Mamalapuram or Mahabalipuram is a tourist town 60km south of Chennai made famous by its stone carvings. The most famous monument is the Shore Temple: when lit by moonlight, it is one of the most atmospheric locations in the region. The best time to visit is November to March.
Buses arrive in the centre of the town from Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thiruvannmalai, and Pondicherry, you can also catch the bus from Pondy at Auroville. A taxi from Chennai will cost upwards of Rs500-600.
It's easy to get around the town on foot, though bike rental is also available.
- Shore Temple. The temple is carved from a single piece of stone and has stood for more than 3500 years. Entry US$5, also includes entry to the Pancha Pandava Rathas.
- Pancha Pandava Rathas - five "rathas", literally chariots, dating from the 7th century. The sculptures are complemented by some enormous stone animals, including a large elephant.
- Arjuna's Penance - a giant bas-relief filled with detailed carvings, including a family of elephants and monkeys. Nearby is Krishna Madapa, another bas-relief.
- Varaha Cave has four impressive carvings of Vishnu, Gakalakshmi, Trivikama and Durga.
- Mahishamardini Cave. The central carving is of Shiva and Parvati and Murugan
- Krishna's Butterball a giant natural rock perched on a hillside. It provides welcome shade if you dare to sit underneath it!
- The Sculpture Museum, East Raja Street has sculptures.
- Old and new light houses provide views across the area to the sea, there are several unfinished temples nearby.
- Bike trips around Tamil Nadu's countryside can be organized by travel agencies in the town.
- Chill on the sandy beach
- Stone carving Local sculptures in the main street leading to the see (after the Tina Shell View Lodge) teach stone carving. You will learn how to sculpt a simple locket, and the longer you'll stay, the more complicated things you'll be able to do. For a simple locket at least 5 hours are needed. For 100 Rs. a day you can learn/work as long as you like everyday (the result is yours of course).
- Stone sculptures made by local artist, you can see them on their work (and also learn it yourself, see Learn).
- There are lots of food stands in the centre serving large portions for next-to-nothing prices
- Moonrakers on Ottavadai Street is very popular with tourists but don't let that put you off, the seafood is excellent.
- Mahabalipuram is famous for its coconut water.
- Quality Inn Mgm Beach Resort. $50-$100.
- Mamalla Bhavan Annexe. <$50.
- Ideal Beach Resort. < $50.
Crocodile bank at Vadanemmeli, 15km on the road back to Chennai. You can feed the reptils for a small fee.