If you have not been to Mahabalipuram, chances are you are missing one of India’s most underrated divine destination. Mamallapuram as it is otherwise known, is a small town just 55 kms from Chennai airport built by the Pallava dynasty that houses some real ancient gems like UNESCO World Heritage Shore Temple, Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas and Rock-cut Cave Temples. There are these ancient temples and many more amazing places to see in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.

Top Places to see in Mahabalipuram

We are just back from a couple’s retreat at the beautiful Chariot Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram and here are the the top top places to see in Mahabalipuram.

1. Shore Temple: UNESCO World heritage site

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Shore temple, Mahabalipuram, Chennai. Photo: Amit Sengupta

During your stay at Chariot Beach Resort, make sure you visit the Shore Temple which you can see from the resort. A brisk walk of about 15-20 minutes would take you to the Shore Temple. You can go there in the early morning hours or during the golden hours in the evening to catch a spectacular view of this ancient temple. Located just near the shore, and hence its name, the temple is carved out of granite made in a quintessential Pallava dynasty style and architecture. There is an entry ticket to enter the temple and we even had a guide. It’s better to take a guide if you want to understand the temple’s rich history from a local.

Keep about an hour to yourself for making a tour of this Shore Temple.

UNESCO temple Shore temple Chennai weekend
Shore temple, Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO world heritage site. Photo: Amit Sengupta

Also Read (Book through this link and get additional discount of Rs. 500 with CODE ‘Blackboard500’): A romantic trip to Mahabalipuram 

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2. Arjuna’s Penance

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Arjuna’s Penance in Mahabalipuram. Photo: Amit Sengupta

This unique open air rock cut sculpture shows the history of Mahabharata during Arjuna’s Penance. The carvings are on two big rocks with about 40 feet high sitting adjacent to each other. There is no entry ticket to visit this rock structure. However, we suggest you take the help of a local guide.

3. Five or Pancha Rathas Temple

Mahabalipuram temples
Five Rathas temple in Mahabalipuram, Chennai. Photo source

The Five or the Pancha Rathas Temple dates back to the epic Mahabharata era and Pandavas dynasty. The temple structure takes the form of the five chariots of the Pandavas. It’s noticeably a distinct Dravidian style of architecture. The five carved monoliths have been carved out of pink granite stone.

4. Rock-cut Caves

weekend trip from Chennai
Cave, Mahabalipuram, Chennai. Photo: Amit Sengupta

The ancient town also has the unique rock-cut cave temples. These were built during the Pallava dynasty in the 7th century. These detailed rock cut sculptures are dedicated to the Hindu deities. The various cave temples are namely, Krishna, Mahishasuramardini, Varaha, Trimurti, Kotikal, Tiger, Atiranachanda and Panchapandava.

This is near to the Arjuna’s Penance. You can do these visits consecutively.

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5. Mahabalipuram Light House

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The lighthouse in Mahabalipuram. Photo source

You can also visit the Light House to catch a glimpse of the beautiful ancient town and its crystal clear shoreline. The light house will give you a bird’s eye view of the city and its temples.

6. Amazing Sunrise at Mahabalipuram Beach

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Sunrise from Chariot Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram. Photo: Amit Sengupta
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The beach infront of Chariot Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram. Photo: Mousumi Kar

Our stay at the stunning Chariot Beach Resort ensured that we could catch the spectacular sunrise in the beach. We woke up at 5.30 am and walked across to the beach from our cottage. In about minutes we reached the beach and ready to witness an amazing sunrise. The view was amazing and we would definitely suggest this as one of the top things to do in Mahabalipuram.

7. Surfing in the beach

Surfing Mahabalipuram Chennai weekend trip
Surfing is a great way to play with the waves. Photo source

You perhaps didn’t know about surfing in Mahabalipuram. Surfing is quite popular and there are professional surfers who frequently visit the shores to practice and indulge in quality surfing. There are few surfing schools in the vicinity as well that teaches surfing. The waves of these shores are perfect for surfing.