Mahabalipuram is one of the oldest port cities in India and is one of the closest getaways from Chennai. If you are looking for an outing, a day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram is definitely one of the best escapes.
Built during the Pallava dynasty between the 2nd and8th centuries, this UNESCO heritage site is a paradise for history, architecture and beach lovers.
If you are in Chennai, this makes for a wonderful fun day trip. It certainly did for us.
How to Plan a Day Trip to Mahabalipuram from Chennai?
Living in Chennai, I had heard of Mahabalipuram and its rock-cut temples, sculptures and caves. However, it was not up until recently that I got a chance to explore the destination.
This travelogue gives you an overview of the basics of a day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram – attractions, the ideal time to visit, commute, budget and food options.
|Distance from Chennai
|Best Time to Visit
We visited the place in February. It was hot already. So the best time would be in the winter months where the heat is lesser but if you are a sun person you can definitely enjoy the sun.
|Cost of One Day Trip
|Major Places to See
How to Reach from Chennai to Mahabalipuram | Bus, Taxi & Train Options
The distance from Chennai to Mahabalipuram is around 57 km and can be reached within 2 hours depending on where you are in Chennai. Since Mahabalipuram is in Kanchipuram district in the outskirts of Chennai, for people starting from the main Chennai city the time will increase.
We left in the morning around 9 am and reached the place around 11 am. Given below are multiple options for reaching Chennai from Mahabalipuram –
How to Reach Mahabalipuram from Chennai by Bus?
There are direct buses to Mahabalipuram from the city. The buses are good and some buses also have AC facility. The AC buses might be on the expensive side but totally worth it.
If you are on a budget, you can opt for bus. The feeling is beautiful and won’t burn the pocket.
|Chennai to Mahabalipuram bus fare: 100 INR approx. (one way)|
How to reach Chennai to Mahabalipuram by Taxi?
You can hire a car through booking apps such as Ola/ Uber. It is better to use these standard services than you go through other private players you might not know much.
Also when you travel by car, keep account of the toll charges.
|Chennai to Mahabalipuram taxi fare : 1000-1500 INR (approx)|
How to Reach Mahabalipuram from Chennai by train?
The nearest railway station to Mahabalipuram is Chengalpattu. It is 22 km from the centre. It would take less than an hour to reach Chengalpattu from Chennai.
|Chennai to Mahabalipuram train fare : 30-100 INR|
As we went as a whole family we took our own vehicle but booked a call driver for a day. The charges came around 500 INR from morning 9 am to evening 6 pm.
Cost details Of Day Trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram
On the whole, the cost of day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram differs from the mode of transport, where you choose to eat and other places you go. You can make it within 500 or even 5000 INR based on what you choose.
Apart from the transportation costs discussed above-, here are a few other costs you will have to incur on your day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram.
|Entry Fee for Vehicles
Varies for big and small vehicles
35 INR per person
This can be done using the QR code banner near the monuments entry. You need to get the passes only once and is valid through the day to view any monuments in the place.
300-500 INR per person
It depends on where and what you are eating.
50 INR upwards for souvenirs
1500 INR and above depending on duration and number of people
Things to Carry for Day Trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram
Since it is a very hot area the following list will help you to pack for a day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram:
Sunscreen, Sun glasses, Hats/ scarves. Use head bands or tie your hair as it might become stuffy.
A light weight bag to carry water bottle and small snack bites
Carry an extra bag to dispose any food waste and an extra bag for storing wet and dirty clothes post your beach visit.
Tissues- wet face tissues, Sanitizers
Camera or phone
A notebook- in case you like history and want to take notes
|Clothing & Footwear
A fully covered dress or full sleeve clothes to avoid sun burn. If you are opting for a dinner or lunch at a luxury place pack an extra pair of shoe and dress
A swimming set – if you love going to the beach
A non slippery comfortable footwear to climb the rocks. I packed a normal footwear and a good shoe. I used the footwear for climbing and changed to shies for lunch.
Diapers if you are taking kids.
An extra pair of clothes in case your clothes get muddy. Either ways if you have toddlers and kids it is good to pack a set more
For shopping souvenirs or stone works
Food Options In Mahabalipuram
The place holds some of the delicious food joints. You will find local eateries at minimal prices and resorts with expansive menus.
Here are a few noteworthy options –
Hatsun Dairy: Opposite to Krishna’s butter ball you can find a Hatsun diary shop that provides chilled beverages, ice creams and water bottles. As it gets very hot you can make use of it.
Moonrakers: This is the best spot for people who love to eat the fresh catch from sea and for variety. They have an array of dishes and fresh catches all lined up marinated. You can choose your platter from display and it will be made fresh in minutes. This is located in the shopping lane and is easily accessible. The prices are nominal and worth it.
Adyar ananda bhavan (A2B): It is located just outside Radison which serves authentic veg food, sweets and snacks. The place is neat and decent. The prices are a bit high for vegetarian. It comes around 500 INR for a full meals for 2 to 3 people.
Radison Temple Bay Resort: Since we had small kids and elders we choose this resort which is just outside the premises. If you are looking for clean rest room space and a place to relax and rejuvenate this is a best option for you. We went there for lunch buffet. A buffet costs around 2500 INR and has a good variety of foods and deserts. This lunch place is called the waters edge café and you need to prebook the table a day or two in advance.
The food was good but not up to the expectation for a star hotel. But it is overlooking the pool and gives a calming aura. You can also choose a la carte. Since the individual dishes are equally pricey, a buffet was a good win .
|If you like to cut costs in lunch you can pack from home and eat it sitting in the stone benches there. It will make a good picnic experience. As for lunch, pack something that won’t be spoiled soon. Avoid coconut based foods and greasy food|
Things to Do on a Day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram
If you need to look at everything close and wonder in Mahabalipuram a day won’t be enough. The place says the story of a kingship, religion and day to day lives of the people lived there. Some of the best things you can do in a day in Mahabalipuram are –
Watch the Sunrise
Start early and watch the sunrise at Mahabalipuram. It is actually good to start early in the morning say 5 am if you want to watch the sun rise. You also get whole day to see and enjoy other tourist attractions around.
Explore Shore temple
The temple is rightly called so as it is built on the shores of the sea connecting Bay of Bengal. It makes one feel so calm and serene while providing a window to look at the architectural brilliance.
Lord Shiva is said to be the main deity of the temple along with Lord Vishnu. The temple has a big pond in front with steps that people used to bathe or wash before entering the temple or one might leave it to one’s imaginations.
We need to get entry ticket to visit the shore temple and other sites. Earlier it was manual but now one can scan the QR code in the banner provided at the entrance, fill out the details, pay online and get the passes.
Once the pass is availed, you can show it from your phone and enter the site. This QR code banner is available both at the shore temple entrance and at Arjunas penance but you need to register and get passes only once.
Visit Arjuna’s penance
This is the most iconic image from Mahabalipuram. This is a rock-cut marvel where the story of Arjuna from the sacred books are sculptured in one single rock. The rock has sculptures of arjuna, the other mystical beings and animals.
It is located downhill next to a mantap (a community hall sort of place) where people gather. The other temples are located atop this rock. From this place, one needs to pay and get entry to the other temples and cave on the hills.
Imagine it this way, you start near arjuna’s penance, climb up go all over around, reach the rocky top and come back to the same place.
Be Amazed by Krishna’s butter ball
This is a scientific marvel. It is a huge boulder mounted on the top of the rock by it’s edge. Despite its weight it could never be rolled down at all.
Folklore says that it is a drop of butter which fell down from the hands of Lord Krishna. We took some fun pictures here.
See the Varaha Cave temple
One of the finest examples of rock cut temples, it is known for the style and sculpture carvings. It is located right behind arjuna’s penance. You can also see traces of the natural red paint on top of the ceiling.
Witness Panch rathas
This is on the other side of the road. These are temple like chariots each carved out from a long rock for Pancha (five) Pandavas.
Climb Up The light house
We looked at it from far but climbing this to see the view of the entire place is a wonderful experience. Climb up the light house to get an majestic view of sea and the temples.
Enjoy the view On the hills
Once you cross Krishna’s butter ball and climb up further you can see a few other temples, a bathing pool for the women, an unfinished throne, an unfinished tower (royagopuram) which follows the Vijayanagara style with empty places for two parties to discuss, a rock cut square pond with water on the top of the hills etc.
Spend some time at the Beach
There is a local beach which is accessible by all. It could be a bit dirty with wastes thrown in it. So we did not get to the local beach.
Since we had lunch in Radisson blu, we had access to the private beach behind the resort. It is super clean, not crowded and was so much fun. There are few other resorts close by with private beaches too.
In case you can’t do a single day journey, you can book a room in any of the resorts, finish sightseeing, get back to relax and leave the next day.
Indulge in Some Shopping
Mahabalipuram has some beautiful shopping options. Most of the stores have things made of stone or sculpted like sculptures of religious figures, kitchen utensils, pendants, pooja things, shells, play stuff for little children etc. Here are some interesting things that you can shop –
- Get a postcard in Mahabalipuram and send it to friends, family and fellow travelers or your pen pals
- If you love sea shells, you can buy some amazing shells at low prices and if you are someone who like to use traditional utensils for cooking, you must visit the shops for some unique stone vessels, mixers etc.
- One can also find good leather bags and footwear.
- There are small stalls that sells packed eatables, handmade jewelry, balloons, toys and hats for children etc.
A word of caution:
If you don’t know the local language and especially if you are from other countries there is a chance that the shopkeepers might hike the prices so have a guide or try good bargaining.
Explore the Attractions on the way to Mahabalipuram from Chennai
The journey from Chennai to Mahabalipuram is also a very scenic one. Once you cross the city and enter the ECR Road (East Coast Road) and move towards Mahabalipuram one can see the beautiful backwaters.
When you travel through ECR (East coast Road) there are endless options to have fun. This list is based on those options along with the attractions in Mahabalipuram
– On the way back from Mahabalipuram, if you have time you can go for a boat ride in Muttukadu boat area. It is open till evening. You might as well enjoy the golden sunset from the boat.
– Just like Radisson blu, a few kilometers away there is VGP Golden beach resort. It has a restaurant, private beach and stays options. You can opt for lunch and private beach. But in case you need to come back to Mahabalipuram after lunch there, it takes quite some time so keep it post your Mahabalipuram visit. You can also opt for dinner
– The Madras crocodile bank trust – The trust houses and cares for crocodiles, tortoises and other reptiles. They are doing a wonderful job there and it’s important that you pre book.
– Dakshin Chitra– This is a cultural centre that houses and educates about the history and heritage of the 4 south Indian states. They have real life-size models of houses as they were thousands of years ago, showcase various art forms and conduct workshops. They let children paint mud toys. It has a play area and a canteen.
– Sea shell museum– En route to Mahabalipuram you can find the sea shell museum which houses some most wonderful collection of seashells over the years.
– Cholamandal arts village is a visual treat to art lovers. It has a gallery that has various art forms on display.
– If you are a plant lover you will find a lot of plant nursery along the way. Most of these comes at a lesser price than the one in cities. So you can pick some wonderful varieties and add along to the home décor you might find in Mahabalipuram.
Tips for a Wonderful Day Trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram
Be it a sunrise, exploring history, art, learning, playing at the beach to some delicious foods, luxury dining options to romantic dinner nights or even a stay you could have it all and that’s the beauty of it. Some of the tips that will come in handy during your day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram are:
|Start early and make the most of the day.|
|Carry your bottle and required medicines|
|Plan and schedule your visits before hand. Some places require pre booking (not in Mahabalipuram) so having a clear schedule helps. Pre book tables of are dining in any resort. In case if you are planning to stay please book beforehand.|
|Don’t shop when you begin, keep it for last. It will help you to travel lite and spend wisely|
|Choose to eat somewhere within Mahabalipuram- you will taste the authentic local taste and can save money too|
|You tend to get tired soon so pack something lite and healthy that can be eaten easily like cut fruits and wraps .|
|If you have a child, try to keep your visits short, take breaks and keep moving rather than spending so much time in one place.|
|Mahabalipuram is mostly a bit crowded and you might face strangers, people asking for money and help. Beware all the time, make no contact and don’t get into any conversations.|
|It is best if you can use the rest rooms from a good hotel or resort.|
|The whole ECR is fun but might be unsafe if you lose your way so don’t venture out alone. Stay with your pack. If you are a solo traveler make sure you wrap everything before sunset and commute safely with groups be it share autos, buses or taxi services.|
|Though people have started travelling and you might see a lot of people without masks, it is advisable that you wear a mask throughout and keep sanitizing your hands.|
With this note, we have come to the end of this blog. Our one day trip has been so much fun, relaxed and a wonderful experience. We kept it short and simple, more like a getaway but you have endless options to do on your one day trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. Pre-planning, making the most of your time and spending wisely will make sure you enjoy the most out of this trip.
Happy Wayfaring 🙂
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