Rejuvenate at the alluring Beaches:
A main crowd puller any coastal town offers is its beaches. In Mahabalipuram, a stretch of 20 km coastline provides two fabulous attractions, Mahabalipuram Beach and Pallava Beach that help revitalize your body, mind and soul completely. The beaches comprise golden sandy shore where you can bask in the warm sun, relishing coconut water. You can stroll at the beach admiring the beauty of the place and in case you are visiting here for a family vacation, you can partake in several beach activities that are made available for both kids and elders. Enjoy some action packed sports like surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. You may also find other fun water sports such as boat rides and quad bike rides at these beaches of Mahabalipuram.
Awe-inspiring Arjuna’s Penance:
This work of art brightly highlights Arjuna doing his penance in order to gratify Lord Shiva to get his celestial weapon. Being a main traveller attraction in Mahabalipuram, Arjuna’s Penance is one of the greatest ancient artworks inscribed in two monolithic rock boulders. The rock carving displays scenes of Hindu mythology with animals and human figures as well as images of Gods carved in the form of sculptures. The site is located in the heart of Mahabalipuram and it is approximately 43 feet high and stretches up to 100 feet in length. All the hard work put to create such a masterpiece can easily be seen when you visit this attractive UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Delve into the Thirukadalmallai:
A marvelous structure erected by the Pallava Kings around 6-8th century BCE, Thirukadalmallai or Sthalasayana Perumal Temple is one of the 108 popular temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This shrine is designed in Dravidian Pallava style architecture and it still holds festive offerings and religious activities. In order to attend a prayer ceremony the temple remains open from 6 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 8:30 pm and six rituals are performed daily. Within the complex, a must visit is the only white colored gopuram (monumental tower)with unmatched beauty amongst other golden gopurams around the complex and Mahabalipuram.
Witness the largest collection of Seashells:
The complex treasures about 40,000 different kinds of rare and unique shells and a wide collection of fossils, whale fins and shark teeth. Spanning over an area of almost two acres, this attraction also has a boutique, Maya Bazaar, from where you can take home various items made of seashells and even pearls, a must buy souvenir is the conch. Renowned for being the largest seashell museum in India, India Seashell Museum and Aquarium provides a splendid ambience offering a great way to educate yourself about the rich marine life worldwide. Also, stocked here are the beautiful pearl jewelries and other interesting artifacts. Not to miss is the scrumptious restaurant and an ice-cream parlour that serves delicious seafood and dessert. To solely enter the India Seashell Museum, a price of Rs 100 per person is charged and in addition, Rs 50 for both the aquarium and souvenir shop. They even have a combo ticket option with Rs 100 additional for cameras.
A Post Card Perfect Shore Temple:
This superb masterpiece, Shore Temple, located along the coast of Bay of Bengal captivates every traveller. This granite built pagoda provides a picturesque contrast with usually a clear blue sky and its azure sea making it a must visit attraction. The real name of the temple is still unknown but it got its name due to its close proximity to the shore. However, the fascinating fact is, it’s said to be the only temple of the once existed complex of seven shrines that survived the Tsunami. The temple houses three sanctums, while the two are dedicated to Lord Shiva, the other one is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. These sanctums though a little defaced, still remain one of the best examples of the single rock structures. This complex also houses several small shrines complementing the bigger pagoda.
The legendary Pancha Rathas:
Pancha Rathas is alternative intriguing complex that is full of architectural beauty. It lies near the southern end of the Mahabalipuram town and houses five chariots or pancha rathas that are skillfully carved out of a granite in Dravidian architectural style. These five chariots are named after the Pandavas from the Mahabharata era. Inside the complex, one such temple shaped as a hut, is enthusiastic to Draupadi and you can see a sculpture of Goddess Durga as you enter. Additional ratha is dedicated to Lord Shiva is Yudhisthira and it has sculptures various forms of Shiva. Following this, there is Arjuna’s Ratha, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is brilliantly sculpted with various images of human, gods and goddesses. A little away from Arjuna’s Ratha lies Nakul-Sahadeva Ratha dedicated to Lord Indra. It has an elephant and Nandi (the bull) sculpted along with many animal figures. The complex also has a mammoth ratha dedicated to Lord Bhima. Here, you can unearth the legend and dwell into the rustic beauty of this attraction.
Fascinating Krishna’s Butterball:
Krishna’s Butterball is a gigantic granite boulder and is one of the best places to see in the city. For the fact that, efforts were put to bring down the rock by using seven elephants, this 16 feet tall rock stood on a short slope without a hitch. The question remains, how this historical monument could stand on a slope for more than 1200 years? I guess one needs to delve into the history to figure out. You may have come across many hair-raising attractions in the past but this attraction in Mahabalipuram deserves a visit.
Explore and get Inspired at the Dakshina Chitra Museum:
This is a cultural living museum and it brilliantly displays the art and craft as well as the architecture and lifestyles of South India. Here, you can see about 18 authentic historical houses having different designs. You can also indulge in fun activities and may get a chance to learn few crafts while here. The main purpose for creating such spectacular attraction was to promote and preserve the culture and lifestyle of these states. Despite being on the outskirts of Mahabalipuram, Dakshina Chitra Museum will enchant every being if you want to explore the humble life of the southern states of India. And in order to learn its meaning and help benefit this heritage destination, this place is worth a visit. DakshinaChitra Museum remains open all day from 10 am to 6 pm; tuesday and public holidays remains closed.
Feel the rush by taking a Surfing Lesson:
If you are on a beach destination, a stroll on the beach or a sun toasting afternoon nap is apparent. However, have you ever considered taking a surfing lesson? If not, now is the chance. In the serene beaches of Mahabalipuram, there are a few sections perfect for surfing and for all the know-how for beginners, you can head to Mumu Surf School. It is a fact that you can’t ace any sport within 1 or 2 hours but with ultimate guidance of Mumu, you can get some quick tips and tricks and balance your way as the waves hug you. If you are an expert, you can buy the surfing gears from the many shops open hereand indulge in the activity right away!
Vivekananda Rock Memorial:
Built in 1970, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial is one of the finest pieces of human effort at construction in Southern India. Placed on a rock island, Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a major visitor appeal in Kanyakumari and houses the statue of the great cleric Swami Vivekananda. People believe that Swami Vivekananda swam to this small rocky island and meditated here in his quest for enlightenment. The Shripada Mandapam, having a study hall and a museum, and the Vivekananda Mandapam add to the spiritual significance and purity of the memorial.
Also known as the Kumari Amman Temple, the Kanyakumari Temple is dedicated to the goddess Devi Kumari Amman. The temple is of great religious importance and thousands throng the temple complex to pay their respects and seek the blessings of the goddess. The significance of this temple lies in the fact that it is a Shakti Peethaand legend has it that pieces of Goddess Durga’s body fell here during the great Shiva Tandav dance. The temple houses an opulent black statue of the deity.
Kamarajar Manimandapam is a shrine faithful to Sri Kamarajar, in the sector of Kanyakumari. Popularly known as the 'Black Gandhi', he was the erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, who served the state for a long period. He played a major role in the Indian freedom movement and was the President of the Indian National Congress before independence. He was also awarded India's highest civilian honour - Bharat Ratna, for his work in the field of education (free education to rural kids). After his death, his ashes were kept at the site of the present-day memorial before being immersed in the sea, for people to pay their homage.
Nestled in the Western Ghats is a beautiful waterfall named the Olakaruvi Falls, also known as the Ullakarvi Falls. This waterfall comprises two smaller falls – the lower is a popular picnic spot and the higher is about 200 metres uphill. Visitors can either enjoy bathing in the lower falls or trek further up to the higher falls. The beautiful cascade is located about 25 km away from Nagercoil in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. The best way to reach Olakaruvi Falls is by trekking through rocky and forested area.
Thengapattinam Beach is a famous visitor appeal near Paimkulam village in Vilancode taluk. Placed around 35 kilometres away from Nagercoil, this beautiful beach is dotted with coconut and palm trees. This beach is acclaimed for being an attractive inlet, where river merges into the sea. A large number of visitors come here for picnicking and enjoying catamaran (small boat) rides arranged by fishermen. They can also plan a visit to the ancient mosque, situated in proximity of this beach.
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial:
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Kanyakumari is a famous visitor hotspot designed in the year 1956. It was built in the memory of preeminent Indian leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is popularly known as the Father of the Nation. After his crime in 1948, his ashes were immersed in Triveni Sangam (junction of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal) in Kanyakumari. However, before the process of immersion, the urn containing his ashes was kept here for the public to pay their homage. The architecture of this memorial resembles Hindu shrines of central India, which is why many refer to it as Gandhi Mandapam. The building's central part is 79 feet high, which is symbolic of Mahatma Gandhi's age. A unique fact about this memorial is that it is constructed in such a manner that on the day of Gandhi's birthday (2nd October), the sunrays pass through a hole and fall exactly on the point, where his ashes were kept.
Kanyakumari is a place where travellers have ample things to do and explore. One such popular spot in the city is the Thirparappu Falls, which is around 35 kilometres away from Nagercoil. This waterfall come from from the Kodayar River or Kothai River and go down at Thirparappu from a height of around 50 feet. Also known as Kumari Kuttalam, this waterfall stretches up to a length of 300 feet and forms a pool at the base. It is an ideal place for kids and adults alike, where they can enjoy swimming. Recently, the District Administration constructed a swimming pool especially for kids here.
Measuring a kilometre in length and 115 feet in height, Mathur Aqueduct or Mathoor Hanging Trough is among the longest and tallest trough bridges in Asia. This imposing structure was constructed in 1966 over the Parazhiyar River (also called Pahrali) in Mathoor - a small hamlet in Aruvikkarai. It was due to the efforts of the former Chief Minister Thiru K. Kamaraj that this bridge was constructed for agricultural development and as a drought relief measure. This concrete structure is supported by 28 huge pillars and carries water for irrigation from Pattanamkal Canal (from one side of the hill to another). Mathur Aqueduct is divided into two parts, a trough canal and a road. Partly covered with concrete slabs on top, the trough structure is 7.5 feet in width and 7 feet in height. Owing to its popularity among tourist and locals alike, a flight of stairs was built here to make it convenient for visitors to reach the bridge. A children's park and several bathing platforms have also been developed in this region.
Thiruvalluvar was a noted poet and philosopher, known for his contribution to Tamil literature. He is globally renowned for his work Thirukkural, which is a collection of 1330 Tamil couplets. The Thiruvalluvar Statue was built in the memory of this great man and stands atop a small island rock, about 400 metres away from the coastline of Kanyakumari. The creator of this marvellous statue was Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati, who also made the Iraivan Temple. This spot was opened to public on 1st January 2000, and since then, it has been attracting people from near and far. The overall height of this structure is 133 feet (symbolic of 133 chapters in his book), including 38 feet high pedestal and 95 feet tall sculpture. Interestingly, the statue of Thiruvalluvar represents wealth and pleasure while the pedestal on which it stands depicts 38 chapters from the Thirukkural based on 'Virtue'. Another interesting fact about this statue is that its 19 feet high face (including nose, ear, forehead, eyes and mouth) is made using single stone, carved by hand. Surrounding the three-tier pedestal (also called Atharapeedam) is an artistically constructed mandapa, known as Alankara Mandapam. Inside the mandapa, 140 steps lead visitors to the feet of Thiruvalluvar.
St. Xavier's Cathedral:
St. Xavier's Cathedral, built during the 16th century, is a revered place in Kottar. This Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, a professor from Paris, who was endearingly known as Valiya Pandaram. It is believed that during his stay in Kottar, he stopped the Padagas invasion on the Venad kingdom with just his Holy Cross. Quite pleased with this act, the king Unni Kerala Varma allotted him a huge area to build a church. In 1930, the church was declared a cathedral and named as St. Xavier's Cathedral. Architecturally, this church is quite beautiful and its main highlight is the altar that has been made using gold. Inside this cathedral, the relics of St. Ignatius Loyola and Blessed Devasahayam Pillai along with St. Francis Xavier have been preserved.
Go crazy on a roller-coaster, capture the panoramic view on a cable car, splash at the Himalayan water ride or get puzzled at the Mirror House. With more than 50 rides spread over an area of 70 acres, this amusement park is a major draw for children and adults alike.You can also find food and beverages outlets that are located within the park. Established in 2003 by Rajam Hotels Private Limited, Queens Land is just a 30-minute drive from the central town of Chennai and ideal for a family outing in Chennai. While they have a huge car parking, you can also take regular buses from Guindy and T. Nagar area in Chennai.
Kishkinta Theme Park:
Inaugurated in 1995, Kishkinta is encouraged by Navodaya Films Private Limited, Berjaya Leisure, Malaysia and Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). Advance across 120 acres of man-made grazed hills and lakes, this colossal pleasure park is placed near Vandalur Railway station and is just 13 kilometers away from south of the Anakaputhur. From six to sixty years old, whether you travel in a group or with family, this theme park will surely entertain you with its attractions, kids’ rides, water games and various other amusement avenues. While most of the rides are included in the entry pass, you might have to pay extra for boating, go-karting and few others. The park also provides locker as well as dormitory facilities for guests.
Dash N Splash:
Located on the Bangalore National Highway, this water park is approximately 30 kilometers away from Chennai city center. Started in 1995, it was the first water park in not just Chennai but South India to have exclusive water rides. The beauty of this park lies in the refreshing shade provided by the coconut trees which cover the entire park and provide complete relaxation to the visitors. With swimming pools, wave slide, free-fall, spiral slide and a rain shower which is a huge respite in Chennai summers, this theme park is frequented by tourists and locals alike. There is a separate changing room for men and women as well as a shower area to freshen up after the water rides.
Stretching 13 kilometers in length from St. George Fort to Mahabalipuram, Marina Beach enjoys the spotlight of both tourists and residents for being the second-longest (urban) natural beach in the world. Witness cricket matches, fish markets, children flying kites and fortunetellers at the beach side as you take a walk along the shoreline. Owing to an active undercurrent, unfortunately, swimming is closed at this beach. Though afternoons can be very hot especially during the summer season in Chennai, evenings and early mornings allow you to experience the cool waves and winds as you sit and relax at the beach. You will also find a rare species of olive ridley sea turtles at the beach since it lies on the extreme stretch of coast. Since the beach attracts a lot of people every day (almost 30,000 tourists per day during weekdays) the area has good parking and is guarded by cops to ensure security.
Also known as Thirumayilai, Mylapore is the capital city of Tamil Nadu. A few kilometers drive to the South of Chennai, Mylapore is the main commercial center of Chennai and is easily accessible by road, buses and MRTS system. A day trip to Mylapore is a good idea if you wish to cover some famous tourist attractions in the area. Mylapore is home to one of the oldest residential areas of Chennai. The town’s area spreads across approximately 4 kilometers from north to south and 2 kilometers from east to west. Apart from renowned historical sites like San Thome Basilica and Madhava Perumal temple, many educational institutions and prominent schools have been built here too. Some of them are Vidya Mandir Secondary School, Vivekananda College, Image College of Arts, Animation and Technology, to name a few.
San Thome Church:
This 155 feet high church has huge significance as there are only three basilicas that are built over the tomb of St. Thomas (One of the seven Apostles of Jesus Christ, St. Thomas was buried in Mylapore) in the world. The first one is in Rome, the second in Spain and the third is in Chennai, close to the Marina beach. People from different parts of the world come especially to visit the San Thome Church. Right below the basilica, there is an underground chapel where His Holiness Pope John Paul II prayed in the year 1986. The church has been designed in Gothic style and has some unique artworks including the stain glass painting of St. Thomas’ meeting with the resurrected Christ. Needless to say, Christmas is the best time to visit the church and witness the true splendor of the San Thome Church.
Madras High Court:
Chennai’s major landmark, Madras High Court is close to Marina Beach and St George Fort at Parry's corner. It is highly acknowledged by tourists and locals alike as it was one amongst the three High Courts that were prevalent in pre-Independent times under Queen Victoria’s rule in the 19th century. Also, it is the second largest judicial complex in the world. Established in the year 1862, it was created by merging the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras and the Sudder Dewanny Adawlut. Designed in an Indo-Saracenic architectural style by ace architect, Henry Irwin, the building has beautiful domes and corridors that represent the ancient architecture really well. The ceilings and stained glass doors inside the court are a marvel in themselves, unlike any other courts in India.
Cholamandal Artists Village:
Placed on the East Coast Road, almost eight kilometers from the south of Chennai, Cholamandal Artists' Village performs an essential arts center in the integrated state of Tamil Nadu. Advance over eight hectares of land, it lies close to the Bay of Bengal and has become a great tourist terminal. Established in 1966, it is the largest conglomeration of artists from South India. It is home to 20 resident painters and sculptors who work together to gain self-sufficiency and create beautiful paintings, sketches, terra-cotta, stone or metal sculptures, batiks and handicrafts for their living. These artworks are then displayed in an exhibition at this complex. Apart from the exhibitions, the center has a museum, an art gallery and an amphitheater for staging plays.
National Art Gallery:
Situated on Pantheon Road in Egmore district, the National Art Gallery building is made in pink sandstone, reminiscing that of the Jaipuri-Jaina style. Established in the year 1907 by T. Namberumal Chetty, the gallery was once known as the Victoria Memorial Hall.Displaying Mughal era paintings, religious statues, and artifacts, it is also home to handicrafts from tenth and eleventh centuries - that can be found on display here. The gallery has been divided into four segments - Tanjore Painting Gallery, Decorative Art Gallery, Indian Traditional Art Gallery and Ravi Varma Painting Gallery (whose paintings are considered to be national treasures).
Thousand Lights Mosque:
As the name suggests, it is said that almost one thousand oil lamps were lit up to illuminate the hall of this Mosque. Located in Anna Salai close to the Anna flyover, Thousands Lights Mosque is one of the largest mosques in India. Built in the year 1810 by Nawab Umdat-ul-Umrah and displaying a classic architectural style, this mosque is a must visit when in Chennai. It has many domes and two minarets (towering up to 64 feet) on either side. The mosque has a main hall meant for praying by men; women have a separate praying area. There is a Dargah on the second floor which is a sanctuary of Imam Hossein and Abolfazl-al-Abbas. The mosque also has a burial ground, library, and some guesthouses.
Dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, this monument is also known as Ice House. It is believed that in the year 1900, the great soul stayed in this house for six weeks. Established in 1877, this two-story building is a Victorian architectural marvel with great designs of sunburst and gabled roof. Vivekananda’s bedroom has now become a room for meditation. Here, you can find the dining table (as was located in his time) next to the fireplace. Up next is the kitchen where Vivekananda often cooked food and the garden where he loved to play with kids.The followers of Swam Vivekananda often come here to breathe through the physical reminders of his life and rekindle the principles.
The Anna Centenary Library:
An eight-story structure, the Anna Centenary Library undoubtedly makes for South-Asia’s largest library. It is a perfect retreat for all those who look forward to taking a break by simply reading a book amidst the calm atmosphere of the library. Built in September 2010, the library is spread across an area of 3.75 lakh square feet. It has more than five lakh books (and still counting) on a wide range of subjects. It also has a Braille section (for the visually impaired), own books reading section, children section, periodicals and newspapers section, Tamil books section and English books section. In addition to this, the library boasts of a conference hall, auditorium, exhibition hall and amphitheater.