Sandwiched between the states of Goa and Kerala, Karnataka is the lesser-known gem of the trio and welcomes far fewer tourists. They’re missing out! The region is rich in history and culture, the cuisine is a gourmet’s dream, and the impressive mountain scenery exerts an irresistible pull on keen hikers. Outside the frenetic state capital - home to India's booming tech industry - life in Karnataka is fairly relaxed. You can set your own pace and enjoy the region’s ancient cities and temples without navigating the crowds that flock to India’s more well-known destinations.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
At the exuberant cutting edge of modern India, Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) has grown into a future-powered megacity. In keeping with its status as ‘India’s Silicon Valley’, there are a plethora of on-trend shops, restaurants and cafes appearing throughout the city where you can enjoy the best of its contemporary culture. Although it doesn’t have the historical breadth of Delhi or Mumbai, there are plenty of fascinating sights to discover. Among the city’s star attractions are Bangalore Palace, which looks like a miniature Windsor Castle, the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the extravagantly decorated Tipu Sultan's Palace. To experience a different side to the city, wake early and wander through the heady kaleidoscope of fragrance and colour at the Krishna Rajendra market’s flower bazaar.
Hampi, the last capital of Vijayanagar, was one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history. All that remains of this ancient wonder is a tumbledown collection of palaces, stables and temple ruins to explore, stretching for miles along the banks of the River Tungabhadra. Further south are the tightly clustered sights of Mysore. Climb 1000 steps to the top of the Chamundi hills at dawn, or cross the sacred Kaveri River to the temple island of Srirangapatna. Watch local artisans create sandalwood carvings, silk and incense. Find quiet spots for yoga and contemplation, and leave time to sample the town’s famously delicious thalis. If you can, visit the fairytale Maharaja's Palace on a Sunday evening, when its opulent domes twinkle with thousands of lights.
The landscape around Coorg’s tranquil hill station is spellbinding: rugged mountain terrain interspersed with cardamom jungle, coffee plantations and lush green rice fields. The temperatures feel much fresher at this higher altitude, making it perfect for hiking. Enjoy waterfalls and forest walks, visit local villages, and get a thrill from whitewater rafting.
The three quiet villages of Badami, Pattadakal & Aihole were once capital cities of the Chalukya, who left behind an incredible legacy of temples. Among them are hundreds of unusual cave temples decorated with detailed carvings of Hindu and Buddhist gods, many of which are exceptionally well preserved despite still being in use as dwellings (and some as cattle sheds!)
Take your best shot at spotting wildlife with an itinerary that includes not one but three different parks, all located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This allows you to explore some surprisingly diverse scenery, see myriad bird and animal species, and hugely increase your chances of spotting one of these elusive big cats.