If you’re looking for variety in your Indian travel experience, Karnataka fits the bill nicely. The state’s capital and international entry point is the IT powerhouse of Bengaluru (Bangalore), a modern, energetic city best savoured for its restaurants and shops. Ancient architectural gems are abundant, including the World Heritage–listed monuments of Hampi and Pattadakal. Practically untouched beaches and devout temple towns dot Karnataka’s quiet tropical coast, while in the cool highlands of Kodagu (Coog) you can trek between lush coffee and spice plantations along paths trampled by migrating elephants.
Bedecked in dazzling finery, elephants are also the stars of the show in Mysore’s justly famous Dussarah celebrations. The royal city is the jewel in Karnataka’s crown, home to a spectacular palace and an atmospheric fresh produce and spice market, as well an internationally renowned centre for yoga. Nearby are superbly crafted Hoysala temples dating from the 12th century and enormous Jain sculptures of Gomateshvara, not to mention the wildlife havens of Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, both part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and home to elusive tigers.
The best time for touring is October to March, when the monsoon ceases lashing the coast and baking temperatures ease in far-northern interior towns such as Bijapur, with its beautiful South Indian Islamic architecture. And although the only thing that Karnataka lacks is snow-covered mountains, you’d still be wise to pack some warm clothes to beat off the winter chill in Bengaluru.