Tropical plantations punctuated with gold sunflower fields, modern highways flanked by marigold fields as far as the eye can see, neon green paddy fields surrounded by palm trees – a summer road trip in Karnataka showcases makes for a memorable getaway with friends and family
Itinerary for a road trip in Karnataka
Day 1: Arrive at Bengaluru Airport and pick your car, drive to Mysore
Day 2: Hunt for fields full of flowers in Gundlupet (June-September) and drive to Gopalaswamy Hills
Day 3: Enjoy Mysore and all it has to offer
Day 4: Drive to Coorg
Days 4-7: Explore Coorg
Day 7: Drive to Bengaluru and drop your car at the airport
This route is ideal if you enjoy meting into nature and the idea of finding a hidden waterfall or flower field excites you. If you’re a beach bum try combining this itinerary with a couple of days at the beaches of Gokarna. And if you’re a history buff, then try coupling this itinerary with a pit stop at Hampi’s glorious temples.
Best Time To Visit Karnataka
If you want to catch the flowers in full bloom, there try planning this roadtrip between 1 June and 15 September.
Other than that, there truly is no wrong time to go this roadtrip. Winter months (November-February) are ideal as the weather has cooled down a bit – this makes exploring easier. Monsoon months (July-August) work best if you enjoy chasing waterfalls- they are at their best during these months.
Tips and a breakdown of our roadtrip in Karnataka
Day 1 – Fly to Bengaluru Airport, pick up your rental car, and drive to Mysore
Our trip to Karnataka was a spur-of-the-minute decision. We took a short flight from Delhi to Bengaluru and landed around 11 am. We had already booked our rental car with Myles Cars, so it took us little time to collect our luggage, car, and get going. We’ve rented with Myles Cars several times in the past including Ladakh and Kerala and enjoyed their service, so we opted for them on this trip as well.
We would strongly recommend renting with an Indian car rental company while you are in India. This is because driving in India is a whole different ballgame to driving in most other parts of the world, especially Australia, Europe, or US. For instance – it’s easy to get minor scratches on the car however careful you are! Indian car rental companies understand these little nuances well and have rules and regulations that fit the Indian market well. We booked a with Creta with Myles Cars – the roads around Bengaluru are in decent shape, so you won’t need a 4X4.
We drove straight to Mysore on Day 1 – it’s a 4 hour drive but it took us almost 5 hours because we got stuck in a massive traffic jam while leaving Bengaluru.
Accommodation: We were unable to find the accommodation of our choice as we booked at the last minute so we ended up staying at Ni Ambari Suites for 1 night. This is an affordable hotel with great service and extremely spacious rooms that are done up well. But our washroom was quite manky, so I’m not sure I would recommend this hotel wholeheartedly. If you can stretch your budget a bit, Radisson Blu is a great mid-range hotel to stay in Mysore. It offers clean and spacious rooms and is located in close proximity to most sites.
Day 2 – Explore Gundlupet and Gopalaswamy Hills
This day was a definite highlight of our trip to Karnataka. The little village of Gundlupet is home to dozens of sunflower and marigold fields during summer months (1 June – 15 September approximately). You will see them lining both sides of the road as you drive from Mysore to Gundlupet. We visited the area towards the end of September, so we missed seeing the sunflowers.
However we did chance upon some enchanting marigold fields – I first spied an ochre patch hidden by swaying palm trees and we tip-toed into it only to find a vast expanse covered with hundreds of thousands of flowers. Needless to say, we spent the next few hours hopping from one field to another – it’s hard to get enough of them.
But we would recommend a drive to the area even if you visit at some other time of the year. That’s because the area is home to some scenic drives, some of the best in Karnataka. We loved the drive to Gopalaswamy Hills and would recommend it wholeheartedly. What’s more, the temple at the end of this road offers a panoramic view of the area (FYI – You have to leave your car in a parking lot and take a public bus to visit the temple. If you don’t want to do that, skip the temple and just enjoy the rest of the drive).
Day 3 – Explore Mysore and sample some local food
Mysore is a bustling yet delightful city. We spent our third day acquainting ourselves with its sights and sounds. The historical palace of Mysore is a gem right from the striking entrance to the intricate interiors. It is especially magical at twilight. Try to time your visit to the city to coincide with the Hindu festival Dussehra – that’s when you will see the Mysore Palace decked up to the hilt. This is the perfect excuse to sample the city in all its splendor.
We spent a majority of the day sampling local eateries recommended by Bruised Passports’ readers on Instagram. Here are a couple we’d recommend:
- Mylari – This iconic yet humble establishment is literally one tiny (and grubby) room with 2 items on the menu that cost less than £0.50 (INR 50) each. It’s the first place we visited in Mysore. Mylari is extremely popular with locals for its scrumptious dosas (savoury crépes). Give it a go if you’re fond of sampling street food.
- Another extremely affordable establishment, perfect for sampling South Indian food, is Hotel RRR. The food here is pretty good but do beware – it tends to get overcrowded, especially during lunch hours.
- Pujari’s Fishland – This al-fresco eatery is a bit of a drive away but serves great Mangalorean cuisine.
Day 4: Drive from Mysore to Coorg
The drive from Mysore to Coorg is a pleasant one – it will take you anywhere between 3 & 4 hours to reach Coorg. Busy towns and highways gradually give way to tropical plantations and paddy fields. Once you reach Coorg, check into your hotel and spend the day at leisure. Coorg has a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. If you’re on a budget we’d recommend looking for a scenic homestay on Air B&B (you can use this link for $33 off your first booking 🙂 )
If you want to splurge on a luxury hotel we have a gem for you. We chose a hotel that was recommended to us by dozens of readers over the past year or two. Evolve Back Coorg (earlier known as Orange County Coorg)is a bit of an institution in the eco-luxury sphere. It is more of an experience than a hotel – the sprawling property is situated amidst 300 acres of coffee and pepper plantations. Villas are extremely spacious boast of rustic yet luxurious amenities. Most villas boast of decadent private pools, surrounded by lily ponds or coffee and papaya plants.
The hotel also has 2 gorgeous public pools – we would highly recommend a dip at sunset. If you enjoy elaborate meals on holiday, you’re in for a treat at Evolve Back Coorg. Each meal feels like an occasion no less, with luscious buffet spreads and staff members lavishing attention on each guest. Evolve Back Coorg is a great choice for both family getaways and honeymoons. But do beware this resort is really popular, so the best rooms tend to be sold out weeks in advance.
Days 5-6 Explore Coorg and its surroundings
The area around Coorg is brimming with things to do. From plantation tours to walks in paddy fields, bird-watching walks and waterfalls jaunts, there are dozens of things to do. Here are some of our favourites and an (un)favourite:
- Go for an aimless drive in Madikeri – the area is surround by lush paddy fields, reminiscent of Bali.
- Go for a hike at Mandalpatti – this easy trail offers some scenic panoramas
- Visit the iconic Abbey Falls – try visiting early to avoid the crowds and try to follow the warnings about not crossing the bridge plastered all over the site. The rope bridge is flimsy and has led to many casualties in the past
- Go for a spice plantation tour and acquaint yourself with coffee plants, pepper plants, and other such.
- Visit a slightly offbeat waterfall such as Chelavara – make sure you wear sturdy shoes as the falls are a short 20 minute hike from the parking lot.
- Some other waterfalls in the vicinity include Irrupu Falls and Burude Falls. These are a lot less crowded than Abbey Falls.
- (Un)favourite: Absorb the view at Raja’s Seat – they say a trip to Coorg is incomplete without stopping at Raja’s Seat. To be honest, this wasn’t a favourite with us (too crowded, average view). You could stop here to tick it off a checklist, but we’d recommend venturing off-the-beaten path and going for a drive in the area instead
Day 7 Drive back to Bengaluru
The drive from Coorg to Bengaluru takes 6-7 hours. The road snakes through villages and flower fields before joining the Mysore-Bengaluru highway. This might not be the most memorable drive but is quite convenient. The road is in good shape but there are lots of toll booths along the way. Expect to pay approximately INR 500 (£4) for the entire journey.
That’s it – an ideal week long road trip in Karnataka that offers a variegated sample of what the state has to offer. The route is amazing if you’re a nature junkie. If you have two weeks, just combine this itinerary with a visit to the beaches of Gokarna and temples of Hampi.
*All costs and conditions true as of September 2017