Madikeri or Mercara is Coorg’s heartland and was once the seat of the ruling Kodava dynasty here. Madikeri’s biggest attractions are the Madikeri Fort, Raja's seat, Abbey Falls, and the Omkareshwara Temple.
The Cauvery originates in the Brahmagiri Hills at Talacauvery and is revered as a goddess at the shrine here; Dubare is famous for the Elephant Training Camp and the thrills of seasonal whitewater rafting down the Cauvery; Coorg’s highest peak Thadiyendamol stands in Kakkabe, luring trekkers with the promise of a glimpse of the coastline; and Chettali’s orange and coffee research institute is a must-visit.
Hundreds of miles from the Himalayas, the last thing you would expect to stumble upon in interior Karnataka is the largest Tibetan settlement in India! But here you are, in Bylakuppe, home to Tibetan settlers and the Namdroling Monastery or Golden Temple that houses statues of legendary Buddhist masters. Namdroling has a community of over five thousand lamas, a school, religious college, and hospital.
Expect to see animals such as the Asiatic elephant, tiger, leopard, wild boar, barking deer, sloth bear, and four-horned antelope in the dense forests and grasslands of Coorg’s three wildlife sanctuaries (Talacauvery, Pushpagiri, and Brahmagiri) and one national park, at Nagarhole (or the Rajiv Gandhi National Park) that exemplify the bio-diverse eco-system found only in the Western Ghats.
Enjoy a homestay on one of the many gorgeous coffee estates that dot Coorg; go on a plantation tour and listen to the locals share its history with you. Indulge in angling, be a birder, discover trekking trails, and savour lovely Kodava cuisine.
The last yet most glorious and prosperous capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565) that extended from the Deccan Plateau to the tip of the Peninsula, Hampi was ruled by several kings from four dynasties over a period of nearly 300 years. Krishnadevaraya and his half-brother Achyutaraya were its most legendary monarchs. They were finally defeated in the battle of Talikota in 1564-65. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy, Hampi was greatly pillaged before being abandoned altogether.
Today, the extraordinary beauty of Hampi’s surreal ruins stands testament to the imperial magnificence of the Vijayanagara Empire, whose rulers were great patrons of art and architecture.
Against the backdrop of the rippling Tungabhadra, the ancient capital’s spectacular setting is spread over rocky terrain dominated by craggy hill ranges, colossal boulders, and open plains.
Here lie royal and sacred complexes, temples, market complexes, shrines, pillared halls, baths, a zenana enclosure, chariots, mandapas, monasteries, gateway towers, defence check posts, stables, water tanks etc.
Although the dominant style is Dravidian, the incorporation of the Indo-Islamic style in a few monuments as well as the presence of Islamic and Jain monuments are representative of a highly evolved multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.
The Vitthala Temple here is the most artistically sophisticated and exquisitely ornate structure and represents the culmination of the distinctive Vijayanagara style of building. The towering Virupaksha Temple is the oldest shrine and the prime destination for pilgrims and tourists.
The erstwhile princely state of Mysuru, the seat of the Wodeyar rulers, was renamed Karnataka in 1973. Under the Wodeyars, especially Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704), Mysuru became the grand centre for art, architecture, culture, and literature. Home to the Wodeyars, the Indo-Saracenic Mysuru Palace built in 1912 is a treasure trove of art antiques and rare collectibles.
Revealing its delights languidly, Mysuru today is a place of beauty and refinement; a gently devout, highly literate, and quietly captivating city that continues to remain enmeshed in glorious old-world charm, tradition, and elegance.
Take a walking tour to explore the pleasures of Mysuru at leisure. You can admire its splendid architectural history, browse through the Devaraja Market (famed for spices, sandalwood, and flowers), and eat absolutely terrific traditional or street fare; especially outstanding though is the web of old bakeries (Iyengar Bakeries) established by Mysuru’s Vaishnavite community, the Iyengars. Don’t miss!
Mysuru is renowned for its exceptional silks, hand-rolled perfumed incense sticks, and essential oils; it is also the home of ashtanga yoga – yoga lovers the world over make pilgrimage to Mysuru, often to learn from a specific teacher.
But to truly experience the feel of Mysuru and its people, climb the 1,001-steps path up the Chamundi Hill to the beautiful Chamundeshwari Temple – ideally starting before dawn, joining pilgrims and daily walkers as the city rises with the sun. The spectacular 10-day Dasara Festival held here is world famous; it is when tourists and pilgrims descend on Mysuru.