Karnataka is a state in Southern India that stretches from Belgaum in the north to Mangalore in the south. It has a coastal region with numerous coconut trees and beautiful beaches and an interior with mountains, valleys and farmlands. Karnataka is the 7th-largest state in India in area and 8th-largest by population. Karnataka is bordered by Maharashtra in the north, Goa in the north west, Tamil Nadu in the south east, Kerala in the south west, Andhra Pradesh in the east and Telangana in the north east.
- Cauvery Basin - Southern Karnataka, including Mysore. Rolling hills, large sunflower fields and Tibetan culture.
- Central Karnataka - the region around Bangalore Numberous Hi-Tech businesses and cool climate.
- Karavali - Karnataka's coastal region. Relatively unexplored region full of empty beaches and lush green rainforest.
- Northern Karnataka Home to the stunning religious and archeological site of Hampi.Full of other-worldly geology and nature.
- Northwestern Karnataka Good transport connections, but interior is way off the beaten track.
There are many cities in Karnataka. These are some of the more notable:
- 2 Belgaum — the commercial hub in North Karnataka and the second biggest overall export powerhouse in Karnataka after Bangalore
- 5 Mangalore — the chief port city of Karnataka and second IT destination in Karnataka after Bangalore
- 6 Mysore — erstwhile capital of Kingdom Of Mysore that ruled over much of present-day Karnataka, Mysore city is also known worldwide as the 'City of Palaces'
And these are a few smaller but still important towns and tourist destinations:
- 9 Ramanagara — the sericulture (silk) capital in Karnataka, it is also known as Silk City or Silk Town
- 10 Sakleshpur — a pleasant hill station town in Hassan District situated in the Malnad (locally - hilly region) of Karnataka
Below is a selective list of sites of interest in Karnataka. It is far from exhaustive. For other sites, check regional articles.
- 1 Badami cave Temples in Bagalakote district — Badami was the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. It was founded in 540 A.D. by Pulakesi I (535-566 AD), an early ruler of the Chalukyas.
- 2 Hampi — the ruins of the fabulous Vijayanagar Empire. Considered to be one of the finest cities in its time circa 14th and 15th Century. Hampi Utsav in the 1st week of November celebrates its history. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- 3 Shivasamudram — the walk down to the base of the waterfall is nice, and you can take a coracle ride by paying ?50 per person. You can also swim at the base of the waterfall.
Wildlife in Karnataka is administered under such institutions as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and bird sanctuaries initiatives.
Karnataka has 5 declared national parks that abound in diverse flora and fauna, including:
- 5 Bannerghatta National Park — 104 km² located just 22 km from the heart of Bangalore. A zoological reserve with a zoo, safari and butterfly enclosure.
- 6 Kudremukh National Park — 600 km² area located in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chikamaglur district.
Modern-day Karnataka has been ruled by various kingdoms and empires throughout its long and varied history.
The Vijayanagara Empire ruled over much of what's now Karnataka and the larger Deccan Plateau from the mid 13th to the mid 16th century. The ruins of Hampi provide a glimpse into the splendor of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The Kingdom of Mysore in the early 14th century was centered around their capital city of Mysore which was then a small town ruled by the Wodeyar Dyanasty. The kingdom remained small till the 16th Century.
The Bijapur Sultanate rose into prominence after defeating the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565. Bijapur was the Capital of the Adilshah Dynasty which ruled the region. Bijapur is a historic place with lots of archaeological sites — most notably Gol Gumbaz, the largest dome in Asia.
After the defeat of the Bijapur Sultanate by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the mid 16th Century the Wodeyar Dynasty expanded the Mysore Kingdom by leasing land from Aurangzeb. This enabled the kingdom to remain prominent.
The Wodeyars continued their rule as an independent kingdom under the British Raj by paying tribute till India's independence in 1947. After India's independence the Kingdom of Mysore became an Indian state. The city of Mysore has so many surviving palaces that it is known today as the "City of Palaces".
The Wodeyars' immense contribution in various fields - education, arts, governance, industry and infrastructure - laid the foundation for the rise of Karnataka after India's independence.
Mysore painting - Mysore is famous for the Mysore style of painting that is well-known for its attention to detail. Some of the best examples of this style are inside the Mysore Palace.
Flora and fauna
Karnataka is known for its wealth of flora and fauna. Around 25% of India's elephants and 10% of its tigers are in Karnataka. Many regions in Karnataka are as yet unexplored, leading to new discoveries of flora and fauna. The Western Ghats teem with wildlife and are an acknowledged bio diversity hotspot.
Kannada is the official language of the state and the mother tongue of around 70% of the population. Although Kannada is spoken all over the state, dialects of the language spoken in each of the regions differ from each other. Regional dialects in the state are influenced by the languages of neighbouring states, and sometimes a person from the South Karnataka region may find it difficult to understand the Kannada spoken in the North Karantaka region. English and Hindi are spoken by most educated people as well as those in major cities.
In the districts along the borders of neighbouring states, people do speak multiple languages and many of them can speak the language of their neighbours across the border. In the Northern Karnataka region, many people can understand Hindi/Urdu in the districts of Bidar, Gulbarga and Yadgir and Telugu in Raichur and Bellary districts, while in the Belgaum and Bijapur districts bordering Maharastra in the Northwestern Karnataka region, people can speak Marathi.
Shatabdi - superfast fully air-conditioned day trip trains which connects the state capitals and important cities with Karnataka.
Karnataka government-owned and -operated Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) connects Karnataka with the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Goa and the Union Territory of Pondicherry . KSRTC provides trip planning, hotels and ticketing on KSRTC as well as smartphone apps for Android and IOS. KSRTC reservation counters are available at their bus terminals and their numerous dedicated travel agents located across the state. Discounts are provided for return journeys purchased online. KSRTC has dedicated bus terminals across Karnataka and in other states use dedicated sections of the government-run Inter-State Bus Terminals (ISBT) that are run by respective state governments.
The numerous private bus operators also provide inter-state bus services into Karnataka. The private bus operators operate from the ISBT located in the states. They feature their own stops as well as schedules. Ticket booking for the various private operators is available on Redbus, Makemytrip as well as owned booking offices for most operators. Some larger private operators maintain individual websites for ticketing services. Travel agents across Karnataka provide bus tickets for the private bus operators.
KSRTC, mentioned in "Get in", also plies intra-state buses connecting most of Karnataka.
- Airavat:Semi-sleeper Volvo a/c buses
- Ambari: Corona AC bus with sleeper and semi-sleeper options.
- Club Class Airavat: Semi-sleeper Volvo multi-axle a/c buses.
- FlyBus: Volvo multi-axle a/c buses direct connection between Mysore and Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore. Bus features in-bus Pantry as well as chemical toilets.
- Mayura and Meghadoot: Comfortable A/C buses
- Rajahamsa:Non-A/C Semi Sleeper Deluxe buses which are comfortable for short distances and cheapest for longer journeys.
The Subsidiaries of KSRTC provide bus services in Karnataka as follows:
- Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) - bus services within the city of Bangalore as well as some outlying areas.
- North Western KSRTC (NWKSRTC) - bus services in Northern Karnataka and the adjoining states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
- North Eastern KSRTC (NEKSRTC) - bus services in North Eastern Karnataka.
Numerous private bus operator provide bus services for interstate areas, as well as to the neighboring states. Travel agents provide tickets as well as private package tours for various destinations across Karnataka.
All major cities in Karnataka are well connected by a mix of national and state highways. Tolled roads are applicable on the newer highways as well as certain areas within Bangalore such as Bangalore Elevated Tollway located on the outskirts of Bangalore on the way to Hosur.
Kempegowda International Airport serves most domestic routes in India.
Mangalore International Airport also serves domestic destinations.
Domestic-only airports in Karnataka with varying service levels include Hubli, Belgaum, Hampi, Vidhyanagar and Mysore. These airports also connect with the Kempegowda International Airport in the state capital of Bangalore.
Shatabdi - fast fully air-conditioned intercity trains connecting nearby important cities in the region. Shatabdi returns the same day to the point of origin.
Thanks to its long and varied history Karnataka has an interesting mix of religious sites, remnants of historical empires, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, national parks, bird sanctuaries, wildlife sanctuaries, palaces, forts, beaches, hill stations, caves and waterfalls.
Owing to the multi-religious influence in Karnataka through its history , there are a vast number of religious sites in Karnataka, some even dating from antiquity. Belur and Hale Belur are home to ancient Hindu temples. Kudalasangama is a pilgrimage center for people of the Lingayat faith and is at the confluence of the Krishna and the Malaprabha rivers. Murudeshwara has a beautiful Shiva statue situated on the tallest place on the Arabian Sea coast, with a colorful panorama. Shravanabelagola is a Jain Pilgrimage centre and home to the biggest monolithic (single stone) statue of Babhubali in Karnataka. The statue is visible from a distance of 30 km. Kollur Mookambika Temple is also very ancient Hindu temple in Karavali region.
One of the oldest mosques of Karnataka is in the Kalaburagi Fort, built in 1367 by the Bahmani King Muhammad Shah I. It is the biggest mosque in Karnataka, and when compared in plan and design, the mosque resembles the mosque at Cardova in Spain. The Jamiya mosque in Vijayapura is another huge monument built by Adilshah in 16th century. It has a proportionate dome and its mihrab is gorgeously painted. The Malika Jahan mosque in black stone is another notable mosque in Vijayapura. Bidar has the famous Solha-kamb mosque with 16 cylindrical pillars built in the year 1423. The Andu masjid of Vijayapura, Mahal masjid of Afzalpur in Kalaburgi district and the Khali masjid of Aland in Bidar district built during Adilshahi period are some beautiful examples of Islamic architecture in Karnataka. The Mausoleum of Ahmed Shah Wali, at Ashtur near Bidar is a tall structure with paintings in it. This prince is venerated as a saint by both the Hindus and Muslims. Vijayapura has two princely Mausoleums, Ibrahim Rauza, a twin structure is standing on an arched platform. The Gol Gumbaz is another famous mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah.
Bengaluru Government Museum built in the year 1880 in Bengaluru has a collection of ancient arms, a sculpture gallery and a collection of old coins. There are exclusive painting collections of noted artists like K. Venkatappa and K.K. Hebbar. Jaganmohan Art Gallery housed in an old palace of Mysuru has fine art works (including some by Raja Ravi Varma) in colours, metals, ivory and wood but a huge collection of musical instruments too of yore. The Mysuru Palace has a large collection of art works from various countries, besides a gallery of armory.
At the district museum in Shivamogga in an old palace, queer items of Keladi rulers are preserved. The Kalaburagi Museum has the items of Bahmanshahi times and huge collection of Buddhist sculptures (Decorative plaques) from Sannati. Museum in Chitradurga has many antiquities connected with the local chieftains, hero-stones, weapons and other items. There are Karnataka State Government Museums at Kittur, Hassan, Keladi, Raichur, Basavakalyana, Huvina Hadagali, Dharwad, Gadag and Srirangapatna.
Waterfalls are one of the major tourist attractions in Karnataka, many of which are primarily located in Cauvery Basin and Karavali regions. Best time to visit these waterfalls would be during rainy seasons or post-rainy seasons between August to October months. Jog falls near Sagara in Shimoga district is one of the highest waterfalls in India and Abbey Falls, Achakanya falls, Balmuri falls, Chunchanakatte falls, Gokak falls are some of the other well known falls among the many waterfalls of Karnataka.
Dandeli is popular for trekking, river rafting and wildlife discovery
Botanical and rock gardens
The Brindavan Gardens offer ornamental gardens adjoining the Krishnarajasagara Dam (also known as KRS dam) located in Mandya District near the city of Mysore. In Bangalore Urban District, look for Cubbon Park and Lalbagh Botanical Garden.
Pigeon Island (Netrani Island) lies about 12 nautical miles (22 km) off the coast of Murudeshwar in Karnataka. It is a 4 hour drive from Goa, or can be reached by Konkan Railway, with Murudeshwar and Bhatkal being the nearest stations. The Dreamz Diving is the only local dives centers here. Please check in advance with them as quite a few times due to Navy training the place is closed for scuba diving.
The visibility here is generally in the 15-20m range and the dive sites are 10-30 m. Marine life is spectacular, with huge schools of jacks, barracuda, triggerfish and fusiliers. Many times giant groupers, black tip sharks, kobias and giant tunas are spotted here, as are whales, whale sharks, orcas, dolphins, have been spotted by many divers at 1 Netrani Island.
Netrani is considered to be the best dive location from main land India which is accessible within a day's trip to Murudeshwar.
There are plenty of companies in Bangalore who arrange for weekend scuba diving trips to Netrani.
Trekking is the best way to discover the natural beauty of Karnataka. Trekking is the most popular adventure sport for the nature enthusiasts in Karnataka.
There are many places for trekkers starting form the southern parts of the Sahyadri hills to the Western Ghats of Kodagu. Most of the trekking places are found in Uttara Kannada (North Canara) district, Dakshina Kannada (South Canara) district, Shimoga district, Chikmagalur district and Kodagu district.
Kodagu and Chikmagalur districts cover unknown and very beautiful trekking places. These places are well known for beautiful mountain ranges, national parks, forests, wild animals and waterfalls.
The following are popular places for trekking in Karnataka.
- Agumbe and Kodachadri, in Shimoga
- Anthargange in Kolar
- Kudremukh and Narasimha Parvatha, in Chikmagalur
- Kumara Parvatha and Yedakumeri, in Dakshina Kannada
- Siddara Betta in Tumkur
- Tadiyandamol in Kodagu
Karnataka is known for a wide variety of local fast foods which are available at outlets everywhere. Some are standalone outlets while others are well known names with branch locations. The outlets are self-service where you stand and eat, although some of the newer ones provide sit-down table service for a higher charge. The outlets are open throughout the day and popular during breakfast and lunch. Some outlets specialize, while others have more variety as indicated in their menus.
These are a few specialty dishes you can feast on in Karnataka:
- Bisibele Baath - Made of rice and lentils and a lot of spices.
- Chutney - A favorite accompaniment eaten with dosa, idli, vada, chutney can be prepared from virtually anything including vegetables (tomato), fruit (mango), nuts (groundnuts) or chopped coconut. Chutney is prepared fresh every day for optimal taste and can be stored for few days.
- Dharwad Peda - A sweet delicacy created in the city of Dharwad. Made from milk, thickened milk and sugar. Also available at Nandini branded milk booths of the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) a milk co-operative in Karnataka.
- Dosa - A thin dough fried until crisp, usually served as One Serving. To eat, the pieces are broken off and dipped in the amazing chutney and sambar served in bowls accompanying the dish. Numerous varieties of dosa are found across Karnataka like 'masala dosa', 'set-dosa' (soft spongy fluffy dosa served as a pack of 3 or 4 with vegetable curry, sambar and tomato-onion chutney), 'benne-dosa (a dash of butter added to standard dosa preparation for distinctive flavor and aroma), rava-dosa (rava - sooji or semolina), etc.
- Idli - Idli, also romanized "idly", is made by steaming batter, that is traditionally made from black lentils and rice into patties using a two to three inch diameter mold. Traditionally a breakfast dish since it is light yet wholesome. The shape and size of the "idli" moulds varies across Karnataka. Always accompanied by steaming hot sambar and fresh chutney that vary in preparation region wise. Variations include 'Tatte idli' (tatte - plate in Kannada), 'rava (sooji or semolina) idli' are a popular specialty in some outlets.
- Jolada Roti - A thin tortilla made of jowar (aka jawar, similar to corn / millet / maize) baked on both sides for 2-3 minutes. Jowar is specially grown in the northern part of Karnataka which is the 2nd most arid region of India. Served with brinjal curry (various types of preparations) and chutney (peanuts and garlic variant). A staple diet in Northern Karnataka and the border areas with Maharashtra.
- Kesari Bhath - Originally a dessert item, this is now popular as breakfast. Made with sooji (semolina), ghee (for taste), water and milk. Garnished with cashew nuts and dried fruits for added taste.
- Mysore Pak - A sweet delicacy created in the Royal Kitchen of Mysore under the Wodeyars. Made with gram (chana) flour, ghee and sugar. Available across Karnataka.
- Raagi and Akki Rotis - Similar to tortillas but made of raagi (English: coracan, finger millet) or rice flour and black cumin, asafoetida, fresh coriander, green chillies and finely chopped onions.
- Raagi Mudde – A staple food in the interior since preparation is simple. Basically cook raagi flour in water and roll into thick-consistency balls. Raagi mudde is swallowed and not chewed after dipping it in ghee and sambar.
- Upma - prepared as a thick porridge from soji (semolina) with cut vegetables and seasonings. Served hot and a popular breakfast item.
- Uttapam - a dosa like dish with toppings cooked into the batter during frying. This is thck , unlike Dosas which are crisp. An Indian version of pizza.
- Vada - A fried savory doughnut. This is consumed along with idli and known as idli-vada.Vada are very popular item at breakfast time since it is light yet wholesome. Vadas are available on Indian Railways and most transport hubs all day. Although deep fried in boiling oil, this is not oily when fried correctly. Served with steaming hot sambar and chutney.
- Badam milk - crushed almond powder mixed with milk and is served hot or cold as preferred.
- Filter coffee - unique varieties of preparation, famous across Karnataka. Without chicory.
- Tea - grown in the various tea gardens in the mountainous Western Ghats in Karnataka and elsewhere in India provide great variations in taste.
- Tender coconut - naturally sterile and available everywhere. The best thirst quencher during the hot Indian summer. An all natural health drink due to its high mineral content.
Karnataka provides a wide variety of accommodation to suit the budget of every kind of traveller. The international chains like Hyatt are not limited to the state capital of Bangalore, but are also present at the smaller cities like Hampi as well with a similar experience as checking into London or Paris or for that matter New York City. The well known domestic hotel chains provide accommodation options at various price points with multiple hotels in some cities across the budget range. Home stays are a New and fast growing option for those who would like to experience the native life and are around places as divergent as Chikmagalur or even Nandi Hills.
The Karnataka-Govt owned Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) also runs in-house branded hotels which range from Budget to Luxury at many of the tourist destinations located around the state.
Budget hotels also called lodges are found near the transport hubs (railway stations and bus stands) as well as the central areas of most cities and towns. Meals are had at the nearby local fast food joint.
Medium range hotels comprise national and notable foreign chains with a range of options to suit the budget. Buffet breakfast is provided as part of the room charges or chargeable separately. In Bangalore for the Upper Medium Range hotels a continental breakfast (chicken variant is provided instead of pork - chicken sausage, chicken ham, chicken salami) and is provided alongside the typical South Indian breakfast of idli, vada, dosa, upma , etc as well as the local specialty items termed Today's Special. Some properties provide only South Indian buffet breakfast.
The high-end 5-star and 5-star deluxe hotels are similar to what's offered across India's major cities with domestic as well as international chains and standalone properties. Multiple properties belonging to the same chain adhering to customer categories are found especially in Bangalore. Additionally in Bangalore breakfast includes continental breakfast, specific menu's typical of their target clientele (Japanese, South Korean, etc) and the specialties of various Indian Breakfasts like idli, vada, dosa, upma , poha, parantha with Dahi (curd) including Today's Special. One can try the local breakfasts to get a hang of the varied tastes of India.
- People of Karnataka are friendly by nature and will help you in many ways. However, common crimes such as theft and purse-snatching do occur so be careful with your valuables.
- When traveling late at night, a group offers better safety and protection.
- Police assistance is available by dialing 100 from land line phones or mobiles.
- Bangalore City Police provides Mobile Patrol Vans Hoysala and bike patrols Cheetah. These vehicles provide first response in emergency situations.