Over 215 million tourists visit Karnataka each year, according to government statistics. The state tourism department suggests that the most popular tourist destinations are Bengaluru, Mysuru, Kodagu and Hampi - which draw the largest chunk of visitors each year, leaving the hidden gems of the state mostly unexplored.
The Karnataka Tourist Forum (KTF), a non-profit organisation, has teamed up with the Karnataka Tourism Department to bring the state’s biodiversity and culture-rich hinterlands to the fore.
The idea is to take travel agents and bloggers from around India on a tour of Karnataka to spread the word about the state’s hidden gems and bring in more visitors.
Arjun Ravi, the vice president of KTF, notes that the peculiarity of the tours is that patrons can experience quintessential cultural elements such as local food and treks, the coffee culture and events such as Kambala, areca-nut processing, etc, that are distinctive to the state.
“The goal is to introduce people to the most beautiful spots that the majority of the population overlooks, and encourage meaningful tourism in Karnataka,” says Ravi.
Meenakshi Gupta, an avid traveller and trekker who went on a tour of the Malnad region with KTF says, “Unfortunately, because of the least connectivity to the last mile, people seldom visit these places of heritage importance. There are treasures like the Arasalu railway station that people, irrespective of their age can relate to as it brings so many memories of Malgudi Days.”
A number of previous tours included “Chikkamagluru Blossoms,” “Coffee & Coast,” and “The Mystique of Malnad.” The ‘Coffee & Coast’ tour — organised prior to the pandemic — included Sakaleshpur, and Mangaluru, and covered several Blue Flag beaches in the Udupi region. On the Konkan route, patrons got a chance to travel on the Central Railway’s Vistadome carriages, which allowed them to appreciate the region’s splendour even more, according to Ravi.
Following the monsoon season, the future tours will cover places like Bidar, Badami, Bijapur, Hampi, Karwar, Gokarna, Dandeli, etc.
“As Karnataka’s tagline says, ‘One State Many Worlds’ — there is so much more here than the world sees,” says Ranjeetha Yaana, a tour director who also joined KTF on a trip in May.
“The state’s interiors have a plethora of attractions, ranging from jungle resorts with stunning views of the backwaters to treks through the Kudremukh forest range, which provides breathtaking views,” she added.
“The locals are absolutely welcoming. Not only the hospitality, but it was also more of a love and care, that’s the essence of visiting smaller towns. People greet you with warmth,” says Meenakshi. “Patrons get to sample local delicacies that aren’t available elsewhere, making it a genuinely unique experience for them. In addition, tourism helps the local economy,” added Ravi.
When questioned if these trips could ruin the pristine nature of these locations, Meenakshi stated, “These tours are for a very niche market and not for masses. It is for people who value sustainable tourism and respect the heritage and culture of the state, so not really.”