Walk down from East Coast Road to the Shore Temple first. 2 kms should take nearly 45 minutes since there are a lot of shops selling stone articrafts on the way and you won’t be able to take your eyes off every one of them.
Spend nearly 30 minutes at the Shore Temple examining the stones, the temple, the carvings and try and listen to the stories that the waves nearby and the silent stones shout out.
Start walking back from there towards Arjuna’s Penance. It is a cave with a lot of immaculate stone carvings. Carvings so beautiful, that you will easily spend 30 minutes exploring them.
Then walk back and keep walking straight until you reach The Pancha Rathas. You should have been exhausted by now. So just remove your bags, keep your camera down and sit underneath the shade of one of the two neem trees welcoming you to this area. Spend some time as the soothing sea breeze kisses your face and alleviates your tiredness.
Spend the next 30 minutes exploring these five chariots and the stories that they echo.
Once done, trace back your path and keep walking until you reach Mad Koli Street again. Take a small right and cover the Dharmaraja Cave Temple. Spend two minutes and walk back again towards the same intersection.
You will be seeing the mighty lighthouse standing out of the rocks. Walk towards it.
As you walk towards the lighthouse take the flight of steps on the left to climb to Mahishamardini Temple. High above all the other rocks, directly overlooking the sea and shaded by the sky above, this was a place of peace and serenity for me. I spent an hour here sitting amidst the soothing breeze gifted by the sea in the visible distance thinking about just everything or nothing. Don’t really know.
Walk down from the temple, though you wouldn’t want to, and cross the lighthouse to reach the ticket counter for the museum. Purchase the ticket for the lighthouse and walk back towards the gigantic tall structure. Ascend the circular flight of stairs and on reaching the top, spend as much time as you can, there. Overlooking the sea, the rocks, the city, the highway – this is the best experience that you can have here. Just that you will not be allowed to sit there. Hence as much as you can stand or lean and can live the simple true pleasures of life, do it.
Walk back down and then purchase tickets for the maritime museum and the heritage museum. Learn the ship signalling and communication language in the maritime museum.
Come out of the museum and keep walking straight and up towards Mandapa. Explore this rectangular structure, marvel at it, gape at the astonishment of its creation and feel humbled.
Climb down and walk towards Krishna’s butterball and bow down to the miracle called nature as you see a seemingly impossible balance of such a large rock.
Walk back from there and see the Ganesha Ratha.
Cross the street to visit the Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple boasting of rich Tamil architecture and sculptures.
In the end, haggle a bit with the rickhaw chap and settle for 30 bucks to reach the ECR bus stand, because no amount of amazement, wonder and beauty can help you withstand the tiredness of the entire walk.
Other non important points:
Everything mentioned above is within meters of each other. You do not need any guide to show you the place.
It is 55 kms from Chennai and hence you don’t need to stay in Mahabalipuram unless you really want to cut yourself off the world for a brief amount of time.
Walk in as early as possible. Being the east coast, nothing’s better here than witnessing the morning sun laying out its grandeur and beauty in the glimmer of the sea flanked by the temples.
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