Top 12 Places to See and Things to Do in Mahabalipuram

Top 12 Places to See and Things to Do in Mahabalipuram
Last Updated: July 25, 2019

Its irresistible scenic golden beaches, azure waters and majestic historical attractions make Mahabalipuram a destination that you can never forget. A charming coastal town deemed for being popular for its many stone carved heritage sites, Mahabalipuram is a major stopover especially for people coming from Chennai and Puducherry. Also known as Mammallapuram, this one of its tourist destination houses a street dotted with cafes, that serve multiple western cuisines; and leads to a breathtaking oceanfront, where surfing and basking in the sun are your two best options. While you get to revel in the evening by savouring some extravagant seafood, the afternoons can be dedicated to sightseeing of some well maintained architectural sites. Thus, if you plan it right, a trip to Mahabalipuram can be a holistic experience.

Here is our pick of 12 best things to do and see while you are at this scenic coastal town of Tamil Nadu:

Rejuvenate at the alluring Beaches


A major crowd puller any coastal town offers is its beaches. In Mahabalipuram, a stretch of 20 km coastline provides two fabulous attractions, Mahabalipuram Beach and Pallava Beach that help revitalize your body, mind and soul completely. The beaches comprise golden sandy shore where you can bask in the warm sun, relishing coconut water. You can stroll at the beach admiring the beauty of the place and in case you are visiting here for a family vacation, you can partake in several beach activities that are made available for both kids and elders. Enjoy some action packed sports like surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. You may also find other fun water sports such as boat rides and quad bike rides at these beaches of Mahabalipuram.

Awe-inspiring Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna's Penance

Being a major tourist attraction in Mahabalipuram, Arjuna’s Penance is one of the greatest ancient artworks inscribed in two monolithic rock boulders. This work of art brilliantly highlights Arjuna doing his penance in order to gratify Lord Shiva to get his celestial weapon. The rock carving displays scenes of Hindu mythology with animals and human figures as well as images of Gods carved in the form of sculptures. The site is located in the heart of Mahabalipuram and it is approximately 43 feet high and stretches up to 100 feet in length. All the hard work put to create such a masterpiece can easily be seen when you visit this attractive UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Delve into the Thirukadalmallai


A marvelous structure erected by the Pallava Kings around 6-8th century BCE, Thirukadalmallai or Sthalasayana Perumal Temple is one of the 108 popular temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This shrine is designed in Dravidian Pallava style architecture and it still holds festive offerings and religious activities. In order to attend a prayer ceremony the temple remains open from 6 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 8:30 pm and six rituals are performed daily. Within the complex, a must visit is the only white colored gopuram (monumental tower)with unmatched beauty amongst other golden gopurams around the complex and Mahabalipuram.

Witness the largest collection of Seashells

India Seashell Museum

Renowned for being the largest seashell museum in India, India Seashell Museum and Aquarium provides a splendid ambience offering a great way to educate yourself about the rich marine life worldwide. The complex treasures about 40,000 different kinds of rare and unique shells and a wide collection of fossils, whale fins and shark teeth. Spanning over an area of almost two acres, this attraction also has a boutique, Maya Bazaar, from where you can take home various items made of seashells and even pearls, a must buy souvenir is the conch. Also, stocked here are the beautiful pearl jewelries and other interesting artifacts. Not to miss is the scrumptious restaurant and an ice-cream parlour that serves delicious seafood and dessert. To solely enter the India Seashell Museum, a price of Rs 100 per person is charged and in addition, Rs 50 for both the aquarium and souvenir shop. They even have a combo ticket option with Rs 100 additional for cameras.

A Post Card Perfect Shore Temple

Shore Temple

This magnificent masterpiece, Shore Temple, located along the coast of Bay of Bengal captivates every traveller. This granite built pagoda provides a picturesque contrast with usually a clear blue sky and its azure sea making it a must visit attraction. The real name of the temple is still unknown but it got its name due to its close proximity to the shore. However, the fascinating fact is, it’s said to be the only temple of the once existed complex of seven shrines that survived the Tsunami. The temple houses three sanctums, while the two are dedicated to Lord Shiva, the other one is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. These sanctums though a little defaced, still remain one of the best examples of the single rock structures. This complex also houses several small shrines complementing the bigger pagoda.

The Legendary Pancha Rathas

Pancha Rathas

Pancha Rathas is another intriguing complex that is full of architectural beauty. It lies near the southern end of the Mahabalipuram town and houses five chariots or pancha rathas that are skillfully carved out of a granite in Dravidian architectural style. These five chariots are named after the Pandavas from the Mahabharata era. Inside the complex, one such temple shaped as a hut, is dedicated to Draupadi and you can see a sculpture of Goddess Durga as you enter. Following this, there is Arjuna’s Ratha, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is brilliantly sculpted with various images of Human, Gods and Goddesses. Another ratha is dedicated to Lord Shiva is Yudhisthira and it has sculptures various forms of Shiva. A little away from Arjuna’s Ratha lies Nakul-Sahadeva Ratha dedicated to Lord Indra. It has an elephant and Nandi (the bull) sculpted along with many animal figures. The complex also has a mammoth ratha dedicated to Lord Bhima. Here, you can unearth the legend and dwell into the rustic beauty of this attraction.

Fascinating Krishna’s Butterball

Krishna's butterball

You may have come across many hair-raising attractions in the past but this attraction in Mahabalipuram deserves a visit. Krishna’s Butterball is a gigantic granite boulder and is one of the best places to see in the town. For the fact that, efforts were put to bring down the rock by using seven elephants, this 16 feet tall rock stood on a short slope without a hitch. The question remains, how this historical monument could stand on a slope for more than 1200 years? I guess one needs to delve into the history to figure out.

Explore and get Inspired at the Dakshinachitra Museum

Dakshina Chitra Museum

Despite being on the outskirts of Mahabalipuram, Dakshinachitra Museum will enchant every being if you want to explore the humble life of the southern states of India. This is a cultural living museum and it brilliantly displays the art and craft as well as the architecture and lifestyles of South India. Here, you can see about 18 authentic historical houses having different designs. You can also indulge in fun activities and may get a chance to learn few crafts while here. The main purpose for creating such spectacular attraction was to promote and preserve the culture and lifestyle of these states. And in order to learn its significance and help benefit this heritage destination, this place is worth a visit. DakshinaChitra Museum remains open all day from 10 am to 6 pm; tuesday and public holidays remains closed.

Feel the rush by taking a Surfing Lesson


If you are on a beach destination, a stroll on the beach or a sun toasting afternoon nap is apparent. However, have you ever considered taking a surfing lesson? If not, now is the chance. In the serene beaches of Mahabalipuram, there are a few sections perfect for surfing and for all the know-how for beginners, you can head to Mumu Surf School. It is a fact that you can’t ace any sport within 1 or 2 hours but with ultimate guidance of Mumu, you can get some quick tips and tricks and balance your way as the waves hug you. If you are an expert, you can buy the surfing gears from the many shops open hereand indulge in the activity right away!

Learn and Explore in the Crocodile Farm

Crocodile Farm

This place sets a different ambience from all the beach activities and historical sightseeing places. An interesting thing about this Crocodile bank is that, the farm has variety of species of Indian and African alligators and crocodiles as well as Indian Gharial. This place is widely popular among families as you get to see and learn about the species inhabited here. The place offers a spectacular feel because the species are all kept in their natural habitat. Crocodile Farm also houses other species like snake and turtles.

Captivating Mamallapuram Dance Festival

Mamallapuram Dance Festival

One of the finest cultural fiestas in this coastal town is Mamallapuram Dance Festival. This annual celebration takes place every in December or January (dates may vary) and it displays the art of elegance and poise through various classical dances. Amongst all prominent dance festival in India, this event focuses mainly towards the southern regions. The festival displays art forms through classical dances like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. This dance extravaganza lasts for four-weeks and its main highlight is the venue of the festival, which is a place near the most popular attraction of Mahabalipuram, Arjuna’s Penance Rock Sculpture, thus, providing a perfect backdrop.

Try different Cuisine and go on a Shopping Spree


Satisfying your belly is evidently a top priority and this destination full of history has a number of good places to eat. You can head towards Othavadai Street to munch at some local eateries and it is here you will find godly divine food. In this long stretch street leading towards the wider part of Mahabalipuram beach, you can find cafes and restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines. However, you can also choose other places to drink and dine, some mentions are Le Yogi, Moonrakers, Gecko Restaurant and also the Water’s Edge Cafe.

Leaving a destination is not satisfying unless you buy a souvenir to take back home. Mahabalipuram is famous for its stone artifacts, thus you can shop for miniature figures made of granite. Most of the sculptures are that of idols also, mostly bought items from this coastal town are the seashells. Perhaps, you can get a mini seashell curtain to decorate your home. You will also find art galleries selling handicrafts and the best place to find such galleries is Mount Road Market. Here, you will find exclusive handicrafts of Mahabalipuram.

Quite an exhilarating destination Mahabalipuram is indeed, it is the world intact with historical and traditional significance. And if you think this blog has been of help to you to explore this one of its kind places, please give this a LIKE and SHARE. You can also call at +919212553106 or an email at to know more about the place and packages we provide as there is a lot in store for you at our end.

Published: 12 Jun, 2017
Abhishek Gurung


Abhishek Gurung is a writer whose passion for food and travel is an unending affair. He likes going on treks and camping in the woods, loves exploring forts and architecture, he is a cycle enthusiast who likes to contribute something to the environment, travel photography and videography is another interest as he sees life in a cinematic point of view. He likes the idea of living in offbeat destination where the mode of communication is to interact with each other. Coming from Nagaland, he has visited some beautiful valleys and remote villages and appreciates nature as it is and as it should be.

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