In some ways, the state of Karnataka encapsulates the most
extraordinary aspects of India. The region, which stretches along
the subcontinent's western coast, offers pristine, deserted beaches
and hundreds of extraordinary temples. It's also home to thriving
cities, restful Ayurvedic retreats, and ancient UNESCO World
Heritage Sites. Whether it's a jungle trek or a city break that you
seek, a beach trip or a scenic train journey, you won't be left
wondering what to see in Karnataka.
Dynamic Bangalore also hosts a
number of historic landmarks © saiko3p/iStock/Thinkstock
No trip to Karnataka would be complete without time spent in
Bangalore, the state's capital and also its largest metropolis with
a population of nearly 10 million. While it's known as the
epicentre of India's booming tech industry, Bangalore isn't just an
industrial hub. This edgy and creative capital is also home to some
of India's best dining and shopping, among more traditional draws.
Victorian-era Cubbon Park is the leafy heart of this verdant Garden
City, while the striking Bangalore Palace gives a glimpse into the
past of the maharajas. Food lovers should plan to sample some of
the city's top restaurants as well as its more casual eateries,
where classic dosas are the order of the day.
Beguiling Mysore is a must-visit
for anyone heading to South India © AlejandroRosa/iStock/Thinkstock
Another Karnataka city that's eternally tempting to visitors is
the beguiling Mysore, which is a must for those eager to explore
the riches of south India. The Mysore Palace, lovely by day, may be
even more picturesque at night, when it glows with thousands of
brilliant bulbs; the Chamundeshwari Temple is another architectural
wonder located just on the outskirts of the city. During the day,
the bustling markets are yet another draw.
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage
Site, is also the world's largest open-air museum © rchphoto/iStock/Thinkstock
Wondering what to see in Karnataka beyond its thriving urban
centres? The state is also home to one of the most extraordinary
landmarks in all of India: Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that
rivals the Taj for its grandeur (it's also the world's largest
open-air museum). An ancient city that was once the capital of the
Vijayanagara Empire and now lies in picturesque ruins, the site
offers 14 square miles of exploration.
Beachside Gokarna attracts
religious pilgrims alongside travellers seeking tranquility © korionov/iStock/Thinkstock
But Karnataka is not only renowned for its cities, both ancient
and modern. Sandwiched between tropical Kerala and picturesque Goa,
Karnataka also happens to host some of the finest, unspoiled
beaches in all of India. One beachy retreat is the town of Gokarna,
which draws visitors and pilgrims to its seaside temple. Gokarna is
also a destination for those seeking tranquillity: the nearby SwaSwara resort
provides a lush retreat into the region's rich nature. Designed to
promote healing and wellness, SwaSwara lulls guests into calm with
a programme of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda.
The Golden Chariot Train
transports guests in luxury across South India © Simon Pielow
Finally, visitors to Karnataka would do well to combine their
travelling with their sightseeing, by way of the Golden
Chariot Train. Several different multi-day itineraries are on
offer, and visitors can travel between Mysore, Bangalore, Hampi,
Goa, and some of the region's other sights (another tour goes as
far afield as Chennai, Pondicherry, and the Kerala Backwaters). The
opulent train also provides a luxurious setting from which to watch
the landscape fly by, including two different gourmet dining cars,
private rooms with air conditioning, and even a cigar bar.
With so many draws, it's no wonder that Karnataka is among the
most popular destinations in India. Don't miss your chance to
discover this rich and varied state.