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Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram (India)

Practical information on Mahabalipuram

  • Encounters with locals
  • Beach / Seaside Resort
  • Viewpoint
  • Park and garden
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Festivals
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Unesco World Heritage
4 / 5 - 3 reviews
How to get there
1hr by bus from Chennai
When to go
From November to May
Minimum stay
One day

Reviews of Mahabalipuram

Antoine d'Audigier Seasoned Traveller
48 written opinions

A backpackers' favorite, with a sea view and a recommended stopover if you find yourself in Chennai.

My suggestion:
Mahabalipuram is the home of sculpture, and offers numerous training courses to locals who want to learn stone work techniques.
My review

Even if Pondicherry is known as the must see in Tamil Nadu, to miss out Mahabalipuram would be a real shame. The beach is great - fewer visitors with waves good for both surfing and swimming. Enjoy a shellfish meal overlooking the bay and a temple.

My favorite moment was going out for a sunset walk in the park to enjoy the cooler air. You'll come across families on vacation, Indians and monkeys playing amongst the engraved buildings. The rock formations are stunning, in particular a huge ball-shaped boulder that seems to balance on thin air.

Mahabalipuram is also a rare place where Western style 'partying' is tolerated. You'll find bars along the beach that have billiard tables, serve alcohol and play pop music. Inside you'll meet a mix of Indians and backpackers. For a country that generally avoids this kind of lifestyle, it's a fun way to 'go back to your roots' for a while.

Nina Montagné Seasoned Traveller
153 written opinions

A charming fishing village on the Tamil Nadu coast in southern India.

My suggestion:
Hire a bike and tour the surrounding area.
My review

I've been to Mahabalipuram numerous times to rest and relax and spend some vacation time on my trips to India. This fishing village by the sea, which is becoming more and more touristy, is a very pleasant and tranquil place in which to end or begin your travels.

The temples on the beach and in the town of Mahabalipuram itself are very beautiful. I remember going on long moped rides into the surrounding area to visit both the temples perched in the hills and the lovely surrounding countryside.

The large, fine sandy beach is ideal for bathing and surfing. I spent hours watching the fishermen casting and gathering their nets there at dusk.

David Debrincat Seasoned Traveller
459 written opinions

At 58km from Madras, sits the village of Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram. Situated on the shores of the Indian Ocean, it breathes peace and tranquility.

My suggestion:
Towards the end of each December, it holds a big dance festival, where spectacular, traditional dancing is on show.
My review

Not far from the buzzing metropolis of Madras, the quiet village of Mahabalipuram has a host of things on offer that you shouldn't miss during a trip to India.

Some of its monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are a must see for visitors to the area. Whilst I was there, I learned that a literal translation of Mahabalipuram is 'The City of Sacrifice'. They were marketing geniuses during the 6th Century. The name is certainly surprising! And totally out of sync with the tranquility of the place. It stems from the time when Pallavas sacrificed millions of animals to the goddess Durga. But today it's atmosphere is more 'love and peace'. You can easily imagine the Beatles hanging out here during their heyday trips to India.

To start with, I went to see Arjuna's Penance, which lines the shore. .. It's a Pallava Dynasty low relief, sculpted in granite. This immense carving describes 'the descent to the Ganges'. Which is also the translation of its name into English. So what are these sculptures talking about? I discovered that Shiva kindly controlled the flow rate of the Ganges as they were placed on Earth, thus preventing a flood and saving humanity. So what did everyone do? Say "A Big Thankyou" to Shiva, of course!

So that's why the sculpture depicts gods, goddesses, elephants, monkeys, yoga-practicing cats as well as dancing mice and rats. What a scene! It reminds you of a crazy dream after a boozey night out on the town. A bit further on is Krishna's Butter Ball. A giant, granite boulder very precariously and randomly balanced on a large ledge? Of course not. There's a rational explication. It's quite simple. It's a ball of butter that fell off Krishna's plate when he was a kid. Another story that I fell in love with.

Tours and travel ideas Mahabalipuram

  • Off the beaten track
Culture and nature in South India
Length 15 days Approx. $2,790
  • Highlights
Exploring the South - Wildlife and Culture
Length 21 days Approx. $3,020
  • Off the beaten track
Stunning South India
Length 10 days Approx. $1,830
  • Off the beaten track
Harvest Festival Southern India
Length 13 days Approx. $1,770
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