1. Somnathpur Temple
The Chenna Kesava temple (built in 1268 AD) on the banks of the Cauvery, in the sleepy little town of Somnathpur, was the last important temple to be constructed by the Hoysalas. It is also the most complete and finest example of the Hoysala style. It’s constructed on a star-shaped plan, with towers on three of the shrines. Every inch of the outer walls of the temple is covered with fabulously detailed sculptures of Shaivite figures, friezes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata — which are meant to be ‘read’ while circumambulating the shrine. There are also depictions of caparisoned elephants, horsemen, mythological birds and beasts, and voluptuous courtesans. The lathe-turned stone pillars are made to resemble those of the wooden temples of Kerala.
The ASI staff might give you permission to climb the enclosure walls, from where you get a bird’s-eye view of the temple. Somnathpur town itself is small, and consists of a few attractive pillared houses.
Getting there: Somnathpur is 35km from Mysore. KSTDC (www.kstdc.nic.in) conducts guided day-tours for Rs 275.
Gokarna, on the northern end of the Karnataka coast, has been an important pilgrimage spot for a long time. But its beautiful white-sand beaches, with the forested hills of the Western Ghats in the backdrop, are perfect for a completely isolated beach crawl. Some of the best beaches are located south of the town. A 20-minute hike on a hilly trail and a short descent from a rocky plateau brings you to Kootlee beach — a kilometre-long swathe of spotless sand in between rock promontories. Another short walk brings you to Om beach, so called because of its crescent-shaped bays. If you’re looking to get even further away from the crowds, head to the Half-Moon and Paradise beaches. Getting there: Gokarna is seven hours from Mangalore, and the closest railway station is Gokarna Road (8km). Where to stay: Hotel Shivprasad (Rs 250-600; 08386-257032) or Om Beach Resort (Rs 3,500; 080-51122815, www.ombeachresort.com)
This is the perfect rustic retreat for those who can’t get enough of the outdoors. This peaceful eco-lodge and working farm boasts three types of village-style accommodation. You’ll spend most of your time soaking in the views, and observing the wealth of wildlife, not to mention the rich variety of plants. There is some excellent trekking in the ghats or by the banks of the Bandora and Mandovi rivers. For the less sporty, there are pottery and yoga classes. Getting there: The Hermitage is 45km from Belgaum and 140km from Panjim (Goa). The closest railway stations are Castle Rock and Londa. Tariff: Rs 1,050 (including all meals). Contact: 9242623020; www.thehermitageguesthouse.com
4. Diving in Devbagh
The clear waters of Devbagh, a tiny island off Karwar, are quite crowded — by thousands of damselfish, sergeant majors, butterflyfish and other marine creatures that inhabit the pristine coral reefs of this area. When the wind dies down and the sand settles, a magical underwater world emerges. The open-water dives are safe and perfect for beginners. And beyond acquainting you with the underwater-world, Devbagh is an island where you can live by the sea along a 7km stretch of golden beach. Take diving and snorkelling courses with Barracuda Diving, an adventure outfit. Getting there: Karwar is about 100km from Dabolim, Goa. Ankola (30km) is the most convenient railway station. Where to stay: Devbagh Beach Resort (Rs 1,900; 080-25597021, www.junglelodges.com) has log huts on the beach.
5. Fishing on the Cauvery
The Cauvery is the river on which the biggest Mahseer are found, and where the habitat of the fish is protected. The southern Mahseer grows to bigger sizes than its leaner northern counterpart. As the river descends from the Deccan plateau, just after Sangam, a hamlet at the confluence of the Cauvery and Arkravati, they are squeezed into a narrow channel at Mekhedaatu. The rapids and pools here are flush with monster Mahseer. This is followed by Honey Rock, a superb breeding pool for murrel. The Ajibora rapids further down are for the extreme angler. Other fish, such as the Carnatic carp and spotted shovelhead, are also found in these waters. Getting there: most fishing camps are about 100km from Bangalore. Where to stay: Jungle Lodges and Resorts (Rs 1,450-2,200; 080-25597021, www.junglelodges.com) runs excellent fishing camps at Bheemeshwari, Galibore and Doddamakali.
This ruined city on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river, amid a surreal landscape of golden-brown granite boulders and leafy banana fields, is Karnataka’s best-known heritage site. The ruins, which spread over 26 sq km, are concentrated in two sites. The first, in and around the Hampi bazaar and the riverside, encompasses the most sacred group of temples (like the Virupaksha temple) and the ghats, while the second centres on the royal enclosure, about 3km south of the river, and holds the remains of palaces, pavilions, elephant stables, guardhouses and temples. The massive granite chariots, towering gopurams, and huge colonnaded halls are still impressive and the best examples of what is referred to as the ‘Vijayanagara’ style. Getting there: Hampi is 350km from Bangalore. Hospet (13km) is the closest railway station; Bellary (74km) the closest airport. Where to stay: KSTDC’s Mayura Bhuvaneshwari (Rs 350-1,000; 08394-241574, www.kstdc.nic.in) is located right next to Hampi’s ruins.
7. Cicada Kabini
The Cicada Kabini resort, on the banks of the magnificent Kabini river, is located next to the beautiful Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks — two of the richest parks in South India. The hotel is the perfect place to view animals visiting the Kabini reservoir, a perennial source of water. The area around the river supports a range of tree species like teak, sandalwood and dindla, over 300 species of birds including the Malabar trogon and Malabar pied hornbill, as well as the Asiatic elephant, Indian bison and a number of smaller mammals. This is the perfect place for an active holiday — they offer kayaking on the river, and there are biking trails and jungle safaris by jeep. Alternatively, you can spend your days in the luxurious comfort of the resort, lying in the pool or lounging by the banks of the river. Getting there: The Cicada Kabini resort is 230km from Bangalore via Mysore. Tariff: Rs 7,000-25,000. Contact: 080-41152200, www.cicadaresorts.com
8. High point Kemmangundi
In Tarikere Taluka, is one of Karnataka’s lesser-known hill stations. At an altitude of 4,705ft, it remains cool through the year. It was the favourite hill station of the Raja of Mysore, and the Dattatreya Bhawan, his summer retreat, still dominates the town. And it’s incredibly green — a spread of dense forests cloak the hills around the little town, ferns serpent up tree trunks, moss covers stones, and creepers hang from every available branch. There are many waterfalls, like the Shanthi Falls and Hebbe Falls, close to town. Kemmangundi is the place to head to if you want to go on long walks, drink good coffee and admire the lush landscape. Getting there: Kemmangundi is 252km from Bangalore, and Tarikere and Birur are the closest railway stations. Where to stay: The Horticulture Department Guest House (Rs 180-800; 08261-237126, 080-26579231) has five cottages on ascending levels.
9. Dubare Elephant Camp
The Dubare Elephant Camp set up accommodation for bipeds (some metres away from its 13 quadrupeds) only a year ago. Another outpost of the Jungle Lodges & Resorts of Karnataka, the camp is located on the lip of the Cauvery river. A departure from the coffee/silver oak landscape common to this area, this woodsy clearing gives you a chance to spot some of Coorg’s 300 species of birds from a tree-top post, or scoop fish in the slow-moving river, take a boat/coracle ride...and for the willing, groom and feed the elephants. Getting there: the camp is about 6hr from Bangalore via Mysore. Where to stay: The Dubare Elephant Camp (Rs 1,200-1,900; 080-25597021, www.junglelodges.com) has 10 cottages and one tree house.
10. Heritage Village
A little distance from the centre of the hilltop college town of Manipal is the campus of the Hast Shilpa Heritage Village. Its six acres house more than a dozen reconstructed vernacular structures from rural Karnataka, rescued by former banker Vijaynath Shenoy from the path of bulldozers. Shenoy’s earliest restoration effort, the Kunjur Chowkimane, is built entirely from locally available materials, and looks, with its tapering wooden pillars and courtyard lined with granite stone edging, like it grew from the earth. Others, like the Deccani Nawab Mahal and the houses of rich Mangalore Christians, offer a glimpse into the lifestyles and peculiarities of the people who lived in them. Shenoy also plans to start a museum of folk art and a library in the near future. Contact: Hasta Shilpa, 50 Ananth Nagar, 2nd Stage, Manipal; 0820-2572061
Best of Bangalore
Here is the must see places in Bangalore city. Check them out.
At the very top end, there’s the typically grandiose Leela Palace Kempinksi (from Rs 20,000; 080-25211234), the first remarkable thing you see as you drive out of the airport. Brilliant service and food, overwhelming ambience. For more stately charm, head to the colonial-era Taj West End (from Rs 12,000; 66605660) with its sprawling gardens. If you’re itching to get a feel of smart, high-tech Bangalore, it has to be either The Park (from Rs 10,500; 25594666) or Ista (from Rs 14,000; 25558888), both in Ulsoor. For old, less pricey Bangalore, hide yourself in the heritage Villa Potti Patti (from Rs 2,500; www.neemranahotels.com) in Malleswaram.
With the increasing numbers and variety of eateries in Bangalore, eating is a great way to experience the city. Tiffin Room No 1 is of course the famous MTR (22220022) but there’s also Kamat Yatri Nivas (22260088), Vidhyarthi Bhavan (26677588) and Uttara Karnataka Food Stores (23209840). For outstanding South Indian regional cuisines, there’s Karavalli (56604519), Kanua (55374471/72), Anupam’s Coastal Express (22355094) and Bheema’s (25587389). International food favourites include the newly opened Olive Beach (41128400), the not-so-new Sunny’s (41329366) and the seemingly eternal Koshy’s (22213793).
When you aren’t eating in the city, you should be shopping. Because apart from malls like Garuda (which you can smell a mile away for the scents emanating from stores like Lush, the organic cosmetics and toiletries store), there’s now an impressive collection of speciality stores: Cinnamon, RainTree, The Box, Desi, Industree (homeware and accessories); Sutradhar and Maya Organic (ethnic children’s toys and learning materials); Kamalini and Contemporary Arts & Crafts (traditional crafts); Dragonfly (ceramics). And before you worry that the ever-smartening IT city has digested and spat out the old favourites, Vimor, Vijaylakshmi Silks and Saris, and Kanya are still selling their luscious wares.