Karnataka is an oasis of spectacular coast lines, lush forests, breath taking mountain ranges, gushing waterfalls and a plethora of temples and heritage sites. Though I’ve traveled the length and breadth of this picturesque state over the last few years, my odyssey still continues. There are paths still left to be traversed and places still waiting to be explored. In the meanwhile, here is my one-stop blog of 24 destinations in Karnataka to tease your travel bone. Read on!
1. Hampi : Hampi tops my list as the undisputed pride of Karnataka. This UNESCO heritage site embraces a world in itself! Whilst wandering in its ruins, Hampi takes you back to its rich past, giving you a taste of the glorious Vijayanagara dynasty that once flourished here. Distance from Bangalore : 350 kms
Click here for an exhaustive guide on Hampi: http://gauricosmos.com/2015/10/11/hypnotism-at-hampi
Not to miss:
- Vittala Temple and its famous stone chariot.
- Virupaksha Temple with its never ending Gopuram or Tower.
- Mahanavmi Dibba, Hazara Rama temple, Achyutaraya Temple, Krishna Bazar and Pushkarni
- Sunrise from the top of Mathanga & Anjaneya hills. Sunset at Hemkuta Hill.
- Get to the other side of Hampi and explore Anegundi and Sanapur Lake.
- Gorge on the yummiest food at Mango tree at Hampi Bazar.
- Wildlife enthusiasts can visit the Daroji Bear Sanctuary nearby.
2. Pattadakkal-Aihole-Badami : One can only stare blank-faced at the cluster of monuments at Pattadakkal that exude the essence of the Chalukya epoch. A guided tour is strongly recommended to indulge in this timeless creation of history. Just 22 kms ahead, lies Badami, with its man made caves in almond coloured sandstone rocks. Walking up the steps to the top of the caves is tiresome, but the striking bird’s eye view of the Agastya Lake and the Bhootnath temple down below is worth it. The last cave at the top has magnificent and intrinsic carvings of Buddha along with other deities. The Jain temples or Basadis of Aihole are interesting enough. Distance from Bangalore : 440 kms.
3. Agumbe, also know as the Cherrapunji of South, is famous for its alluring sunsets. I personally recommend visiting Agumbe during monsoons, when the immaculate rainforest comes to life. Agumbe is home to a variety of snakes including the King Cobra, rare species of frogs and insects. The best way to explore Agumbe is by venturing deep into the forests with an experienced local guide. The thousand leeches encountered during this trek would be a permanent cure for something I term as “Leech-o-phobia!” Distance from Bangalore : 360 kms.
Not to miss:
- Kavaledurg fort : Beautiful fort at an elevation with impressive architecture and temple ruins.
- Doddamane Heritage home – ‘Malgudi days’ the legendary TV series of the 80’s was shot in this home which is over a hundred years old. Advance booking required if you plan to stay here.
- Rainforest research station : One may spot a viper discreetly slumbering under a a thatched roof.
- Waterfalls : Agumbe has pristine waterfalls in its womb – Sirimane, Jogigundi, Barkana, Onke Abbi to name a few.
- Visit Sringeri temple.
4. Hoggenakkal : Revive the song “Choti Si Asha” from the movie Roja. The breathtaking gorge with lamp-lit coracles gliding through it at twilight was filmed here. One part of Hogenakkal falls in Tamilnadu and thus, is accessible through two routes. Jump into a coracle for a ride through stunning cliffs and get right under base of one of the many waterfalls. Head to the watch tower for some picturesque views of the gorge. Catch a glimpse of fishermen casting their nets into the river by the edge of the rocks. Distance from Bangalore : 130 kms.
Read more here: https://gauricosmos.com/2015/07/06/the-hogenakkal-trance/
Not to miss:
- Coracle ride and view from the watch tower
- Try Obattu (Roti stuffed with dal and jaggery filling) from a local eatery.
5. Jog Falls: Who doesn’t know about the 2nd highest waterfall of India! This herculean fall is located in Shimoga district of Uttara Kannada. River Sharavati plunges from a whopping 830 feet, splitting into four waterfalls, namely, Raja, Rani, Rocket and Roarer- collectively called as Jog falls. The falls look ferocious in monsoons. During other seasons, one can trek to the base by climbing down 1500-odd rock steps for a different perspective of the falls. Distance from Bangalore : 426 kms.
6. Banavasi : Not far away from Jog, is the ancient town on Banavasi. The Madhukeshwara temple; the landmark of Banavasi, still preserves its primeval charm. A huge Nandi proudly sits at the entrance of the temple. Banavasi is skirted by forests and the serene Varada river flowing behind it. Distance from Bangalore : 413 kms.
7. Bandipur-Masinagudi-Nagarhole-Kabini belt : This forest zone is undoubtedly the most admired and preferred escape for Bangaloreans. The long stretch of silk smooth road right from Masina all the way upto Wayanad passes though dense Nilgiri forests. The biosphere is rich for endemic animals and birds. Sighting of elephants, deer and bison are very common and if you are lucky, you may spot a leopard too! Sadly, the monopoly of Jungle Lodges and Resorts(JLR) makes accommodation an expensive affair, however, Masinagudi has some rugged options in the forest fringes. A jungle safari or a long drive on this stretch is something that cannot be missed while exploring Karnataka. Distance from Bangalore : 230 kms onwards
8. Kokkere Bellur : I had never seen such a dense population of Painted Storks and Pelicans until I landed in Kokkere Belur. The place is so synonymous with storks, that it got its name from them! Kokkere, is a small village in Maddur taluk of Mandya district. Surprisingly, there is no sanctuary here. The villagers have been protecting and helping the breeding of these migratory birds since decades as they believe that these birds are the augury of good luck to them. Visit between November to March to witness the colonies of storks, pelicans, herons, ibis, egrets and cormorants in thousands! Distance from Bangalore : 90 kms.
Not to miss :
- Drool over the famous Maddur Vade, a deep fired crispy vada garnished with onions and curry leaves.
- Visit during the breeding season from November to Feb.
9. Jayamangali : Thankfully, there are few secret destinations around Bangalore that are still hidden from the eyes of tourists. One among them is Jayamangali- a grassland that encompasses a black buck sanctuary. Staying inside the sanctuary in the forest rest house provides a brilliant opportunity to witness these shy, endangered deer species. The sanctuary is also a home for bird like the blue-faced Malkoha and grey hornbills apart from other varieties of birds like hoopoes, drongos, minivets, bee-eaters etc. Jayamangali also has endless grape orchards and a few wineries too. Distance from Bangalore : 100 kms.
10. Mysore is the crown of Karnataka due to the renowned Mysore Palace- a hallmark of the Woodiyar dynasty. Tourists flock to the palace for a grand cultural show during the Dassera festival. But there is more to Mysore than just this. Delicacies like ‘Mysore Pak’ and ‘Mysore Dosa’ were born here. Visit the peaceful St. Philomena’s Church or head to the Mysore zoo or Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary for a tete-a-tete with migratory water birds. Distance from Bangalore : 156 kms.
11. Ranganathitu : Just 20 kms away from Mysuru, lies the Ranganathithu Bird Sanctuary. Like Kokkere Bellur, this sanctuary also buzzes with a population of migratory birds – Pelicans, Storks, Spoonbills and others, but is far more commercialised compared to the former. With a good variety of Kingfishers, terns and other bush birds, its a haven for birders. Guided boat tours are available throughout the day and crocodile spotting is guaranteed! Distance from Bangalore : 150 kms.
Not to miss :
- Nesting season of the migratory birds from June through November
- Pay a visit to the Srirangapatnam temple.
12. Explore the coastal belt of Uttara Kannada, adorned with a spectacular shoreline of azure waters and white sands. Fortunately, the entire coastline is open for exploration all the way upto Karwar as none of these beaches are commercialised except for one or two. Gobble on sinful seafood while hopping from one beach to another and tick off your ultimate beach trip! Marvanthe, St. Mary’s Island, Tannir Bavi, Ottinene, Kaup and Kumta are a few must-visit beaches. The trip can extend upto Goa- a Shangri-La for any beach bum! Distance from Bangalore : 360 km
13. Chikmagalur is any Bangalorean’s favourite weekend getaway. You can choose to either laze in a cozy homestay in the midst of a coffee estate or trek to the breathtaking hills of Mullayangiri, Baba-Budangiri, Kodachadri or Kemmangundi. Alternatively you can drive on the rolling mountains of Kudremukh or explore the lush, deciduous Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. The beauty of Chikmagalur becomes indescribable in the monsoons! Distance from Bangalore : 255 km.
Read here for detailed itinerary: https://gauricosmos.com/2017/08/20/exploring-the-other-side-of-chikmagalur/
14. Coorg or Kodagu is also called as “A poor man’s Ooty”. This is where Namma Bengaluru techies run to chill over a long weekend! Coorg, alike Chikmagalur, is well-known for its coffee plantations apart from its non-vegetarian Coorgi food. Coorg also has some scenic waterfalls like Abbey, Iruppu and Chelaveri. A visit to Talacauvery- the origin of the river Kaveri and trekking Thadiandamol peak are the top things to do while in Coorg. Distance from Bangalore : 243 kms.
Not to miss :
- Dubare Elephant Camp
- Stumptous Coorgi delicacies.
15. Ramanagara : Who does not know of the acclaimed movie “Sholay”! But not many know that most of the scenes of Gabbar’s hideout in the rocky terrains of the so-called Chambal where actually shot here in Ramanagara. Well, there’s more to this place than just this. It is home for a few endemic species of Vultures which are on the brink of extinction. Ramanagara also has a few interesting trekking routes that pass through the naked rocks and boulders. Distance from Bangalore : 55 kms.
Not to miss :
- Purchasing wooden toys from Chennapatna near Ramanagara.
16. Bheemeshwari : An experience to be enjoyed on the banks of the river Kaveri is fishing. Bheemeshwari fishing camp satiates this urge. Since it is tucked into dense forests, Bheemeshwari also provides for good opportunities for trekking, cycling, birding and camping. A good amount of nature camps have spurted in the vicinity apart from JLR(Jungle Lodges and Resorts). Distance from Bangalore : 100 kms.
Not to miss :
- Dubare Elephant Camp
- Early morning birding at Galibore
17. Barachukki and Gaganachukki Falls : These two untamed and powerful falls are located in the Mandya district of Karnataka. The falls are a result of the Sivanasamudra islands splitting the river Kaveri. The falls flow with extreme vigour in monsoons and can be admired only from the viewpoint. Distance from Bangalore : 400 kms.
18. Kodachadri : Trek through lush green paddy fields to the pristine mountain peaks nestled into the dense Shola forests of the western ghats. The trek route becomes challenging and tough in the monsoons but is enjoyable. Nagara Fort at the base of Kodachadri is worth a visit. The virgin Hindlumane waterfalls situated deep into the forests can be encountered during the trek. A small temple situated at the peak of Kodachadri is believed to have been the place where Adi Shankaracharya once meditated. A must-do during monsoons. Distance from Bangalore : 440 kms.
Not to miss :
- Hindulmane falls monsoon trek
19. Biligiri Rangana Hills : Head here when you hear the mountains calling! The range is the confluence of Eastern and Western ghats with narrow winding roads passing through dense scrubs. The dense foliage is home to a wide variety of birds like woodpeckers, thrushes, tree -pies, larks and other bush birds- a paradise for any birder. One may bump into a barking deer, a wild pig or an elephant during an open canter safari operated by the Government. Visit the famous Ranganaswamy temple atop the BR hills. Distance from Bangalore : 186 kms.
20. Shravan Belegol: Witness the 58-feet mammoth monolithic statue of Gomateshwara or Bahubali built on the top of a hillock. The feet of the statue has inscriptions in the ancient Devanagari script. There are quite a few “Basadi” or temples in the vicinity, given a glimpse of Jainism in Karnataka. If you are lucky, you might just be greeted by a Jackal wandering in the fields! A few lakes around this place also provide ample opportunities for birding. Distance from Bangalore : 157 kms.
21. Halebid : Just 80 kms away from Shravan Belegol, an astounding experience awaits you. A visit to Halebid- the by-gone capital of Hoysala, is a memorable journey through the brilliant Hoysala architecture. The intrinsic sculpture on the walls of the temples with depiction of Hindu Mythology is sure to leave you flabbergasted! A huge monolithic Nandi at the entrance of the temple is eye-catching. Distance from Bangalore : 150 kms.
22. Talakkadu and Somnathpura : Talakadu is a temple town on the sandy banks of Kaveri, with some interesting mythological stories floating around it. It is believed that once a rich town, Talakkadu was buried under the sands due to the curse of a queen. Though the temples have been excavated, many of these still lie submerged under the dunes.
Somnathapura is another masterpieces of the Hoysala architecture. The aesthetic Channakeshava temple with intricate and complex sculptures and carvings is epic. Distance from Bangalore : 150 km
24. Shettihalli : 20 kms away from Hassan, a 100 year old ruined gothic church stands proudly near the Hemavathi dam. Anyone interested in photography needs to travel here twice- once to see the church in its full vigour and once to see its beauty when it gets submerged into the backwaters of the dam in the monsoon. Shettihalli also surprises you with its marigold fields en-route to the church. Distance from Bangalore : 200 kms
23. Bijapur : Get dumbstruck by the geometrical wonder, Gol Gumbaz, one of the many monuments and sites of Bijapur- the city that was built under the strong influence of the Mughal dynasty. The tomb or ‘Gumbaz’ is strategically built in such a way that it disappears out of sight when seen from a particular angle and distance. In the central chamber inside the monument, the slightest of sound echoes seven times! Approximately 140 kms ahead of Bijapur, lies the magnificent and sturdy fort of Naldurg lined with impressive canons and ruins that speak of a glorious era. Distance from Bangalore : 520 kms.