OT Travel Itinerary: Your Guide To Spending 4 Days In Mahabalipuram

From the majestic Shore Temple to the most unique handicrafts, explore Mahabalipuram thoroughly with our 4-day itinerary
A beautiful view of the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
A beautiful view of the Shore Temple, MahabalipuramShutterstock

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is an enchanting coastal town in Tamil Nadu. It is famous for its ancient rock-cut temples, exquisite sculptures, and picturesque beaches. This UNESCO World Heritage site is of significant historical importance in India, with its temples and monuments dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries, during the Pallava dynasty's reign. The town is also renowned for its vibrant handicrafts and stone carving traditions, monuments, culture and much more, making it a haven for art enthusiasts and history buffs. To thoroughly explore this open museum of a city, we have curated the perfect itinerary. Take a look at the agenda and make plans with your friends to embark on this historical escapade.

Day 1

Morning: Explore Shore Temple And Mahabalipuram Beach

A view of the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
A view of the Shore Temple, MahabalipuramShutterstock

Begin your day by visiting the renowned Shore Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site showcasing magnificent ancient Dravidian architecture. This temple complex is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built in the 8th century. It stands elegantly against the breathtaking backdrop of the Bay of Bengal. Stroll around the temple premises, marvel at the intricate carvings, and bask in the peaceful atmosphere.

After exploring the temple, make your way to the nearby Mahabalipuram Beach. Here, you can relax on the golden sands, listen to the soothing sound of the waves, and savour the picturesque views of the coastline. You can also engage in fun beach activities such as swimming or simply unwind with a good book.

Afternoon: Lunch At Moonrakers

Later on, for a delightful lunch experience, head over to Moonrakers. This charming restaurant is known for its seafood delicacies and laid-back ambience. It is located near Mahabalipuram Beach and offers a variety of fresh seafood options. You won't want to miss their signature dishes, such as Fish Curry and Prawn Biryani, which are prepared with authentic coastal flavours. Be sure to try the grilled fish, prawns, and squid as well.

Evening: Visit Five Rathas And Arjuna's Penance

The Five Rathas of Mahabalipuram
The Five Rathas of MahabalipuramShutterstock

In the evening, you can explore the nearby architectural wonders of Five Rathas and Arjuna's Penance. The Five Rathas are a group of five monolithic temples carved from single large rocks in the 7th century. The Arjuna Ratha is one of the five rathas and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It's designed in the Dravidian architectural style, a common style in South Indian temples, and features a square structure, ornate pillars, niches, and intricate carvings. These ancient rock-cut monuments are exceptional examples of Pallava architecture and are located close to each other.

Day 2

Morning: Visit Pancha Pandava Rathas And Mahishasura Mardini Cave

A view of the Mahishasura Mardini Cave
A view of the Mahishasura Mardini Cave

To start your day, you can explore some of the fantastic architectural marvels of Mahabalipuram. One such marvel is the Pancha Pandava Rathas, five monolithic temples carved in chariot shape. Each temple showcases various architectural styles and was built between 630-668 CE under the patronage of Narasimhavarman I. The five temples are stand-alone structures that were carved out of solid granite and diorite rocks. They are symbolically named after the Pandavas and Draupadi, but do not have any connections with the Mahabharata.

Afterward, head to the nearby Mahishasura Mardini Cave, which features impressive rock-cut reliefs depicting the goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura. Marvel at the intricate carvings and immerse yourself in the rich history and mythology depicted in these caves.

Afternoon: Lunch And Krishna’s Butterball

Krishna’s Butterball, Mahabalipuram
Krishna’s Butterball, Mahabalipuram

Enjoy another delicious lunch at Moonrakers, savouring their seafood specialties and relaxing ambiance.

Afterwards, you should visit Krishna's Butter Ball, a huge rock that seems to balance precariously on a slope. This ancient site is shrouded in mystery and riddles, and one of the most puzzling features is the colossal granite rock known as Krishna's Butterball. The rock has been hanging precariously for 1200 years, defying the laws of friction and gravity. The city is famous for its mythical architecture, which is believed to be crafted by the hands of God. Be sure to take some great photos and enjoy the surrounding park.

Evening: Krishna's Butter Ball And Lighthouse

Towards the evening, you can climb up the nearby lighthouse to enjoy panoramic views of the coastline and town. This lighthouse was established as the first conventional lighthouse in May 1887 by placing a wick lamp inside a 4th order optic and lantern on the roof of Olakkaneeswar temple. The climb is worth it, particularly during sunset, which offers breathtaking views of the sea and town below. The Mahabalipuram Lighthouse is located nearby and provides panoramic views of the town and coastline. The climb is rewarding, especially during sunset, offering breathtaking vistas of the sea and the town below.

Day 3

Morning: Excursion To DakshinaChitra

Picture of a modern Indian House located at DakshinaChitra
Picture of a modern Indian House located at DakshinaChitraShutterstock

Embark on an exciting morning trip to DakshinaChitra, a living museum that showcases the rich heritage, diverse culture, and unique architecture of South India. This museum is spread across 10 acres and features 18 authentic houses from different regions and religions. Each house has contextual exhibitions and was expertly reconstructed by skilled artisans from their respective regions after being purchased from their original owners, who were planning to demolish them. You can explore traditional houses, artisans' workshops, and cultural exhibits that depict the daily life and traditions of various South Indian states.

Afternoon: Lunch At A Local Restaurant

Return to Mahabalipuram for lunch at a local restaurant, indulging in their delectable seafood offerings. Later, spend your time at leisure or consider a relaxing afternoon siesta.

Evening: Relax At Covelong Beach

A view of the Covelong Beach
A view of the Covelong BeachShutterstock

Spend a relaxing evening at Covelong Beach, just a short drive from Mahabalipuram. Unwind on the sandy shores and enjoy water sports like surfing or jet skiing, or soak in the tranquil beach ambience.

Day 4

Morning: Explore Tiger Cave And Crocodile Bank

A view of the Tiger Cave, Mahabalipuram
A view of the Tiger Cave, MahabalipuramShutterstock

Start your day by visiting the Tiger Cave, an ancient rock-cut temple decorated with intricate carvings of tigers and elephants. Take a stroll around the nearby park and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

Afterwards, go to the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, a renowned reptile zoo and research centre. Get up close with various species of crocodiles and other reptiles, and learn about conservation efforts.

Afternoon: Lunch And Leisure

Enjoy your final lunch at a nearby restaurant and indulge in some reminiscing about your Mahabalipuram adventures over a delicious meal.

Evening: Shopping At Mahabalipuram's Handicraft Markets

Spend your last evening exploring Mahabalipuram's handicraft markets, where you can find unique local artefacts, intricate stone sculptures, and handmade crafts to take home as souvenirs of your trip.

Getting There

If travelling by air, Chennai International Airport is the nearest, approximately 60 kilometres away. You can hire a taxi or public transportation like buses to Mahabalipuram from there. If coming by train, the closest railway station is Chengalpattu Junction, around 29 kilometres from Mahabalipuram. From Chengalpattu, you can take a taxi or bus to reach your destination. Mahabalipuram is well-connected by road, and you can drive or take a bus from nearby cities like Chennai.

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