies into the water.
6 a.m. - Catch the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal and then get on a boat with local fishing enthusiasts. The waters teem with red snapper, mackerel, tuna and shark.
9 a.m. - Back on shore, indulge in the buffet breakfast at the GRT Temple Bay’s Santa Maria restaurant. Whether you fancy waffles, south Indian uttapams or north Indian parathas, the restaurant has a good variety. Wash it all down with a glass of coconut water.
12.30 p.m. - Given its historical wealth, no trip to this part of the Coromandel coast would be complete without a visit to the 7th century Pallava Dynasty port of Mahabalipuram. The town is famous for its temple and its mostly rock-cut and monolithic monuments have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries) and giant open-air relieves such as the famous “Descent of the Ganges,” and the temple of Rivage dedicated to Shiva. The 8th century Shore Temple, built with granite blocks, is also remarkable.
3 p.m. - Relax with a soothing massage at the Jiva Spa at Fishermen’s Cove, which uses aromatherapy oils and natural creams. It’s expensive by Indian standards, but rejuvenates.
7 p.m. - Wrap up your trip with a quintessentially local activity — a visit to the cinema. The Prarthana Drive In Theater is on the way back to Chennai city.
Editing by Miral Fahmy and Krittivas Mukherjee