Karnataka Beyond Bangalore
Updated: Jul 13
Brought up in a state where I was not born and fed and sheltered by a state where I was not brought up sometimes leaves me short of words when questioned about my origins. I actually hate the question as I don't have a concise answer to it and I don't want people to judge my origin after telling them an essay about it.
I moved to Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka because my partner worked here and ever since I have been here this has been home. Over the last 7 years of our partnership we have explored the Southern states of India extensively over weekend trips or short getaways.
Karnataka is a state with diverse landscapes, variety of flora and fauna, witness to ancient civilizations and monuments of historical importance.
Here is a glimpse of places I have visited in the state Karnataka and why it should be in your bucket list.
This post includes the following destinations -
Coorg is one of the first destinations we visited from Bangalore. The lush green mountain ranges of Coorg is part of the Western Ghats and is known for its coffee and spices plantations. Its a vast destination for a traveler to explore in a single visit but the beauty all around will definitely mesmerize you even if you have explored this on a short weekend tour.
Places in and around Coorg -
Kushalnagara - The way leading to Coorg passes through Kushalnagar which has one of the biggest Tibetan Buddhist temple with a beautiful campus, named as Namdroling Monastery. Also the river island of Nisargadhama in Kushalnagara is an amalgamation of nature and man-made attractions. A forest like environment surrounded by water, petted animals like rabbits, birds, deer, a few high tree houses to explore the distances.
Around Coorg - The small town of Coorg is a major attraction for Talacauvery, the origin of River Kaveri in Brahmagiri hills and the Triveni Sangam at Bhagamandala which houses a beautiful Hindu temple and is a junction of three rivers meeting. The gigantic Abbey falls, sunset view at the Raja's seat and surrounding garden and stretches of coffee plantations are some of the major attractions.
Irrupu falls - Its a beautiful trek through the Brahmagiri mountains to reach this beautiful waterfall which descends from a height.
Nagarhole National Park - We visited this huge forest reserve on our way back from Coorg. The safari through the dense forest and exploring wildlife of the western ghats is an awesome experience. It should be on ones bucketlist.
This is the second most known city in Karnataka after Bangalore. Only the locals will tell you how Mysore was about to be the capital city of Karnataka but for the IT boom in Bengalore the latter was chosen.
Mysore served as the capital city of the Kingdom of Mysore for six centuries. The rich cultural heritage and ambiance has rightly earned the title of 'Cultural Capital of Karnataka'.
The city is specially known for its historical importance where most rulers in the Deccan or southern India operated from Mysore. A visit to Tipu Sultan's palace is a look back at the bravery of Tipu Sultan's war against the British. The glory and grandeur of the magnificent Mysore Palace, the royal home of the Wadiyar Dynasty is worth your time and admiration for the delicate carvings and display of artwork. The citywide royal celebration of the Dusshera festival every year attracts many people from all over the country.
Mysore is also a nature lover's paradise for its beautiful gardens specially the Brindavan Garden, the huge Mysore zoo campus is a must visit among children and adults equally for the various species of animals staying there. My personal favourite is the Srirangapatna Bird Sanctuary where you can take a boat ride among the crocodiles while watching various migratory birds.
Many ancient Hindu temples are worth a visit here as well. Chamundi hills attracts many tourists specially for the evening view of the city it offers from the hill top.
Art and Craft is an integral part of Mysore. Woven Mysuru silk sarees, cotton textile are well known. Sandlewood products like soap, incense sticks, decorative items and even ivory decor are manufactured here.
The town of wooden toys, Channapatna is on the way from Mysore to Bangalore and its my definite stop to pick some wooden artifacts or dolls. The artisans here had suffered largely due to decreasing market demands but have been revived by some entrepreneurs who have familiarized this art in the global market with newer designs.
Bandipur National Park which is part of Nilgiri forest reserves is near Mysore and can be explored on your way to Ooty or Wayanad. We have crossed this forest usually during the early morning hours and spotted many animals on our journeys.
This place is a part of the Western Ghats mountain ranges and a popular hill station known for its dense green flora along the hills. The cultivation of coffee originated here in India and hence it is known as the 'Land of Coffee'.
Beautiful misty hills surrounded by lush green stretches meadows, dense forests, waterfalls is what attracts nature lovers and adventurers to Chikmagalur.
Some of the places we explored are as follows -
Halebidu - On our way to Chikmagalur, we explored the ancient abandoned Hoysaleswara temple here. This beautifully carved Shiva temple has stories from Hindu scriptures on its intricately detailed walls and stands at the banks of a manmade lake by the then King of the Hoysala Empire. It was ruined by the army of Alluddin Khilji of Delhi Sultanate and damage is still visible on the broken stone wall carvings.
Around Chikmagalur, we explored around the picturesque Mullayangiri, which is the highest peak here, Baba Budangiri ranges which is also a pilgrim site known for the caves dedicated to Baba Budangiri and his Darga, the magical Kalhatti falls of the Kemmanagundi mountains where one can walk through the falls to worship a temple standing in the middle of the waterfall, the chilling misty trek at Manikyadhara Falls and the surrounding hills which was refreshing for the soul. A beautiful evening visit to the Hirakolola Lake for the lovely view of the sunset at the lake is a memory forever.
On the way back we halted at the huge Yagachi dam which is a major source of water supply to Belur district. Its worth a short stroll around the garden adjacent to the dam.
On another tour, we had an opportunity to explore the Kadamagundi waterfall of Didupe which is part of the Kudremukh National park. This offbeat experience has been documented in a separate post.
Read here - The hidden hamlet of the mountains (Didupe)
The town of Hampi (~4000 acre in area) is a lost-in-time capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. One will definitely want to relate it to the Harappan Civilization and recent studies show these places had some connection. After being the longest surviving Hindu empire in southern India, Vijayanagara was defeated and destroyed by the invasion of Muslim Sultanate and the capital of Hampi was burnt to ashes for more than six months. After this, the place was never again inhibited until date. You will see travelers from around the world exploring the place and enjoying the hippie lives all through the day here but by sunset the place remains deserted in its memories of its own glory.
Hampi is a UNESCO world heritage site and is also referred as an open air museum due to the vast display of excavated remains of Vijayanagara Kingdom.
Recommend - Please read the wiki pages on Hampi to connect more to this place.
Hampi is vast and so are it surrounding villages. Here are the places we visited -
We had explored the ruins of Hampi like the Virupaksha Temple and its view from Hampi bazaar, Vitthala Temple known for its stone chariot and musical pillars, Lotus Mahal, Elephants stable, Queen's Bath, remains of the old palace, Hemakuta temple complexes housing various monolith structures like the Kadalekalu Ganesh, Sasivekalu Ganesh, the submerged Shiva Linga and the huge Lakshmi Narasimha structure. These are well renowned attractions some of which date back to as old as 7th century. Some of these structures are in delicate conditions and efforts are made by the government to preserve them,so you may not be allowed to enter some buildings.
What was exciting being here was that we explored the surrounding villages as much as the Vijayanagara historic ruins. Driving through the villages of Anegudi also known as Kishkinda in Gangavathi taluka gave a glimpse of the nearby village life. The Anjanadri hill temple of Hanuman (Monkey God) finds its reference in the Ramayana. The 570 steps hill climb to this mountain gives a spectacular view of Kishkinda. Similarly the Tungabhardra River and its Dam in this region lined by lush green fields on one side and huge mountains of boulders on the other had bespectacled us beyond our imaginations.
Other traveler attractions in Hampi are the Hippie village where one can stay in tents, a coracle sailing adventure in the Tungabhadra river or simply exploring the colourful handicrafts sold by the locals around Hampi Market. The cafes in Hampi serve the most delicious traditional Indian meals and the decors of these places are fascinating.
We spent few afternoons exploring the archaeological museums nearby which has extensive collection of the excavated remains of Vijayanagara Kingdom.
All these place are easily accessible by roads from Bangalore. We have taken these trips over long weekend coupled with a few leaves.
A lot more of Karnataka still remains unexplored to me. Though Karnataka does not pull a lot of global tourists, it has a lot to be explored with respect to its diverse landscapes, dense forests and wildlife and equally mesmerizing coastline. This Indian state can even be considered for any offbeat travel plans like the one we had in Didupe.
Lately, Coorg and Hampi have special mentions on various global platforms as the upcoming destinations on the world tourism map.
Note: This post contains only the destinations I have visited in Karnataka till date. The post will be updated or furnished based on my future travels
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