One of South India’s most famous tourist destinations, Mysuru (which recently changed its name from Mysore) is known for its glittering royal heritage and magnificent monuments and buildings. Its World Heritage–listed palace may be what brings most travellers here, but it’s also a thriving centre for the production of premium silk, sandalwood and incense.
Atop the bald rock of Vindhyagiri Hill, the 17.5m-high statue of the Jain deity Gomateshvara (Bahubali) is visible long before you reach the pilgrimage town of Sravanabelagola. Viewing the statue close up is the main reason for heading to this sedate town, whose name means ‘Monk of the White Pond.’
Belur & Halebid
The Hoysala temples at Halebid (also known as Halebeedu) and Belur (also called Beluru) are the apex of one of the most artistically exuberant periods of ancient Hindu cultural development. Architecturally, they are South India’s answer to Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and Konark near Puri in Odisha (Orissa).
With a reasonable range of hotels, a railhead and other conveniences, Hassan is a handy base for exploring Belur (38km), Halebid (33km) and Sravanabelagola (48km). When we passed through, the town centre was looking like Beirut on a bad day; hopefully the road widening project will have been completed by the time you arrive.
Nagarhole National Park
Blessed with rich wildlife, attractive jungle and a scenic lake, Nagarhole National Park, pronounced nag-ar-hole-eh, is one of Karnataka’s best wildlife getaways. Adjoining Kabini Lake, it forms an important animal corridor that runs through neighbouring Bandipur National Park – making up a part of the Nilgiri Bioshpere Reserve.
About 40km from Madikeri, the village of Kakkabe is an ideal base to plan an assault on Kodagu’s highest peak, Tadiyendamol. At the bottom of the summit, 3km from Kakkabe, is the picturesque Nalakunad Palace, the restored hunting lodge of a Kodagu king dating from 1794. The caretaker will happily show you around; bring a torch.
Construction of the stunning Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid’s claim to fame, began around 1121 AD and went on for more than 190 years. It was never completed, but nonetheless stands today as a masterpiece of Hoysala architecture. The interior of its inner sanctum, chiselled out of black stone, is marvellous.