7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka

Karnataka has much to offer, yet most foreign tourists simply pass through this southern state en route to Goa or Kerala. If you’re looking for an offbeat adventure, look no further: here’s 7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India.

 

Whether you seek misty mountains blanketed by jungle, rolling hillsides spotted with smooth boulders and ancient temples, or crashing waves on a rocky coastline, Karnataka has it all.

Strangely, many foreigners pass through this southern Indian state, but don’t take time to explore. Most tourists visit Bangalore and Mysore before beelining to Goa or Kerala. The backpacker crowd, on the other hand, heads to hilly Hampi or beachy Gokarna to alternate between smoking joints and going swimming.

There’s no harm in a bit of Netflix swimming and chill, but Karnataka has far more to offer than cities, water holes, and lousy weed!

For those with time and a sense of adventure, here are our favorite offbeat destinations from our time in Karnataka.

 

Karnataka, India is a state visited by many, but only in a select few places. Want to get away from the tourist crowds and explore the state's rich history? Here's 7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India.

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnatka, India - the domes of Gol Gumbaz at sunrise in Bijapur, India - Lost With Purpose

The domes of Gol Gumbaz at sunrise

Bijapur

No matter what way you look in Bijapur, epic history is within view. Massive domed mosques and mausoleums dot its skyline, standing tall and proud despite newer buildings creeping up against their sides. The town is a fantastic hodgepodge of historical sights from all eras, and the place to see Islamic architecture in India.

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - A tomb at Ibrahim Rauza in Bijapur, India - Lost With Purpose

A tomb at Ibrahim Rauza

Things to see in Bijapur

  • Gol Gumbaz
  • Bijapur Fort
  • Ibrahim Rauza
  • Bara Kaman

Where to stay in Bijapur

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Bahamani tombs in Bidar, India - Lost With Purpose

One of the Bahamani tombs outside of Bidar

Bidar

Nicknamed the City of Whispering Monuments, Bidar is another city overflowing with forgotten historical monuments. The strangely shaped walls of the 500 year old Bidar fort rise up on the city’s edge, while dozens of royal tombs dot its outskirts. India’s only Persian madrasa, Islamic school, can be found here, along with plenty of other Islamic historical sights. To top things off, the people of Bidar are very friendly, and many will be delighted (or amused) to see foreign visitors there.

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Bidar fort in Bidar, India - Lost With Purpose

The entrance gate to Bidar fort

Things to see in Bidar

  • Bidar fort
  • Mahmud Gawan Madrasa
  • Bahamani Tombs
  • Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil Ullah

Where to stay in Bidar

  • Budget: Aditya Lodge – Go right down New Bus Stand road from bus stand, about 0.5km, and it will be on your right through an archway
  • Mid range: Hotel Shiva International

 Looking for more to do in Karnataka? Check out these tours and local experiences!

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Chennakesava temple in Belur, India - Lost With Purpose

One (insanely epic) facade of the Chennakesava temple

Belur

Commissioned in 1117 AD, Belur’s Chennakesava temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture in India. “Chennakesava” literally means “handsome Kesava”, the form of Vishnu the temple is dedicated to. Thousands of intricate carvings adorn its walls, and 48 unique pillars support its interior, some topped by madanikas—“celestial damsels”, perfect examples of the female form.

Crazy carvings and sexy ladies. What more could you need?

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Detailed stone carvings on the Chennakesava temple - Lost With Purpose

Detailed carvings on the Chennakesava temple

Where to stay in Belur

You can stay in Belur, but it’s easier to stay in Hassan and take a bus or taxi from there. We stayed at the comfortable and good value Hotel Abhiruchi.

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - The strikingly dark interior of the Hoyaleshwara temple in Halebidu, India - Lost With Purpose

The strikingly dark interior of the Hoyaleshwara temple

Halebidu

What used to be the 12th century capital of the Hoyasala empire is now another small town with a grand temple complex. The Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara temples are two more Hoysala architectural wonders similar in style to the temple in Belur, but dedicated to Shiva rather than Vishnu. The town is only half an hour away from Belur by bus, so be sure not to miss it!

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Stone carvings on the Hoyaleshwara temple in Halebidu, India - Lost With Purpose

Stone carvings on the Hoyaleshwara temple

Things to see in Halebidu

  • Hoyaleshwara Temple
  • Kedareswara Temple

Where to stay in Halebidu

You can stay in Belur, but it’s easier to stay in Hassan and take a bus or taxi from there. We stayed at the comfortable and good value Hotel Abhiruchi.

 

Karnataka, India is a state visited by many, but only in a select few places. Want to get away from the tourist crowds and explore the state's rich history? Here's 7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India.

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Shettihalli Rosary Church - Lost With Purpose

That’s one creepy house of God….

Shettihalli Rosary Church

If you’re staying in Hassan, you should take an afternoon to pay this ex-church a visit. Also known by some as the “floating church”, the church was built in the 1800s, and abandoned in the 1960s after a dam was constructed nearby, flooding the area.

During the monsoon season the area around the church floods with water, and visitors need to hire a small boat to reach the ruins. If it’s not monsoon when you’re visiting, never fear! The ruins are just as fascinating without water, and you’ll be able to see more of them than in monsoon.

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Shettihalli Rosary Church in Karnataka, India - Lost With Purpose

Where to stay in Hassan

Getting to Shettihalli Rosary Church

 

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - A procession outside the Krishna Mutt temple in Udupi - Lost With Purpose

A procession outside the Krishna Mutt temple in Udupi

Udupi 

Given its coastline location and relatively close proximity to Gokarna, Udupi sees a little more foreign tourism than the other locations. But it’s still far from a tourist hub! Udupi is known as the origin of the dosa, and we totally treated it as a food-driven pilgrimage. People from Udupi put food on a holy pedestal, and it shows (tastes?) in their mostly family-run restaurants—the best chutney we’ve had so far was in Udupi!

If food isn’t such a motivator (… but… why?), there’s also a large temple dedicated to Krishna in the center of town, constantly surrounded by a line of pilgrims waiting to enter and pay their respects.

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - A masala dosa in Udupi, India - Lost With Purpose

Masala dosa, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Things to see in Udupi

  • Krishna Mutt temple
  • Mitra Samaj restaurant – try a masala dosa or some gole bajji!
  • Malpe or Kaup beach

Where to stay in Udupi

 

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Bylakuppe, India - Lost With Purpose

The interior of Tashi Lhunpo monastery

Bylakuppe

Everyone knows Dharamsala is where people go to find Buddhism in India… but how about Bylakuppe? It’s India’s second largest Tibetan settlement, and you’d be excused for thinking you’ve entered a new country while walking through town.

Bylakuppe’s streets are lined with small Tibetan eateries, and filled with red robed monks zipping to and fro on motorbikes. The town houses two large monasteries that might seem plain on the outside, but quickly take your breath away upon entry.

Off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India - Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India - Lost With Purpose

The golden buddhas of Namdroling monastery

Things to see in Bylakuppe

  • Namdroling monastery (Golden Temple)
  • Tashi Lhunpo monastery
  • The inside of a Tibetan restaurant

Where to stay in Bylakuppe

If you’re foreign, you’ll need a permit to stay overnight in Bylakuppe (don’t ask us why). It’s easier to stay in nearby Kushalnagar, and take a rickshaw to Bylakuppe.

  • Budget: We stayed at a small lodge near the bus stand for 150 Rs/person. Head left from the bus stand, and look for a red sign advertising free wifi (a lie).
  • Mid range: There are many beautiful cottages and resorts in the hills and forests surrounding Kushalnagar.

Getting to Bylakuppe

 

Karnataka, India is a state visited by many, but only in a select few places. Want to get away from the tourist crowds and explore the state's rich history? Here's 7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka, India.

 

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Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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5 thoughts on “7 off the beaten track places to visit in Karnataka

    Rahul says:

    First comment on your awesome Karnataka post, considering how it has paled in comparison to an awesomer Afghanistan post series 🙂

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot, although we mention much more than just Karnataka in this post 😉

    Udit Kumar says:

    Amazing article!! 😀 , perfect for people who want something more than photos. I am traveling through Asia and will definitely use your guides to plan further itineraries. Thanks!!

    Janneke says:

    how did you trasfer from place to place? By a public bus or with a guide? How long have you been traveled for this track?

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