15 days from £3785pp plus international flights.
Karnataka in southern India is a diverse state with vibrant cities, verdant hills, historical temples and lush plantations. Add friendly people and rich culture and you have a fascinating destination. This holiday takes in as many of these varied aspects as possible without overfilling your days, and finishes with time on a quiet bay in Goa for some valuable rest and relaxation.
History lovers will be in seventh heaven, with tours of Mysore city, the Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu and the World Heritage Site of Hampi, all led by expert guides. Nature lovers are well catered for too, as the holiday includes boat and jeep safaris in Nagarhole National Park, opportunities for nature walks and coracle rides and time in the lush Western Ghats. Culture vultures will love touring Bylakuppe, one of the largest Tibetan settlements outside Tibet, and will relish spending time at a homestay with local family near Mysore.
Yes, it's full on, but not unrelenting, so you have several mornings and afternoons where nothing has been planned and you're free to relax by the pool, treat yourself to some pampering at the spa, or simply sit and enjoy the views, though there's plenty of extra activity if you want it. The trip ends in Goa, at a lovely family-run hotel made up of 3 villas on Dolphin Bay.
You cover a lot of ground during 2 weeks, but we believe travelling is all part of the experience. On this holiday you have the freedom of the road with your own driver and air conditioned vehicle, meaning you can travel when you want and stop when and where you wish, to take in local scenes and capture fine photographs that will bring back many memories when you are back at home.
Having cleared customs and immigration you are met by a local representative who transfers you to your city hotel, a journey of around 75 minutes. The rest of the day has been left clear, to let you relax after the flight and take things easy at the hotel, maybe treating yourself to a spell in the spa or unwinding over a drink in the bar. You won't need to stir far for dinner, either, with two restaurants on site.
Having breakfasted you set off on your journey through Karnataka. Your first stop is at Srirangapatna. This was the main stronghold of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in Mysore, and also the scene of the final battle between Tipu Sultan and the The East India Company in 1799, which resulted in Tipu Sultan's defeat and death. Today you can see the fortress and its dungeons, as well as a mosque and the Sri Ranganathsway Temple. Your drive resumes and you arrive at the homestay just outside Mysore where you spend the night. The total driving time is about 3,5 hours. This afternoon there's time for a guided tour of Mysore, taking in the Maharaja's Palace, Chamundeshwwari Temple in the hills above the city, and the 5 metre Nandi bull carving dating back to the mid 17th century. Back at the homestay there is a cookery demonstration showcasing Kodava ethnic cuisine, culminating in a sit down dinner. Breakfast, dinner
Awake early to accompany your guide on a dawn walk in Mysore. Highlights include the town hall, clock tower, Devaraja market and church circle, and your guide explains the history of each. The walk takes around 90 minutes and ends with breakfast at a local restaurant. You return to the homestay to collect you bags and bid your hosts farewell, and are then driven to Kabini, and your hotel, which should take approximately 2.5 hours. Later in the afternoon you head out for a jeep safari in Nagarhole National Park in search of elephant, gaur (Indian bison), tiger, leopard and wild dog. Afterwards you are taken back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
An early start enables you to enjoy a morning boat trip on the Kabini River. This is a nice way to ease yourself into the day, sitting back and watching elephants on the riverbanks and looking out for otters, crocodiles and water birds, with the benefit of your guide's expertise. The ride lasts around 3 hours and you get back to the hotel in time for breakfast. Your time is your own till mid-afternoon, leaving you free to relax by the pool, try some Ayurveda therapies at the spa or accompany a naturalist guide on a walk around the grounds. At about 3pm you can join another jeep safari in the national park for some more wildlife viewing, returning to the hotel at around 7pm. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
You're on the move once more, with today's destination Coorg, about a 4 hour drive in total. First you break the journey at Bylakuppe, the second largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet, made up of some twenty villages. One of the main sites is Namdroling Monastery, also known as the Golden Temple, a vast establishment that is home to over 5,000 monks and nuns. From here you continue to your next overnight stop in Coorg, and have time to enjoy the facilities which include a lovely infinity pool, an open-sided lounge and a spa. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
You can have a leisurely breakfast before being collected for a 45-minute coracle ride. These small, circular vessels are traditionally used by fishermen in this region, and your trip this morning allows you to experience life on the river and lets you glimpse wildlife in the forest by the water's edge. The middle part of the day is free for you to spend at the hotel, and at around 4pm you have a guided tour of the working coffee and spice plantation. It's fascinating to learn how the estate has evolved over the years and see current cultivation and production techniques. You arrive back at the hotel in the early evening in time to freshen up for dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Today you leave Coorg and head to Chikmagalur, a town in the foothills of the Mullayanagiri Mountains. After about 4 hours at you arrive at the next hotel, The Serai, and have the remainder of the day to settle in. The Serai is an attractive property located on a working coffee plantation, surroundings that will now feel familiar to you. You can spend a lazy afternoon at your villa, complete with private pool, mingle with other guests in the lounge or explore the grounds on foot or by bike, as you wish. Breakfast
This morning's excursion takes you to the temples at Belur and Halebidu. These are both examples of Hoysala architecture, an empire that flourished between the 11th and 14th centuries. The temple complex at Belur has at its heart the Chennakesava Temple, flanked by smaller temples and pillars, and is considered the first great Hoysala temple. The complex at Halebidu is on a similar scale and is equally impressive. It contains around two hundred and forty sculptures on the outer walls and doorways. At the end of the visit you are driven back to The Serai and have the rest of day to spend as you wish. Breakfast
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before setting off for Hampi, where you spend the next three nights. The drive takes about 6.5 hours, and includes various stops to stretch your legs. You stay at Evolve Back, a sister property to the hotels in both Kabini and Coorg. Treat yourself to an easy rest of the day, taking full advantage of all the facilities on offer. These include the Vaidyasala Spa where therapists can deliver a personalised programme of treatments, a near Olympic-size infinity pool and the beautifully designed reading lounge. Breakfast, dinner
You have the whole day to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi, a short drive from your hotel. It covers a vast area and consists of standing buildings and ruins, all once part of the city of Vijayanagara, the capital of the eponymous empire, which reached its heyday in the 14th to 16th centuries. There are trails taking in different areas of the vast site, and with a guide on hand you can appreciate its historical, religious and cultural importance. You can learn about the privileged lives of the Raya rulers, explore outlying areas and walk among temple ruins. Hampi is sure to work its magic on you. In the late afternoon you have the chance to go for another coracle ride, before returning to the hotel for dinner. Breakfast, dinner
This day has been left free. If you wish you can make a return to Hampi. There are sure to be aspects you did not see yesterday, and this is a place where there's always more to discover. Alternatively you may prefer to remain at the hotel, enjoying its palatial architecture, exploring the nooks and crannies and unwinding in your villa with its balcony and jacuzzi. Breakfast, dinner
Today you set out on the final leg of your journey. Your destination is the world-famous coastal resort of Goa, about a 7.5 drive away. Here you stay in a lovely family-run hotel located on a quiet part of Dolphin Bay, well away from the crowds. Ahilya by the Sea consists of three villas and two swimming pools set in pretty gardens full of tropical plants. The furnishings and decor are an eclectic mix of styles collected by the owners, which bestow a homely atmosphere. Stroll along to the main lounge where you can meet other guests, and look forward to the next few days in this lovely setting. Breakfast
Enjoy breakfast, often served al fresco, before joining your guide for a tour of Old Goa. This takes in some of the area's historic churches, including some that date back to the 16th century, and a number of heritage buildings which display a fusion of Indian, Islamic and Portuguese architectural styles. The rest of the day has been left free. Breakfast
A full day a leisure. You may want to do little more than spend a peaceful day at the hotel, soaking up the ambience, enjoying the gentle pace of life and socialising with other guests. If you can bear to tear yourself away you can walk along the seafront to the Reis Magos Fort, constructed in 1551 from where you have commanding views along the coast. You may prefer a lazy beach day and your hosts at the hotel can recommend some favourites where you can top up your tan. There are many options, and you're sure to find one that suits. Breakfast
Enjoy breakfast within sight of the sea before packing your bags and preparing for the final phase of your journey. At the appropriate time you are collected from the hotel and driven to the airport to check in for your flight home. Breakfast
Guide price from (pp sharing): £3785 (ex. international flights)
14 nights twin share accommodation; transport in an air-conditioned private vehicle as per itinerary; services of an English-speaking guide and entrance fees for sightseeing in Mysore, Belur, Halebidu, Hampi and Goa; cookery class at Gitanjali Homestay; morning walking tour of Mysore including breakfast; 2 evening and 1 morning safaris at Kabini; guided visit of Bylakuppe; coracle ride and plantation walk at Coorg; coracle ride at Hampi; drinking water during drives; arrival assistance at Bangalore and departure assistance at Goa; meals listed as included
International return flights and taxes; travel insurance; visas; high season supplements; optional excursions; meals not listed as included; drinks; personal expenditure; tips
Getting there: This holiday starts in Bangalore and ends in Goa. Return flights from the UK cost from around £700, depending on season and availability. We usually book these for you.
Ahilya by the Sea is a beautiful hotel full of local character near a quiet village in North Goa.
Stay in a private villa on an estate in the hills, a perfect setting for relaxing far away from the crowds and enjoying rural life.
Styled as an historic palace, this hotel is a suitably grand place from which to explore the archaeological site of Hampi.
Experience the peaceful location and sumptuous accommodation at Evolve Back Kabini and enjoy jeep and boat safaris in this great wildlife habitat.
Stay with a local family in a tranquil setting, learning about Kodava culture and cuisine, a short way from Mysore.
Well equipped, modern hotel with a choice of restaurants, a spa and rooftop gym and pool.
An all-villa resort set on a working coffee plantation, with opportunities for outdoor pursuits and relaxation.
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Find the best time to visit India
Time: GMT +5 hours
Flight time: Flight time from London to Delhi is 8 hours 30 minutes and to Mumbai is about 8 hours.
Language: The official language is Hindi, which about 30% of the population speaks. English is very widely spoken and is used for official and commercial purposes.
Visas: Required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.
Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations.