Mysore was once the capital of the South Indian state of Karnataka. It is about 140 kms from Bangalore, the present capital. The Palace City of Mysore is one of the most visited cities in India. Thanks to its magnificent palaces, beautiful gardens and rich cultural heritage, Mysore is a major tourist destination in the whole of South Asia.
Mysore has quite a few attractions. The most famous, of course, is the Mysore Palace. Millions flock to Mysore throughout the year to visit the palace which is also one of the most visited buildings in the country. In fact, Mysore Palace attracts more visitors than Red Fort or Qutb Minar. Mysore has also made it to New York Times’s 31 must-see places on earth.
The Mysore Palace is right in the center of the city. The palace used to be the official residence of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore. In addition to the Amba Vilas Palace, Mysore has several other palaces. The second largest is the Lalitha Mahal. This palace was built in 1921 by the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar. It was meant to be used as the residence of the Viceroy of India during his visits to Mysore. The design of this palace resembles that of Italian palazzos.
Jaganmohan Palace is another tourist attraction in the city. It was built in 1861 by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. This building is built in the traditional Hindu style and served as an alternate residence of the royal family. The royal family lived here when the original Mysore Palace was destroyed in a fire. Since 1915, this building houses the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery. It has several paintings of the illustrious Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma and the Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich. There are also countless other paintings that showcase the Mysore style of painting.
Mysore Palace / Ambavilas Maharaja Palace
The Mysore Palace is unarguably one of the most photographed buildings in the world. It is situated right at the heart of the city. The magnificent building that we see today was built in 1912. The original palace built in 1897 was not as impressive as the current structure. It was built using wood and suffered major damage in a fire. The Amba Vilas Maharaja Palace of Mysore is a fusion of Hindu, Islamic, Gothic and Rajput styles of architecture. The interiors display brilliant craftsmanship. The Mysore Palace looks stunning both during the day and at night. Explore its fabulous interiors during the day and at night get bedazzled by over 100,000 light bulbs that illuminate the structure. The best time to visit is during the Dasshera (Navratri) celebrations.
Situated at the foot of the Chamundi Hills, the Karanji Lake is a manmade water body. It spreads over 90 acres and is one of the biggest lakes in Karnataka. Over 90 species of migratory birds can be found here. The park surrounding the lake also has a number of birds. The Karanji Lake is just behind the Mysore Zoo.
Chamundi Hills is about 1065 meters above the sea level. It is close to the city. At the top of the hill, there is a huge temple dedicated to Goddess Chamundeshwari. This is an ancient temple built in the 11th century. As you go up the hill, about halfway, you will find a huge idol of the celestial bull Nandi. Nandi is the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The five-meter tall idol is carved out of a single rock. It was built in 1659. In order to reach the temple, you have to climb 1000 steps.
Mysore Zoo (aka Shri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens) is one of the best zoos in the country. It is a great place to visit with your children. Built in 1892, Mysore. Zoo is also one of the oldest zoos in India. The sprawling zoo is spread over 250 acres and houses a variety of wild animals.
Brindavan Gardens is near the Krishnaraja Sagar dam. The sprawling garden spreads over 150 acres. The major attractions of the Brindavan Gardens are the fountains and the botanical park. The fountains come in all sizes and shapes and the brilliant display of colors enthrall visitors. Visit after sunset. That is when the fountains are at their colorful best.
Shivanasamudra Waterfalls is not exactly in Mysore. It is about 85 kms away from the city. The falls are part of River Cauvery. They are among the top 100 waterfalls in the world and offer spectacular views. Asia’s first hydroelectric power station was built at Shivanasamudra.
Melukote or Melkote is a pilgrimage center famous for its temples. One of the most famous among these temples is the Sri Yoganarasimha Swamy temple. This temple is situated on a hilltop from where you can get brilliant views of the sunrise.
St. Philomena’s Church / St. Joseph’s Church
The 200-year old St. Philomena’s Church is built in the Gothic style. The original church was a small building. The present structure was built during the reign of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. One of the largest cathedrals in South Asia, the St. Philomena’s Church keeps the 3rd century relics of St. Philomena.
Climate of Mysore
Mysore has pleasant climate throughout the year. Summers are not particularly hot; winters are not very cold either.
Best time to visit
Mysore can be visited throughout the year as the city does not experience extreme weather conditions. If you visit during Navratri (October/November), you will also get to enjoy the beautiful Dassehra celebrations. A word of caution, though. Mysore tends to become overcrowded during these ten days.