What to see and do in the royal city of Mysore

By Holly Cave, a Travel Professional

Read more on Mysore.

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Recommended for:
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Mysore, an ideal starting point for visiting the beaches and mountains of the Western Ghats, pulls off perfectly the marriage of old and new. Read on to make the most of your visit…

Not far from the cosmopolitan hub of Bangalore, Mysore is not only smart and uncharacteristically laid back, but has kept its true Indian character intact. Modern hotels and ancient markets overlook the Maharaja’s Palace – the town’s crowning glory. Surrounded by hills and lakes, it makes for an exciting, accessible Indian tourist destination.

What to do

The Mysore Palace (Sayyaji Rao Road; +91 0821 243 4425; www.mysorepalace.tv) is the obvious attraction, and one well worth seeing, although the town itself is simply pleasant to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere.

One can easily spend a couple of hours in Mysore’s Devaraja Market (Dhanwanthri Road) – one of the most intoxicating I’ve been to in India. Bursting to the edges with fresh produce, flower garlands and coloured paints, it’s also a fantastic spot for keen photographers. You might find yourself doodled on by a paint seller or be followed around by a curious little boy.

The Chamundi Hills overlook the town and a short trip on a bus (20 rupees) can take you up there to see the Mahabaleshwara temple and a fantastic view. If you’re feeling fit, try walking back down the 1000-plus steps, built in the 17th century, although you might want a fresh coconut as refreshment when you finish!

Another highlight, just outside town, is the quaint railway museum (KRS Road, admission cost: 25 rupees), an endearing little place on the edge of town where old trains come to die. It doesn't have an address but a tuk-tuk driver will get you there easily enough, although it's closed on a Monday. The steam trains on display here aren’t just interesting for buffs, the place has a serene air about it and you don’t need to be an engineer to appreciate the crumbling elegance of the Maharani’s royal carriage.

When to go

Undeniably, the best time to visit Mysore is during the festival of Dasara (or Dussehra, depending on whether you happen to be speaking Hindi or Kannada) – a huge event for the town. At this time of year, Mysore is one big carnival and the town’s magnificent centrepiece – the Mysore Palace – is lit up with a whopping 96,000 light bulbs. On my first evening, I went to check it out up close, along with, seemingly, everyone else in India. Party clothes on, families were out and about snacking on street food, buying horns, whistles and balloons and in a raucous frame of mind, taking pictures of everything with their mobile phones.

On the final day of the festival, everything really kicks off for the street parade. Waking early and buying some snacks to see me through, I settled down on an empty spot on the pavement. The main street was lined with extended families, happily cross-legged on the ground but my mollycoddled British limbs weren’t really up to the three hour wait for the parade to begin. My sweaty white face must have stood out like a sore thumb as I attracted an undue amount of pointing and smiling, culminating in stares of amazement and hilarity when I applied sun lotion.

Headed up by four beautifully-decorated elephants, the parade was a seemingly endless stream of dancers, musicians, gods and goddesses, papier-mache floats and acrobats. The crowds went wild as the Maharaja brought up the rear on his horse.

In the evening, the crowds move to the Bannimantap Parade Ground where the procession culminates. I’d secured a last-minute ticket to the evening ‘torchlight parade’. Settling on the concrete steps for another few hours, I watched military gun salutes, motorbike stunts, laser shows, men parachuting into the stadium, African acrobats, men parading in perfect step with flares and some great fireworks.

Eating and drinking

Perhaps more accessible than in other areas of India, the street food here is tasty, cheap and clean, given as it’s cooked from scratch right before you. A simple bowl of fried rice from a street side stall is reliably delicious and you’ll be treated like royalty by the vendor to boot. If you’re willing to try other unidentifiable treats, you might be lucky to find some deep-fried fritters or other such culinary gems. The locally-named ‘chat street’ is one of the best places to begin (off Radhakrishna Avenue, behind Marimallappa School). You can’t leave Mysore without indulging in some classic South Indian fare. Although spicy, the dosas here are among the best on the subcontinent and a good range with some great samples can be found at Indra Café’s Paras in the centre of town (1740 Sayyaji Rao Rd). Eternally popular with tourists and locals alike, Hotel RRR (Gandhi Sq) overlooking a statue of Gandhi, serves up reliable thalis and a selection of other dishes. You won’t find any meat on the menu here, though.

After a morning walk around the palace, why not exit out of the main gate and stop for lunch at Café Aramane just opposite (Moti Khana Building, Sayyaji Rao Road)? A pleasant mid-range option, there are some tables on a terrace outside where you can relax and enjoy your food. The cashew nut curry here is one of the best I sampled in India. For a more upmarket evening meal, sit beneath the stars on the atmospheric balcony of the Parklane Hotel (2720 Sri Harsha Rd) and eat with cutlery and white tablecloths for a change. While the curries are perhaps lacking spice, the tandoori specialties are among the best you’ll get anywhere on the subcontinent.

Places to stay

Mysore has plenty of hotels to suit all budgets, although be sure to book well in advance if you’re visiting during Dasara, a time when all the hotels really do end up fully booked weeks before.

For budget travellers, Hotel Dasprakash (Gandhi Square) is a hard one to beat. With a great location in the centre of town, you can bed down here for as little as 300 rupees. The rooms are very simple but large and clean. Located just outside the town centre, a great mid-range option is Sunlarge Home Stay (1 D Viharmarga Siddarthanagar), with a room costing from 1500 rupees. The in-house cook will happily rustle you up some of her best Indian fare during your stay.

If your budget stretches to it, try the Royal Orchid Metropole (5 Jhansi Lakshmibai Road). Equipped with everything you might want and more, this luxury pad oozes timeless elegance and charm from every exquisite furnishing. Rooms here start from 4000 rupees a night.

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More information on What to see and do in the royal city of Mysore:

Author:
Holly Cave
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
4
Average: 4 (2 votes)
Total views:
120
First uploaded:
10 February 2011
Last updated:
3 years 24 weeks 1 day 11 hours 52 min 34 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Cultural, Food and Drink
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
city, festival, palace, exploring and learning

Holly recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Royal Orchid Metropole Mysore
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2. Mysore Dasprakash
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3. Sunlarge Home Stay
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Community comments (2)

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Holly,

Thanks for an excellent guide about a town I had never thought of visiting.

The truth is India has been on my wish list for a long time however, stories of abject poverty, beggars that simply will not leave tourists alone and poor accommodation all conspired to put me off.

However, you paint a different picture and really gave me a feel for the place. You certainly make the food sound pretty good and tasty too.

I would also add that you are a pretty accomplished photographer - I particularly like the night shot of Mysore Palace - so add some more of your pictures to really help the guide.

Try to include shots of people, they really help bring a place to life, as well as the railway museum, the palace and the hotels and eateries you recommend.

I look forward to reading all about your next destination as you travel across the region - you lucky girl!

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Rating:
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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

What I enjoyed the most about this guide is the description of the festival of Dasara. This is a really personal account and involves the reader so much in the experience that it fires your imagination into being there. It is very well written and demands to have a catchier title than “when to go”; this made me think I would be reading about climate and weather.

You write about so many interesting things that I felt could do with some photos to see what they look like- the railway museum, Chamundi Hills and the wonderful food that you describe. I love the photo of the elephants- so colourful and exotic!

I felt something more could be said about Mysore Palace. Why is it worth seeing?

The eating and drinking section is great and your descriptions of the culinary delights are suitably mouthwatering.

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