Things To Do In Mahabalipuram

‘The way you feel in the temple is a pattern for how you want to feel in life’ – Elder Neil L Anderson

Mahabalipuram, a small majestic town, that is just about an hour and a half away. This town was a flourishing port back in its day and was ruled by one of the powerful rulers at that time – The Pallavas.

This will be your perfect short and sweet introduction to the ancient temples of India. You also get a glimpse of how the powerful and dignified rulers of the South who left behind their legacy and art in the form of temples.

Tip: We highly recommend exploring these monuments with Pinakin Audio App This app will give you information about the place, history, ticket prices, parking details, dress code, etc. Or you can even download the Audio Tour by Storytrails for a similar experience. Please download these apps and content prior to exploring the monument as you can use the content offline.

Things to do in Mahabalipuram The hidden gems of Mahabalipuram

Shore Temple 

This temple is made of granite in the Dravidian style of architecture and lies just by the Bay of Bengal. It’s one of the oldest stone temples in South India. When trade was flourishing here, this temple served as a landmark for all the ships coming in.

Here is a very interesting fact, there were totally 7 shore temples. However, today only one stands tall and the rest is submerged in the sea, due to the tsunami that took place in 2004.

There are many more mysteries and interesting facts that are best known once you go to the place and witness it for yourself. If you visit this temple in daylight it’ll be like viewing the temple 

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 hours 


COST: INR 250 per person for Foreign tourists, INR 10 per person for Indian tourists

Places to visit in South India, Mahabalipuram Views of the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Photo Credit – Aravindan Ganesan)

Fascinated by temples? Here is a list of temples across India that will capture your hearts.

Pancha Rathas 

This is an open-air rock-cut relief monolith (carved out of a single rock). Made of pink granite, in 630 AD by a famous Pallava king. The Pancha Rathas literally mean ‘Five Chariots’. Dedicated to the Pandava brothers of Draupadi (an important character in Indian Mythology).

There are various rumors regarding the construction of these Rathas. However, it was believed these were just prototypes for other temples, that were to be built in the rest of Tamil Nadu.

Nonetheless, you will be dumbfounded while you explore these Rathas and wonder how were these structures built out of one single hill without a single mistake! 

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 hours 


COST: Same Ticket as the Shore Temple 


Temples in South India. The marvelous Panch Rata in Mahabalipuram (Photo Credit – Richard Mortel)


Don’t let the name of this monument deceive you, there aren’t any real life tigers here! The reason why it’s called the tiger cave is because of the tiger like heads that surround the entrance f the cave. You also carvings that depict the Goddess Durga mounted atop one of these tigers  This monument is located just few kilometers away from the main town, you have to do a small 5 kilometer trek to get here. This is rather a great stop to have a lovely picnic.

VISITING HOURS: 07:00 to 19:00 hours 


COST: Free

Arjuna Penance 

One of the most excellent and detailed works of art in Mahabalipuram is Arjuna’s Penance. This monument stands tall on twin boulders, depicting important scenes from the Indian mythology of Mahabharata. However, there are quite a few debates by historians and archaeologists, if these sculptures depict Arjuna’s Penance or The Descent of the Ganga (sacred river).

While this is still debatable, your guide will give you a more detailed understanding of this whole structure and what makes it so unique. To truly understand the beauty and intricacy of this monolithic structure make sure you do not miss on your trip. 

VISITING HOURS: 06:00 to 18:00 hours 


COST: Same ticket as Shore Temple 

Things to do in Mahabalipuram The bas relief at Arjuna Penance, Mahabalipuram (Photo Credit – Mahesh Balasubramanian)


Go visit one of India’s oldest towers built around 640 AD and right next to that you have the Mahabalipuram Lighthouse where you get to experience a panoramic view of the entire city. The circular tower is made of natural stone ehich adds to the beauty of this structure. There are around 100 step steps  to get tot he top of the lighthouse. along with a small fee, however the climb will be worth it. We would not recommend travelers above 50 years to venture on this climb as it can get tedious, especially while getting down due to the steep and narrow steps.

VISITING HOURS: 10:00 to 17:00 hours 

ESTIMATED TIME: 30 mins – 1 hour 

COST: INR 25 per person for Foreign tourists, INR 10 per person for Indian tourists

Varaha Cave Temple

Located right behind Arjuna’s Penance, this cave temple is known as the Varaha Cave Temple. Because of the main sculpture of Lord Varaha, also one of the avatars (form) of Lord Vishnu, you see a lot of his avatars depicted all over the cave temple.

This Hindu Rock Cut Cave temple is one of the finest examples of Pallava art. Each section of this temple will have stories of the God and Goddess, which will be very interesting for history lovers. You will also notice that the Varaha Temple depicts the earlier form of Dravidian style of architecture. Nonetheless, this temple has its own charm and elegance which cannot be missed.

VISITING HOURS: 08:00 to 18:00 hours 

ESTIMATED TIME: 30 mins – 1 hour 

COST: Same ticket as the Shore Temple

Caves in India, South India Sculptures on the walls of the Cave Temple, Mahabalipuram (Photo Credit – Mahesh Balasubramanian)

Even though a small town, Mahabalipuram will give you a preview of what enchanting South India has to offer. If you are wondering when is the best time to visit South India, along with which places to include – read this blog to know more.

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