Mysore Travel Guide
As a cultural capital in Southern India, Mysore is a must for travellers. Its palaces and temples will dazzle you, while its cleanliness will surprise you. Only 170 kilometres from Bangalore, it is a natural first destination after landing at its international airport.
Start your trip to Mysore properly by dedicating a day to checking out Mysore Palace. Once the home of the Wadiyar Dynasty, this fabulous residence is now open to the public. Its original constructors built it in the Indo-Saracenic style, which drew on Gothic, Mughal, Hindu, and Rajput schools of design.
Its grand entrance arch and endless hallways filled with mosaics and intricate tilework will blow you away. As excited as you are to visit, though, know that you aren’t the only one with that idea. Over six million people visit per year – only the Taj Mahal gets more tourists. As such, try to avoid visiting on weekends and holidays.
Once you’ve gotten Mysore Palace out of the way, make the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple your next stop. You’ll find it 13 kilometres outside Mysore in the Chamundi Hills. The temple itself stands atop one of them, looming 838 feet above sea level.
Dedicated to Durga, the warrior goddess, you’ll find her images throughout this temple, as well as those of Nandi, Shiva’s bull. The Hoysala Empire built this structure in the 12th century. However, it was the Vijayanagar Empire that added its distinctive tower in the 17th century.
If you can, do attempt to visit during the month of Ashadha. Two significant festivals go off from late June to late July – if crowds don’t bother you, it’s a great time. At any time of year, bear in mind that accessing the temple is a physical endeavour. You can only access it by climbing more than 1,000 steps. This feat is extremely challenging to perform in tropical heat, so bring lots of water.
Chennakesava Temple is another temple worth a visit while in the Mysore area. This 13th-century temple is located 30 kilometres from downtown, but it’s a day trip you’ll remember forever. Considered by many experts to be one of the most beautiful Hoysala Empire temples, its intricate reliefs will astound you.
Its pillars, corridors, and shrines will transport your mind back to a world beyond your conception. With daily scenes depicted in many carvings, you’ll get a good idea of what life was like back then.
While mostly Hindu with some Christians and Muslims, the Mysore area saw some high-profile Buddhists arrive in the 1960s. Exiled from Tibet, Buddhists driven out of China were given land by the Indian government in Mysore. These refugees used the allotment to build the Namdroling Monastery.
Erected in the middle of a jungle, they had to contend with angry wild elephants in the beginning. In time, though, they adjusted to their new home, creating a centre of Buddhist thought in Southern India.
In addition to temple facilities, Namdroling Monastery is home to a sizable seminary. At any given time, upwards of 4,000 monks and 800 nuns learn the way of the Buddha here.
Haven’t had a chance to see any wildlife while travelling in Southern India? See what you’ve missed at the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens. This 154-acre complex is home to over 168 different species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.
These include lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, and anacondas, among others. This park can get packed during the summer and on certain holidays, so time your visit if you need personal space.
If you need a break from the city centre of Mysore, pay a visit to Brindavan Gardens. Throughout this park, you’ll find fountains, decorative hedges, flowers, and a sizable lake. Time your visit for the late afternoon – as evening falls, the fountains put on a spectacular light show.
If you’re searching for a quirky attraction, make room for the Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum in your itinerary. Located in the Chamundi Hills, it is the only museum of its kind in India, despite being well inland.
Throughout this attraction, you’ll find highly-detailed sculptures, carved from one of the most finicky materials out there. This attraction closes during rains to preserve the integrity of its sand sculptures, so drop by if the sun is shining.
Finally, get a feel for everyday life in Mysore by attending the Devaraja Market. As you walk around, you’ll find stalls with perfectly-stacked fruit, colourful spice piles, and innumerable trinkets. Open from sunrise to 8 pm, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take in this wonderfully chaotic affair.