Must see attractions in Karnataka

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mysuru (Mysore)

    Mysuru Palace

    The second-most-visited sight in India (after the Taj Mahal), this palace is among the very grandest of India’s royal buildings and was the seat of the Wodeyar maharajas. The original palace was gutted by fire in 1897; today's structure was completed in 1912. The lavish Indo-Saracenic interior – a kaleidoscope of stained glass, mirrors and gaudy colours – is undoubtedly over the top. It's further embellished by carved wooden doors, mosaic floors and a series of paintings depicting life here during the Raj.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Hampi

    Vittala Temple

    Hampi's most exquisite structure, the 16th-century Vittala Temple stands amid boulders 2.5km from Hampi Bazaar. Work possibly started on the temple during the reign of Krishnadevaraya (r 1509–29). The structure was never finished or consecrated, yet its incredible sculptural work remains the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art. The courtyard's ornate stone chariot (illustrated on the ₹50 note) is the temple’s showpiece and represents Vishnu’s vehicle with an image of Garuda within. Its wheels were once capable of turning.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Badami

    Cave Temples

    Badami’s highlights are its beautiful cave temples, three Hindu and one Jain, which display exquisite sculptures and intricate carvings. They're a magnificent example of Chalukya architecture and date to the 6th century. All have a columned verandah, an interior hall and a shrine at the rear.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bengaluru (Bangalore)

    Cubbon Park

    In the heart of Bengaluru’s business district is Cubbon Park, a well-maintained 120-hectare garden where Bengaluru’s residents converge to steal a moment from the rat race that rages outside. The gardens encompass the red-painted Gothic-style State Central Library. Unfortunately, Cubbon is not completely closed to traffic, except on Sundays, when there are concerts, fun runs, yoga and even a small farmers market.

  • Sights in Bengaluru (Bangalore)

    Krishnarajendra Market

    For a taste of traditional urban India, dive into the bustling, gritty Krishnarajendra Market and the dense grid of commercial streets that surround it. Weave your way around the lively, colourful stalls, past fresh produce, piles of vibrant dyes, spices and copper ware. The vibrant flower market in the centre is the highlight.

  • Sights in Sravanabelagola

    Gomateshvara Statue

    A steep climb up 614 steps takes you to the top of Vindhyagiri Hill, the summit of which is lorded over by a towering naked statue of Jain deity Gomateshvara (Bahubali). Commissioned by a military commander in the service of the Ganga king Rachamalla and carved out of a single piece of granite by sculptor Aristenemi in AD 98, it is said to be the world’s tallest monolithic statue. Leave your shoes at the foot of the hill.

  • Sights in Nagarhole National Park

    Nagarhole National Park

    West of the Kabini River is the 643-sq-km wildlife sanctuary of Nagarhole National Park (pronounced nag -ar-hole-eh). The lush forests here are home to tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, muntjacs (barking deer), wild dogs, bonnet macaques and common langurs, and 270 species of bird. The park can remain closed for long stretches between July and October, when the rains transform the forests into a giant slush pit.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bidar

    Bidar Fort

    The remnants of this magnificent 15th-century fort, the largest in South India – and once the administrative capital of much of the region – constitute Bidar's most famous historic site. Surrounded by a triple moat hewn out of solid red rock and many kilometres of defensive walls, the fort has a fairy-tale entrance that twists in an elaborate chicane through three gateways. Bidar Fort once had 37 bastions, several wells and a vast magazine. Reckon on a couple of hours to explore it properly.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vijapura (Bijapur)

    Golgumbaz

    Set in tranquil gardens, the magnificent Golgumbaz houses the tombs of emperor Mohammed Adil Shah (r 1627–56), his two wives, his mistress (Rambha), one of his daughters and a grandson. Octagonal seven-storey towers stand at each corner of the monument, which is capped by an enormous dome. Once you're inside the sheer scale of the structure becomes apparent: its cavernous interior has a powerful, austere beauty. Climb the steep, narrow steps up one of the towers to reach the ‘whispering gallery’.

  • Sights in Pattadakal

    Temples

    Barring a few that date to the 3rd century, most of Pattadakal's World Heritage–listed temples were built during the 7th and 8th centuries. The main Virupaksha temple is a massive structure, its columns covered with intricate carvings depicting episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. A giant stone sculpture of Nandi (Shiva's bull) sits to the temple’s east. The Mallikarjuna temple, next to the Virupaksha temple, is almost identical in design.

  • Sights in Belur

    Channakeshava Temple

    Commissioned in 1116 to commemorate the Hoysalas’ victory over the neighbouring Cholas, this temple took more than a century to build, and is currently the only one of the three major Hoysala sites still in daily use – try to be there for one of the puja (offering or prayer) ceremonies, held at 9am, 3pm and 7.30pm.

  • Sights in Mysuru (Mysore)

    Venugopala Swamy Temple

    Back from the dead, this stunning 12th-century Hoysala temple was submerged when the Kaveri River was dammed in 1930. However, villagers had tantalising glimpses of the ancient structure during drought years when the reservoir waters dropped. Liquor baron and philanthropist Sri Hari Khoday vowed to rebuilt the temple in 2003, and architects photographed and numbered each slab and stone, which were removed block by block and reconstructed by 200 workers at a cost of ₹25,000,000. The project took eight years.

  • Sights in Karnataka

    Jog Falls

    The second-highest waterfall in India, Jog Falls only comes to life during the monsoon. The tallest of the four falls is the Raja, which drops 293m. For a good view of the falls, bypass the area close to the bus stand and hike to the foot of the falls down a 1200-plus-step path. Watch out for leeches during the wet season.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Hampi

    Virupaksha Temple

    The focal point of Hampi Bazaar is this temple, one of the city’s oldest structures, and Hampi’s only remaining working temple. The main gopuram (gateway), almost 50m high, was built in 1442; a smaller one was added in 1510. The main shrine is dedicated to Virupaksha, an incarnation of Shiva. An elephant called Lakshmi blesses devotees as they enter, in exchange for donations; she gets time off for a morning bath down by the river ghats.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Gokarna

    Om Beach

    One of Karnataka's best beaches, Gokarna has a famous stretch of sand that twists and turns over several kilometres to resemble the outline of an Om symbol. The beach comprises several gorgeous coves, with wide stretches interspersed with smaller patches of sand, perfect for sunbathing and swimming. There's fine swimming most of the season when the sea's not choppy, though signs officially ban it (local tourists have drowned here in rough seas). It's 6km from Gokarna town; autorickshaws cost ₹130.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mysuru (Mysore)

    Keshava Temple

    Small in scale but masterly in detail, the astonishingly beautiful Keshava Temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture, on par with the masterpieces of Belur and Halebid. Built in 1268, this star-shaped temple, located some 33km from Mysuru, is adorned with superb stone sculptures depicting various scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, and the life and times of the Hoysala kings.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bengaluru (Bangalore)

    National Gallery of Modern Art

    Housed in a century-old mansion – the former vacation home of the raja of Mysuru – this world-class art museum showcases an impressive permanent collection (and exhibitions). The Old Wing exhibits works from pre-Independence, including paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Abanindranath Tagore. Connected by a pedestrian bridge, the sleek New Wing focuses on contemporary post-Independence works by artists including Sudhir Patwardhan and Vivan Sundaram. Guided walks (11.30am Wednesday, 3pm Saturday) are a great way to learn about the museum's highlights.

  • Sights in Halebid

    Hoysaleswara Temple

    Construction of the Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid’s claim to fame, began around 1121 and went on for more than 80 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. On the outside, the temple’s richly sculpted walls are covered with a flurry of Hindu deities, sages, stylised animals, and friezes depicting the life of the Hoysala rulers.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Vijapura (Bijapur)

    Ibrahim Rouza

    The beautiful Ibrahim Rouza is among the most elegant and finely proportioned Islamic monuments in India. Its 24m-high minarets are said to have inspired those of the Taj Mahal, and its tale is similarly poignant: built by emperor Ibrahim Adil Shah II (r 1580–1627) as a future mausoleum for his queen, Taj Sultana. Ironically, he died before her and was thus the first person to be laid to rest here. Also interred are the emperor's queen, children and mother.

  • Sights in Gokarna

    Paradise Beach

    Lovely, isolated Paradise Beach is a mix of sand and rocks, and a haven for the long-term ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ crowd. It's around a 45-minute walk from the southern end of Om Beach (the coastal path here passes Half Moon Bay on the way); there's no road access. Every season local entrepreneurs rig up huts (around ₹300), but the local government routinely tears them down, so it's pot luck whether you'll find a place to stay.