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Visit the ruins at Hampi and the Hoysalas


For many travelers, visiting the time-tumbled ruins of the Vijayanagar kingdom at Hampi is the most memorable experience of a trip to India. Start off in Mysuru (formerly Mysore), with its mesmerizing markets, fiery vegetarian cuisine and inimitable maharaja’s palace. Rumble north on the backroads to fascinating Sravanabelagola with its naked 17m (57ft) statue of Gomateshvara, the first tirthankar (spiritual teacher) of the Jain religion.

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The temples keep coming in Karnataka. Slingshot through Hassan to Belur and Halebid, where the temples of the Hoysala Empire represent perhaps the zenith of the Hindu temple-building art. A three-hour drive east will drop you in Karnataka’s capital, Bengaluru, known for its cosmopolitan dining, shopping and nightlife. It’s a long drive to reach Hosapete, leaping off point for the ruins at Hampi.

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Allow at least two days to explore Hampi’s tumbledown temples and time travel across centuries. Next, duck onto the backroads to reach Badami, where blood-colored cliffs are pock-marked with cave temples.

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Tack on a side trip to Aihole, dotted with dusty ruins from the ancient Chalukya kingdom, then finish on the beach with some well-earned R&R in Gokarna, part pilgrim-town, part beach retreat.