Karnataka is a sprawling Southern India state that has it all. Here you will find everything from 280 km of gorgeous coastline to lush green coffee plantations as well as ancient temples and world heritage sites to the cosmopolitan chic of its capital city, Bangalore.
Aihole is a small village in the fertile Malaprabha River Basin, surrounded by red sandstone hills. The village is a site of huge archeological importance, housing around 120 temples, all built between the 4th and 12th centuries. Viewing these temples in such close proximity allows you to see the developments in the architecture of these Indian landmarks. Visit the iconic Durga temple and marvel at the ornate carved stone interiors. Make sure you take a trip to the Ravanaphadi temple complex, a series of caves carved into the sandstone cliffs.
This former capital of the ancient Chalukya Empire is located on the shores of Agastya lake, and surrounded by striking red sandstone cliffs. As you wander the narrow backstreets of Badami you’ll catch sight of ruins and carved wooden doors, vestiges of this ancient civilization. Here you’ll also find Badami’s famous rock cut cave temples, which were carved into the rock in the 6th and 7th Centuries. In the evening, the last rays of sun tinge the entire landscape a deep golden colour. The Bhutanatha temple is the perfect location to watch the sunset.
If you enjoy wildlife holidays, India is a remarkable destination to visit offering famous wildlife sanctuaries showcasing a plethora of exotic species of animals ranging from birds, elephants, tigers and much more. Bandipur National Park is a great place for nature lovers to enjoy an experience like no other. At the forefront of Ecotourism in India for over thirty years, Bandipur National park allows you to visit this untouched environment whilst supporting the conservation and protection of the animals and their habitats.
Bengaluru (Bangalore), fondly nicknamed the Silicon Valley of India, is a lively and exciting city. Gardens and palaces dating back to the 18th Century stand proudly amidst the glittering shopping and nightlife options favored by its younger residents and visitors making it one of the most popular cities in Southern India to visit today.
A small town in Hassan District, located on the banks of the River Yagachi, Belur was once the capital of the Hoysala dynasty. It’s famed for the 900-year-old Chennakesava Temple, a renowned UNESCO heritage site. The entire temple is built from soft soapstone, which allowed sculptors to carve intricate patterns and deities into every surface. In the middle of the courtyard is the 42 metre high Gravity Pillar, which has stood for hundreds of years and is supported only by its own weight.
Situated amongst the breathtaking peaks of the Western Ghats, this district is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate after visiting Mysuru (Mysore) and Bangalore. Stroll through misty forests, emerald hills and coffee, cardamom and pepper plantations. Interact with elephants at the Dubare Elephant Camp – if you arrive before 9:00am you’ll have the chance to give them a bath. Near the camp is the oldest Tibetan settlement in India, Bylakuppe, where you can visit the lavishly decorated Golden Temple, its interiors decorated with colourful, traditional friezes.
Gokarna is a dreamy town located on the Arabian coast. It’s a tranquil, less crowded alternative to the neighbouring India beaches of Goa, where you’ll find the nearest airport. It’s also both a laid back hippie hangout and a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. If it's the pick of Indian beaches you want, Gokarna boasts five all connected by a 10km walking path. On Gokarna Beach you’ll find pilgrims taking a dip in the waters before visiting the ancient Mahabaleshwar Temple. However, the quietest and most picturesque are Half Moon Beach and the aptly named Paradise Beach, both accessible by boat from Om Beach.
The ancient temple town of Halebidu is located on the serene shores of Lake Dwarasamudra. Halebidu is well known for the Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara Temples, both built in 1121 AD, which have recently been named as UNESCO heritage sites. You can spend hours poring over the intricate carvings that cover every surface of the temples. There’s also an architectural museum, where you’ll find hundreds of bronze and stone idols from different ages.
The ancient ruins and temples of Hampi are surrounded by paddy fields, banana plantations and surreal hillsides littered with large, rust-coloured boulders. Despite the village’s small size, there’s a lot to see at this UNESCO heritage site. One of the most intriguing is the Virupaksha Temple, which dates back to the 7th Century.
In Hampi Bazaar you’ll find gorgeous handwoven fabric and other traditional handicrafts for sale. To find a quieter side to Hampi, take a traditional coracle ride across the River Tungabhadra, where you can hike up to Sunset Point for a view of these awe inspiring surroundings.
Hassan is the place to be for lovers of history, heritage and old architecture in India, famed for its temples and ancient monuments. Many of the district’s temples were built between the 10th and 14th centuries, when the Hoysala dynasty ruled Karnataka, and are well known for their intricate carvings. Most of these temples are to be found in the scenic countryside of Hassan District. Hassan City itself is clean and modern, and pulls in crowds to see the Hasanamba temple, an important Hindu pilgrimage site.
Nagarhole National Park is the largest protected wildlife zone in Southern India, comprised of shady forests, rivers and bamboo thickets. It’s home to hundreds of different bird species, as well as the Bengal tiger, sloth bear, giant flying squirrel and much more. The Kabini river threads its way through the park, culminating in the Kabini backwaters, a tranquil network of waterways and lakes. The Kabini is one of the best places for wildlife spotting, as you can catch sight of animals drinking and bathing at the water’s edge.
Mysuru (Mysore) is located a short drive or train ride from Bengaluru. Known as the City of Palaces, it is famed for its royal heritage and ancient monuments. The Mysuru Palace is the most famous and richly decorated of these, with Lalitha Mahal, in the east of the city, coming a close second. The ancient Sri Prasanna Krishna Swamy Temple is also a must visit, providing a taste of India’s rich cultural and religious traditions. Mysuru is also the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga, and the city has a plethora of different yoga classes and luxury yoga retreats to try if you’re feeling adventurous.
Pattadakal is a complex of 7th and 8th Century Jain and Hindu temples, built from the red sandstone rock that surrounds them. This UNESCO heritage site provides an excellent example of the eclectic architecture of the Chalukya dynasty, which combined aspects of North and South Indian styles. The most awe-inspiring of these Indian landmarks is the Virupaksha Temple, built by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory in battle.