In August of 2019, I was invited to be part of the first Karnataka International Travel Expo from Karnataka Tourism. I’ve just visited Bangalore earlier but the cities we were asked to explore post the expo just opened up my mind about the state in India. Here’s everything you need to plan out a Karnataka itinerary if you are a first-timer.
As a disclosure, I was provided accommodation and travel as complimentary but I only post my honest opinions on Hungryoungwoman that remain unbiased.
Firstly, we visited Karnataka for about a week. In this course of time, we covered Bangalore, Mysore, Bandipur, and Coorg. There were packages that allowed for more places of interest in Karnataka to be covered but as we like slow traveling, we opted for this one.
To give a brief about this state, Karnataka is located in South India just above Kerala, the southernmost state in the country. The official language of Karnataka is Kannada but retail stores and most famous tourist places in Karnataka will have people speaking in English so it is not a problem to converse when you are traveling there.
There are currently 2 international airports in Karnataka; namely in Bangalore and Mangalore and a few in the works. We arrived at Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore which is quite modern in my opinion. I am comparing this to the only other airport I have seen in India which is in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Getting a visa for Karnataka is the same process as any Indian state and it is easily available online.
I am a sole believer in planning in advance. I research, find places to stay and explore in advance, as well as download any information that can help before/during the trip. An itinerary is very important to maintain and stick to especially if you are short on days or money.
Following is a 7 day itinerary for Karnataka that can be broken down into 3 days or even 2 days trip in Karnataka by choosing the location you’d like to visit.
Ideally, these holiday destinations in Karnataka should be located close to each other when you are visiting for a shorter time. Say, for example, a perfect itinerary including tourist places in Karnataka for 3 days can start in Bangalore, then Bandipur, and end in Mysore where you can fly off from there.
Tips for a holiday in Karnataka for first-timers
The best way to travel in Karnataka or most of India is to hire tuk-tuks or most commonly known as auto/auto rikshaw there. If you look like a typical tourist, drivers will try to rip you off. Since I have Indian roots myself, this is usually easy for me but some drivers can easily know I am a tourist as I can’t speak their language.
A handy tip is to check the distance of the place you need to travel to in advance. Do not, and I repeat, do not give drivers anything more than INR 200. No ride costs that much or the driver wouldn’t take you if the distance is that long.
An auto driver had ripped off a member of our tour group by charging him INR 1500 for one way and another INR 1500 back! Please don’t be that person who pays without knowing
Always bargain with drivers and try to negotiate the price to at least 50-70% of what is quoted.
What to Pack for Holiday Destinations in Karnataka
Some simple things I always have in my bag when traveling to India:
- Light clothes like thin material pants and tees
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sanitizing wipes
- Destination specific reading material (for the ultimate planner in me)
With seven days in Karnataka, we spent 3 days in Bangalore, 1 day in Mysore, 1 day in Bandipur, and 2 days in Coorg.
There are a number of cities in Karnataka each different in its own way. Broadly speaking, I’d categorize them into famous cities, cities for wildlife and nature, and for culture and history.
I chose to do a mixture of both tourist spots in Karnataka and the wildlife/ nature tour. If you are a history and culture fan, then visit cities like Hampi, Udupi, Hassan, and Bijapur.
We were a mixed group of about 20 people from different parts of the world traveling on a bus. Although we made a good number of friends on this trip, my husband and I realized that traveling in a group is not for us.
Sure, making friends while traveling is a good perk but adjusting according to an itinerary designed by someone else and people holding up others is not exactly fun for me. I have decided to come back later and enjoy my favorite places to travel in Karnataka alone.
Important Places in Karnataka – Bangalore City Tour
I’ve been to Bangalore a couple of times before but this was with family and I didn’t get to have a Bangalore sightseeing tour then. However, those two times I actually spent time shopping at local street shops and trying street food.
When compared to the tourist attractions in Bangalore, I loved the former for it required interacting with and living life as locals do.
Some of the main places to visit around Bangalore are Lalbagh Botanical Garden and Bannerghatta Biological Park, these are two famous natural places to visit in Bangalore.
Our visit to Bannerghatta Biological Park was an extremely educative one. We stopped at the Bannerghatta Nature Camp by Jungles Lodges and Resorts (JLR)
JLR are state-owned properties that provide for basic amenities and facilities. Since we were on a trip with Karnataka Tourism, we stopped for lunches and tours at these hotels.
I do, however, have mixed reactions on the way animals are treated inside the enclosure. We found a few animals suffering from malnutrition, but according to staff regular checks and medicines are given in a customized diet for each animal.
I’d say, allot an entire day for your visit to Bannerghatta as it is located far enough from the city center and traffic in Karnataka is known to be one of the worst. However, don’t miss this especially if you like learning about animals.
Watching the tiger and bears from such close proximity is sure enthralling!
I will be writing a more detailed post about Bangalore city sightseeing soon and will update it here once I do.
If you’re thinking of taking day trips from Bangalore, Nandi Hills is a very good option. It roughly takes about an hour and a half by car. Known for breathtaking panoramic views, if you’re a beginner trekker then this can be a nice place to start.
For a more local feel of Bangalore, I suggest taking a Bangalore city tour with these packages from Get Your Guide, this particular one covers the market and Tipu Sultan’s summer palace. Click here for details.
Best Places in Karnataka for wildlife – Bandipur
Bangalore to Bandipur is almost 5 hours so I suggest spending at least a night there. This area is very popular for its national park. Most hotels offer a safari experience through the jungle with unrestricted animals. If you are a wildlife lover you will definitely enjoy this!
This was one of my favorite places to see in Karnataka during our trip. We stayed at the Country Club, this is probably the only thing I would change about our stay and next time we would look for a better lodge. The rooms were in bad condition without maintenance and we had weird issues like the electricity going on and off, phone not working, and a breakfast that was very mediocre. Also, Wi-Fi only at the reception!
There are various options for every budget in the vicinity. For a luxurious stay, the Dhole’s Den seemed like a wonderful option as some members of our group were placed there.
For mid options, you can take look at the hotels below to look at prices and pictures.
We had a fantastic time exploring the jungle with Jungle Lodges and Resorts at the Bandipur Safari Lodge. A safari jeep with grills on windows is taken for a ride in the forest with a knowledgeable guide.
I especially liked how responsible this lodge is as they restrict guests from taking any eatables or engaging with animals. Use of flash cameras and talking loudly when you spot an animal is not allowed at all.
Hence, we found the jungle trails very clean unlike other places in India that are usually destroyed by tourists.
A typical safari lasts for about 2-3 hours and takes place early in the morning and in the afternoon after lunch.
Karnataka Trip for Indian culture – Mysore
Next on Karnataka places to visit list is Mysore. The former capital of Karnataka and housing the Mysore Palace of the earlier ruling Wodeyar family.
For history fanatics, learning about the Wodeyar family and their curse will be interesting. This curse which targeted the family resulted in all couples being barren for around 400 years. In order to grow the royal family, an heir had to be obtained through adoption.
Other things to do in Mysore include visiting a silk factory (and buying something made of silk as a souvenir!) and seeing the Philomena Church.
Since we were only in Mysore for a day, we couldn’t visit any of their markets and the famous Tipu Sultan Palace. I visited the palace during childhood and absolutely loved the royal furniture.
Beautiful Places in Karnataka for nature – Coorg
Other than natural tourist destinations in Karnataka like Badami and Chikmangalur, Coorg or Kodagu is a beautiful location where you can find numerous honeymoon places in Karnataka.
Most people visit to enjoy the cool climate and lush greenery but Coorg is more than that. During our stay of 2 days in Coorg, we visited the Abbey Falls and Dubare Elephant Camp (this one is again a state-owned camp)
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I liked Coorg the most for a couple of reasons; unlike most hill stations in India, Coorg is not too high up and the ride does not make me nauseous or sick. Two, Coorg isn’t as well known as hill stations like Ooty or Munnar which means lesser crowds!
Some other best things to do in Coorg which I want to do when I’m back is to visit the coffee plantations, go on a trek, try doing a food tour, and stay at the luxury resort Coorg Wilderness Resort again. More about this coming soon so watch this space!
All in all, I extremely felt my trip to Karnataka was worthwhile! Karnataka was never a destination on my bucket list and I’m surprised why I didn’t think of it earlier considering how close it is to Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Nevertheless, I know I am coming back soon 🙂
Have you been to this state before? What according to you are the best tourist places in Karnataka or some Karnataka attractions that should not be missed? Let me know.
Until then, happy traveling! xx
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