Splendid South India Tour
14-day adventure trip through Karnataka and Goa – Exquisite cultural heritage and relaxation on the beach
Temples, palaces, world heritage, mythology, experiences of nature & beach life
In several exciting stages, this 14-day tour leads you through the vast state of Karnataka and ends at the palm-fringed beaches of Goa. Karnataka is a scenic region with a rich cultural heritage. The southern part of the state lets you experience the magical splendor of the Orient. Particular highlights are the Maharaja’s Palace of Mysore and the Hoysala temples of Halebid, Belur and Somanathapura. Exquisite gems of south Indian temple architecture are on show, with intricate images of the gods and ornate decorations. In the northern part of the state, the archaic shrines of the Chalukya dynasty await you with their rich mythological motifs. A definite highlight is the world heritage site of Hampi where, in the midst of a bizarre rocky landscape, the stone remnants of a sunken kingdom are waiting to be explored. The journey ends in the relaxed multicultural atmosphere of Goa, where long sandy beaches tempt you to a swim in the Arabian Sea, with the atmospheric sunset over the sea being the highlight of the day.
The proposed itinerary is flexible and can be tailored to your needs in terms of content and schedule. If you want a longer stay, we can recommend a well-maintained resort in Goa which provides the right framework for relaxed days at the beach.
Bangalore – Mysore – Somanathpur – Melkote – Halebid & Belur – Hampi – Badami – Aihole – Pattadakal – Goa
Day 1: Arrival in Bangalore – Transfer to Mysore – Relaxed arrival & a stroll through the bazaar
After your arrival in Bangalore, you will be picked up at the airport or train station and driven directly to your hotel in Mysore, where you can enjoy a peaceful arrival in your host country. In the early evening, we recommend a stroll through the bazaar, with Mysore being famous for silk fabrics, incense, flower essences and sandalwood and rosewood carvings.
Day 2: Magical Maharaja Palace – Trip to the Keshava temple in Somanathpur
The tradition-imbued, colorful provincial city of Mysore with its princely charm and wide, tree-lined streets is considered one of the most attractive cities of South India. The absolute highlight is the Maharaja’s Palace. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, it has formed the center of the city since its completion in 1912. The magnificent building came into existence after the old wooden palace of the ruling family was completely destroyed by a fire in 1897.
The Keshava temple of Somanathpur, located 35 km east of Mysore, is considered a particularly great and well-preserved architectural masterpiece of the Hoysala dynasty. The complex was built in 1268 by Somnatha, a general in the army of Hoysala ruler Narasimha III. The three shrines, dedicated to different aspects of the Hindu God Vishnu, are situated in a rectangular courtyard and designed in a star-shaped layout, with friezes that have exquisite ornamental decorations and scenes from the Indian epics. All the sculpturing work is of outstanding quality.
Day 3: Chamundi Hills with Durga temple and Nandi statue – Trip to the ancient temple town of Melkote
The Chamundi Hills, 13 km from Mysore, are dedicated to the warrior goddess Durga, who is supposed to have fought a battle against demonic forces here. The temple on the hill top is a famous Hindu pilgrimage center, with both a winding road and a footpath with over 1000 granite steps leading up to it. Halfway up the hill is the largest Nandi statue in South India. In Indian mythology, the bull Nandi is Lord Shiva’s steed.
The temple town of Melkote (also called Melukote), built on rocky hills in exceptionally beautiful surroundings, is considered one of the holiest sites in Karnataka and is a worthwhile destination for a trip from Mysore. Since the Hindu saint and philosopher Ramanuja has lived here for several years in the beginning of the 12th century, this place of pilgrimage is of great spiritual significance for followers of Vishnu. The peaceful atmosphere, which seems unaffected by the passage of time, is impressive. The spacious main sanctuary is the Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple, which is dedicated to Vishnu, the preserver of the world. Another attraction is the hilltop temple dedicated to Lord Yoga Narasimha, in which a half-man/half-lion incarnation of Vishnu is worshiped.
Day 4: Transfer to Hassan – Visiting Halebid und Belur – Filigree Hoysala-shirnes
From the 12th to the 14th century, Halebidu was – under the name Dorasamudra – the capital of the Hoysala dynasty, during which fascinating shrines were built in a picturesque landscape. The Hoysaleshwara temple is a double shrine dedicated to Shiva. The two units each stand on a cross-shaped ground plan and are connected by a hall. Inside the sanctuary, hand-turned stone columns support the roof. Wall elements of perforated stone filter the incident rays of light, creating a pleasant atmosphere. The design of the exterior walls is characterized by grandiose mythological motifs, presenting the entire Hindu pantheon. Overlapping friezes show elephants, lions, plant ornaments and episodes from the Indian epics.
From the 11th to the 13th century, Belur was an important center of the Hoysala dynasty. Erected on a jagged base, the Chennakeshwara temple, which is still being used for religious purposes today, is dedicated to the God Vishnu in the form of Keshvara (“the one with the beautiful curls”). Surrounded by smaller shrines and walkways with stone columns, it stands in the middle of a wide courtyard surrounded by a wall. Construction of the temple went on for 103 years. The admirable sculptures are of an exquisitely delicate nature and deserve proper attention. The geometrically designed cross-shaped ground plan, the buoyant sculptures of the Gods, the wide circumambulation zone, the high base and surrounding friezes with mythological motifs are some of the elements typical of Hoysala architecture.
Day 5 – 7: Transfer to Hospet – The ruins of Hampi – Scenic rugged landscape and World Heritage at the Tungabhadra River
A stay of several days between the ruins of Vijayanagara gives you an unforgettable glimpse into the former greatness of this lost city. The magnificent capital of the Vijayanagara empire was taken by the armies of the Muslim sultanates in 1565 and completely destroyed over a period of six months. The ruins of the “City of Victory”, a World Heritage Site today, are divided into two groups.
The first complex, called the Royal Center, is 3 km away from Hampi, near the small village of Kamalapuram and includes the impressive remains of the royal palace area. Its attractions include former palaces and audience halls, pavilions, elephant stables, guard houses, harem buildings, fortifications, an underground chamber, ponds, temples and the well-preserved Lotus Mahal. At a little distance from the main complex is the Queen’s bath.
The second group, called the Sacred Center, is located around the Hampi Bazaar and consists of a series of sanctuaries, most of which extend along the Tungabhadra river. They include the Vitthala temple, the Narasimha temple, the King’s Balance, the Agni temple and Kotalinga complex, the Rama temple and the Tiruvengalanatha temple. Also worth seeing are the old bathing ghats at the river side and the Achutya Bazaar. The center of Hampi features the great Virupaksha temple, a pilgrimage center with 52 meter high gopurams (temple towers) dedicated to Lord Shiva. Further places of interest south of Hampi bazaar, around the Hemakuta Hill, are the noteworthy Krishna temple, the ancient procession road, two well-preserved Ganesha statues and the massive Lakshmi Narasimha statue.
An alternative to the more bustling atmosphere of Hampi can be found on the other side of the Tungabhadra river, with a walk to the Hanuman temple, considered the birthplace of the ape-like god. The ascent to the temple is paved by a series of steps. The views from the top, of the rugged and rocky landscape, are breathtaking. The views from the many elevated vantage points in the area around Hampi are especially worthwhile at sunset.
Day 8: Transfer to Badami – Mythological cave temples of the Chalukya era
Situated beside an artificial lake between red sandstone rocks, the town of Badami was the capital of the Chalukya dynasty from the 6th to the 8th century. At the southern end, beneath a fortification, are several cave temples which are connected by stairways and lead up to 15 m into the rock. The entrance to the first cave, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is adorned with an exquisite picture of an 18-armed dancing Nataraja. The second, slightly more elevated cave, is a place for worship of the world preserver Vishnu. The mythological motifs show him in several different incarnations. Further steps lead past the ascent towards the fort to the third and largest cave. This cave is considered the most ornate, as it is abundantly decorated with magnificent motifs from Vishnu mythology. Towards the east is a remarkable Jain place of worship that aptly emphasizes the tradition of Jainism with an atmosphere of internalization and asceticism.
Day 9: Tour of Aihole and Pattadakal – Archaic sanctuaries and World Heritage
Aihole is, along with Pattadakal and Badami, known for a collection of well-preserved temples of the early Chalukya dynasty (6th – 9th century). The archaic shrines are located in the center of the village, in the surrounding fields and on the flat plateau of a steep hill at the southeastern side of the village. Some temples had, long ago and over the course of years, become fully integrated into the structure of the village and were only rediscovered a few years ago. The differently designed Jain cult caves and Hindu temples testify to an impressive level of architectural experimentation. The great Durga temple, dated to the 7th – 8th century, is a particularly beautiful masterpiece and impresses with its unusual shape.
The small village of Pattadakal on the banks of the Malaprabha River was the holy place where the rulers of the Chalukya dynasty were crowned, from the 7th to the 9th century. They celebrated their great victories in stone here. The temples were built both in the North and South Indian style and are among the most important early stone temples in India. Most monuments are located in well-kept areas. The most famous temple is the Virupaksha temple, whose sculptures depict scenes from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Pattadakal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 10: Transfer to Goa – India with a different twist
What catches one’s eye immediately upon arrival in Goa is that, despite its exotic, tropical character, this Indian state is much more “European” than any other region in India. This is due to the cultural imprint of 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule, which ended in 1961 but has left its mark everywhere. Grand villas, whitewashed churches, manicured gardens and attractive strip malls are as much part of its appearance as traditional rice fields, Hindu temples and fishing boats under coconut trees. The outcome is a tolerant culture in which eastern and western lifestyles blend together in a relaxed and natural way. Goa’s atmosphere exudes a paradise-like flair that invites you to linger and relax.
Day 11-13: Relaxation at the beach & trips around Goa
Goa has become especially famous around the world for its beautiful beaches. More than one hundred kilometers of sandy and palm-fringed coastline, occasionally interrupted by cliffs, coves and rivers, promises the perfect bathing fun. The atmospheric sunset over the sea is one of the highlights of the day. Luxurious beach resorts and solid mid-range hotels offer well maintained accommodation close to the beach. Resorts and hotels have their own swimming pools as an alternative to the sea. At the main beaches, there are many good beach bars and restaurants that serve fresh seafood and other Goan specialties. Goa is also known for its excellent international cuisine.
Among the attractions that can be explored in outings is the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier have been kept for almost 400 years. Other places of pilgrimage are the Cathedral of St. Catherine and the St. Francis Church. Ponda, further to the north, is a perfect place to get acquainted with the Hindu side of Goa. Among the most famous shrines are the Sri Mangesh temple in Priol and the Shanta Durga temple in Quela. For shopping, we recommend a shopping trip in the old town centre of Panaji, or a visit to the picturesque flea market in Anjuna, which takes place every Wednesday.
Day 14: Transfer to the airport – Return home or travel onwards
The return home or travel onwards is, as per your preferred arrangement, either via the train station or airport.