Places To Visit In Karnataka: Top 5 Sites You Must Not Miss

From history and architecture to nature and spirituality, the state offers an array of experiences that promise to create lasting memories
Designed by Henry Irwin, the Mysore Palace is dominated by domes, turrets and colonnades
Designed by Henry Irwin, the Mysore Palace is dominated by domes, turrets and colonnadesShutterstock

Karnataka, located in the southern part of India, is a land of diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and historical significance. From ancient temples to bustling cities, from pristine beaches to lush forests, Karnataka offers a wide array of tourist destinations that cater to the interests of every kind of traveller. Here are the top places to visit Karnataka that should be on your travel itinerary.

Somnathpur Temple

A fine example of the Hoysala style. the temple is built on a star-shaped plan
A fine example of the Hoysala style. the temple is built on a star-shaped plan

The Chenna Kesava temple (built in 1268 AD) on the banks of the Cauvery, in the sleepy little town of Somnathpur, was the last important temple to be constructed by the Hoysalas. The site is an unskipable part of the places to visit in Karnataka. It is also the most complete and finest example of the Hoysala style. It is on a star-shaped plan, with towers on three shrines. Every inch of the temple's outer walls is covered with fabulously detailed sculptures of Shaivite figures, friezes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata–which are meant to be read while circumambulating the shrine. There are also depictions of caparisoned elephants, horsemen, mythological birds and beasts, and voluptuous courtesans. The lathe-turned stone pillars are made to resemble those of the wooden temples of Kerala.

The ASI staff might permit you to climb the enclosure walls, from where you get a birds-eye view of the temple. Somnathpur town itself is small, and consists of a few attractive pillared houses.

Getting There: Somnathpur in Karnataka can be reached via Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) and Mysore Junction by air and train, respectively. Take SH17 from Bangalore to Mysore by road, then follow signs to Nanjangud and Somnathpur. From Mysore, follow Bannur Road to reach Somnathpur.


Gokarna, on the northern end of the Karnataka coast, has been an important pilgrimage spot for a long time. Its beautiful white-sand beaches, with the forested hills of the Western Ghats in the backdrop, are perfect for a completely isolated beach crawl. Some of the best beaches are located south of the town. A 20-minute hike on a hilly trail and a short descent from a rocky plateau brings you to Kootlee beach–a kilometre-long swathe of spotless sand in between rock promontories. Another short walk brings you to Om Beach, so called because of its crescent-shaped bays. If you want to get further away from the crowds, head to the Half-Moon and Paradise beaches.

Getting There: Gokarna is seven hours from Mangalore, and the closest railway station is Gokarna Road (8 km).


Boats docked in Devbagh
Boats docked in Devbagh

The clear waters of Devbagh, a tiny island off Karwar, are quite crowded by thousands of damselfish sergeant majors, butterflyfish and other marine creatures that inhabit the pristine coral reefs of this area. When the wind dies down and the sand settles, a magical underwater world emerges. The open-water dives are safe and perfect for beginners. And beyond acquainting you with the underwater world, Devbagh is an island where you can live by the sea along a seven-kilometre stretch of golden beach. Take diving and snorkelling courses with Barracuda Diving, an adventure outfit.

Getting There: Karwar is about 100 km from Dabolim, Goa. Ankola (30 km) is the most convenient railway station.


The famous Virupaksha Temple in Hampi
The famous Virupaksha Temple in HampiShutterstock

Karnataka's best-known heritage site is this ruined city on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River, amid a surreal landscape of golden-brown granite boulders and leafy banana fields. The ruins, which spread over 26 square kilometres, are concentrated in two sites. The first, in and around the Hampi bazaar and the riverside, encompasses the most sacred group of temples (like the Virupaksha temple) and the ghats, while the second centres on the royal enclosure, about three kilometres south of the river, and holds the remains of palaces, pavilions, elephant stables, guardhouses and temples. The massive granite chariots, towering gopurams, and huge colonnaded halls are still impressive and the best examples of what is referred to as the Vijayanagara style.

Getting There: Hampi is 350 km from Bangalore. Hospet (13 km) is the closest railway station, and Bellary (74 km) the closest airport.


Kemmangundi offers beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and gardens
Kemmangundi offers beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and gardensShutterstock

Tarikere Taluka is one of Karnataka's lesser-known hill stations. At an altitude of 4,705 feet, it remains cool throughout the year. It was the favourite hill station of the Raja of Mysore, and the Dattatreya Bhawan, his summer retreat, still dominates the town. And it's incredibly green. A spread of dense forests cloak the hills around the little town, ferns serpent up tree trunks, moss covers stones, and creepers hang from every available branch. Many waterfalls, like the Shanthi Falls and Hebbe Falls, are close to town. Kemmangundi is the place to head to if you want to go on long walks, drink good coffee, and admire the lush landscape.

Getting There: Kemmangundi is 252 km from Bangalore, and Tarikere and Birur are the closest railway stations.

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