He said – “Babe you spent the whole week planning this trip… Relax! It’ll be great… Stop worrying so much.”
She said – “Nooooo! This is our first trip together with your parents & I want it to be perfect… I have to make sure that nothing goes wrong.”
Cut to… the trip where…
She said – “Oh Snap! I wasn’t prepared for this!”
This story is about the time my in-laws came down to Bangalore to celebrate our famous Indian Festival named Diwali with us. They were going to be with us for a little more than 15 days and it went without saying that we would want to take them on a tiny holiday somewhere close-by. I’ll admit, planning this trip proved to be quite challenging since my in-laws themselves are quite well traveled throughout India, so trust me when I say they have seen the best of it.
Truth is there isn’t much do and see in a 200 km radius from Bangalore (which is all we had time for) for those who have already seen the best Hill Stations, Temples, Forts, Ruins, Monuments, etc. of India. To make matters worse, my husband happened to up-sell my ‘trip planning skills’ just after the worst floods had hit and destroyed the most scenic parts of South India; shutting down tourism indefinitely. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck!
So after a lo……t of digging, spade work and maddening the locals I know with numerous questions, I managed to make a plan that I felt would be suitable for my in-laws. It went something like this –
- No. of pax – 4
- Duration – 2 nights 3 days
- Budget – Since we were with the parents, we decided not to have a budget and just go with the flow. Just for info – Stay + Fuel + Toll + Food + Local Spice & Tea/Coffee Shopping for 4 can cost close to INR 20,000
- Season – Beginning Winters, Peak Season, Day – 31° Night – 16°
- City of Departure – Bangalore, Karnataka
- End Destination – Sakleshpur, Karnataka
- Mode of Transport – Car : Honda City
- Driving Distance –
- Bangalore to Sakleshpur – 225 kms
- Including detours to visit 3 other spots – 300 kms
- Food Preference – Pure Vegetarian in Pure Vegetarian Restaurants, very easy to find in these areas
The Itinerary was meant to go like this…
Day 1 – Spiritual
Start the day early, carry some snacks for the route, stop for breakfast at a famous local joint – Anand Bhavan, move onward to Shravanabelagola to see Sri Bahubali’s renowned statue, from there, head to Halebidu Archeological Site, then to Belur, spend a good 2 hours at each spot and reach our Home-stay by 19 00 hrs (7 pm).
Day 2 – Sightseeing + Relaxed
First stop to Manjarabad Fort which was located 3 kms from our Home-stay, then to Hanbal Falls, stop for lunch in the main city, then Bettada Byraveshwara Temple and end the day with some Tea/Coffee/Spice shopping and Home-stay exploration (since it was in a Coffee Plantation)
Day 3 – Sightseeing
Have a relaxed breakfast at the plantation, start our return journey, check out Shettihalli Church and Gorur Reservoir which is at a distance of 15 kms from each other and reach home by evening tea time.
But as I mentioned earlier, “we decided to go with flow” and happened to move a lot of things around during the trip.
Although I spent a week talking to people, reading blogs & every possible article I could find on the internet and only then adding the most recommended spots to my plan; it didn’t seem enough. There were things I wasn’t aware of and hence wasn’t prepared for. Here are 5 facts I would like to point out to those of you who want to take this same route that we did –
1. Google is deceiving, so keep room for alterations
The information I found after scouting almost all of the relevant topics was half baked, the maps are misleading and the pictures that I saw of some of the locations were highly glorified. So if you know / find any locals before you leave or even after you reach, inquire whether these places are worth going to. Hotels usually have packages that they will promote, but home-stay owners & restaurant staff will have real information to give you. If you are self-driving (which you will have to in these parts) please ask for directions along with following the map. The locals definitely know better than Google.
2. Some Monuments have an endless flight of stairs, so have a backup plan if you’re not up for it
You have to walk up 700 stairs to reach the magnificent Bahubali Statue at Shravanabelagola. They try to sell you socks claiming the rocks will be hot, but I didn’t really find it necessary. Similarly, there are about 200 steps to the top where Manjarabad Fort is located. Luckily, my in-laws are in great shape for their age and their determination is so strong that they managed it all with very little discomfort. Although, at Gomateshwara (Bahubali) you will find dolis (small carriages) to carry you up in case one can’t do it themselves and it’ll cost you about INR 200-300 per head, but you won’t find such provisions at the fort.
3. Home-stays located in Estates & Farms are as good as staying in a Jungle
Considering the acres and acres of greenery around you when you are staying in a Spice Plantation or a Tea/Coffee Estate, know that you will have creepy-crawly visitors throughout your stay. We stayed at Cloud Alley Homestay which is available only on Airbnb. It’s a fantastic place surrounded by 3-5 acres of coffee plantations. The cleanliness bar was up high, their provisions were on-point, and they even had a little temple where my mom-in-law kept our Little Kanha (Baby Krishna) well-equipped with Pooja items. But I will admit we had things flying and crawling into the house constantly. Hence carry a bug spray, odomos, keep a ‘chappal’ handy, or if you really can’t deal with it, then don’t pick a place like this.
4. Monuments that are photographed well aren’t necessarily worth a visit
- Manjarabad Fort is a Star-shaped fort built in 1792 designed by a French architect to mimic the Citadels back in France. But due to lack of maintenance, there isn’t much left of it except the outline. You can distinctly see the star shape only if you own a drone camera and it is worth climbing 200 stairs only if you plan to carry a bed sheet, a picnic basket and spend a good 3-4 hours having a family picnic there.
- Shettihalli Church as well is just a bunch of pillars left after the whole place was brought down to ruins. There really isn’t much history here. It’s a church which was being built by the French in their famous Gothic architecture which was suddenly abandoned and left incomplete. The road leading to it is quite bad or maybe it was just Google taking us down a bad route. There is garbage strewn everywhere, so if you are a photographer going to click photo-journalistic pictures, then you’ve got a tonne of Photoshop work coming your way. The only significance of this place is that the place gets submerged in water during the monsoons & very high tides and you can do some boating around it. But even then, it wasn’t worth the rocky detour.
- Bisle Viewpoint was another hype and disappointment. It was a last minute addition to the plan on someone’s recommendation. I mean it’s got a moderately lovely view and as a matter of fact it is a panoramic view of the 3 Bettas (Mountain Ranges) – Kumara Parvatha, Pushpagiri and Dodda Betta. But if you are from the North of India, then you have already seen the best hills and mountain range views. Bottomline – driving 55 kms to get here, is just a waste of time.
5. Trekking is not always difficult and meant only for the young
If you are going to places like Sakleshpur and Chikamanglur, you’d rather opt for trekking experiences, no matter how small. If you are bunch of young kids then pick tougher, more time-consuming treks like the Railway Bridge Trek, Agni Gudda Hill Hike, Jenukal Gudda Trek, Mullayanagiri Trek, Kemmangundi Trek etc. Since I was with my in-laws, we did the coffee plantation trek. The Estate where we were staying at, took us for a 1-hour trek where our home-stay manager showed us the coffee farms, the different types of coffees they grew, how they grew it, how they picked the crops, he also showed us other spices & fruits they grew on the farm and the 2 in-house ponds, trekking up the little rivulet back to the house. Luckily, my mom-in-law is a plant enthusiast, so she got busy picking things of interest and dropping it into the bag I was carrying around. This ended up being a highlight experience of the trip.
Now that I have “drawn open the curtains” on these little truths, let me also talk about the best part of the trip.
The First day turned out to be the best day of the trip.
- The Bahubali Statue is definitely a must visit. The real time to visit it is during the Mahamasthakabhishek but that happens only once every 12 years and the last one happened in February 2018. So there’s a long wait for the next. Read more about it here.
- Another ‘have to’ for history and ancient architecture buffs is the Hoysala Temples in Halebidu and the Chennakeshava Temples in Belur. These are beautiful complexes and rich with history. One thing we missed seeing is the Museum in the Halebidu Complex. Unfortunately it is closed on Fridays. I sincerely urge you to read this article explaining more about it before you decide to visit so you are aware of what you are seeing, because if you go there clueless about what each building is and their respective background stories, you will end up paying INR 200 at each of the complexes for a guide.
You can also buy the book named A Complete Guide to Hoysala Temples by clicking here.
I hope this post helps you guys plan your trip better.
If you have already been to these places, let me know what your experiences have been. You don’t have to agree with me, if you think I’m wrong, tell me anyway. I would love to read what you have to say.
Don’t forget to share this post if you know someone who is looking for Things to do or Places to see around Bangalore.