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A vibrant city with the imposing...
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A four-lane highway, a historic city with an eponymous palace, tiger reserves, a route with 36 hairpin bends - a road trip from Bengaluru (Karnataka) to Ooty or Ootacamund (Tamil Nadu) via Bandipur, promises these and much more. It takes about five hours to cover the distance non-stop but what’s a road trip without stopovers and exploring the sights, sounds and the beauty around? The journey can ideally be covered in two-three days.
In about 3.5 hours, you’ll reach Mysuru. The royal Mysuru Palace is one of the most popular attractions here. Once the seat of power of the Wodeyar kings, it boasts an opulent Indo-Saracenic interior replete with stained glasses and coloured mirrors. A few of its highlights include an armoury that houses over 700 varieties of weapons, a pavilion that displays dolls used during Dussehra and a portrait gallery that showcases photographs and portraits of the royal family. Note that while photography is not permitted inside the palace, its facade is one of the most-photographed sites in the city.
Explore Rail Museum
A stone’s throw away (a mere four-minute walk) from here is the three-storey-high Jaganmohan Palace. Built-in the Hindu style of architecture, this palace houses the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery that exhibits works of art of such great Indian and international masters as Raja Ravi Verma, SL Haldankar, Nikolai Roerich and many more.
From temples and churches to zoological parks and gardens - there is no dearth of attractions to explore in Mysuru. You can either halt a day here and explore them - Cheluvanarayana temple, St Philomena’s Cathedral, Rail Museum, Karanji Lake Nature Park, Mysuru Zoo - or visit them during your return.
Spend some time by the river
A half-hour drive will take you to the temple town of Nanjangud, most famous for the 1,000-year-old Sri Srikanteshwara Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this is said to be one of the biggest shrines in Karnataka with the main entrance being seven-storey high. Owing to its religious setting on the banks of the Kabani river (which is hailed as holy as the Ganges), Nanjangud is often referred to as Dakshin Kashi.
Bandipur, the last stop for the day, is about an hour’s drive away. However, make sure to reach there by 8 pm as vehicular movement is banned from 9 pm to 6 am here. Considering it will be evening by the time you reach, there will not be much to see and explore but for a true wildlife experience, you can book a stay in one of the jungle lodges inside the Bandipur National Park.
See tigers in the wild
The Bandipur National Park forms a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve along with Nagarhole National Park, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu) and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala). These protected areas collectively also form one of the most prized tiger reserves of the country. Start bright and early (around 7 am) and as you drive your way through this national park you’ll be able to spot some of its residents - Malabar squirrels, red-headed vultures, monitor lizards and if you are lucky, tigers.
Sight amazing avifauna
The point where the national park ends is where you will enter Tamil Nadu (a few minutes away) and drive right into the Mudumalai National Park (also called the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve). This national park is also a haven for birdwatchers as such endemic and migratory birds as brown dove, king vultures and falcons call this place home
Make friends with the elephants
Drive about 10 minutes to the Theppakadu Elephant Camp and get up, close and personal with the gentle beast. This is one of the major draws of this national park.
There are two ways you can reach Ooty from here - one via Masinagudi (about 1 hour and 45 minutes) and the other by Guladur (around 2.5 hours). But unlike the latter, which is a safer and longer route, the road that goes past Masinagudi has as many as 36 steep hairpin bends. Given the steep bends on the route - vehicular movement is restricted after sunset, so make sure to make this journey during daylight.
Explore the hill station
Arrive in Ooty around evening. Explore its natural sights and bazaars - the Tibetan market and the main market. The following day, visit some of the town’s most famous addresses – Government Botanical Gardens, Nilgiri Library, St Stephen’s Church - and marvel at the lovely British-era bungalows that dot the landscape.
Ooty is a year-round destination but you can undertake this journey between October and February, and April and June.
There are numerous eateries on the way. In Mysuru, Gayatri Tiffin Room is somewhat of a legend for a traditional South Indian meal of dosa (crepes), idlis (steamed rice cakes) and filter coffee. Another iconic eatery is Mahesh Prasad, noted for its satiating vegetarian lunch.
• Carry bottled water. • Carry identification proofs. • Do not litter the national parks.