Mysore — The City of Palaces, once ruled by Wodeyar dynasty is now known for its royal history, architecturally masterpiece palaces and beautiful gardens. The city is settled at the bottom of Chamundi Hills. Mysore in last few years has been booming with tourists (especially foreigners). Here’s the City Guide to Mysore that shall help you plan your trip and make that a memory worth remembering forever. I’ve covered popular places in Mysore, popular dishes like Mysore Pak, what to buy, where to buy, how to reach Mysore, etc.
Places to Visit in Mysore:
Intricately carved rosewood doors and ceilings some with inlaid ivory work, marble figurines, collections of caskets, paintings of the members of the royal family exhibit such opulence, though age as worn them out a bit with slight discoloration. On Sundays and national holidays between 7:00 PM to 7:45 PM the palace is illuminated by close to 100,000 bulbs! Out side of the palace, photography is allowed for INR 50 for Indian nationals and INR 200 (3$) for foreigners.
Lalit Mahal Palace
Located near the Chamundi Hills, Lalit Mahal Palace (now a five star hotel) of Mysore is an elegant palace painted in pure white. The Palace was transformed into a Heritage Hotel in 1974.
Set amidst sprawling landscaped gardens, the exquisitely designed viceroy room, a banquet hall, a dancing floor and Italian marble staircase (has an arresting curve) and also embellished with small ornamentations give the palace its regal ambiance.
also read: Heritage Hotels in India: Luxury Redefined
About 13 km from Mysore, Chamundi hills is a renowned tourists attraction. The Chamundeshwari Temple atop the main hill. ‘Chamundi’ is the fierce form of ‘Shakti’. She is the slayer of demons, ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’ and also ‘Mahishasura’, the buffalow-headed monster. According to a legend, the demon Mahishasura (king of the land known as Mysore now) was killed by goddess Chamundeswari (Chamundi) after a furious battle. The goddess is also called Mahishasura Mardini. The goddess Chamundi have been held in great reverence since the times of Mysore Maharajas.
A temple of great antiquity with over 1,000 years of background, it was a small shrine initially and assuming importance over the centuries it became a big temple as seen today. Since the early days of the Maharajahs of Mysore, the idol of goddess Chamundi has been carried on an embellished elephant as part of the celebrations in the annual Dusshera festival. The Chamundeshwari Temple is led by ancient 1008 steps stairway. There is a statue of the demon Mahishasura and a statue of bull Nandi, after the climb of 700 steps. Main attraction is the sculpted depiction of goddess Chamundi in a majestic cross-legged yoga posture, believed to render another dimensional view of the universe. If you’re in Mysore, then you can’t afford to miss this temple.
Mysore Zoo (officially the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens) is one of the oldest and most popular zoos in India, and is home to a wide range of species (168). The Mysore Zoo is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The zoo was constructed in 1892 (opened for public in 1902) on 10 acres of the summer palace of Maharaja Sri Chamaraja Wodeyar, now it covers more than 150 acres of land. The Karanji Lake near it was taken over by the Zoo in 1976. There are facilities for boating in this lake. This lake amidst the vast greenery of the zoological garden creates a very serene and calm atmosphere. The zoo offers rich flora and fauna with breath-taking scenic and picturesque beauty. The zoo houses various Avian species which are more than 40 countries in the world.
The zoological garden presents a range of ornamental plants and trees, estimated to have about 85 different species of trees along with 35 varying species of ornamental plants. The flora creates an enticing environment favorable to animals of the zoo.
The Mysore Zoo boasts of rare variety of flora and fauna. This is the only zoo in India to have all three kinds of rhinoceros: White, Black and India Rhinoceros. Brown bear, sloth bear, brown lemur, Nilgiri langur, chimpanzee, orangutan and the Himalayan bear are a few of all wild animals that can be spotted here. A very unique feature of Mysore Zoo is its role in the adoption and rearing of animals from around the world.
Many exotic animals are displayed in natural environment so as to create awareness about their protection. Rare species such as Red Ibis, Penguins, Indian Rhinoceros, Hanuman Langurs, White Peafowl, Binturong, etc. also reside there. Giraffes, Zebras, White Deer, African Elephants, Bears, Porcupines, Rhinoceros, Tapir , Otters, etc. are there as well.
The Karanji lake inside the Mysore zoo attracts many birds adding to its Avian fauna. You can also see a great variety of birds like White and Blue Peacocks, Silver and Gold Peasant, Horn Bill; the flightless Emu and Ostrich; brightly coloured Flamingos; the largest bird of India the Sarus Cranes; Love Birds, various types of Geese, Ducks, Parrots,Vultures, Eagles, Spoon Bill, Pelican, Painted Stork and so on.
Address: Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Indiranagar, Mysore, Karnataka – 570010
Reaching There: The zoo is only 3 km from Mysore bus stand and just 2 km from the Mysore Palace. Many city buses are available to get you to the Mysore zoo. There are also horse carts running from Mysore Palace to Mysore zoo offering a completely new experience of commuting.
- Children: 20 INR (<$1 USD) on weekdays & 30 INR on weekends (<$1 USD)
- Adults: 50 INR (<$1 USD) on weedays & 60 INR on weekends ( 1 USD)
- Camera: Still camera- 20 INR (<$1 USD) and Video camera- 150 INR (2.5 USD)
- Battery Vehicle: 150 INR (2.5 USD)
Visiting Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM (Tuesdays closed)
Official site: mysorezoo.info
St. Philomena’s Church
A church, built in 1843 by Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, in the Neo Gothic style with the floor plan resembling a cross. Stained glass windows depict scenes from the birth of Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. It is considered to be Asia’s second largest church. With the 175 feet high twin spires, the St. Philomena’s Church is one of the most majestic Churches in India.
Address: St. Philomena’s Church, Lashkar Mohalla, Ashoka Road, Mysuru, Karnataka 570001
Reaching There: About 2 km away from the Mysore Palace, easily accessible via road. Just hire a taxi to get there.
Visiting Hours: 5:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Mysore Rail Museum
Establish in 1979, The museum takes you on a ride into the past of Indian Railways through photographs, books and exhibitions of railway locomotives. One of the main features of the Mysore Railway Museum is the Chamundi Gallery where a number of black and white photographs and paintings have been displayed depicting the growth and establishment of railways in India.
Address: Krishnaraja Sagar Road, Near Mysore Railway Station, Mysuru, Karnataka, 570001, India
Reaching There: The museum is near Mysore railway station, just 3 km from city center.
- Children: 10 INR (<$1 USD)
- Adults: 15 INR (<$1 USD)
- Camera: Still camera- 20 INR (<$1 USD) and Video camera- 30 INR (<$1 USD)
- Toy Train: 10 INR (<$1 USD)
Visiting Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Mondays closed)
Adjoining the Krishnarajasagara dam on Kaveri river, The Brindavan Gardens are considered to be one of the best terrace gardens of the world. The creation of Brindavan Gardens began in 1927 and it took 5 years to complete. The garden welcomes about 2 million visitors every year. Every evening, as the sun goes down, the musical fountains in which bursts of water are synchronized to the music of songs grasp attentions of every visitor. There is also a lake within the garden with boating facilities available for visitors.
Keep in mind that videography is prohibited and 50 INR (about 1$) fine is the penalty for unauthorized use of camera.
- Daily Evening lighting at Brindavan Garden from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
- Music Fountain 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM ( 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM on weekends)
Address: KRS Dam Road, Krishna Raja Sagar Dam, Mandya, Karnataka, 570005, India
- Children: 5 INR (<$1 USD)
- Adults: 15 INR (<$1 USD)
Visiting Hours: 6:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is home to many exquisite birds. The painted stork, Asian openbill stork, common spoonbill, woolly-necked stork, black-headed ibis, lesser whistling duck, Indian shag, stork-billed kingfisher, egret, cormorant, Oriental darter, and heron breed here regularly. The sanctuary offer a picturesque setting for photography. You might also want to visit the KRS Dam nearby.
Address: Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Near Brindavan gardens, KRS Dam road, Mandya, Karnataka, 571401
Reaching There: The sanctuary is 20 km away from Mysore. Hire a taxi or travel by bus to reach there.
- Children: 25 INR ( <$1 USD)
- Adults: 50 INR (<$1 USD)
- Adults (foreigners): 300 INR (5 USD)
- Camera: Video camera- 500 INR (8 USD)
- Parking: 30 INR (<$1 USD)
Visiting Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Claiming to be India’s first Sand Museum, there is a wide range of sand sculptures here in various themes, from local Mysore culture, to world civilizations and different types of wildlife. An excellent example of creative brilliance, Intricate carvings on the sand, delicateness of the sculptures and their unique themes make it a place worth visiting.
This is the only museum in India dedicated solely to sand sculptures. A 15 feet tall sculpture of Lord Ganesha welcomes you into the museum. The museum showcases many works of M.N. Gowri, known to be the only female sand sculptor in entire India.
Address: Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum, Shree Sapthamathrukha Layout, KC Layout, Mysore, Karnataka-570010
Reaching There: Can be combined with the Chamundi Hill’s visit since it is very close to the hill base. Or by bus (stand 201, 201V).
Facilities: Cafeteria, Photography, Videography, Museum Shop, Wheelchair available, Parking.
Average Duration: About an hour and half.
- Children: 20 INR (<$1 USD)
- Adults: 40 INR (<$1 USD)
Visiting Hours: 8:30 AM – 6:30 PM
also read: Badami Caves: Ruins of Magnificent Past
- Srinrangapatna- It is one the most important pilgrimage center for Vaishnavites for its famous Ranganathaswamy temple & the palace of Tipu Sultan.
- Talakad- About 45 km from Mysore, the ancient cursed city which is covered under the sands is a place worth visiting.
- Bandipur wildlife sanctuary- 80 km from Mysore, Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the India’s best known sanctuaries, and an important Project Tiger reserve.
- Datta Peetham- Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Avadhoota Datta Peetham is an ashram in Mysore. It has beautiful gardens with bonsais among other plants. You can buy some herbal tea for an infusion, grown in the gardens.
- Oriental Research Institute- Formerly known as the oriental library, started in 1891, contains over 33,000 palm leaf manuscripts – the most famous of which is the Kautilya Arthashastra.
also read: 7 most visited places in India by Foreigners
Major Festivals of Mysore
Mysore is synonymous with the Dashahra festival celebrations, which is the most extravagant festival of the city and celebrated in the months of September and October.This 10 day long festival commemorates Goddess Chamundeshwari victory after slaying the demon Mahishasura and the triumph of good over evil.
The royal family of Mysore performs special pooja at the Amba Vilas Palace (Diwan-e-Khas). The two-month long Dashahra Exhibition, held at the Doddakere Maidan, in which several business and industrial houses take part along with food and film festival is an important festivity here.
The most admired and celebrated event of the city, it is observed in the month of March each year and held on sixth day of Brahmotsavam of Lord Cheluvarayaswamy in Melkote.
During the festival Lord Cheluvarayaswamy is adorned with the Diamond encrusted crown and the temples of the city are decorated for the event and brightened with oil lamps and candles.
This festival is celebrated on the second half of March or early April all over Karnataka with devotion and joy. It marks the Kannadiga New Year day.
The festival also marks the arrival of the spring season which brings with itself colourful flowers, verdant meadows indicating a new creation of life. People wash their houses, garland the entrances of house with mango leaves, draw colourful Rangoli, prepare special recipes for feast and buy new dresses as a part of the festivities.
What to eat in Mysore
Mysore is known for its most famous traditional sweet, the Mysore Pak. Mysore Pak is a sweet dish generally cut into rectangular pieces and is made out of Gram Flour, Sugar and lots of Ghee. You can find it all around the city.
South Indian breakfast favourites like idlis, sambars, masala dosas are widely available and are quite good.
What to Buy in Mysore
Mysore is famous for silk sarees, handicrafts like sandalwood carvings and perfumed incense sticks, Mysore peta (a stylized turban) and the exclusive paintings created by the local artists depicting the past of Mysore. Best market in Mysore for tousrists is The Devaraja Market.
Devaraja Market is a popular tourist destination of Mysore because of the strong local flavor of the shopping experience there. It becomes quite crowded in the evenings.A few perfume sellers might sell inferior goods to you, don’t be tempted by nice boxes & free gifts.
also read: Kannauj— The Perfume Capital of India
also read: Best tips to avoid PickPockets In India
Finding Accomodation in Mysore
Except at the time of Dushahra festival (september, october), there are a lot of good hotels in Mysore which can be booked easily without any hassle.
The Silent Shores Resort, Grand Maurya, Golden Landmark, White Orchid Resorts, Silent Shores Resort and Spa, Hotel Regaalis, Chitravana Resorts are some of them.
Mysore is one of the most popular destinations in southern part of India among tourists. Best way to get to Mysore is from Bangalore (150 km away), which is well-connected to Mysore by Air, Rail and Road routes.
Mysore Airport is relatively new and have very few flights connected to it. It might be inconvenient for you to have a flight on this Airport. I suggest you to have a flight to the Bangalore Airport and then hire a taxi or something to the city, which is about 150 km away from there.