Bangalore - Chennai, The road guide
Possible route options for road trips between Bangalore and Chennai, with brief descriptions. All descriptions are very subjective. This guide was first posted in my travel blog and has been updated here. Note: As I understand, Route 2 which is the golden Quadrilateral is now complete. It should then be the best option for driving. However, I dont yet have a first-hand experience of the same.
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Route 1 Main Route
Bangalore- Old Madras Road - Hoskote (30) - Kolar (57) - Palamner (120) - Chittoor (165) - Ranipet (210) - Kanchi (Outskirts) (260)- Sriperumbudur (290) - Chennai (330)Distance - 330 KMS
This is the direct highway (NH4) to Chennai. Shortest, fastest and currently the best route. Road is two lanes, wide with clear lane marking and signage. Decent shoulder available in some stretches. The road surface is excellent, has some nice curves and straights. Good Dhabas, Kamath restaurant and other decent eating place available. There is one good Andhra restaurant just before Chittoor with excellent service.
Highlights and lowlights:
About 5 KM Ghat section near Palamner. Otherwise nothing especially scenic. Just the usual rural landscape and some distant mountain ranges between Chittoor - Ranipet.
Between Walajapet and Kanchi (30KMs), can enjoy the pleasure of driving on the completed stretch of GQ
Will need to take a detour to Kanchi town due to construction work (Not sure about bikes).
Heavy traffic near towns and after Ranipet.
GQ construction slows down the traffic from Kanchi to Chennai
Kanchi is the main tourist spot with a hundred odd temples. Kailasanatha temple, the oldest from 8th or 9th century, Ekamabareshwara temple and Kamakshi temple are the more famous ones. Kanchi Silk saris are of course even more famous with the female of the species.
Chittoor Thirupathi (75 KMS). From Thirupathi to Chennai by NH 205: Average road conditions
Kanchi Chennai via Walajabad: More rural landscape may be an option than the direct route, which is affected by the GQ construction. Dont know the current road condition.
Bangalore- Hosur (45 KMs) - Krishnagiri (95) - Vaniyambadi (145) - Ambur (165) - Vellore (220) - Ranipet (240) - Kanchi (Outskirts)(290) - Sriperumbudur(320) - Chennai (360)
Distance - 360 KMS
This is the highly traveled road to Chennai and the GQ route. Many TN state buses and almost all private buses and trucks take this route and hence a very heavy traffic. At Ranipet the route joins NH4 and follows Route 1. Have seen many Dhabas but not tried any. Too many towns on the road means one can find decent South Indian eating places. Ambur is famous for biriyanis.
Highlights and lowlights:
The completed stretch of GQ till Krishnagiri / Vaniyambadi is a pleasure to drive. After that it is bad due to frequent diversions and the heavy traffic. Do not take this route (for now) unless you need to go to any of the intermediate towns or have any particular aversion to touching Andhra (maybe wanted by AP police?)
Too many towns on the road bad for traffic, good for facilities (Fuel, food etc)
If you are suffering anything from a common cold or HIV/ AIDS, you can try the CMC hospital in Vellore considered one of the best in India. There is also a fort in Vellore good for a halt but not for a stay. Those who have not seen beaches can look at Palar, probably the sandiest and driest river in India. Well wonder of wonders there was some water in Palar after last years bountiful rains, and there were unconfirmed reports of thousands of heart attack among the people along the river bank, but AP seems to have planned a simple cure by planning to build a dam in upstream Kuppam.
Yelagiri Near Vaniyambadi (30-40 kms?) is a small hill resort good for a day or two of relaxation.
The following two routes to Chennai are very non-conventional. However, these are possible options for an interested rider and especially the first of the two is a viable option when compared to Hosur road in present conditions.
Bangalore- Hosur(45) - Krishnagiri (95) - Thiruvannamalai (200) - Gingee (250) - Tindivanam (280) - Chengalpet (340)- Chennai (400)
Distance 400 Kms Approx.
For those going to Tambaram and other southern suburbs in Chennai, this is a very good option. Take the Krishnagiri route as in option 2 and divert to Pondy road, which is NH 66. Join the NH 45 at Tindivanam and reach Chennai from the south.
Highlights and lowlights:
NH66 is a wide two lane road with clear marking on most of the route. The road is almost throughout shaded by Tamarind trees, which provide a welcome respite on hot days. The traffic is very low until Tindivanam but then you join NH 45 the main artery of TamilNadu and very busy. This stretch of NH 45 is already 4 laned and is one of the better roads in TN. Also, the bypass roads for Chengalpet and Chennai are very interesting drives too.
There are some potholes mostly along the road edges but not a two wheeler can evade them easily.
Between Krishnagiri -TVMalai (100 Kms) is the only major town and having anything near a decent eating place. Even here it is the S.Indian Idly, Dosai, Meals type food (Which I personally prefer).Fuel however is available in many places along the Highway.
Thiruvannamalai, with a gigantic Shiva temple against the backdrop of the holy Arunachala mountain is the main tourist spot. This is one of the largest temples in Tamilnadu with a 200 feet high main tower (Gopuram) possibly 2nd tallest temple tower in the country. It has a lot of Ashrams the most famous of which is Ramanashrama. It is considered to be very auspicious to circumambulate (go around?) the mountain on full moon days and hence those days are very crowded.
Gingee (pronounced Senji) is the most famous of the forts in TN. It is a 17th century fort that spans the two sides of the highway.
There is a Dam site / Picnic spot called Sathanur Dam a 14 KM detour about 30 Kms before TV malai. The ride is bumpy and they dont allow photos and video.
Vedanthangal bird sanctuary is a few KMs off the NH 45 near Maduranthakam
Bangalore- Hosur Krishnagiri - Thiruvannamalai Gingee Tindivanam Pondichery- Chennai
Distance 480 Kms Approx.
Same as option 3, but instead of taking the NH 45 to Chennai, continue on NH 66 to Pondy and take the ECR (East Coast Road) to Chennai. This is more than 150 KMs of additional riding to Chennai compared to the NH4 via Chittoor. Why should you take it?1) Drive on the ECR 2) Halt at Mamallapuram aka Mahabalipuram or Mahabs 3) Pondy French ambience, beach and cheap alcohol (hearsay)
Highlights and lowlights:
This is really riding for the pleasure (sake) of riding as it certainly not a route you will take for going to Chennai. However, if you want to relax at the beaches at Pondy, Mahabs and enjoy the wonderful coastal road to Chennai, you should try this.
Apart from the places in route 3, Pondy is itself a tourist place with beaches, a supposedly French ambience and very cheap booze none of which are particularly fascinating for me.
Mamallapuram about 60 Kms before Chennai is the other famous tourist spot. With Shore temple - a UNESCO world heritage site, various rock sculptures and beach resorts; it is a oft visited, crowded and a very touristy place.
The ECR between Mahabs and Chennai is also filled with many other tourist and other attractions, such as the crocodile park, Dakshina Chitra (a sort of South Indian architecture museum), a couple of theme parks, MayaJaal multiplex, a few dozen average eating out places, go-karting track.
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