Making the Most of Chennai, India

Visiting the city of Chennai in India is a trip that we will always remember. We have mentioned previously that it was a trip that not only had a profound impact on us personally, but also changed the way that we have traveled since that visit. Although we only had a limited amount of time to spend in Chennai, we certainly made the most of the time that we had. We tried to see as much of the city as possible, but also made sure to take a couple of day trips to see the surrounding area. It can certainly be overwhelming to visit a city with as many people as live in Chennai and it takes a little getting used to as you visit the various sites.  If you get a chance to visit Chennai, here are some of the places that we would recommend that you take time to see.

Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance in Chennai, India
  1. Kapaleeshwarwar Temple – With all of the colorful details on the roofs, it is an amazing sight to see. Depending on the time that you go to the temple, you can certainly expect large crowds. The temple was one of the first places that we visited in Chennai and it only kept getting better.

    Main Building with Beautiful Architecture
  2. The Government Museum – Featuring exhibits that range from zoological, archeological, cultural, and historical, there is a lot to see in the second oldest museum in India. From the statues to the architecture of the museum buildings themselves, it should certainly be on your itinerary for Chennai.

    Standing Outside of the Cathedral
  3. Saint Thomas Cathedral – One of only three churches in the world to be built over the tomb of a disciple, it is also the location of the cave where St. Thomas hid before eventually being speared to death.

    Learning About the Ancient Temples in Mahabalipuram
  4. Mahabalipuram – The first of our day trips outside of Chennai, seeing the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram was probably the highlight of our time in India. There is much to see as you walk around the various temples, so expect to spend several hours at Mahabalipuram.

    Chennai 031
    House at DakshinaChitra
  5. DakshinaChitra – Meant to represent the culture and lifestyles of the entire Tamil Nadu region, where Chennai is located, this cultural center is certainly worth a visit. We stopped on our way down to Mahabalipuram and enjoyed walking throughout the different buildings within the complex.

    Tiger Cave
  6. Tiger Cave – Also located near Mahabalipuram, visiting this temple cave with tigers carved at the entrance is certainly interesting, but it won’t take longer than about 30 minutes to take a guided tour around the area. Although probably not worth a trip on its own, it is certainly worth stopping to see while on your way to Mahabalipuram.

    Buying Silk in Kanchipuram
  7. Kanchipuram – Known for its production of silk, it is certainly worth a visit to learn about the production of silk and to purchase silk items at prices that are better than in Chennai. We also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple while we were in Kanchipuram, which was another beautiful temple with many interesting features.

    View of Chennai

Chennai is certainly a busy city with a lot of technology and manufacturing businesses with international ties located there. The people were very welcoming and we enjoyed seeing the sights within the city as well as the surrounding area. Another highlight to Chennai and the coastline are the beaches, although we didn’t spend time at the beach during our visit. We are hoping to make it back to India in the near future and are looking forward to seeing more of this truly interesting country.

Philae and the Temple of Isis

When we were in Aswan, Egypt, we took a boat out to Philae, which is an island with a variety of temples. It was a very interesting site with plenty of things to see and definitely worth a half day to visit. The temples were moved to higher ground after the High Dam was built in order to save them and it was well worth the effort. As Aswan is in the southern part of Egypt, the temperatures can be quite hot, so be prepared and bring plenty of water.

Temple Entrance
Row of Columns
Looking Up at the Entrance Wall
Walking Around the Temples

Clearly the Temple of Isis is the highlight of visiting the island, but there is also the Temple of Hathor and the Kiosk of Trajan. The columns, hieroglyphs, and entrance were extremely impressive. We took our time walking around the temples and seeing them from every angle, but seeing them from the boat as we neared the island was truly stunning. There are still archeological activities occurring at the site and we saw people actively working while we were there.

View from Our Boat
Hieroglyphs on the Temple Walls
Amazing Views
Archeologist at Work

There are a few other sites worth seeing in Aswan, but Philae was what stood out most to us. The history of temples goes back over 2500 years and seeing how well preserved they were was fascinating. We would definitely recommend a visit to the island to anyone who makes their way down the Nile River to visit Aswan.

Temple Wall
Lotus Columns and Clear Blue Skies
Exterior Wall
Temple of Isis


Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor, Egypt

The Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor is an extremely impressive site in Egypt and is probably the second most visited site in Egypt behind the Great Pyramids of Giza. Part of what makes it so fascinating is the sheer size of the complex as well as the length of time during which additions and modifications were being made to the complex. In addition to visiting it during the day, we also went to a sound and light show at night, which provided another unique view of the temples. In some ways, seeing it at night gave us some insight as to what it might have been like to have seen when the temples were still in use.

Entering the Complex
Temple Columns with Hieroglyphs
Ram Heads and Lion Bodies Guarding the Temples
Amazing Obelisks
Destruction and Details

The temple complex is made up of four main parts, although only three of them remain as the fourth was purposely destroyed. Over 30 pharaohs contributed to building elements of the Karnak Temples, but of primary note were Seti I, Ramesses II, and Hatshepsut. In fact, Hatshepsut, a powerful female pharaoh, was responsible for creating the obelisks that are on the site, which were built from single blocks of granite from quarries in Aswan. There are hieroglyphs demonstrating their devotion to the gods, especially Amun Ra, the king of the Egyptian gods.

One of the Many Statues
Obelisk Details
Temple Complex at Dusk
Row of Statues
Colorful Details Protected from the Elements

There are so many features, columns, statues, hieroglyphs, and even a pool for purifying the bodies of the pharaohs and priests, that visiting the Karnak Temple Complex is overwhelming. You could visit the temples hundreds of times and still find something new on every visit. We visited with a professional Egyptologist as a guide and he provided a wealth of information to us as we walked through the complex. He was able to point out which features were built by which pharaohs and helped us understand why it was so important to them to create such impressive structures.

Hard to Imagine the Scale
Fallen Stones
So Many Places to Wander
Statue Details
Inside of the Temples

Even though the temples have been flooded by the Nile River, been effected by earthquakes, and defaced by the early Christians as well as other Egyptians, the remaining details are simply staggering. To walk through a site that was so important to connect the pharaohs with their gods is truly humbling. It is hard to digest how difficult it must have been thousands of years ago to create these temples and statues on the scale that they did. With the limited tools available at the time, the talent and ingenuity of the people that built these structures, carved the statues, and painted the hieroglyphs is nothing short of amazing.

Hieroglyph Details
Free Standing Column
Walking the Grounds of the Complex
Standing Guard
Beautiful and Historic

If you are planning a visit to Egypt, taking time to go to Luxor and visit the Karnak Temple Complex is something that cannot be missed. In many ways, we were even more impressed with the temples in Luxor than of the pyramids that are so often the focus of people when they visit Egypt. It is experience that you will never forget.