Y was just recovering from a bout of food poisoning, so we spent the day resting and planning until we left for this historic site around 3pm. Normally, we would’ve gone first thing in the AM to Mamallapuram (or what is now officially Mahabalipuram). Either name is a mouthful! To get there is only a 1 hour car ride from Chennai and the sights are all within walking distance. You’ll have to pay an entrance fee just to get into the area plus a fairly steep ticket for some of the temples.

Samy kindly drove us down and although the Shore Temple was a bit of a let down (it really is quite small!), the “chariots” were cool as was Arjuna’s Carving. The park that housed Krishna’s Butter Ball was really peaceful. It is just crazy that you can just go up to these monuments and touch, rub, or climb on these old carvings and buildings that are over 1000 years old!


  • Shore Temple (★★)
    • Small, but ancient stone temples surrounded by crashing waves and a cool breeze. Nandis (bulls) which represent Shiva’s guide and guardian ring the two temples. The incredible thing that is hard to realize is that these were built in the 7th and 8th centuries. An apt description from Lonely Planet is that the designs of the Shore Temple have been so worn away over the years that they are now impressionist.
  • Pancha Rathas (★★)
    • The ticket to the Shore Temple also includes entrance here. These Rathas aka chariots don’t look like the typical buggy, but they look quite new and each monument was carved from an individual boulder.
  • Arjuna’s Penance (★★)
    • Doesn’t require a ticket, it is situated in a park with other carvings. This is really the only thing you can’t touch, this huge mural of carvings are just incredible.
  • Krishna’s Butter Ball (★★)
    • And of course, nature has to show it is pretty cool too. This boulder just defies gravity. Nice park to explore.

OTY’s ★ Rating System
Our rating is similar to the Michelin guide, but applied to attractions as well as restaurants.  Most places won’t be Michelin-priced as we’re on a budget, and sometimes a star may reflect exceptionally good value (like free!).  Since we don’t like to be negative, we don’t include any places that we wouldn’t recommend.
(★★★) Exceptional attraction/cuisine, worth a special journey. Wish we could go back again!
(★★) Delicious and/or delightful, this spot is worth a detour.
(★) Good pitstop, especially if you’re in the area.