Urban Hiking in Chennai, India

Chennai (formerly Madras) is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, and, though it may not be as well known in the west as Mumbai or Delhi, this colorful Southern city is culturally rich and incredibly welcoming to visitors from around the world.

A friendly pedicab driver taking a well-deserved break from the late morning heat.

At first glance, it may not seem to be much more than another dusty, raucous city. Carts pulled by men, oxen and bicycles trudge along the roadside; while buses, taxis, and private autos all push to get to where they’re going on streets so filled with tuk tuks it’s like watching a Bollywood remake of Quadrophenia.

A beautiful, gentle oxen. Happy for a scratch and a pat.

For a better feel of the city and its energy, get out of your taxi and into one of those tuk tuks. The driver will probably tell you that their meter is broken. Yes, you are being hustled. That meter’s not broken for locals. Most tuk tuk drivers will ask for 100-200 INR to go 2-blocks or across town.

It’s a good idea to know how far you are going and to negotiate before you get in, but as my husband pointed out, 150 INR is only about USD 2.25. At that price, you haven’t much to lose, and if you do happen to find yourself dealing with an unreasonable driver, walk away. Another will be along any moment.


We decided urban hiking through the sweltering heat would be the best way to see the sites. Folks in this city are friendly, hospitable and somewhat surprised to see westerners. Especially those of the lighter skinned variety.

There is no shortage of curious extraverts that want to get to know you, and believe me; the pleasure will be all yours.

Woman's clothing is one of the best representations of India's vibrant color. Elegantly adorned in local silks and textiles.

This was a trip where we really remembered the reason we fell in love with traveling in the first place. Standing on a street corner talking with a local about their city and cultural has always been one of the coolest things ever for me. Here are just some of the lovely souls we encountered.

Flower market.

We were stopped several times during the day as we passed by locals curious to know where we are from and what we were about.

A local conversationalist who stopped us in the street with a warm welcome and many friendly questions.

The people of Chennai are some of the warmest I will ever meet. It was a privilege to be so welcomed. My memories of the laughter and conversations I shared here will stay with me for a very long time.

Garland threading.

It was clear from the interactions we saw and were apart of that this is a neighborly place where most people have somehow escaped the cynical nature that so many are bogged down by with these days.

Local men gather together during a religious ceremony. Even in this single snapshot, it is clear their friendships span many years.

If you would prefer to have a guided tour of the city,  here are two reputable companies with good online reviews.


Chennai Magic

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