Karnataka is one of the states in southern India and is a famous tourist destination.
The state is blessed with a very long coastline and has 16 mountain ranges, which makes it a travelers paradise for one who loves nature. Apart from this, the ancient temples of Karnataka are a huge draw amongst tourists. The carvings in these temples are very intricate and are a treat to watch.
Add to this the not so recently built palaces, the rich culture of the state, and the absolutely fantastic food. All this makes Karnataka one of the must-visit states in India.
A small note here, Ooty or Udhagamandalam the very famous hill station is in the neighboring state of Tamilnadu but is generally visited along with Karnataka, due to Ooty’s proximity to Karnataka. So, for all practical purposes, we have included this in our Karnataka diary.
Where does one start
First things first.
One cannot have enough of the filter coffee or kaapi as know locally. Available everywhere in Karnataka, you should not miss out on this amazingly refreshing hot drink. A morning breakfast of idli, dosa, upma, and sheera, topped with filter kaapi makes for a perfect start to the day.
How to travel in Karnataka
As anywhere in India, hiring a cab for long-distance travel is an easy and comparatively cheaper option. Public transportation for intercity travel is not up to the mark and taxi services are available aplenty, especially in Karnataka. An online search will provide a wide range of options. Moreover, the cab drivers might suggest some places that may not be very famous but turn out to be very interesting. And yes, they also know the best places to eat.
What to see
Bangalore or Bengaluru is the capital of the Karnataka state and is quite famous the world over as it has turned into one of the major software development centers. Bengaluru, once famously known as the Garden City, which it still is, but the ills of a fast-growing city can be seen here. It has become too crowded and the traffic in some sections of the city is a nightmare.
Bangalore is well connected by air, train, and roads to nearly all parts of the world and India. This can surely be your starting point to visit Southern India (States of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Pondicherry).
A day can be spent in Bengaluru watching some of the important touristy spots in the city or one can proceed onwards. Like we did.
Belur and Halebid
We proceeded straight from the Bengaluru airport to the famous temples of Belur and Halebid, but, not before having the famous, tasty, aromatic, and refreshing filter coffee.
Belur is about 200 km’s from Bangalore city and will require about 5 hours of travel time. Keep aside a minimum of 3-4 hours for the temples of these towns, particularly the temple at Belur, which has some very intricate and delicate carvings in stone. It is difficult to imagine stones being delicate but seeing in believing.
And it is more amazing when you realize that all the stone carvings were done by hand. Not an inch of the temple is left without a carving. Though built in the 12th century, the temple and carvings are still in very good condition. Be sure to hire a guide at the temple who will be providing you with all the details of the carvings and the history behind them.
Hassan, a town near Belur has some good hotels to stay in and have your food or one can proceed to Coorg, depending on the time you are done with Belur.
Coorg is 130kms from Belur and takes 3 hours of your journey time.
Madikeri is the town to stay in the mountainous district of Coorg. Though not as well known as Ooty, Coorg is a small hill station in its own right. Famous for its food and spice gardens, Coorg has a very pleasant climate. Food in India, it is said, changes every 100 km and this is right. Even within a single state, taste and eating habits change and sometimes the changes are drastic. This may be due to the spices grown in that particular region and Indians do like to spice up their food. Coorg food has a distinct flavor and you should surely try this.
Apart from food and coffee, visit the Raja point which has a small garden overlooking the hills Other places of interest are the Coorg Fort, and Abbey falls.
We stayed at an amazing Airbnb, Notting Hill. This was the best stay in our Karnataka tour and the food served by the guardian of the place was absolutely tasty. Do let him know beforehand the time of your arrival and he will prepare the food. Hot, and ready to be served. We surely recommend the stay and also the authentic Coorg flavored food at Notting hill Airbnb.
On the way from Madikeri to Mysore, do visit the Tibetian monastery. In case you are not taking this route then, include this in your Coorg itinerary. The Namdroling Monastery is a must-see for spiritual and mental satisfaction. The statues are huge and so is the structure. It is about 35 km from Madekeri.
Just a few steps away from the temple one can also satisfy your palate with some very good Tibetan food at the Rigo Restaurant. Ask for their specialties and do taste the steamed buns.
Mysore or Mysuru
Mysore is a city that is still a town. This erstwhile capital city of Karnataka still has the charm of a town in some sections of the city. Ruled by the kings from the Vadiyar dynasty for more than 500 years, Mysore boasts of the huge and opulent Mysore Palace. The real meaning of ‘living like a king’ can be understood in the about 3-hour tour of the palatial lifestyle of the kings of yesteryears.
Do remember to visit the palace in the evenings. The palace is fully lighted and its splendor is highly accentuated by the thousands of light bulbs illuminating it.
After the palace tour, visit the church in the nearby vicinity to have a look at a different type of architecture.
Another famous landmark is the Chamundeshwari temple which is on a small hillock near Mysore. This temple is visited for viewing architecture and for getting blessings of the Gods.
Some other important things to do in Mysore are shopping for the famous Mysore silk, purchase some carved sandalwood, and eat the famous Mysore Pak, a dessert made with gram powder and ghee.
Bandipur Tiger Reserve and National Park
The highlight of our Karnataka visit was the few hours we spent in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. It’s a jungle spread over an area of 874 sq. km and has a variety of animals including tigers, elephants, deers, antelopes, bison, peacocks, and a variety of Indian birds.
As private vehicles are not permitted inside the reserve, one has to hire from the vehicles provided by the governing authority of the reserve. Try to book an open vehicle for your safari. A driver and a tourist guide are provided with the vehicle who do a pretty good job of spotting some of the hidden wildlife. Although we were not lucky enough to spot any tigers, other animals were aplenty and the drive through the jungle itself was quite exciting.
Ooty and Coonoor
Although these two hill stations are separated by just 20 km, the difference between these two is much much more than the distance. Ooty is the more famous one and has a lot to offer. It has a lake, which is mandatory for Indian hill stations, a large botanical garden, a tea factory, many places to visit, and lots of shopping avenues. It is always hustling bustling with activities and on weekends and holidays, there are traffic jams to witness. Staying options are aplenty in Ooty, but, due to the over-commercialization of the city, we felt that the heart of a hill station is missing in Ooty.
On the other hand, Coonoor is a quaint little town that still maintains the charm of an ideal hill station. It has a lot of tea plantations, a serene atmosphere, lesser traffic, and colonial traces make Coonoor an ideal spot for a couple of day’s stay. Staying options are limited so are the activities, but for me, Coonoor is the place.