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Every corner of India has its own backpacker town, and travelers in India's steamy south make a beeline for Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram) sprawling along the Bay of Bengal south of Chennai. However, this is a traveler's town with serious historical credentials — the temple-builders of the Pallava dynasty chiseled away at the granite bedrock beneath the town, creating some of the most remarkable sculptures in India. Most of the carvings were created in the 6th and 7th centuries, but local stonemasons still tip-tap day and night creating modern interpretations of ancient designs. The town is listed as a World Heritage Site, and ...

Every corner of India has its own backpacker town, and travelers in India's steamy south make a beeline for Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram) sprawling along the Bay of Bengal south of Chennai. However, this is a traveler's town with serious historical credentials — the temple-builders of the Pallava dynasty chiseled away at the granite bedrock beneath the town, creating some of the most remarkable sculptures in India. Most of the carvings were created in the 6th and 7th centuries, but local stonemasons still tip-tap day and night creating modern interpretations of ancient designs. The town is listed as a World Heritage Site, and rock-cut temples and towering bas reliefs spill out all along the shoreline, some carved from single super-sized boulders. Surrounding the temple zone is a bustling settlement of budget hotels, traveler restaurants, yoga centers and bars playing the hits of Bob Marley. With Chennai just two hours away by bus, it's easy to visit the historic wonders on a day trip, but staying over will give you the chance to watch sunset over the famous Shore Temple.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    January to March, avoiding the hot summer and the rain-drenched months from July to December