Pulicat Lake is one of the hidden gems near Chennai and makes for a great offbeat trip during the weekend. The lake straddles the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and is fed by rivers and canals.
The nearest airport is Chennai, and the nearest Railway station is in Ponneri and Suliurpeta. However, we recommend hitting the road to reach Pulicat to get the maximum out of the journey. Outstation taxis in Chennai can reach Pulicat town, which is 60 km from the city center.
Major attractions for tourists
The major draws of Pulicat are the sandy beaches of the uninhabited islands that dot the lake. The Dutch cemetery, the old lighthouse, and particularly the bird sanctuary are other attractions. A heritage walk covering some of these historical ruins will alert you that Pulicat had been an active trading port on the maps of the Coromandel coast of India since the 10th century AD. From the Arabs to the Vijayanagar empire to the Dutch, all were attracted to the natural port, and the influence can be seen. The grand Obelisks of the cemetery show the port’s importance and the fort and the textile trade to the Dutch. The Sriharikota, India’s space town, is close by, and the road to Sriharikota splits the wetlands of Pulicat into two with picturesque views on both sides. Camping on the sandy beaches apart from boating through the backwaters, fishing, and enjoying local cooking using fresh fishes from the lake are other attractions.
The Diverse Bio-Diversity of The Lake
The lake is a hotspot of biodiversity and contains two bird sanctuary apart from playing host to various fishes and supporting commercial fisheries. The fish variety includes catfish, crustaceans, and mullets. From October to January, thousands of Flamingos, painted storks, spoonbills, ducks, pelicans, cormorants, sea eagle, and peregrine falcons visit the lake for breeding, turning the lake and some of the surrounding islands into a photographer an ornithologists paradise. In January every year, the Flamingo festival is held to celebrate the winged visitors.
There are sixteen islands in Pulicat Lake; some of them are uninhabited. Iruka is one of the more beautiful island villages, accessible by boat/ or passenger ferry. Boating options at Pulicat are limited to friendly local fishers. They provide life jackets, take you to nearby islands, or see birds or other places of interest.
Tips for Travellers
There are no good hotels near the lake for lunch. It is advisable to carry your own food or cooking materials to prepare your food. The other alternative is to request one of the boatmen to rustle up some local delicacies made up of fish caught from the lake. Do not forget to carry plenty of water and hats to protect yourself from the sun, even if you plan to reach early morning. The sunrise over the confluence of the lake and the sea can be quite mesmerizing.
While at Pulicat, do stop by the AARDE (Art & Architecture Research Development & Education) Foundation’s shop to buy handmade products crafted using palm leaves and other organic raw materials.
Finally, we recommend including Srikalahasti in your itinerary while visiting Pulicat if you have a day to spare. The gorgeous temple here is just around 50 km from the lake and makes for some essential viewing. Convenient cabs from Chennai to Srikalahasti will ensure that the detours and directions are accounted for in this offbeat Roadtrip of yours.