Top 16 Places to Visit in Karnataka

Top 16 Places to Visit in Karnataka

By CarolUpdated Dec. 3, 2021

The state of Karnataka is blessed with lively cities, a rich cultural heritage, historical hotspots, pilgrimage sites, diverse flora and fauna, and alluring beaches. This state offers something to satisfy every traveler’s vacation needs.

Bangalore is its most famous city; it has the Bangalore Palace, which features Tudor and Scottish Gothic architecture and Cubbon Park, which has more than 6,000 trees. For travelers wanting to visit the beach, Gokarna Beach is the perfect destination.

Highlights

  • The Bangalore Palace in Bangalore features wooden carvings, fortified towers, and turreted walls.
  • The Virupaksha Temple in Hampi was built in the 7th century. It is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, one of the forms of Lord Shiva.
  • The Mahabaleshwar Temple in Gokarna is a 4th-century Hindu temple that is built out of white granite in the classic Dravidian architectural style.
  • Mysore Palace in Mysore is one of the biggest palaces in India built for the 24th ruler of the Wodeyar Dynasty.
  • The Golden Temple in Coorg is the largest teaching center of the Tibetan Buddhist school known as Nyingmapa.

1. Bangalore

Recommended visiting time: 3–4 days

When visiting Karnataka, the first stop one must make is at its capital, Bangalore. The country’s third-largest city is dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India”, as it is home to India's IT industry. Bangalore is also famous for its year-round pleasant weather, beautiful parks, and serene lakes.

The Bangalore Palace was built in 1878 and is spread across 45,000 square feet. Displaying Tudor and Scottish Gothic architecture, the palace features wooden carvings, fortified towers, and turreted walls. The best part of the palace is the Durbar Hall, which features Gothic-style designs and beautiful stained-glass windows.

For travelers looking for a peaceful and relaxing vacation, Cubbon Park is the perfect place. This 300-acre park is planted with more than 6,000 trees, attracting visitors with its serene environment. There are also many attractions around the park, including India's second-largest aquarium — the Bangalore Aquarium.

Perfect for: Families on vacation

Insider tip: The entry fee for the Bangalore Palace is INR 460.

2. Hampi

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 days

The ancient city of Hampi is a paradise for history lovers. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located at the bank of Tungabhadra River, was the former capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, and showcases the historical traces of one of the greatest Hindu empires in history.

Hampi is surrounded by many temples. The Virupaksha Temple was built in the 7th century and is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, one of the forms of Lord Shiva. It was built in the South Indian architectural style with tall towers or gopurams serving as gateways to the inner sanctums and featuring stone inscriptions on the walls.

Another temple to visit is Yantradharaka Hanuman Temple. Simply known as the Monkey Temple, it is located on top of the Anjaneya Hill and is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Aside from visiting the Lord Hanuman idol inside the temple, travelers can also enjoy great views of the surrounding area.

Perfect for: Temple lovers

Insider tip: Visitors must take care of their belongings as there are many monkeys in and around the Monkey Temple.

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3. Gokarna

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 days

For travelers looking for a serene and tranquil vacation, Gokarna is the perfect place to visit. This small Hindu pilgrimage town is famous for its pristine beaches, stunning landscapes, and amazing temples, drawing devout pilgrims and holiday-seekers from all over the world.

The go-to beach in this town is Gokarna Beach. This beach is perfect to relax under the sun. Travelers can also enjoy several activities here such as trekking, rock climbing, picnics, surfing, jet skiing, and many more.

Aside from beaches, Gokarna is also famous for its temples. The Mahabaleshwar Temple is a 4th-century Hindu temple built out of white granite in the classic Dravidian style of architecture. The main attraction here is the 1,500-year-old Lord Shiva idol.

Perfect for: Families on vacation

Insider tip: Gokarna Beach is a great place for shopping for souvenirs like bags, purses, idols, and trinkets.

4. Bandipur National Park

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Bandipur National Park was the former hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Mysore. Established as a forest tiger reserve in 1974, this national park is South India’s largest protected area and houses the highest number of wild elephants in South Asia.

The national park supports a wide range of flora and fauna. Travelers can spot a variety of tree species such as teak, rosewood, sandalwood, Indian laurel, Indian kino tree, giant clumping bamboo, Grewia tibiae folia, Indian gooseberry, golden shower tree, and black cutch.

Visitors can also get a glimpse of animals like Indian elephants, gaurs, tigers, sloth bears, muggers, Indian rock pythons, four-horned antelopes, jackals, and dholes.       Aside from these land animals, it is also home to over 200 species of birds and a large population of butterflies.

Safaris are available to experience the park’s biodiversity. Jeep safaris last for 2 to 3 hours and allow you to see a majority of the park’s animals. For large groups of people, bus safaris can accommodate up to 14 people. To see the Indian elephants that live here, one may choose the elephant safari.

Perfect for: Animal lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit the Bandipur National Park is between October and February.

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5. Mysore

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 days

Mysore is one of the largest princely states and the third-largest city in Karnataka. Located around 145 km southwest of Bangalore, the city is known as the “City of Palaces” and is famous for its rich architectural history, palaces, and beautiful gardens.

The city's best-known attraction is the Mysore Palace. Built in 1912, the palace is one of the biggest in India built for the 24th ruler of the Wodeyar Dynasty. It is a great example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture with its stone structure, arched gateways, and marble domes.

In the small town of Somanathapura in the Mysore district stands the Prasanna Chennakesava Temple, simply known as Kesava Temple. It is a Vaishnav Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. While it is no longer used as a place of worship, travelers still come here to admire its Hoysala architecture and the detailed carvings and sculptures.

Perfect for: People interested in architecture

Insider tip: Shoes are not allowed inside the Mysore Palace.

6. Coorg

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Located amid alluring mountains and a misty landscape, the Kodagu region, commonly referred to as Coorg, is a popular hill station for nature lovers. Not only is it renowned for its beautiful landscape, it is also home to many coffee plantations.

When visiting Coorg, one must see the Golden Temple. Located 34 km away from Coorg, it is the largest teaching center of the Tibetan Buddhist school known as Nyingmapa. The monastery is home to three 40-foot high statues of Lord Buddha and other items like sacred texts, horns, trumpets, bells, and prayer beads.

Located among the coffee plantations and spice estates of Coorg, Abbey Falls is one of its most popular attractions. The waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery and cliff dives of around 70 feet, attracting nature lovers and photographers from all over the world.

Perfect for: Families on vacation

Insider tip: Abbey Falls is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..

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7. Nagarhole National Park

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Another great national park to visit in Karnataka is the Nagarhole National Park. Located in the Mysore district near Bandipur National Park, this place is another great spot to see Indian elephants in their natural habitat.

The vegetation in the park is very diverse. You can find different kinds of trees and shrubs such as sandalwood, silver oak, rosewood, crocodile bark, Indian kino tree, cotton tree, Indian gooseberry and beechwood, horse nettles, and tick clover.

A variety of animals have made the park their home. Aside from the Indian elephants, travelers can spot jackals, tigers, panthers, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, mongooses, civet cats, hyenas, and sloth bears.

Jeep safaris are the best way to traverse the national park. Travelers can easily spot elephants, deer, bison, different species of birds, and langurs. Safaris are conducted twice a day, at 6:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Perfect for: Animal lovers

Insider tip: Travelers are advised to carry their own food and water as there are very few eateries inside the park.

8. Chitradurga Fort

Recommended visiting time: half a day

Chitradurga Fort, locally known as Chitaldoorg Fort, is located on a hill that overlooks a flat valley in the Chitradurga district. The fort was built between the 11th and 13th centuries and was later expanded between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Chitradurga Fort is the largest fort  in Karnataka. It is surrounded by seven hills, which are also enclosed by seven-layered walls, making it impenetrable to enemies. It is believed that this was the place where the mightiest of the Pandavas (from the epic Mahabharata), Bhima, met his wife Hidimba Devi.

The fort is home to many incredible structures such as 18 temples in its upper part and 1 main temple in the lower part, 19 gateways, 35 secret entrances, 4 invisible passages, and 2,000 watchtowers.

Perfect for: History lovers

Insider tip: The entrance fee to the Chitradurga Fort is INR 100.

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9. Chikmagalur

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Located in the foothills of the Mullayangiri Range, Chikmagalur is a hill station known for its scenic beauty, serene natural landscape, and lush green forests. It is known as the “Coffee Land of Karnataka” as it is India’s largest producer of coffee.

The hill station is also popular for trekking. Mullayanagiri Peak is a favorite among trekkers. Situated at more than 1,900 meters above sea level, the peak is one of the highest in Karnataka. It is surrounded by lush grassland and rugged rocks, offering amazing views for trekkers.

One of the best places to visit in Chikmalagur is Jhari Waterfall. Also known as Buttermilk Fall, this waterfall is surrounded by dense forests and coffee plantations. Here, travelers can swim in the pool formed in the lower part of the waterfall and relax in the serene surroundings.

Perfect for: Nature lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit the Jhari Waterfall is between September and December.

10. Belur

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Located on the banks of Yagachi River in the district of Hassan, the town of Belur was the capital of the mighty Hoysala Empire and houses many of the temples erected during the period. These temples are a great example of Hoysala architecture with its amazingly intricate carvings.

The Channakeshava Temple is the main attraction of Belur. Built to celebrate the victory of the Hoysalas over the Cholas, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vijayanarayana, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. It features beautiful sculptures and carvings that portray scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Another great temple to visit is Veeranarayana Temple. This temple was built by King Veera Ballala II and holds shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s avatars. The central shrine is of Narayana with four hands, the southern shrine is of Krishna playing the flute, and the northern shrine is of Yoganarasimha.

Perfect for: Temple lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit Belur is between March and April.

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11. Shravanabelagola

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Shravanabelagola is an important pilgrimage center for the Jain community. Located 144 km from Bangalore, the place is named after the pond located in the middle of the town called Bela-Kola, which means White Pond.

Shravanabelagola is home to the tallest of the five statues of Bahubali, the son of the founder of Jainism. The Gommateshwara statue is the biggest stone statue in the world, being 58-feet (17 meters) tall and carved out of a single block of granite rock.

Another attraction is Bhandaribasadi Temple. Built in 1159, it is the largest temple in Shravanabelagola. It serves as a great example of Hoysala architecture, featuring intricate carvings and idols of many different deities.

Perfect for: People interested in history

Insider tip: Travelers are advised to wear appropriate clothing when visiting places of worship.

12. Murudeshwar

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

Surrounded by the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, Murudeshwar is a popular pilgrimage site and beach destination. The town lies in the Bhatkala taluk of Uttara Kannada district and is 13 km from the taluk headquarters of Bhatkala.

Murudeshwar is renowned for being home to the second tallest-statue of Lord Shiva in the world. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea on three sides, the adjoining temple is built on top of the Kanduka Hill and is decorated with very intricate and detailed carvings.

After visiting the Shiva statue, one may unwind at Murudeshwar Beach. It is the perfect place to go on relaxing picnics with your family, surrounded by gentle hills, lush green foliage, and coconut trees. Travelers can also go for a swim, parasailing, and boat rides here.

Perfect for: Families on vacation

Insider tip: October to May is the best time to visit Murudeshwar.

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13. Jog Falls

Recommended visiting time: half a day

Located on the border of the Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts, Jog Falls is the highest waterfall in Karnataka and the second-highest in India. Also known as Gerusoppe Falls, it is located near Jog Village in the Shimoga district.

Jog Falls is formed by the Sharavathi River and drops from a height of 253 m. It is segmented into four parts called Raja, Rocket, Rani, and Roarer. Before the monsoon season, the flow of the river is constricted due to the Linganamakki Dam.

The State Tourism Department has constructed stairs for visitors to go to the bottom of the hill from the viewpoint spot. It is here that travelers can admire the beauty of the waterfall up close and even also take a swim under the waterfall to beat the heat.

Perfect for: Nature lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit Jog Falls is between August and December.

14. Mangalore

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 days

For those looking for a relaxing vacation, Mangalore is an ideal destination. This port city is located between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats and is renowned for its swaying coconut palms, beautiful beaches, and temple architecture.

You can visit Panambur Beach located 13 km south of Mangalore. It is one of the cleanest beaches in India where travelers can relax and go dolphin viewing. There are also a lot of water activities available here, such as jet skiing, surfing, and motorboat rides.

Travelers can also visit St Aloysius Chapel set atop the Lighthouse Hill. The main highlight of the chapel is the unique wall paintings made in 1899 by Antonio Moscheni and restored from damage over time. The view of the Arabian Sea from the church is also mesmerizing.

Perfect for: Families on vacation

Insider tip: November to June is the best time to visit Panambur Beach.

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15. Nandi Hills

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Nandi Hills is a tourist hotspot located around 60 km away from Bangalore. Featuring serene lakes, majestic forts, ancient temples, and mesmerizing backdrops, Nandi Hills makes the perfect weekend retreat for everyone.

When visiting Nandi Hills, one should go to Tipu's Drop. It is located on the hilltop of a cliff 600 m above the ground. From the hilltop, travelers can get an amazing view of the surrounding hill ranges. Travelers can also visit the Yoganandeeshwara Temple there.

Nestled at the base of Nandi Hills, the Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple or Nandi Temple is made of temple ruins dedicated to Lord Shiva. This ancient temple is very well-preserved, and its structures and carvings are stunning. This temple is a must-see.

Perfect for: People interested in culture

Insider tip: The best time to visit Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple is between October and February.

16. Pattadakal

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Pattadakal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to many Hindu and Jain temples, resting on the banks of the Malaprabha River. The Hindu temples here are mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva, while the Jain temple is dedicated to a single Jina or “savior”.

Virupaksha Temple is the largest temple in Pattadakal. Built in the 8th century to celebrate Vikramaditya II’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi, the temple houses many sculptures of different Hindu gods and several engravings and stone carvings on its pillars.

The Jain Temple was built in the 9th century by King Amoghavarsha I and his son Krishna II. It features the Dravidian style of architecture and is surrounded by various beautiful and intricate sculptures.

Perfect for: Temple lovers

Insider tip: October to March is the best time to visit Pattadakal.

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