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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > India > Chennai (Madras)

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Things to do in Chennai (Madras)

Check out the crocs at the Croc Bank

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (www.madrascrocodilebank.org) was set up in 1976 to "promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and their habitats" and is still going strong. It's safe to say they welcome visitors with welcome arms. Don't leave without getting a look at Jaws III; at 16ft, he's the largest captive croc in India.

Eat George Town’s finest street food

Street food in Chennai is king, and nowhere is it so regal as George Town's maniacal streets. A newcomer may find themselves overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells, so take the Food Trail tour with Story Trails (www.storytrails.in/india/food-trail), who will guide you to the best eats.

Learn to surf, Chennai style

Thrillophilia (www.thrillophilia.com) run four- and eight-day courses that aim to get you catching tubes (or at least standing up on your board) before you leave. They take place on the beach at the fishing village of Covelong 40km (25 miles) south of Chennai, so they're relatively free of tourists and/or potentially mocking observers.

Take a turtle conservation walk

Every night, between January and April, the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (https://sstcn.org) walk 7km (4 miles) from Neelangari beach to Besant Nagar beach, relocating exposed Olive Ridley turtle eggs. The walk is open for serious volunteers to join and lasts from 2300 to approximately 0500.

Visit India’s oldest bookstore

Higginbothams started life when an English stowaway, Abel Joshua Higgingbotham, set up a bookshop on Mount Road in 1844. Over 150 years later it's still selling the good word and has the honorable distinction of being India's oldest bookshop. It's got a sizable English language section, and worth a visit for the whitewashed colonial visage alone.

Featured Hotels

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The Park Chennai

Converted from the old Gemini Film Studios, this 5-star deluxe property offers sleek modern design with a spattering of movie magic. Original film posters fill the stylish lobby and the movie theme extends to the rooms and hallways. Rooms are modern and stylish, with wood flooring, frosted glass and sumptuous fabrics. There is also a rooftop pool and stress-banishing spa, plus several bars and restaurants.

Hyatt Regency Chennai

Offering the usual Hyatt Regency package in a convenient location close to the attractions of Mylapore, this hotel provides the comfort of familiarity in this often hectic city. There are 327 comfortable rooms with excellent facilities, plus three restaurants, a spa and fitness centre and a tempting pool to cool down from the heat.

Hilton Chennai

Smart and modern, the Hilton is conveniently located close to Marina Beach, as well as shopping districts and tourist attractions like Guindy National Park, the old town of Mylapore, San Thome Basilica and the Government Museum. The hotel offers fantastic value, with smart, well-appointed rooms, an infinity pool on the 10th floor and five restaurants and bars.

Pleasant Stay Guest House

This comfortable guesthouse offers homey suites and self-contained apartments in an attractive modern building close to the airport and St Thomas Mount. The owners have an arrangement with several local restaurants and can have vegetarian and non- vegetarian meals delivered to your room. Add in excellent service and friendly owners and you have a great package.

Hanu Reddy Residences

For a relaxing change of pace, the Hanu Reddy Residences are a selection of rooms and apartments set in tastefully decorated apartment buildings in the upmarket districts of Wallace Garden and Poes Garden. Rooms have TVs, Wi-Fi and air-con and the properties are set in attractive green compounds with good eating options nearby.

ITC Grand Chola Hotel

Vast and opulent, the Grand Chola lives up to its ostentatious name, with 522 rooms and 78 luxurious serviced apartments in a veritable palace with lush grounds in the heart of Chennai. The décor evokes the wealth and luxury of the Chola Dynasty, the greatest maritime power to rise in South Asia, with carved columns, curving stairways, granite statuary and vast open spaces.