Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, is a small beach town located on the Eastern coast of India, in Tamil Nadu. It is a simple town in which people are up and about by 6 am and most activity ceases by 8.00 pm. It is a great place to go for a quiet and restful vacation. There are three things one generally goes to the Mahabs to experience – food, history and of course, the beach.
I spent my vacation at the Scripture Union camp centre. However, not everyone can stay there since it is not really a hotel. There are a few more hotels in town, but they are more expensive. I personally recommend Radisson Blu or Latitude 49.
Being located on the coast, seafood is naturally an important part of the local diet. My family tried different restaurants, from Latitude 49 to a small shack called Seashore Garden. Each place has a unique way of cooking and serving their seafood. Seashore Garden in rather dangerously located on the shoreline. The waves from the sea come right up to the base of the restaurant. It may be dangerous, but it is still very beautiful.
Culture and History
The Archaeological Survey of India has done a wonderful job of preserving and maintaining Mahabalipuram’s rich cultural heritage. There are many places you can visit that offer you a glimpse into India’s past.
Mahabalipuram is famous for its monolithic, rock-cut architecture. Some important structures are Thirukadalmallai, Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna's Penance, Varaha Cave Temple, The Shore Temple and the Pancha Rathas. I visited the Shore Temple and the Pancha Rathas. The Pancha Rathas are five temples named after the Pandavas. Amazingly, each of these temples are cut out of the same single piece of rock. These structures are absolutely awe-inspiring.
Another place you can visit is the Dakshina Chitra. It contains models of traditional South Indian houses. You can see how the architecture of each house differs according to the profession and social rank of its owners. It also has craftsmen who demonstrate glass sculpting and pottery.
The beach at the Mahabs is beautiful, but a little dangerous. People are advised not to swim there because the shore ends in a very steep drop, which is impossible to distinguish from the surface. Along with this, the undercurrents are quite strong. Having said that, the view of the sun rising and setting over the temples is not to be missed.
Two other attractions of Mahaballipuram are the Crocodile Park and the All Terrain Vehicle tracks. The crocodile park houses hundreds of crocodiles from all over the world. Feeding times are also arranged during which visitors can feed the crocodiles. All Terrain Vehicles are also tons of fun. You can drive one through a track or along the sea shore, depending on how much you pay.
The attractions of the Mahabs make it a wonderful place for a family vacation. The only drawback is the excessive humidity. When visiting all the cultural sites (which are not air conditioned), you find yourself occasionally longing to be back in your hotel room. The best time to go sightseeing is at 6.30 am, when the weather is quite pleasant.
Taking all of this into consideration, I would give Mamallapuram an eight out of ten, deducting points only because of the discomfort caused due to the humidity. In all other aspects, this was a nice vacation and I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and tranquility.