Mamallapuram 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.
Detail of the Arjuna's Penance bas-relief in Mamallapuram
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.