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Rediscover Karnataka

Are you feeling cooped up at home and are itching for a quick break? Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy tell you how to get away from it all
Last Updated 19 September 2020, 19:15 IST

As the world slowly stretches itself out of lockdown slumber, perhaps the safest mode of travel right now is a self-drive to a secluded spot nearby sans crowds, like a nature and wildlife destination. With ever-changing quarantine rules and inter-state protocols, borderless travel within Karnataka is a good bet. Here are some short-drive staycation ideas.

Nandi Hills (60 km/1hr 30 min)

Reopened on September 7 after months of lockdown, Nandi Hills is the closest ‘hill station’ to Bengaluru and the 4,851 ft high Nandidurg shaped like a sleeping bull holds the promise of a restful sojourn. Long before Francis Cunningham built a summer residence for Sir Mark Cubbon and ‘Nundydroog’ became a summer retreat for British officers, it was Anandagiri or ‘Hill of Happiness’ for the Chola rulers. Dating back to the 8th century with imprints of the Rashtrakuta and Nolamba kings, it is believed to be the oldest temple in Karnataka with a spectacular stepped tank. The ancient hill fortress was built by the Ganga kings and later enlarged and strengthened by Tipu Sultan. The hill is ringed with scenic lookouts like Sunrise Point and Tipu’s Drop, the precipice from where he allegedly flung traitors.

(Go cycling, take a winery tour or do a heritage walk.)

BR Hills (170 km/3hr 45 min)

Perched at 5,091 ft, the picturesque Biligiri Rangana Giri or BR Hills takes its name from the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple that crowns it. Biligiri in Kannada means ‘white mountain’ after the weathered rock face of the granite cliffs where Lord Ranganathaswamy’s shrine lords over a sheer 1000 ft drop to the forest floor. The temple houses a pair of giant sandals measuring 1 ft 9 inches. Legend has it that Lord Rangaswamy uses these sandals to roam the adjoining forests. Miraculously, the sandals wear out and are replaced by the villagers who are alerted about it in their dreams! Once in two years, the local Soliga tribe offers the deity a large pair of leather slippers. BR Hills is also home to the Biligiri Ranganatha Swamy Temple (BRT) Wildlife Sanctuary with forest safaris on offer from the JLR camp at K Gudi. Gorukana is a community initiative that provides eco stays, nature hikes, Ayurvedic therapies and tribal performances (min 10 guests).

(Learn about the Soliga tribes at the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra and follow their fascinating folktales about Honnameti (‘Golden Footprint’), Dodda Sampige mara (giant Champaka tree) and Kyathadevara Gudi.)

Sakleshpur (216 km/4hrs)

With pleasant weather all year round, Sakleshpur is an excellent base to explore Tipu Sultan’s eight-cornered Manjarabad Fort. The 56.8 km long rail route from Sakleshpur to Kukke Subrahmanya, dotted by 58 tunnels, 109 bridges and 25 waterfalls used to be a stunning trek along the railway track called ‘The Green Route’ until its conversion to broad gauge. Now you can take a scenic train ride through the rainforests of Bisle Ghat. From Bisle viewpoint spot Kumara Parvatha (1319 m) in Dakshina Kannada, Puspha Giri (1712 m) and Dodda Betta (1119 m) in Coorg and Patta Betta (1112 m) in Hassan district. (Drive north to Chikmagalur and Baba Budan Giri to climb Karnataka’s highest peak Mullaiyanagiri.)

Mr Kabini the elephant with the longest tusks. PHOTO BY Pavithra Kumar
Mr Kabini the elephant with the longest tusks. PHOTO BY Pavithra Kumar

Kabini (254 km/5 hrs)

After ‘Papa’ John, JLR’s legendary wildlife warden, the Bhogeshwara Tusker or ‘Mr Kabini’ was the park’s unofficial ambassador for years, but Kabini has a new mascot — Saya, the enigmatic black panther, whose viral pictures recently took social media by storm. The best thing about Kabini is that it is open all year round, even in the rainy season!

Kabini's famous black panther. PHOTO By Pavithra Kumar
Kabini's famous black panther. PHOTO By Pavithra Kumar
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(Published 19 September 2020, 19:07 IST)

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