Tourist arrivals in Karnataka have grown by more than 300 per cent in the last 10 years, according to its chief minister Siddaramaiah. From 24 million ten years ago, that figure has touched 85 million.
It is easy to see why so many people want to visit the south Indian state of Karnataka. Beaches, hill stations, historical sites and a thriving metropolis, Karnataka seems to have it all!
Natasha Anchees tells you why you should be one of the millions who visit Karnataka every year, and recommends these places to visit:
The capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from the year 1336 to 1565, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though all that is left of the city is ruins of the palaces, temples and royal buildings, the beauty of these ruins speaks volumes of the grandeur of the structures that once existed. It is believed that when the empire was at its peak, rubies and diamonds were sold in the streets of Hampi and gold and silver were used as currency. Legend has it the Hindu deity Shiva was married to Parvati in the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi.
Places to visit: Virupaksha Temple, Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Zenana Enclosure, Bellary Fort
A small town set on the banks of the Yagachi River in the Hassan district of Karnataka, Belur is most famous for its temples. It is believed that some of the temples took over a hundred years to be completed. The most famous temple complex in the city is the Chennakesava Temple. Built in light green soapstone that allowed the temples to be as minutely detailed as possible, the temples are as close to perfection as possible. Ivory and sandalwood were used for the sculptures within the temples. Pushkarni, the stepwell is another wondrous sight.
Places to visit: Halebeedu, Chennakesava Temple, Kedareshwara Temple
Located at 3500 feet above sea level, Coorg is known as the Kashmir of the South. Surrounded by the flourishing greenery of the Western Ghats, the city is a great weekend getaway from the state capital of Bangalore. Famous for the coffee and tea plantations, the smell of coffee will lift your spirits instantly. From the Raja’s seat, you can see the whole of Coorg and the view is splendid, to say the least.
Places to visit: Madikeri, Raja’s Seat, Abbi Falls, Bylakuppe
Asia’s fastest-growing cosmopolitan city, Bangalore is Karnataka’s administrative capital. Known as the Silicon Valley of India, the city is home to some of the biggest IT companies and tech start-ups. Blessed with amazing weather, gardens, parks, natural lakes, architectural landmarks, shopping malls and some of the best restaurants and pubs, the city is one of the best places to visit. The rule of the Vijayanagara Empire brought about the construction of a mud fort which was considered the groundwork of the city of Bangalore.
Places to visit: Bangalore Palace, Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens, Hogenakkal Falls, Mirjan Fort
Literally translated, Kudremukh means ‘Horse’s mouth’ in Kannada. The place is named thus because the peak of the hill resembles a horse’s mouth. Rich in minerals, the beautiful landscapes and scenery is what pulls tourists to the city. A favorite among trekkers, the trails through dense forests and tropical riverbeds through varying levels of difficulty attracts those trekkers who seek an adrenaline rush. The Bhadra, Nethravati and Tunga rivers originate from this region. The best time to visit Kudremukh is between October and February.
Places to visit: Kudremukh Peak, Kudremukh National Park and Hanuman Gundi Falls
The town of Badami stands surrounded by two hills Vatapi and Ilava, facing the Agastya Lake and was once the capital of the Chalukyas.
Known for its rock-cut temples, the caves in the town are said to have been built in the 5th and 8th century AD. While the Chalukyas reigned over the city, four cave temples were built. Three of these were dedicated to Hindu deities and the fourth to Jain Tirthankars. Rock climbing, trekking and cave explorations are among the other adventure activities the town is famous for.
Places to visit: Badami Fort, Agastya Lake, Badami Cave Temples, Aihole
A holy city with a cluster of ten temples, Pattadakal is known as the ‘City of Crown Rubies’. With architecture at its peak during the 7th and 8th century AD, the Chalukya dynasty created some of the most beautiful temples in this city. The inscriptions in the temples indicate that the city was an important centre under the Rashtrakutas and the Kalyana Chalukyas. There are also two inscriptions that tell us that even though King Vikramaditya II defeated the Pallavas, he deeply appreciated their art forms.
Places to visit: Sangameshvara Temple, Pattadakal Jain Temple
Known as the city of palaces, Mysore is the second-largest city in the state of Karnataka. According to the legend, the city was known to be ruled by a demon named Mahishasura. The demon was later defeated by the Goddess Chamundeshwari and the city was brought back to its original glory. The Mysore Palace is one of the most visited places in the city and it is difficult to not be in awe of its stunning architecture. Its annual Dussehra festivities are one to look forward to as the palace gets lit up with hundreds and thousands of lights.
Places to visit: Brindavan Gardens, Nagarhole National Park, Mysore Palace, Railway Museum
Getting its name from the Hindu deity Shiva, the town is known for having the world’s second-largest statue of the deity. With the Murudeshwar Temple built on the Kanduka Giri hill, the landmass of the town juts out of the mainland to form a small peninsula 2 km away from the temple. A popular pilgrimage destination, it is said that this was the place where Ganesha tricked Ravana into giving up the Atma-linga or the Soul of Shiva that would have granted him immortality.
Places to visit: Murudeshwar Temple, Statue of Lord Shiva, Murudeshwar Beach and Fort
Founded by the Chalukyas in the 11th century, some of Bijapur’s most beautiful architecture is what pulls a large number of tourists to the city. Known for its forts, gardens and mosques, the rule of the Adil Shahi Sultans brought about a series of architectural marvels, some of which are still in amazing condition. Gol Gumbaz which has one of the largest domes in the world and Jama Masjid which is the largest mosque of the region are a must-visit during a tour of the city. The city has more than 50 mosques, 20 mausoleums and several palaces that you cannot miss.
Places to visit: Gol Gumbaz, Ibrahim Rauza, Malik-e-Maidan, Chand Bawdi
Best known for its Om beach, which is shaped like the Hindu symbol for Om, the beach town is popular not just amongst young travellers but also the spiritually-inclined who visit the famous Mahabaleshwar Temple of Lord Shiva. The town comes alive during Mahashivratri when the town is decorated and the temple hosts a major festival.
Places to visit: Om Beach, Mahabaleshwar Temple, Maha Ganpati Temple
Plan your trip to Karnataka before it’s too late.