Mahabalipuram Tourism

Mahabalipuram Tourism

Rank 11
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Tamil Nadu Tourism Destinations
Destination Rating
5.6 / 7
3056 Ratings & 2339 Reviews

Mahabalipuram Info

  • State: Tamil Nadu
  • Famous for/as: Beach
  • Altitude: 12 m
  • Pincode: 603104
  • District: Kanchipuram
  • Language: Tamil
  • STD code: 044
  • Weather: Summer 21 to 41°C, Winter 17 to 33°C

History of Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a historic coastal town located 56 kilometres from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The town was said to have been named after the king Mahabali who was defeated by Lord Vishnu. It was a seaport, which was used for flourishing trade with the South-east Asian Countries. It was a part of the Pallava dynasty from the 3rd century to 9th century CE. Some of India’s oldest stone temples were built during this time and they depict the legend of Mahabharatha. Some of the archaeological findings in this town were uncovered after the destructive Tsunami hit India. The monolithic rathas are some of the famous places in Mahabalipuram.

People and Culture of Mahabalipuram

Tourism is the mainstay of the residents of Mahabalipuram. Aside from this, the town is a major exporter of stone carvings. The handicrafts made from stone, wood and wicker are unique to this area. Tamil is the major language spoken here. The cultural dances include Bharatanatyam. The Indian Dance Festival-Mamallapuram is held every year where many dance forms including Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi are performed. The major festivals celebrated are Dassara, Diwali and Navratri. The stone carvings depict the descent of the Ganges and are of major historic significance.

Things to Do in Mahabalipuram

There are a host of Mahabalipuram attractions. The town sees a wide array of tourists from around the globe. One of the major things to do in Mahabalipuram is a visit to the Shore temple. The carvings depict the legends of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. More places to visit in Mahabalipuram are the Tiger’s cave and Mahishamardini Cave. The lighthouse is also among the major Mahabalipuram tourist places.

The list of Mahabalipuram places to visit is long. Pancha Rathas are one of the top places to see in Mahabalipuram. Arjuna’s Penance is 30 metre long stone carvings depicting the story of Arjuna penance to get a weapon from Lord Shiva. It is one of the best places to visit in Mahabalipuram and (along with the other stone temples) is a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Food and Shopping in Mahabalipuram

While on a trip to Mahabalipuram, one must try the delicious Tamil cuisine. Being a coastal town, Mahabalipuram is famous for its seafood. Masala curries made from Red Snapper, prawns and crab are a must try. The fried calamari and fish fry are also highly recommended.

After a day of sightseeing in Mahabalipuram, shopping is a great option. Items carved from stone are a speciality of the town. Monolithic statues or replicas of the ancient carvings are a delight to buy. For those looking for something smaller, showpieces and pendants carved from granite are also available.

Accommodation in Mahabalipuram

For travellers wanting to know how to reach Mahabalipuram, the town is well connected by road through National and State Highways. The nearest airport and train station are in Chennai where one may hire a taxi or travel by buses to Mahabalipuram. End the Mahabalipuram tour at one of the town’s many great hotels and resorts. Some of the top resorts in Mahabalipuram include Ideal Beach Resort, Confluence Banquets and Resorts and Chariot Beach Resort. Unwind after you are done with Mahabalipuram sightseeing at a great hotel.

Best time to visit Mahabalipuram in the next six months

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Mahabalipuram Traveller Reviews

Read 92 destination reviews
with average rating of 5.6/7, 1
out of 2339 Mahabalipuram reviews 92
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Mansi Patil

  • Scout
  • Mansi Patil
  • Lives in Pune
  • 2 Reviews
  •  39 readers

"Heritage town - Mahabalipuram" new review

  • 6.0/7
  • Posted 2 weeks ago
A wonderful place to visit. We had pre booked a resort. Jade resort- 10 km short of Mahabalipuram town. Great place to stay in. Nice food.

We went to Mahabalipuram from the resort by taking a sharing rickshaw which charges only Rs. 10-20 per trip.

The town itself is very quaint, peaceful.

At the bus stop, you have rickshaws who will take you sightseeing - 8 places in all. At a cost of 350/-. You can take as much time as you want at each site. It's worth a visit, especially the 5 rathas, lighthouse, butter rock and the shore temple.

Next day, we hired a bike for a day and drove down to Pondicherry, 100 km from Mahabalipuram. Awesome drive, everyone should try going.

If not a bike, you can go to Pondicherry by buses as well - state transport and luxury both.

Mahabalipuram is 60 km from airport, we took a taxi in 1500/-.
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  • Tourist
  • Divakar
  • 4 Reviews
  •  665 readers

"Ancient monuments and sculptures" new review

  • 5.0/7
  • Posted 4 weeks ago
In Mahabalipuram we rushed in to seashore, played well with my friends, near sea shore temple is there. We need to take ticket of Rs 30 to see the temple that had built before 2000 years but still there will be no collapse this shows how pioneers of tamilians are well in their construction they play a vital role in designing sculptures which is cool to see and lighthouse is there but little bored, not that much to fulfill our expectation. There will be 1000's of designs on single wall, it will be the most fantastic one to see.
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Gaurav Gupta

  • Tourist
  • Gaurav Gupta
  • Lives in Rohtak
  • 2 Reviews
  •  1273 readers

"Most picturesque place in India"

  • 5.0/7
  • Posted 3 months ago
Coast Road in Chennai first stops at the historic town of Mahabalipuram. The 7th century erstwhile port city is famous for its rock-cut shore temples. A lone lighthouse on a hill watches over a group of temples below. Mahabalipuram also has some great cafes that serve good sea food. A backpacker's delight, one can find cheap accommodations and plenty of activities.
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Arun Rajan

  • Explorer
  • Arun Rajan
  • Lives in Chennai
  • 87 photos
  • 96 Reviews
  •  29 helpful votes
  •  13740 readers

"Awesome place to learn history and enjoy the day"

  • 7.0/7
  • Posted 3 months ago
I and my friends went on a weekend and we enjoyed the whole day. You will be amazed to see the beauty of sea and greatest statues carved and you will also love the art of rock architecture and stone works. Anyone who visits Tamil Nadu must stop at Mahabalipuram and stay for a day or two and enjoy the time spent here.
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Kopite Kk

  • Explorer
  • Kopite Kk
  • Lives in Kolkata
  • 34 Reviews
  •  1 helpful vote
  •  8909 readers

"Beautiful and scenic place"

  • 4.0/7
  • Posted Feb 23, 2016
Visited Mahabalipuram with friends on 26th January. It is a 1.5-2 Hours drive from Chennai and the road is very beautiful (East Coast Road). The place was very crowded (Being a public holiday) and parking was extremely difficult to find. There are lots of things that one can do in Mahabalipuram. There is the shore temple, the beach, the lighthouse, etc. Lots of restaurants and street shops too. Its definitely worth visiting for a 1 day trip from Chennai. But the weather is extremely hot, so do carry a lot of water.
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Sibasish Pattnaik

  • Tourist
  • Sibasish Pattnaik
  • Lives in Berhampur
  • 10 photos
  • 1 Review
  •  450 readers

"Amazing place"

  • 5.0/7
  • Posted Feb 21, 2016
I went to this place with my friends, this is both adventure and beach place. Light house is also there, we visited this place on 1st January. This place is really awesome, that day was little rush because of New Year, but normal day not so much rush.
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  • Tourist
  • Akshat
  • Lives in Jaipur
  • 2 Reviews
  •  713 readers

"Great place for relaxation!"

  • 6.0/7
  • Posted Feb 7, 2016
Although, there isn't much to see here in Mahabalipuram but it is indeed a great place to relax for a weekend. It is easily approachable from Chennai and even a short drive from Pondicherry. The beaches here are clean and good for a quick swim or even a surf. The temples are not at all that interesting but if you hire a guide and get to know the story, it might just fascinate you how they are the remains after a tsunami.
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Sabareesh Gudla

  • Tourist
  • Sabareesh Gudla
  • 1 Review
  •  568 readers

"Best place for a mini hang out"

  • 6.0/7
  • Posted Jan 30, 2016
It's a best place to go with friend's and enjoy the beauty of nature and also we can spent some time in beach. The architecture of that temple was good. It's a tourism sport along with this we can enjoy the bike racing in Beach like go karting. Its a best place if we go in batch.
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Jyotsna Shenoy

  • Tourist
  • Jyotsna Shenoy
  • Lives in Bangalore
  • 6 photos
  • 5 Reviews
  •  2 helpful votes
  •  1639 readers

"Mahabalipuram - first solo travel experience!"

  • 6.0/7
  • Posted Jan 27, 2016
During the second week of July 2013, I was in Chennai for a two week work related training. I had exactly one Sunday in between and I didn't want to spend it in Chennai when I had other options to travel to. I initially planned to go see Pondicherry, but as I mentioned this plan to a local friend, he recommended I go somewhere closer, and suggested Mahabalipuram. He said I could catch a bus at Thiruvanmiyur that would go straight to Mahabalipuram. 'But don't go alone was his only advice to me. Saturday evening, I met another friend of mine in Chennai, and she took me out for dinner to Raintree Hotel. I asked her if she'd be interested to come along with me but she had already made other plans and asked me to stay back next weekend after my training. But I had to be back at work the next Monday and preferred to leave to Bangalore soon after the training. So I somehow wanted to squeeze in Mahabs on my first Sunday in Chennai.

This is when I decided I would rather go alone, than wait for company. Mahabs was my first solo trip outside of a metro city in India and I am glad I did it. I took an auto from my friend's place to Thiruvanmiyur bus stand. Getting the right bus to go to Mahabs wasn't very hard. I had to ask around a bit, but not many people on Chennai streets seem to speak any other language than Tamil. Thankfully, the people I asked understood Mahabalipuram and I found the right spot to wait for the right bus.

The route to Mahabs from Chennai is scenic and we passed plain open fields on one side and sprawling resorts and Theme parks on the other. It took about an hour and a half to get to Mahabs and the bus stopped at Mahabalipuram bus stop at about 12:45 pm. Armed with the Mahabalipuram Wikipedia page, as soon as I alighted, I asked a little store keeper, where I could find these monuments as listed on my phone screen. He pointed right up ahead and managed to communicate to me to start there and walk, you'll find everything you want to seeĀ.

So I set off towards the first monument I could see. It was Arjuna's penance. It being Sunday, there were lots of families on outing that day as well. Vendors seemed to sell little trinkets and stone carved statuettes all around. One such vendor, a young chap, walked up to me and tried to get me to buy something from him. He had some very beautifully carved stone statuettes of Ganesha, Vishnu and other Hindu Gods and Goddesses. As he showed me his wares, I suddenly spotted the one I wanted. It was a set of ten murthys (idols) one for each avatar of Vishnu. I knew right away that that would be the souvenir I would leave Mahabs with. But I didn't want to lug it around with me on a hot sunny day, as I explored the little town. So I told him I'd be back around 4 pm and I'd buy it from him then. Then he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. In his pidgin English, he told me he'd show me around Mahabs and that he wasn't a tour guide, but that he'd like to show me around. Since I had no company anyway, and it would be nice to hear a little about each monument, I agreed.

We walked on to the rest of the monuments. We walked to some large rocks where monkeys were bold enough to mingle with people and the sides of the paths had vendors selling pretty pebbles and lockets carved of stone. When we got to the old light house, my guide helped me get a ticket to enter the old light house (Not that I couldn't have gotten it myself, but it was nice to have a sort of private tour guide who doubled up as nice company too). People are let in in batches to climb up. He waited all the while, while I got to climb up the really narrow, steep cast iron stairs of the old tower. From atop, one gets a 360 degree view of Mahabs, and even a glimpse of the Pancharathas, which are about a twenty minute walk away. The closest monument visible from atop is the Bagiratha's penance.

By the time I got down from the light house, it was past 2:30 pm and I was hungry. But I still had Shore Temple to see. As we walked towards Shore Temple, we passed several sculpting workshops and I came across a huge crocodile. The guy whose shop it was parked at said he would sell it for Rs. Seventy five thousand! I politely requested him if I could take a picture of the stone crocodile, as I couldn't afford to buy it. Perma-vacationers (people who earn their livelihood in vacation / tourist spots) are generally friendly, and he didn't have a problem if I took a picture of the croc without buying it.

I was starving by the time we left Shore Temple. I asked him where the shacks were so I could grab a bite of some sea food. He said he'd take me there too. As we walked towards the shacks, he couldn't help admiring me saying something along the lines of 'you're an Indian woman and you're travelling alone. I've never seen this before, and you're really brave.

As we left the part of the town with sculptures, we approached guest-houses and just past the guest-houses are restaurants with lively music straining out from them. I spotted Moonraker's but I wanted to go closer to the sea and watch the waves as I ate. One he dropped me to my food destination, I paid him for not only the statuette set but also for his warm hospitality and he went on his way back to the town.

The shack I picked had some delicious calamari with finger chips. After relishing it, I chilled by myself with a chocolate shake. Now, I tend to make friends wherever I travel to, and today wasn't any different. There were a bunch of young people from Chennai with their kids in tow, in Mahabs for the weekend and they soon had me over at their table. After a few drinks, they planned to move to another shack and asked me to tag along. As I had to get back to Chennai that same day, I wanted to leave to catch the last bus back to Chennai. But they said they had cars and were happy to drop me back to my hotel in Chennai, if I decided to hang out with them a little longer. They were driving back in a few hours as their kids had school and they had to go to work the next day. So I skipped taking the last bus to Chennai and we moved to the next shack a little while later.

This shack had something awesome about it. The bright green coloured steps leading up to it on the first floor had yummy foods painted on it starting from the letter A. It was all about ice creams and shakes and pizza. If I had my way with the stairway to heaven, it would be painted exactly like this!

As the kids of my new friends were cleaning up from surfing and playing on the beach, I had some time for myself to check out some sculpture shops along the lane. As I was looking at identical marble elephants and candle stands, the guy in the shop invited me in to look at some more of his works. He had 3 foot high Ganapathi idol that he said would go for rupees three lakhs. His works were really impressive and my fascination with his artistry was evident on my face. He brought out some albums with his works and exhibitions. It was incredible to see such raw talent. He said he had been learning sculpting since 8 years. The one work of his that is still fresh in my mind is the facial sculpt of a guy with a skeleton in a Nataraj-like pose and skulls carved on the base. He said the guy had it made to order. I only have pics of the sculpture. This artist told me the guy who ordered it had tears in his eyes when he saw it. I don't know how far the truth is stretched on that one, but I have no doubt I'd be in tears if I got something like that made to order from him. I am glad I stayed back to hang out with the families I met in the shacks for I got to see this! I couldn't afford to buy anything big from him back then, but I wanted to buy something hand made from him, unlike the identical pieces which are factory manufactured. I browsed for a long time through his store and found a hand carved lion that fit my budget and in my bag. The lion and the Vishnu Avatars still adorn my showcase at home in Bangalore and my day in Mahabs remains fresh in my memory as I see them every time I go home.

I am glad I didn't listen to my friends who asked me not to go alone for I would have missed out on the exhilarating feeling solo travel brings with it. This one day visit to Mahabalipuram fortuitously became my first solo trip. Because of the wonderful experience that it was, I never faltered to travel alone again, and that has led to several liberating solo trips around South India.
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Suman bhatt

  • Tourist
  • Suman bhatt
  • Lives in Chennai
  • 2 Reviews
  •  583 readers

"Lovely place with nice surrounding"

  • 6.0/7
  • Posted Jan 23, 2016
This is the 5th time I've been to Mahabalipuram with friends, we just love this place for it's architecture, sea, nature. We always go for trekking from lighthouse to butter ball and spending time in beach, just a lovely experience. This time we visited Seashell museum, worth to go there. Wonderful collections of Shells from different Oceans.
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Kishore Saurabh Vedamani Sibili Kishore, Saurabh, Vedamani and 3000 other people have been to Mahabalipuram.
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