The peninsular state of Karnataka is one of the larger and older Indian states. Its size results in varied geographic conditions and its elaborate history in a deep rooted sense of culture. All this, combined with a speedy economic growth rate combined with modernization makes Karnataka an ideal destination for tourists. To truly explain the experience of Karnataka tourism, one can divide the different elements of the state into four separate categories:
Heritage Tourism: Civilization in Karnataka has been dated back to the Palaeolithic days and since the days of the Nandas, it has seen numerous kingdoms rise and fall; the relics of which continue to stand tall for us to enjoy. In fact, Karnataka has the second highest number of nationally protected monuments in India. The most famous of course are the ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi and the monuments of Pattadakal which are on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The cave temples at Badami or the rock-cut temples at Aihole are also popular. The stately domes, forts and minarets of Bijapur too are exquisite. In fact, Karnataka has so many and such beautiful stone buildings that it has often been called the “Cradle of Stone Architecture”. These wonders are beautiful reminders of the state’s rich heritage.
Eco Tourism: Karnataka’s varied geography lends a hand in creating a vast variety of natural experiences. The region can be divided largely into three sections – the coastal areas, the hilly areas and the plans. The result is misty mountains, dense forests, gurgling streams and breathtaking waterfalls; along with a beautiful and long coastline which is flanked by the tall Western Ghats on the one hand and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea on the other. Must see places for nature buffs include Coorg, Chikmaglur and Nandi Hills; Jog Falls, Unchalli Falls and Magod Falls if you want to experience the Ghats and Gokarna, Mangalore, Malpe, Kaup for pristine beaches. The varied topography also results in a varied fauna and Karnataka has numerous National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Bird Reserves.
Cultural Tourism: Being one of the oldest civilizations in the country and having been under the rule of many dynasties; Karnataka has an exciting and highly varied culture. Karnataka is famous for its song and dance traditions. A trip to coastal Karnataka would be incomplete without watching the Yakshagana – a unique and elaborate dance drama where the performers are dressed in elaborate costumes and masks. The Mysore school of Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak are some of India’s most revered classical dances that also originated here. Togalu Bombeaata, an ancient art of leather puppetry whose stories are largely based on mythology is also highly entertaining. There are many cultural centres across the state where one can experience these forms of art. In terms of food, Karnataka’s cuisine is extensive and has travelled across state and even national borders. The Idli, dosas, different variations of bhaat are simply scrumptious. The variety of sea food available in the coastal, especially Mangalorean, cuisine is also mindboggling. It would be a shame to visit Karnataka without sampling their gorgeous fare. Karnataka is also famous for its temples, mosques and churches not only because of their architectural beauty but because of their spiritual and historical past which provides a richness of ambiance that can touch your heart. The best time however, to visit Karnataka is during the festival season, especially during Dassara, during which all these cultural elements tie in to make a wholesome experience of culture.
Adventure Tourism: The gorgeously varied geography and topography of Karnataka allows for many opportunities for adventure sports. White water rafting on the unpredictable stretches of the Kali River at Dandeli can match the thrill of rafting on The Ganga. Other raft-able rivers in the state include Sitanadi, Netravati and Cauvery. For the rock climbers, the craggy rocks of Ramnagar which is only a mere 50 kilometres from Bangalore are ideal. Yana is also especially famous for the purpose. Other oddly shaped hills ideal for the sport are Savandurga, Kabbaldurga, Tumkur, Turahalli and Kanakpura; all of which are around Bangalore. The lush tropical forests of Karnataka with their hills, caves, roaring rivers and waterfalls, and extraordinary flora and fauna make Karnataka the ideal playground for trekkers. The most beautiful of Karnataka’s trails are in the Ghat districts. Some suggestions are Shimoga, Chikmaglur, Hassan and Kodagu. Other adventure sports which have great potential in Karnataka are aero sports and angling.