In ancient times, Mahabalipuram was a busy seaport in Kanchipuram on the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu. Today, it’s a laid-back seaside town just an hour away from Chennai and a haven for both beach-seeking backpackers and hardcore history buffs visiting the south of India. The main drawcard is the group of UNESCO World Heritage-listed monuments that make a beautiful impression on the town’s silhouette.
Founded by kings and carved intricately out of rock, these temples and cave sanctuaries are a breathtaking sight to behold, representing architectural styles from the Chola, Vijayanagar and Pallava times. Some of the most admired of the temples include the iconic Shore Temple overlooking the water, Arjuna’s Penance, a massive relief carving, and the Five Rathas, an extraordinary monolithic feat. The sites are easily explored on foot or by bike. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of these ancient wonders, a sunset stroll is highly recommended.