For a short trip along India’s southeast coast, consider the three-day trip from Chennai south to Puducherry (Pondicherry), taking in some contrasting visions of how colonial India changed once the European interlopers packed their bags. Start in Chennai, with its vast beach, famous-name ashrams and delicious vegetarian cuisine, then track south along the coast, wedged between the sea and the salt lake.
Stop one is the surprising surf resort at Kovalam (Covelong), a worthy stop en route to Mamallapuram, where you can view a riot of carvings and temples created by the Pallava dynasty.
Duck inland to see the ancient Pallava capital at Kanchipuram, then return to the coast to close out the trip at charming Puducherry, formerly Pondicherry, where a Gallic air pervades – best experienced in heritage hotels in the old French Quarter. Just be warned: some spiritually-minded travelers pull into the famous ashram at Auroville just north of “Pondy” and never leave!