Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram – List of Tourist places to see/visit in Mahabs (Chennai)

Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram) is a very popular tourist destination in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is situated around 40 KM from Chennai, on the East Coast Road (ECR). You can also reach it via OMR (Old Mahabalipuram Road) as well, but the ECR is preferred as it is the entertainment highway of Chennai and the road runs parallel/close to the sea. If you leave your windows open, you might even get some sea breeze, as you travel!

Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock-sculptures and other historical monuments. Most of the monuments here were constructed during the 7th/8th Century CE during the Pallava period. Considering its historical importance, the monuments here have (collectively) been designated as UNESCO world heritage site.

This article is to help tourists to identify important places/monuments in Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram and suggest them the (probable) order in which they could visit the monuments. Also, I have linked each place below to its appropriate blog-post, where I have written about them in detail and published more photos. I hope these things will enable tourists to decide which places they could spend more time/skip.

Of course, it is impossible to cover Mahabalipuram, in a single blog post. There are so many more places to visit/so many more things to do. Hence, this article should only be considered as a starting point.

1. Mahabalipuram Beach

Mahabalipuram-Beach-ECR-ChennaiFrom the Mahabalipuram bus-stand (which should come on your right-side as you enter from ECR), if you take the immediate left (just after crossing the bus-stand), you can park your vehicle and go straight to the beach. This is a family beach and will be quite crowded whenever you visit. Some water sports activities are available, I will update this space when I get more details.

2. Shore Temple


While coming back from the Mahabalipuram beach, you can find some interesting shops and after you finish shopping there, you can enter into the shore temple complex. It’s the only one (of seven other temples) that survived various Tsunamis and is still standing tall after all these years. You’ll have to visit it to admire its beauty. Read more…

3. Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots)

Pancha-Rathas-Five-Chariots-mahabalipuram-chennai-1Next, I suggest you to visit Five Chariots (Pancha Rathas) as the architecture of these rock carvings will blow your mind away. This is a very important/popular site in Mahabs. When you come out of the shore temple and go straight, you get a junction where you need to turn left. From there, you need to take a left in the next junction and go further up (0.5 KM) to reach this site. Read more…

4. Light house/Surrounding Monuments

Light-house-Mahabalipuram-Chennai-4When you come back from the Pancha Rathas, on your left you’ll find the light house/some monuments surrounding it. You can actually climb this light house!! Otherwise, you can climb a small rock, that is situated right next to this light house. Either way, the view from the top to be quite outstanding. Read more…

5. Arjuna’s Penance/Descent of the Ganges


After visiting the light house, if you come further down, you get the site of the open air bas-relief with exquisite carvings, called Arjuna’s penance / Descent of the Ganges. This is on the main road, and you should walk into the rock-cut caves nearby, to find more stone carvings. An interesting site! Read more…

6. Krishna’s butter ball & Thirumurthi cave


The Krishna’s butter ball is the large rock-ball that you see in the above photo. It has somehow been standing there without rolling down! If you are a brave heart, you can sit down below it and hope that it won’t roll on you 🙂 The Thirumurthi cave is nearby. Read more…

7. Varaha Cave, Rayar Gopuram & Ramanuja Mandapam


These monuments can be found in the same campus that houses the Krishna’s butter ball. There are a lot of rocks and you need to climb a few rocks to reach these sites (they are flat, not steep). Kids will enjoy playing around the rocks. Read more…

8. Tiger Caves (5 KM before Mahabalipuram)


The Tiger Caves are situated 5 KM before Mahabalipuram (when you go from Chennai). You can visit it while going or while coming back from Mahabs. It’s a well maintained lush green surroundings with rocks and rock-cut sculptures. The monuments here are similar to Mahabalipuram but this place is quieter and less crowded. That’s because not many people know about this. You don’t miss it! Read more…

9. India Seashell Museum & Aquarium

The India Seashell museum hosts an exhaustive collection of seashells collected by one person. I guess there should be more than 10,000 seashells here and there are some objects like car, train, etc. made of seashells. There is also a small aquarium here. Read More..


As I said before, this is a very limited list of the monuments that you need to visit in Mahabalipuram (called Mahabs ‘affectionately’). You should of course, explore and find out more places to visit. I will also try to update this blog post with additional places, from time to time. These monuments are open from morning 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM in the evenings.

Try to avoid going on weekends if you want to take pictures of monuments without people in them. If I have missed some place, do let me know in the comments section below.

Destination Infinity

Photos: Destination8Infinity. All photos published under this creative commons license.


    • Rajesh K

      I just wish that Rayar Gopuram was fully constructed! I don’t know what else I might have missed. I know I missed visiting a Sculpture museum in Raja street. Maybe when I go next time, I will update it 🙂

      Destination Infinity

    • Rajesh K

      Glad to know that. I have been to this place a couple of times earlier as well. Things are changing for the better rapidly at Mahabs 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  • Shilpa Garg

    I loved the Pre-Script! 😀
    And I love these recent posts on the history, architecture, art, monuments in and around Chennai! Thanks for sharing and enlightening too! 🙂

    • Rajesh K

      Yeah, my post update frequency is quite high now. I wanted to finish writing them now, otherwise I might stretch it to 3-4 months! Once I am over with this ECR, I’ll come back to the normal blogging frequency.

      Destination Infinity

  • Harini

    I went to Mahabalipuram when I was a kid and its a beautiful place. I went to most of the places you mentioned but missed going to beach as we already had gone to beach in Chennai. Great post :).

    • Rajesh K

      There is a lot of crowd in this beach, so it’s good that you avoided it. Most of the time, Marina and Besant Nagar beaches are more quieter. There are so many beaches in ECR that are quieter too, but one needs to be careful while visiting them. It’s not advisable to go to secluded beaches unless its a private beach managed by Taj Fisherman Cove or a popular beach resort, etc.

      Destination Infinity

  • Rakesh Vanamali

    Thank you very much for your very vivid and picturesque posts of this wonderful part of the world which is such a treat to, i believe, every person who admires history, culture, art, architecture and in short – humanity!

    • Rajesh K

      Absolutely. I should add that ‘every person who admires history, culture, art, architecture and humanity’ somewhere in the article 🙂

      Destination Infinity

    • Rajesh K

      I was in the butterball last week and the previous time I went there was when I was very young 🙂

      Destination Infinity

    • Rajesh K

      Yes, this place is must visit because this place is quiet, serene, green and doesn’t have the kinda crowd like Mahabalipuram.

      Destination Infinity

  • I Love Mahabalipuram

    Hi Rajesh,

    Delighted that you have dedicated a detailed entry to Mahabs.

    We have just set up a facebook page for love of Mahabalipuram! Please like and share. We hope to have regular but not overwhelming frequency of posts on there.

    And let us know if you want to contribute as well and I will provide you admin rights.

    Hope to see you on there and be in touch!

    I Love Mahabalipuram Admin

    • Rajesh K

      Good to know about the FB page. Mahabalipuram is a small part of what I am doing on this site and I have already completed writing about it here.

      Destination Infinity

  • Avinash

    Thank you destinationinfinity for sharing. Indeed it was useful information about Mahabalipuram. keep up the work, Appreciate the time taken to share the valuable info with the visitors/devotees like us.

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