Mahabalipuram, formally known as Mamallapuram, sits just 58km south of Chennai and is conveniently both a beach destination and home to a group of spectacular monuments inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It’s the perfect beginning or end to a trip in South India, providing both a restful retreat as well as an insight into the ancient Pallava Kingdom that dominated the region in the 7th and 8th centuries. The sanctuary is particularly known for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries) and giant open-air reliefs. The most famous is Shore Temple, which is an incredible piece of architectural beauty, sitting with the deep blue ocean as its backdrop. There are several large but good hotels that sit close to the sandy and breezy Bay of Bengal, and these are a good place to unwind.