Karnataka is one of those rare Indian states where you will find something for everyone, from historical palaces to wildlife centuries to ancient ruins. At its nerve centre, lies the city of Bangalore that is India’s IT hub, with nearly 8 million people living inside it. In the south, is the much beautiful coastal line and hill districts, representing a quintessential India – of lush tropical vegetation and dominating temple sites. In its east, lies the gorgeous Western Ghats – home to world’s finest coffee and spices.
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY IN KARNATAKA
Luxury Train Ride With The Golden Chariot: If money is no problem for you, and you want to explore Karnataka on a fast track while feeling like a royal personality, then there’s no better way doing it than in a luxury train. The Golden Chariot (one of the five luxury Maharaja trains operating in India) takes you through an epic journey across all the major highlights in Karnataka, including the town of Mysore, Hampi, Bandipur, Chickmangalur and Hassan. If I were to recommend only one experience in Karnataka then it’s perhaps going to be this.
Experiencing Life In Bangalore: Bangalore is the biggest cosmopolitan in south India and is my favourite city in India. Unlike other big cities, there are enough things to do in Bangalore for a tourist. What makes it even better is the fact that it has an educated young crowd, perfect weather, and a benevolent drinking and dining scene. It is not necessarily a place you would come to experience a world-class city, but if you want to experience modern India, look no further.
Beaches of Gokarna: Around 150 km south of Goa, lies the beautiful beaches of Gokarna. You can picture it as a more laid-back and less-commercialised version of Goa where people come for a relaxing holiday, over full-scale parties – and that makes Gokarna many traveller’s preferred choice. Its real Indian vibe has not been yet completely washed away as the waves upon waves of westerner hippies flock in the country.
Kodagu District: Also known as Coorg, Kodagu is situated on the eastern slope of the Western Ghats, with coffee and Pepper plantations surrounding it from all directions. Come here to spend a weekend at one of the many hillside resorts or a homestay, or perhaps for some adventure river rafting, quad biking and trekking. One of my favourite places in the district of Coorg is Kabbinakad.
The Town Of Bylakuppe: Located in the Kodagu District itself, Bylakuppe is popular for its Tibetan population. You can call it Dharamshala of the south, without the Himalayas. The town has south India’s biggest monastery and accommodates the highest number of Tibetan refugees in India, after Dharamshala.
Hampi: About 7-hour journey from Bangalore takes you to the city of Hampi – a fantasy world of rocks and ruins. The town is all about an uncountable number of impressive long lost ruins (most of which are a UNESCO world heritage site) banana plantations and paddy fields, surrounded by big/small size boulders, all perched on top of each other as far as the eye could go. Other than that, expect a lively atmosphere with a chilled out and a relaxing vibe – thanks to the many western hippies who end up staying in Hampi for weeks and months.
Chikmagalur: Chikmagalur’s favourable climate and coffee estates attracts tourists from around the country. Here you will find Karnataka’s highest peak, Mullayanagiri, which stands at 2000 metres above the sea level; the mesmerizing Kalhatti falls, and Bhadra wildlife century – for those who are into wildlife, particularly tigers.
Udupi: A prominent pilgrim site, Udupi is home to the atmospheric 13th-century Krishna Temple. It’s a hive of ritual activity, with temple musicians playing at the entrance, elephants on hand for puja (prayers), and pilgrims constantly passing through. If you’re into culture and want to see the real south Indian religious culture, look no further.
COST OF TRAVELLING IN KARNATAKA
Food: Food in Karnataka is cheap – particularly in the big and non-touristic towns. You can eat something local and basic for under 50 Rupees. An average meal in restaurants can cost between 100 to 200 Rupees. I remember spending an average of 100 Rupees per meal in most of the cities, except for Hampi – where most of the restaurants (serving to a prominent hippie crowd) had everything strangely overpriced.
Accommodation: Accommodation in Karnataka, can be cheap to moderately expensive. If you’re visiting the Western Ghats then expect to pay a little more, given a scarcity of cheap lodges in the area. Around the Western Ghats you might have to pay around 1000 Rupees per night, for a basic room. Beaches and historical cities like Hampi can be slightly cheaper to stay.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL IN KARNATAKA
Given the tropic and hot weather of Karnataka, the ideal time to travel is only between October and March, when the climate is pleasant and temperatures remain at its minimum. The monsoon season between June and August is also sometimes favoured by those who love to hang out in rain, but exploring the rainforests in the Western Ghats, which lies on its eastern border can be tough.