A guide to offbeat places in Thailand

The mere mention of Thailand evokes images of exotic islands. Also picture perfect beaches. Plus azure blue waters and full moon parties. No wonder this drives travelers to well-trodden places like Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. Although, Thailand’s real beauty lies beyond the conventional tourist hotspots. If you dig a little deeper, you can discover lesser known places which offer unique and delightful experiences. So, Want to know which are those hidden jewels? Dive into our round-up of the 10 most offbeat places in Thailand. 

Pai

offbeat places in Thailand - Pai

The backpacker paradise of northern Thailand, Pai is a scenic village tucked away in the mountains. It’s dripping in lush greenery and fed by numerous waterfalls. Thus, it’s the ideal place to be if you just want to bask in the company of nature. The best thing to do here is explore the countryside and all its natural wonders on a motorbike. And at nights, you can relax with a drink at one of the riverside pubs and mingle with fellow hippies. Since, at night the main streets of Pai fill up with all kind of street food vendors and market stalls.

Here you can enjoy many different varieties of culinary delights as well. And these include Indian, Chinese, Thai, Sushi, fresh fruit smoothies for the health cautious people and a lot of fried delicacies as well. Apart from the food experience, you can do a lot of other things while in Pai. These include visiting it’s waterfalls, spending time in an elephant camp, exploring the hot springs, caves and canyons etc. All this together makes Pai one of the best offbeat places in Thailand.

How to reach

Take a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. A 4 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai takes you to Pai.

Koh Lipe

offbeat places in Thailand

Koh Lipe is the exotic island that you have always dreamed about. Milky white beaches, electric blue waters, plush resorts and friendly locals – it ticks all the boxes.  Straddling borders with Malaysia, Koh Lipe is one of the most remote islands in Thailand. And therein lies its appeal. Its waters are unbelievably clear, so you can snorkel just off the shore. When you are not living under water, you can walk through the tiny island and discover charming villages. Thus, it’s location in particular makes it one of the awesome offbeat places in Thailand. 

How to reach

Take a flight directly from Bangkok to Hat Yai.  It’s a 4.5 hour journey from there by van and ferry.

Sukhothai

Sukhothai is Thailand’s first capital. And home to tonnes of UNESCO world heritage sites.  With more than 200 historical monuments and architectural ruins sitting inside the Sukhothai Historical park, it’s a paradise for the history buffs. You get to move past charming villages, gentle streams and lush green rice paddies while exploring the ruins. And the best way to do it is on bicycle. Thus, you must add it in your list of offbeat places in Thailand. Apart from the historical park there are several other places to visit in Sukhothai. Particularly interesting are the several cultural tours that are arranged from there.

How to reach

You can reach Sukhothai by bus or train in 7-8 hours from Bangkok or Chiang Mai. You can take a flight also from Bangkok to Sukhothai.

Khao Lak

offbeat places in Thailand

Just a few hours off Phuket, Khao Lak is one of those places where nature and tranquility is always within touching distance. If you feel stranded in the chaos of Phuket, Khao Lak is the perfect escape. Since, with a dreamy combination of rainforests and unspoilt beaches, you get to experience the best of both worlds. Sans the crowd. If you ever get tired of lying on its flour like sand, you can just take a walk through the jungles. Thus, this becomes one of the favorite offbeat places in Thailand is one of the favorites. The surrounding hills along this paradise are home to three different national parks of Thailand. 

There are several islands around Khao Lak that can be easily explored from here. These include Similan Islands, Phang Nag Bay, Surin Islands, Khao Soak and several others. These islands are each unique with respect to their offerings. While you can tent around in Similan Islands within reserved natural spots, in Surin Island you get excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkling. So, don’t forget to plan day trips to these beautiful surrounding islands while in Khao Lak.

How to reach

Khao Lak can be reached from Phuket by road in 2 hours.

Koh Lanta

offbeat places in Thailand

Another one of the offbeat places in Thailand that must not be missed. Koh Lanta is the epitome of a tropical paradise. Serving the perfect cocktail of untouched beaches, sparkling blue waters and lip-smacking food, it is one of those places you just can’t get enough of. Its dive sites are considered to be some of the best in the world.  Needless to say, the first thing you should be doing is plunging into the waters.

On other days, you give in to its mellow ambience and just lounge about its gorgeous beaches. If you are one of the adventurous ones, you can hike through its mangroves or kayak around the island. And the evenings are best spent sipping on your favorite drink while watching the sky change colors.

How to reach

It can be reached from Phuket or Krabi by ferry in 2 hours

Koh Mook

offbeat places in Thailand

Koh Mook is another hidden gem close to Koh Lanta. The island is widely known for the emerald cave. As it is one of the most unique natural wonders out there. Partially submerged in water, you have to swim through the cave to appreciate its true splendor. If you time it well, you can watch the walls of the cave reflecting the color of the waters. And that’s not all. Because, at the other side of the cave lies a beach. Although the island is far removed from tourism. Still, there are plenty of stay options catering to all kinds of travelers. And if you look around a bit, you might even stumble upon some really cool bars.

How to reach

Take a short 45 minutes ferry from Trang or a 4-hour ferry from Krabi to get to Koh Mook

Kanchanaburi

offbeat places in Thailand

Kanchanaburi is the place for nature lovers and history buffs. Its passport to fame is a bridge over the river Kwai. It featured in a movie of the same name. And the bridge was built by Allied POWS (prisoner of war) as a part of the Thai-Burmese railway. Since, many of them lost their lives in the process, earning it the nickname “The death railway”. Thus, these historical sites make it worth the visit. Also, Kanchanaburi is home to the Erawan national park, a land of mind-blowing waterfalls. So, when you are not revisiting history lessons, take a hike through this scenic park and discover its stunning waterfalls. And don’t forget to add Kanchanaburi to your list of offbeat places in Thailand that you can visit.

How to reach

Kanchanaburi is a 2-3 Hour ride from Bangkok and is one of the most popular day trips from Bangkok. You can either take a cab, bus or train from Bangkok to reach Kanchanaburi.

Phetchaburi

offbeat places in Thailand

Phetchaburi is a sleepy town which is quite popular among Thai locals, but tourists haven’t caught on yet.  Its narrow lanes, ancient temples, old teak shop houses give it a timeless ambience. Throw in some amazing food and beaches and you have the perfect getaway. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the gigantic cave shrine of Tham Khao Luang. And if you arrive between May to December, you can even spot Bryde’s whales. Actually, almost half of Phetchaburi is covered by dense national Kaeng Krachan National Park. And here lies some of the best hiking trails and camping locations of Thailand. Also, there are some beautiful beaches and waterfalls to enjoy here. Thus, Phetchaburi makes for one of the best offbeat places in Thailand.

How to reach

Take a bus or a train from Bangkok to reach Phetchaburi in 2-3 hours.

Nakhon Ratchasima

offbeat places in Thailand

Nakhon Ratchasima is usually nothing more than a pit stop for travelers heading to Khao Yai national park. But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that it’s a lovely place in its own right. Surrounded by lush green rice paddies and home to the forests of Khao Yai national park, it is a treat for nature lovers. The town’s 1000 year old ruins have an uncanny resemblance to the world famous ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Thus making it a place which must be put in the list of offbeat places in Thailand that must not be missed.

How to reach

Take a bus or a train from Bangkok to reach Nakhon Ratchasima in 4-5 hours.

Koh Kood

One of the last remaining untouched islands of Thailand, Koh Kood is the sort of place you go to disconnect from civilization. Its white sand beaches are perfect to string up a hammock and read that novel you bought. And when you are tired of lolling about in the sands, you can explore the island’s jungle clad interiors, sleepy fishing villages and coconut tree plantations. Or, get a soothing open air Thai massage. Water babies can splash about in its turquoise seas. Or just leisurely kayak around the island. Thus, it makes for one of the perfect offbeat places in Thailand that one can visit.

How to reach

It can be reached from Bangkok by bus and ferry. The total journey duration would be 7 hours. 

Edit: Many of you have asked after this post, how much time it would take to cover all these places in Thailand. Well, it really depends on how much in details you want to explore these places. Here’s a nice guide to plan your Thailand itinerary for you. And here’s a perfect 3 week Thailand itinerary for you to look into.  Coming to your question, assuming if you were visiting all of these places, as well as the cities near these. I would say, it will easily take a month’s time to cover everything, assuming medium to slow pace of travel. And believe me, these are natural wonders. So, you must not rush through them. Rather, give yourself time to soak into the beauty of each one of these places that you choose to visit.

PS: This is a guest post by Ankit Mahindru

Offbeat places to visit in Thailand | Koh Kood | Nakhon Ratchasima | Phetchaburi | Kanchanaburi | Koh Mook | Koh Lanta | Khao Lak | Sukhothai | Koh Lipe | Pai

2017 – Our Travel Diary

As the year 2017 comes to an end, it is time to reflect on our travel through the year that was. And it indeed was the most exciting year when it comes to our travel. We did lots and lots of holidays in ‘travel 2017’ , as we like to call the epic travel year that it was for us. After having learnt how to successfully travel with a toddler, we had a good amount of travel in 2016Then we welcomed 2017 with a beautiful sunrise across the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram. There was no plan as such, but one by one the journeys unfolded. And eventually ‘travel 2017’ appeared to be the most fulfilling. Let us take you through a glimpse of our ‘travel 2017’.

Grindelwald , Travel 2017

Wandering through the streets of Grindelwald

Mahabalipuram – Travel 2017 Destination No #1

The beginning of the year happened in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. On 31st December 2016 and 1st of January 2017, we wandered through the streets of Mahabalipuram. Visiting it’s historical icons like the Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas, Krishna’s Butterball etc. along with the newer attractions like the India Sea Shell Museum, Light house Museum and Maritime Heritage Museum. And perhaps it’s truly believed that the way you start your year, the rest of the year unfolds in a similar manner.

Arjuna's Penance : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s Penance

Palampur – Travel 2017 Destination No #2

Before we even knew, we were off to our next destination. And it was none other than the fairytale village of Palampur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The views of snow ladened himalayan peaks , beautiful green fields of Palampur and the winding Himalayan roads mesmerized us completely. And all that was topped with the unparalleled hospitality that we enjoyed at the Lodge at Wah as well as Norwood Greens homestay. Although we just spent a couple of days at Palampur, they were amongst the most beautiful of the days we spent traveling this year.

Things to do in Palampur

Wayanad – Travel 2017 Destination No #3

After having visited the northern Himalayan ranges, once again it was time to romance the southern hills. Soon we headed to Wayand. Although a little short of time on this trip, we couldn’t cover much on this trip. But we did visit the infamous Edakkal Caves. Apart from that we thoroughly enjoyed the greenery, the scenic forests , the tea plantations and everything else that Wayanad is famous for. But we do intend to return here for another beautiful stay. And when we do, we also intend to cover much more grounds.

Oxyfarm Resorts Wayanad

The beautiful surroundings of Wayanad

Coorg – Travel 2017 Destination No #4

Soon after returning from Wayand, we were delighted to receive an invite from Casa Coorg Homestay in Coorg. In this short weekend trip, we enjoyed our trip to Coorg thoroughly. Covering the Abbey falls, Coorg Fort, Monastery and a lot of places. We also did some shopping of spices and dry fruits from the markets of Madikeri. Thereafter we visited the beautiful golf course in Virajpet, very close to our homestay. And went out on evening walks in unknown trails along with our host dogs. Overall, a very relaxing and wonderful weekend that we spent at Coorg.

places to visit in Coorg

Europe – Travel 2017 Destination No #5 and our epic trip

Finally arrived the time for the most awaited trip of the year. Travel 2017 was finally going to get all the more exciting with a trip to Europe. This was the longest one that we took this year as well as overall in our journey as travelers. We did around 20 days trip to Europe covering Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice in ItalyAnd that was followed by visit to Engleberg and Mount Titlis, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Interlaken and Bern in Switzerland. Thereafter we went on to Paris, Disneyland, Amsterdam and finally the Tulip Gardens . 

Traveling to Europe with baby or kid

We had a lot of fun on this trip. That included designing and taking self walking tour in Florence, VeniceLucerne and Amsterdam. We also visited a Cheese Factory and Kambly Cookie Factory. Took Boat hop on hop off tour in Venice and played with snow in Mount Titlis. Then we visited the Lovure in Paris and spent an unforgettable evening visiting Eiffel Tower. Also, we traveled by buses, trains, metros and vans. We did crack the maze of Paris metro while there. All in all it was a super epic trip. We also learnt a lot during this trip. For instance, we became confident on this trip about taking long trips with our little one and wrote about traveling to Europe in particular with kids. And we tried a lot of different cuisines. Also we learnt how to pack efficiently for long trips, how to sustain long haul flights with little kids and how to stay healthy on long trips in foreign lands.

tour of florence

Kabini – Travel 2017 Destination No #6

After returning from Europe trip, we thought we had a really long vacation. And that we won’t need another one for quiet some time now. But soon we found ourselves on a lookout for the next destination. It was at this time that the Peepal Tree Boutique Homestay in Kabini extended their hospitality, inviting us to spend a weekend with them. And with delighted hearts, we said yes. Thereafter, we had a wonderful weekend at Kabini. We went to the river backwaters, did cycling along the fields, enjoyed homemade foods, took a bumpy and adventurous jeep ride to the villages and the meadows beyond and finally counted the stars on a clear night sky while we walked through the premises of Peepal Tree after a sumptuous dinner.

The Peepal Tree Kabini

A lovely morning view from our room window at The Peepal Tree Kabini

Kolar – Travel 2017 Destination No #7

Next we visited Kolar in a day trip. Travel 2017 continued on a roll while we had the most spontaneous day trip of the year with Kolar. Although Kolar is a district in the north of Bangalore best known for it’s once abundant gold mines. But our interest lay more in the ancient temples that the district and it’s villages are house to. During this day trip, we visited the Kolaramma Temple in Kolar, alongside the Someshwara Temple. Then we did the hike to the Antargange – the sacred stream which is believed to be the river Ganga from north India, traveling underground to south and emerging here.

Bangalore to Kolar

Someshwara Temple Kolar

There after we headed to Avani temple. This is the temple where Saint Valmiki is believed to have written the epic Ramayana. And this is also the place where Goddess Sita is supposed to have stayed after her self imposed exhile from Ayodhya. Her sons, Luv and Kush were also born here. We really liked the peaceful premises and surroundings of the temple. It kind of reminded us of the Temple of Lepakshi that we had visited years back. Finally, we ended the trip with a visit to Kotilingeshwara Temple.

Yercaud – Travel 2017 Destination No #8

Next was lined up the long weekend of August 15. And we were all determined to head somewhere next. Yercaud seemed to be the perfect destination. Closer to home, with a perfect monsoon climate. So, we decided to head here to spend the long weekend. Although, there was a little rush in Yercaud, pertaining to the long weekend. And we finalized our plan quiet late. So, we didn’t get a good stay here. However, we didn’t let it curb our travel 2017 enthusiasm by any means. We visited the Yercaud Lake, the valley view points, the Killiyur falls and many other interesting places on the first day of our visit.

On the second day, we relaxed, and headed to the Great Trails for a nice Lunch. They seem to have a really good property and next time we intend to stay there. On the third day, we started back to Bangalore post breakfast and reached back in time to avoid the mad traffic rush at the outskirts of Bangalore 🙂

Rajasthan – Travel 2017 Destination No #9

We had done a beautiful trip to Rajasthan in 2016, spanning over around 10 days. As a part of this trip, we covered 3 days in Jaipur, 4 days in Udaipur, doing day trips to Chittorgarh and Kumbalgarh , also seeing the world famous Jain Temple of Ranakpur. We visited lots of palaces & Forts including the Amer Fort, Nahargarh fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbalgarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur Palace, Udaipur Palace and also museums like Bagore ki Haveli. As well as cultural places like The Shilpgram. We did crazy shopping here as well. But in the end we left carving for more and promised ourselves we will return soon.

Amer fort 12

A man playing a melodious chord at the fort entrance

And so we did. We decided to end the year 2017 in the colorful land of Rajasthan, visiting Jaisamler and Jodhpur. And we started the whole tour with an overnight stay under the cold winter night , gazing at the stars in Sheesh Mahal Desert Camp Jaisalmer.  There after we stayed the city of Jaisalmer, right inside the Jaisalmer fort exploring the Jaisalmer Fort, Bada Bagh, Jain Temples. We also did day trips to the village of Kuldhara and to Khaba Fort from Jaisalmer. Thereafter we proceeded to enjoy the hospitality of Jaswant Niwas Homestay in Jodhpur. In the couple of days that we spent in this city, we visited Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Clock Tower, Umaid Bhavan and some other beautiful places in Jodhpur . The stories are soon to follow..stay tuned 🙂

In Conclusion

There couldn’t have been a better end to the year 2017 and beginning to the year 2018. Just like we had an end to the year 2016, and had welcomed 2017.Overall, travel 2017 spanned over 9 different trips, covering 24 different places. It also saw our 25th travel anniversary (Yes, we completed 25 trips since we decided to become partners for life. ) . Now we are all excited for a new start in 2018, again, traveling as much as we can.

Although I would like to add a disclaimer here. We are not full time travelers, we do have our 9-5 jobs. And if it surprises you how we managed to travel so much in spite of our full time jobs, here’s a post I wrote on traveling along with holding full time job, that will help you understand the secret sauce behind our travel better. Thanks for reading and being a part of all our journeys through the year. Have a wonderful year 2018 ahead….

Lighthouse Heritage Museum Mahabalipuram

Lighthouse Heritage Museum is one of the most recent additions to the awesome list of places to visit and things to do in Mahabalipuram. And, it is fairly new creation also. Lighthouse Heritage Museum opened to the public in January , 2014. So, when we took a trip to Mahabalipuram in year end 2016, we visited the Lighthouse Heritage Museum as well. And believe me, it was such an exciting journey. So, here I take you through the journey of Lighthouse Heritage Museum with me.

Collection of the Lighthouse Heritage Museum

Lighthouse Heritage Museum

A model of the lighthouse in Lighthouse Heritage Museum

As the name suggests, the Lighthouse Heritage Museum consists of the heritage from the old lighthouse of Mahabalipuram. It consists of many important and interesting equipments that were once a part of the working lighthouse. It was very interesting to go through each of these, reading their description and then figuring out how they were once fully operational inside the lighthouse. Actually, the walk through Lighthouse Heritage Museum is almost like seeing the lighthouse come alive!! Here are some beautiful things out of the huge collection that Lighthouse Heritage Museum houses.

Old Lamps

Lighthouse Heritage Museum

The old lamps at display at the lighthouse heritage museum, Mahabalipuram

The Lighthouse Heritage Museum houses several old lamps. Each of these lamps were used at some point for the lighthouse operations. As time progressed, the lamps kept changing. Some were replaced due to breakdown. Some others were replaced by their superior counterparts over a period of time. Overall, in it’s lifetime, the lighthouse saw several different lamps from manually operated to the electric operated ones. And all of them are housed in this Lighthouse Heritage Museum.

Light house Model

There is a small model of the lighthouse placed on exhibit at the center of the museum. Also, there is a picture of the lighthouse in the museum. It is from the days when the lighthouse was actually operational. The model is also very beautiful and reminds one of the old days when the lighthouse was actually used for guarding the ships that came in and out of Mahabalipuram coast for trade and other purposes.

Lighthouse internal operation Model

Right in the center of the Lighthouse Heritage Museum lies a huge operational model of the top floor of the lighthouse. This is where the rotational device was placed. The lamp was mounted in the center of the rotational device. And that is how the lighthouse used to operate. There are stairs which you can use to go to the first floor and then look closely on the mechanism of operation involved. Also, you can read about it in the description of the model.

Lighthouse Heritage Museum

Internal operation model of the lighthouse

Other equipments

There are many other equipments like old hand held devices, flash lights, clock and other such things that were used in the old times inside the lighthouse. These are all a part of the Lighthouse Heritage Museum now. It is very interesting to go through them and see how things used to work in the ancient time when the sophisticated devices that we are so used to in the current era were not even present.

Lighthouse show

For the general awareness of people and also to get younger generation more interested, the Lighthouse Heritage Museum conducts a sound and light show couple of times inside the museum premises. This is a projector movie that takes you through the journey of the lighthouse. It shows how the lighthouse used to operate, how the ships used to get guided by the lights from the lighthouse. Also, the movie lets you comprehend what was the significance and overall modus operandi for the light house in that era. It is a very interesting movie.

We were very much interested in staying back for the movie, as the show timing was not exactly matching our visit timing. But due to lack of time, we couldn’t stay for that long. I will highly recommend you enquire about the show timing and match your visit with it. I am sure you will have a wonderful time. This is a very informative section as well, particularly if you have kids whom you will want to see learning something useful on the trip.

How to reach the Lighthouse Heritage Museum

Here’s the good news. The Lighthouse Heritage Museum is situated just besides the Mahabalipuram lighthouse. It is situated inside a beautiful campus that also houses another museum, the Maritime Heritage Museum. And the campus has entry gates both near the lighthouse and also near Arjuna’s Penance. So, it is walkable from both the places and can be entered from either side. However, the entry tickets counter is near the gate towards the lighthouse. So, better to enter from there.

Overall, we had a wonderful time visiting this museum. it is not very big, but it is full of information. At least I hardly knew anything about the internal mechanism of lighthouses before I went to this museum. So, I will highly recommend visiting here to you all. Also, looks like since the place is very recently opened, not everyone knows about it. Because of this, the crowd is very less. When we entered the museum, there were hardly one or two people except us there. That made for a wonderful offbeat site where we could leisurely explore the insides of the museum at our own pace.

General tips on visiting the Lighthouse Heritage Museum

  1. There is a nominal entry fee that can be purchased at the entry gate near the Mahabalipuram Lighthouse. Actually, it is a combined ticket for both Lighthouse Heritage Museum and Maritime Heritage Museum.
  2. The museum is open 10am to 5:30pm in the evening. All through the week.
  3. It is very conveniently located just besides the Mahabalipuram Lighthouse or even Krishna’s butterball and Arjuna’s Penance.
  4. While visiting the Lighthouse Heritage Museum, for once, you need not worry about the hot and humid Mahabalipuram climate because it is all indoors that you have to walk.
  5. Shoes are not allowed inside the museum to prevent dust and dirt. So, you will need to take off your shoes before entering inside. There are no shoe counters. You can leave your shoes on the footsteps of the museum.
  6. Half an hour to forty minutes is sufficient to take a full round of the museum covering everything that it has on offer. Since, it is a small museum, but it does have a wealth of knowledge inside it.
  7. Camera is allowed. But there is a fee. So, don’t forget to take your camera tickets in case you are interested in clicking a few nice pics.

Lighthouse Heritage Museum in Mahabalipuram that takes you on a trip to the lighthouse that was once operational. Amongst other things, it exhibits the old lamps, mechanical systems and clocks that were used to operate the lighthouse

 

You might as well be interested in

11 Top Things to do in Mahabalipuram.

India Seashell Museum Mahabalipuram.

India Seashell Museum Mahabalipuram

“There are so many beautiful shells in the bed of the sea that it is simply impossible to collect them all in a lifetime”

If you are anything like me, India Seashell Museum is just the perfect place for you. I love the beautiful shells that I see whenever I take a stroll on a beach. And I do collect some of them, off each of the different beaches that I visit. But, I have always wondered what are the different possible varieties of seashells out there. We get to see only a few that get washed off to the shore. Is there a much vaster range of seashells available for those who dive deep into the sea and explore further? Well, India Seashell Museum just provided me the answer to many of these questions that I had.

India seashell Museum : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Shell Museum

India Seashell Museum, Mahabalipuram

We visited India Seashell Museum on our trip to Mahabalipuram. After seeing some wonderful UNESCO World Heritage sites that comprised of beautiful temples and amazing carvings, we decided to head to India Seashell Museum before calling it a day. Although I had never visited any seashell collection or museum before. So, I didn’t know what to expect. All I thought was, there will be some nice collection of seashells to look at. Well, there indeed was. But not just some nice collection. India Seashell Museum houses a huge collection of seashells of all possible varieties. In fact, it is the biggest seashell museum in the whole of Asia!! And there is no second to it in India.

History of India Seashell Museum

A seashell enthusiast and lover, K Raja Mohamed, once upon a time, set across to collect seashells from across all the places that he happened to visit. He had a dream. And it was about creating a museum of his own with amazing varieties of seashells collected from across the world. After 33 years of meticulous effort and wonderful zeal, this person actually went ahead and opened a museum. That’s how the India Seashell Museum came into being in the first place. Actually, K Raja Mohamed sold out his family property to build this museum. Finally, the India Seashell Museum was opened to the public in 2013. It all started when K Raja Mohamed made a trip to Sri Lanka in 1980. After that he visited Kenya, Thailand, Vietnam, America and several other destinations, collecting different sea shells on his journey.

In total there are some 6000 different varieties of seashell species. And Mohamed managed to capture some 2300 of these. They are proudly on display at India Seashell Museum. However, his quest was still not over. He knew he can’t collect all of them as one lifetime is not enough for it but he just wanted to collect as many more as possible.

Collections in India Seashell Museum

Would you believe it if I were to tell you, that the India Seashell Museum has a collection of over 40000 seashells from across the world? The museum is divided into 4 major sections. Each has a huge gallery that displays a unique collection of shells. I am falling short of words here to describe the amazing collection of seashells that India Seashell Museum has on offer. All I can say is , it took great effort for me to stop staring on one set of collection and move on to the next. And every other shell seemed to be even more beautiful and fascinating than the previous one.

India Seashell Museum

Some look like an elephant’s ear, others look like a mermaid’s dress. And some others are like octopus and others are like tiny coriander seeds. Some shells have right handed pattern on them, which is believed to be very rare. I will let the pictures do the talking, and take you on a walk through some of the beautiful seashells that we saw here.

India Seashell Museum

The above ones are one of my personal favorites with beautiful wing like shape and bright colors. And different possible shades.

Actually, some of the shells made me wonder if someone really goes down there and paints them with so much of patience to get these perfect looks. It is so hard to believe they are naturally so perfectly beautiful. I mean, it is totally impossible to believe such perfection. Things like these make me believe in the wonders of nature. You see same shade and pattern with different colors.

India Seashell Museum

India Seashell Museum

India Seashell Museum

India Seashell Museum

Smallest seashells at India Seashell Museum

We also saw some very huge seashells here. And then we came across the smallest seashell species of the world on display in one of the sections. These looked as small as the coriander seeds.

Indian Seashell Museum

Smallest seashells at display at India Seashell Museum

Story of Pearls

In gallery 3 there is a fascinating section. I must tell you it otherwise looks ordinary, with some pearls on display. But actually, this section displays the story of pearl formation. It explains the three important stages in the formation of a pearl. And you can see some beautiful raw, unpolished pearls on display in this section – real pearls, some inside the shell itself. I had never seen something like this. As we walked past this section, a guide explained to us, a group of enthusiastic tourists, on how the pearls are formed, how they take birth and then take shape inside a shell, and I must admit, it was an interesting story.

India Seashell Museum

Rare species of pearl on display at India Seashell Museum

Artistic items created out of oyster shells

The other unique and fascinating items on display are models of train, plane and car, one placed in each of the galleries. These models are made out of oyster shells and thus exhibit extreme artistic skills of the creator.

India Seashell Museum

A train made of oyster shells at display in India Seashell Museum

Along with the display, the name, species and type of each seashell is also mentioned. But I must say, it is hard to grasp and sync in so much information in one single tour. So, all I did was to sync in the beauty. Hats off to the efforts of K Raja Mohamed. A person whose sheer dedication and zeal gifted the country with such a unique collection. I personally liked the collection of seashells at India Seashell Museum so much. So, I am definitely going to return here with more time at my hands.

How to get to India Seashell Museum

The India Seashell Museum is located just outside the main town of Mahabalipuram, very near to the highway. It is well connected and right on the main road. You can ask a local for the directions. Or, you can conveniently put on the GPS as well. Actually, we used the GPS service and reached here conveniently , without any hassle. Actually, it is located at just 1.5km from Pancha Rathas, another important UNESCO Heritage site and a must see in Mahabalipuram. So, you can conveniently walk down here from the Pancha Rathas as well.

Other attractions at India Seashell Museum

Aquarium

Recently, the India Seashell Museum is being renovated, for the good. While the seashell collection sections stand tall, other attractions are also being developed within the same campus, in order to attract tourists with varying interest. And I must say, it is thoughtful. The other major section that is operational as of now is an aquarium. This aquarium houses a mix of general and rare fish species. While we enjoyed the collection of seashells thoroughly, our little one was little bored here. But next as we entered into the aquarium, she bounced back with her full traveler spirits. She enjoyed a lot looking at the fishes, interacting with them in her virtual world and getting her pictures clicked with the fishes 🙂

India Seashell Museum

Little one enjoying in the aquarium

Fish Pedicure

Just outside the aquarium is a provision for fish pedicure. If you are interested, you can go for it. It is a quick 15 minutes session where you get a fish pedicure of your choice from amongst a list of options. And it costs extra, on top of the general entry ticket to the museum. However, I escaped this part. As I didn’t like the idea of the fishes eating my foot 😀 ( Don’t listen to me this one time, things like these freak me out. However, you might enjoy the pedicure, so give it a try if you want to. )

Seashell & Pearl Shop

There is also a shop inside the India Seashell Museum campus. This shop mostly consists of different type of decor items decorated or made from seashells. For instance, it includes picture frames and mirrors decorated in seashells, some show pieces made out of sea shells, keychains and many other such souvenir kind of items. Also, the shop has real pearls and some jewelry made out of these pearls on offer. Then there are other items made out of stone, wood, and general handicraft. Overall, the shop has a good collection. Although we didn’t buy anything, we did take one round of the shop to see the collections on display and we liked what we saw. The prices seem to be reasonable, so, you can buy something from here if you are looking to carry some souvenir with you.

Others

As we talk, there are more and interesting sections being added to the India Seashell Museum. The founder, K Raja Mohamed, has a dream of taking this museum to international standards. He wants to add a projector room to walk the visitors through the fascinating journey and life of these seashells. And there are other interesting sections being added for the kids and children to enjoy the place even better.

Tips on visiting India Seashell Museum

  • It requires time to absorb the wealth of information at display at the India Seashell Museum. So, I will suggest, do keep apart some time, like, a couple of hours for this place.
  • The museum is open around the week from 8:00am in the morning till 8:00pm in the evening.
  • The tickets can be purchased at the entry gate. And the fee is INR 100 per head and INR 100 for still camera for the museum. There are separate entry tickets for the aquarium and the pedicure section. However, if you are interested, you can buy a combined ticket for all the attractions on a nice discounted price.
  • Most of the attractions are indoor, so, you can visit this place in the afternoon where it is too hot outside and uncomfortable to visit rest of the sites.
  • There are restrooms available but I don’t remember seeing any food outlets so you can carry your own snacks and water.

Indian Seashell Museum. That consists of the largest collection of seashells in Asia. It has over 2300 species of sea shells. And there are 40000 plus sea shells in this museum on display. A must see in Mahabalipuram

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11 Awesome things to do in Mahabalipuram.

11 awesome things to do in Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a small town in Kanchipuram district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is a town along the Bay of Bengal coastline. And, it also has many beautiful ancient historical monuments including a temple right on the sea shore. Once upon a time it was a bustling city and seaport for trade between India and South East Asia. Later it was ruled by the Pallava dynasty. Most of the temples and historical spots in the town are devoted to Shiva. We spent a couple of days in Mahabalipuram around the new years eve. And welcomed the new year with a visit to the marvellous architectures that the place has to offer. There are so many things to do in Mahabalipuram. So, here goes my favorite list of things to do when in Mahabalipuram.

Shore Temple

Shore Temple - Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

The must of the things to do in Mahabalipuram is a visit to the Shore Temple. It is the most famous monument of the town. A visit to Mahabalipuram or a list of things to do in Mahabalipuram can’t be complete without a mention to the Shore Temple. As the name suggests, the temple is located right on the sea shore. What makes it special, is the beautiful ancient architecture of the temple and the carvings on the walls. However, what made it extra special for me was the absolute absence of religious gurus to bother you in the temple premises. This temple is a  UNESCO world heritage and also counted as the finest example of Pallava architecture. It was built in 700 AD.

There is a beautiful manicured lawn surrounding the temple. The path to the temple follows a winding track from the entrance gate to the main temple through these lawns. On one side of the temple lies the rocky beaches. While on the other side of the temple campus is the sandy beach. A narrow lane besides the campus of the temple leads to the sandy beach. I guess this is the most crowded beach of Mahabalipuram. One side of the lane leading to the beach is full of shops, but more on them later. On the beach you can get some snacks, icecream and a horse ride to enjoy but there are no proper shacks. I wish the area was developed a little bit to include some nice shacks.

Light house

Actually, not many know that there are two light houses in Mahabalipuram. Both of them would come in the list of things to do in Mahabalipuram. One of them is a modern lighthouse structure. It was built in a later era when the trade with the other countries started. It can be well recognized as a light house from far away. A flight of stairs lead to the top of this light house. You can climb to the top and enjoy the marvelous site beyond.

Lighthouse : Things to see in Mahabalipuram

Lighthouse of Mahabalipuram

The other light house is not into existence anymore. Just besides the existing light house, you see a temple perched atop a huge rock at almost same height as the lighthouse. The top of this temple was used as a lighthouse earlier, before the construction of the former. Lights were placed atop the temple roof and then they were manually operated to help the ship in the ancient era. So, you can say, this one is the other lighthouse that many won’t know about, until.. you happened to visit the heritage museum. This immediately goes into my list of things to do in Mahabalipuram.

Lighthouse : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Old Temple that doubled as a light house

Heritage museum

The heritage museum lies just besides the light house. These consist of two small houses in a sprawling campus. However, they are both house to several very interesting heritage including the model of the first ships that sailed through the famous silk route to reach india, the model of first ships that were ever constructed in India, several equipments that were used in the light house including the ancient lanterns, the clockwork, and several other equipments that were used inside the ship itself, including a model of the full control panel of a ship and another beautiful model of titanic. They go especially in my list of things to do in Mahabalipuram. When I personally researched on what to do in Mahabalipuram, there was hardly any mention of these museums. But we found them very interesting.

Heritage Museum : things to do in Mahabalipuram

A model of the Titanic at the Heritage Museum

Pancha Ratha

These are another set of archeological wonders and must visit when in Mahabalipuram. Actually these are considered fine example of stone cut monolithic structures of ancient India. The Pancha Ratha are a set of 5 different monuments. Each one is called a ratha and is named after the Pandavas and their family. They are the Dharmaraja Ratha, Bheem Ratha, Arjun Ratha, Nakul Sahdev Ratha and Draupadi Ratha respectively.

Pancha Rathas : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Pancha Rathas

While the Bheem ratha is uniquely constructed as an oblong building. The Arjun Ratha and Yudhisthir Ratha are quiet similar with square shape and dome on top. The other two rathas are relatively smaller in size. However, each one is marked by beautiful sculptures  and carvings on the wall. Apart from the rathas, there is a lion and a elephant each carved out of a monolith stone, that seem to be quiet popular amongst the tourists for snaps :). These monuments are also classified as UNESCO world heritage structures along with the Shore Temple and Arjuna’s Penance. Overall, another must have in the list of things to do in Mahabalipuram. If you are like us, I am sure these UNESCO world heritage sites interest you. Here we have a list of UNESCO world heritage sites from around the world for you.

Krishna’s butterball

At a walking distance of around 7minutes from Pancha Ratha lies the Krishna’s butterball. It is a big stone uniquely balanced on an incline, another favorite to take snaps. The single boulder that is called Krishna’s butterball weighs 250 tons. Alongside this stone are several other stones in unique shapes and some natural caves formed by the incline of one massive stone atop the other. The area here has been developed into a nice picnic cum tourist spot with manicured lawns surrounding the whole area marked by stones and sculptures. A small ancient temple also lies in the same campus. A nice place to enjoy as well as relax your feet.

Krishna's butterball : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Krishna’s Butterball

There are interesting stories associated with Krishna’s butterball. It is said that an attempt was made by one of the Pallava king to move the stone, however it couldn’t be moved. Centuries later, a governor of the region reattempted a transfer of this boulder with 7 elephants employed for the cause. Still it couldn’t be moved!!! The name of the boulder is driven from it’s resemblance to a butterball, a favorite snack of Krishna. No doubt, this one is a special one amongst the things to do in Mahabalipuram.

Arjuna’s penance

Just besides the Krishna’s butterball lies Arjuna’s penance. The carvings on the wall here are particularly remarkable. There is a temple chamber also adjoining the sculptures. These sculptures depict scenes from the Mahabharata. The legend depicted on the twin-stone boulders here are that of the descend of the river Ganga to earth , under the guidance of Bagiratha. The elephant carving at Arjuna’s penance is considered the best stone carving in India. The size of the elephant is near real life. And in totality there are about 146 carvings on this particular monument. It is also a part of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Mahabalipuram.

Arjuna's Penance : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s Penance

India Seashell Museum

There is a beautiful Shell Museum on the outskirts of the town which is still evolving. It has a section with huge collection of shells. These shells comprise of all possible varieties that one can think of, in all the different shapes , sizes and wonderful collection. One part of the museum contains the smallest shell of the world on display, which is as small as the size of a grain. And at the other end, the museum also has a collection of immensely large shells. Overall, the collection is totally worth a visit. Thus, one of the best things to do in Mahabalipuram. You will be amazed by the shapes, sizes and colors of the shells.

Shell Museum : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Shell Museum

The museum also has a small aquarium, recently developed. It contains a small collection of different types of fishes. At the entrance of the aquarium is a fish pedicure which is available at an extra cost of INR 100 for 15 minutes at the time of this writing. There are several other sections being developed in the shell museum for better entertainment of the public. Definitely a place worth visiting. Thanks to Arti who had mentioned about this museum in her blog post and that is from where we came to know about it. Do read about the details of the India Seashell Museum here

Cave Temples

There are several cave temples in Mahabalipuram. These temples are also a part of the heritage monuments of the town. Most of these temples are carved out of single stones and some are located inside natural caves formed within these stones. Nevertheless, all of them are marvelous. These consist of temples of Shiva and Krisha along with other deities. However, idols can be seen in only some of these temples. Mostly you will find carvings of idols and other representations in the form of carvings on the sides, walls and pillars of these temples. A flight of stone steps lead up to the temples. They extend over a large area starting right from near Krishna’s butterball up to the light house.

Cave temples : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

One of the cave temples

Spend time on the beach

An obvious inclusion in the list of things to do in Mahabalipuram, since it is a coastal town. Although the beaches on the coast near Mahabalipuram are rocky. Still there are stretches where the beaches the sandy and smooth. However, the current of water is quiet strong. And also, there are no life guards. Still if you are someone like me who doesn’t mind sitting on the beach, doing nothing, just watching the sun play on the water or the waves crash against the bank, then you are not going to be disappointed.

If you are looking for too many activities on the beach, then don’t head here. However, you still might be able to raft or take a ride on a boat along with the local fishermen if you want to, that will be completely on your own risk. Given they might not have any life jackets or other safety measures with them.

The coast along the stretch from Mahabalipuram to Kovalam (a small village just near Chennai) is particularly sandy and idle for taking a walk along the beach. Children can enjoy playing in the sand. Again, don’t expect the beaches here to be super clean. In fact, they are quiet a garbage dump at stretches. So, look for a suitable spot to enjoy your slice of the beach. However, if you choose to stay in one of the beach side resorts on the east coast stretch, you will have plenty of time and easy access to enjoy the waves. Since, most of these resorts are right on the beach, so much so that the waves at night almost reach the property :). We did capture some beautiful sunrises on the beach.

Sunrise at a beach : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Sunrise at a beach near Mahabalipuram

Crocodile farm

Crocodile farm is another interesting addition to things to do in Mahabalipuram. Actually, it is not located exactly in Mahabalipuram. But rather, it is at a distance of some 15-17km from the town, on the east coast road, as one drives from Mahabalipuram towards Chennai. I will still rank it as one of the top things to do in Mahabalipuram. Since, there are not many crocodile farms in India. And there is definitely not one with a reserve as big as this one. If you ask me to define this place crudely, I will say it is somewhere between a zoo and a natural reserve. The crocodiles are breaded and preserved here. However, their habitat doesn’t look as close to a natural one.

There are numerous small water ponds inside the farm. And each holds a different species of the reptile family. At the end, there is a section for snakes. Also, there are some very large and some equally small tortoises housed here. Several of the animals have been adopted by people. Those people provide for the care of these animals. Hence, we hope they will be properly taken care of. Some of the ponds had numerous crocodiles, lying one on top of the other along the bank. It made me wonder if the place had enough space for all of them. Nevertheless, it is nice for a one time visit, particularly if you are an animal lover or you have kids that get excited on the mention of any animal :).

Crocodile farm : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Crocodile Farm near Mahabalipuram

So, overall these are the best of the things to do in Mahabalipuram, as per our personal experience. When you happen to visit Mahabalipuram, don’t forget to visit these places.

Shopping

Last, but not the least, if you want to take some souvenirs with you from Mahabalipuram. Or, if you enjoy shopping in general, read on. I would suggest two things in particular – 1) souvenirs created from sea shells and 2) stone sculptures. The souvenirs made of shells consist of huge range of items including showpieces, vases, key chains, personalized key chains etc. The sculptures range from small palm size to 10 feet tall ones. So, up to you what you want to pick. But these  two definitely are a speciality of the region. You can either shop from the streets lining up to the Shore temple or the shopping complex near the Panch Rathas. Also you can shop from an outlet inside the sea shell museum that primarily specializes in shell based souvenirs.

Tips on visiting

  1. Mahabalipuram is quiet accessible via road from Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. It is just 60km from Chennai and well connected via the east coast road. If traveling from Chennai, it can be covered through a single day trip.
  2. It is also quiet accessible from other major south Indian Cities like Bangalore via road route. Chennai will be the nearest railway station.
  3. The place has a hot and humid tropical climate all year round. The weather is pleasant in the morning and evening during the winter months of November to February, while bearably warm in the day. So, that defines the best season to visit here.
  4. You must wear comfortable cotton clothing, best will be to cover your hands and legs, otherwise you might get a very good dose of tanning. As the sun here seems to be harsh.
  5. All the monuments of Mahabalipuram are located at walking distance of 2-5 minutes from each other. So it is very convenient to move around.
  6. There are plenty of stay options also available in and around the town, suiting all budget ranges.
  7. There are restaurants around the main site seeing area serving South Indian Meals (Thalis), and some in nearby streets that specialize in continental food and sea food.
  8. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated while you visit the different sites.
  9. If you plan to stay overnight, then better choose a property as close to the sea as possible so that you can have easy accessibility to the beach.

11 Marvellous things to do in Mahabalipuram. Shore Temple. Beach. Sunrise. Pancha Rathas. Arjuna's Penance. Krishna's Butterball, Cave Temples, Heritage Museum. Shell Museum. Shopping.

 

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India Seashell Museum Mahabalipuram.