Mysore is located in such a position, that the hill stations falling in the two South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are no further than a few hundred kilometres away. Cauvery, the main river of Karnataka, flows around Mysore, making the surrounding areas a pleasure for anglers. Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts have three major national parks to explore. Close to Mysore are lesser known but equally signifacant destinations worth exploring.
Srirangapatna, which is a mere 16 kilometres from Mysore, is a place of great historical and religious significance. It is a small island town, enclosed on all sides by the Cauvery River and is held sacred for the same reason. It is also famous as the seat of Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali, after they wrested control from the Wodeyar rulers of Mysore. Srirangapatna has many interesting sites. The RanganathaSwamy Temple, which gave the town its name is a fine piece of architecture, the palaces of Tipu Sultan are interesting and the banks of the Cauvery River are ideal for just sitting down in peace and letting the world pass by! Set aside a day to explore Srirangapatna thoroughly.
Kabini, 90 kilometres from Mysore, offers jungle safaris, nature walks, heritage trails and coracle rides right in the middle of two important national parks of South India. This tributary of the Cauvery River divides the Bandipur National Park from the Nagarhole National Park and is replete with rare flora and rich wildlife. Kabini has some very interesting resorts and hotels that package the entire experience very well. Kabini River Lodge, (voted one of the top 5 wildlife resorts in the world by the British Tattler's Travel Guide), The Orange County Kabini and The Serai are highly recommended options in the premium segment. For mid range and budget hotels in Kabini, it is advisable to route the reservations through the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation, as mid-range and budget hotelsare not many.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, 20 kilometres from Mysore, is a haven for a variety of rare and not so rare birds! This small bird sanctuary, encompasses six islets of the Cauvery River that were formed when a dam was built on the river in the 18th century. An ornithologist’s paradise, the sanctuary is most populated between July and December, when droves of birds like The Great Stone Plover, River Tern, Lesser whistling Duck and many more migrate here. You can also look out for the Common Palm Civet, the flying fox and the Bonnet Macaque. At the end of it all, you can cool off with a boat ride around the islets. However, there are no accommodation facilities here and you have to get back to Mysore in the evening.
The Bandipur National Park, one of India’s best known wildlife sanctuaries, is located just 80 kilometres from Mysore. It is associated with one of India’s most serious conservation project – Project Tiger. Part of the Nilgiris biosphere, it is adjoined by three other major National Parks, The Mudumalai National Park, the Nagarhole National Park and the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary. Bandipur is beautiful and rich in wildlife. The patient and the lucky can get to spot tigers, leopards, sloth bears, the barking deer, gaur, sambar and the wild boar. Snakes like the python, vipers, cobras and various species of reptiles, butterflies and birds have made Bandipur a veritable treasure trove for the wildlife enthusiast. There is also a wealth of fauna to be enjoyed at Bandipur right from the Flame of the Forest to the Golden Shower Tree and many more.Set aside at least two days for Bandipur. Book in advance because this is one of South India’s most popular getaways. Resorts in Bandipur like the Bandipur Safari Lodge, Windflower Tusker Trails (High End), MC Resorts, Bush Betta Wild Life Resort (mid-range) and Tiger Ranch and Van Vihar (budget) look after your creature comforts and also arrange wild life safaris.
Coorg, often called the “Scotland of India”, is a beautiful hill station located about 120 kilometres away from Mysore and involves a journey of just about two hours through some very beautiful and scenic roads. Coorg or Kodagu is a very interesting tourist destination, not only for its beauty, with acres and hill slopes full of coffee, tea, orange and pepper plantations and teak, but also because there are many trekking and angling possibilities. Madikeri or Mercara is the most important district here, where all commercial activity is centred. It is crowded and may be avoided completely! The beauty of Coorg lies in the surrounding districts where there are any number of coffee plantations and spice gardens. Many plantations offer luxurious home stays with visits to the coffee plantations and coffee works thrown in. Since most of them are certified by the State Tourism Department, there is a high degree of accountability. These home stays provide an excellent opportunity to get a close up view of the culture and lifestyles of Coorgis. Coorgis are a martial race, distinct from the Hindus and have their own customs and rituals. They belong mainly to the Kodava race with ancestors who were known to be fiery and hot headed!
Coorg is also the place for adventure and sports. There are three peaks, Tadiandamol, Pushpagiri and Brahmagiri, in the order of their heights, that provide challenging trekking trails. The trek to Pushpagiri leads to the scenic Iruppu Waterfalls. Virajpet has a 9-hole golf course that provides a decent teeing experience. Between October and May, anglers can drop a line for the famous mahaseer at Valanoor which is the backwater of the Cauvery River. White water rafting along the Cauvery is another favourite.There are many outfits that organize adventure sports at Coorg and other destinations near Mysore. Do conduct the statutory checks about the competence of the guides and the quality of equipment before booking.Buses ply between Mysore and Virajpet, Madikeri, Khushalnagar, Bhagamandala and Somwarpet, at regular intervals. The City Bus Stand at Mysore has the schedule of buses. Coorg has homestays and resorts which provide accommodation options for every pocket. At the premium end, there are resorts like Club Mahindra Kodagu Valley near Madikeri, Orange County at Siddapura, Ambatty Greens Resort at Virajpet and Tata Coffee Plantation Trails at Polibetta.
Wayanad lies 115 kilometres from Mysore. It is a relatively unexplored and therefore a beautiful hill station which merits at least three days of stay. Lush with paddy fields, coconut trees, banana and tea plantations and relatively uncluttered, Wayanad is a feast to both the eye and the soul! It offers many beautiful trekking trails into the lush forests of the Nilgiri ecosystem. The trek to Chembara peak is reputed to be one of the more challenging treks and trekkers are rewarded at the top by the sight of a heart shaped lake that is known to have never ever dried up! There are the pre historic Edakkal Caves to be explored, the Muthunga and Tholpetty National Parks that offer a scintillating range of flora and fauna and the beautiful Pookot Lake, all of which go to make Wayanad a very attractive proposition. India’s largest earth dam, the Banasura Dam, is located in the most beautiful region of Wayanad. Most of the resorts, hotels and homestays in Wayanad are located in the three districts of Kalpetta, Vythri and Sultan Bathery. Each district is as beautiful as the other and all three of them offer a fair number of accommodation options from hotels to resorts and home stays. Almost all the resorts and hotels and many of the home stays arrange for trekking expedition and sightseeing excursions. Royal Palm Holiday Resort, Vythri Resorts and Hotel Green Gates are hotels that are highly recommended. Olive's Homestay and Sundara Mahal Homestay are two other popular homestays that are worth mentioning.
A word of caution - insist on an experienced guide if you are going to trek and ensure that you have the requisite equipment. Many forest streams apart from being very scenic and beautiful also have a liberal sprinkling of leeches and worms.
Bylakuppe, about 85 kilometres from Mysore, is a thumbnail sketch of Tibet. With a very pleasant climate, beautiful scenery, a scenic lake (one of the largest in Karnataka) and the Namrodoling Monastery which is also called the Golden Temple, it is certainly worth a visit. When you are done with the Buddhist Monastery, the Tibetan Settlement, their momos and their handicrafts, spare some time for the Ranganatha Swamy Temple atop the hill. Set aside two days for Bylakuppe and you will not be disappointed! Bylakuppe is en route to Coorg via Khushalnagar and any bus that goes to Madikeri will pass by Khushalnagar. Take an auto rickshaw from Khushalnagar to Bylakuppe which is only 6 kilometres away. There are some functional hotels and guest houses in Khushalnagar but nothing luxurious or grand. You can also contact the Namdroling Monastery at Bylakuppe for accommodation. The best season to travel to Bylakuppe is between September and February as it does get a bit uncomfortable during the monsoons.
Mysore is, quite simply, a major “Tourism Junction”!