When you think of Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram), you would think of ancient monuments, temples and a place of historical significance. However, it is more than just that. There is a cool Goa like vibe to the place that is full of homestays, resorts, tattoo parlors and great restaurants with awesome seafood. It’s also famous for exquisite sculptures that are seen at every corner of the town. Its a great place to spend a weekend just 7 odd hours of drive from Bangalore.
We drove there on a weekend during the last week of March 2022, knowing well that the weather will not be favorable. It did turn out that way, especially during the afternoons. However, the other cool things in the town made up for the hot weather.
Things to do in Mahabalipuram
The town has everything spread over a small area. In fact we walked to all the major historical attractions over couple of days. Maximum distance we covered would be about 2km one way. The monuments are all in an unfinished state, and yet beautiful. Somehow, the people here seem to make up for the unfinished nature of their monuments by carving beautiful pieces themselves, making the place whole! A good intro to the various attractions can be found here.
To move around the town, you can either drive or take autos. Most attractions have parking facilities. Autos are a more preferred way and charges are Rs. 50 (as of Mar 22) between places. The sea shell museum was a bit underwhelming experience for us, but I am sure children would like this colorful place which also has a dinosaur museum as well as a horror museum!
What to eat in Mahabalipuram
This town is a treat for seafood lovers. The area where we stayed (on othavadai street,) was swarming with restaurants serving fresh fish, crabs, lobsters and delicious calamari (squid). The vegetarian options are lesser, though we did taste some great rasam there! We tried the following restaurants and I am placing them here in the order of how we liked them:
- Fish and French fries restaurant (a tiny place, with tasty seafood prepared by owner Ramesh)
- Babu’s Cafe (a small restaurant with a smiling host and great seafood)
- Moonranker’s restaurant (the place that served the tasty rasam)
- Santana beach restaurant (decent place with a view of the ocean)
Please note that these were just of the few in the vicinity of our hotel that we could try. Moonrankers has a parking space, but none of the others do. So it’s better to walk here or just take an auto. It just so happens that the best rated restaurants are all packed in the same area!
Breakfast options are not many, but Joe’s cafe at Othavadai place was our destination of choice.
Tickets to monuments
The monuments have an entry ticket that costs Rs. 40/- as of this writing. Please note that a ticket purchased at one monument can be used at all other ASI monuments on that day! So, you can actually cover all the monuments in the town at Rs. 40/- per head. Cool, isn’t it? Sea shell museum costs Rs. 300/-per head. For foreigner’s the costs are significantly higher, which I could never quite understand or agree with. E-tickets can be purchased online.
Parking and hotels
Please ensure that the homestay or hotel that you book has parking facilities. Parking is scarce in most of the places and smaller hotels have arrangements where there is a shared parking space reserved for their guests. I was told that the peak season of December to January are very crowded with lots of French tourists descending on the town. We stayed at a homestay called ‘Daphne’ which we found to be okay. Corona has had a bad effect on the tourism just like other places and they just seem to be recovering now.
Drive from Bangalore
The drive from Bangalore is fairly smooth and we took the route as follows:
Bangalore => Krishnagiri => Vellore => Kanchipuram => Chengalpatu => Mahabalipuram.
The route has restaurants all through except in the kanchipuram > Chengalpatu section. There are numerous Saravana Bhavans on the way before and after Krishnagiri. We also stopped at Kanchipuram to visit Kamakshi temple. If you want a break in your journey, Kanchipuram is a great place to halt and visit the temples.
To summarize, Mahabalipuram is a great place to visit and spend couple of days at leisure. Have good food, roam the streets, chill at the beach and appreciate your cultural heritage. Very rarely can one find all these together in a single place. Do put in your comments and feel free to ask any questions you may have.