Sunday, November 29, 2020

Kappil Beach: Sandy beauty hemmed in between the sea and the backwaters

Kappil Beach - the tiny stretch of sand sandwiched between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea

It is kind of similar to the iconic Maravanthe beach of Karnataka where the NH 66 highway runs parallel to the Arabian sea and the Sowparnika river. This beach located in Southern Kerala is tucked in between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters of the Edava Narayana lake. And a beautiful road runs right through the heart of it. This road is not any national highway, but it is a cosy stretch with coconut palms on its sandy banks and to one side is the green water of the lake while on the other is the blue sea. I am talking about the offbeat Kappil beach that is located right between Kollam and Varkala.

Just 7 kms to the north of the more popular Varkala beach, Kappil beach is more a hit with the locals. They prefer its remote location, quiet atmosphere, scenic backwaters and ample water sports options. It is the kind of place where you and your family can have a peaceful beach holiday with your own picnic lunch. And when you feel like some adventure, you can indulge in some water sports on the backwaters, trek up to the top of the nearby Kodi hills or let your hair down on its marine drive.

For those who are in the mood for some serious adventure can actually try the cliff walk between Varkala beach and Kappil beach. The route is not well laid out, but if you ask your way, you should be able to find it.

Kappil beach is the kind of place where you go to listen to the sound of the waves, feel the strong sea breeze brush against your hair and enjoy a relaxed time with family and friends on its sandy beaches and under the swaying coconut palms. It is a beach holiday destination at its simplest best. Do give it a visit the next time you are in this part of Southern Kerala.

How to get there:

The nearest airport would be the Thiruvananthapuram international airport, about 50 kms away.

The nearest railway station would be Varkala railway station, about 7 kms away.

The nearest bus station would be that of Varkala and Kollam.

Where to stay:

The nearest place to stay and one that caters to a wide range of budgets would be Varkala village and Varkala beach. You could stay at Varkala and visit Kappil beach by bike, autorickshaw, bus or cab.

Drone shot of Kappil beach, Kerala

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Varkala beach: That stunning cliff beach of Kerala where you can wash way all your sins

2) Punalur suspension bridge: Historical gem of Kerala

3) Lesser known mountain railways of Kerala: A treat for nature lovers

4) Thenmala forest and Palaruvi falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

5) Courtrallam falls: A great place to enjoy herbal baths under a waterfall

6) Ponmudi: The offbeat hill station of Kerala with a 360 degree panorama

7) Tenkasi town: Famous for its 13th century Kasi Viswanathar temple with its big gopurams

8) Kollam: A coastal town known for its beaches, light houses, backwaters and riverine islands

9) Papanasanathar temple: 1000 year old temple by the river Thamarabharani where you can wash away all your sins

Note: The 2nd photograph in this article has been borrowed from under the Creative Commons license. It has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Punalur Suspension Bridge: Historical Gem of Kerala

1877 Punalur Suspension Bridge - South India's first motorable suspension bridge

It is an engineering wonder of Kerala. It is the oldest motorable bridge in Kerala. I am talking about the 143 year old Punalur suspension bridge that stands tall amidst Punalur’s modern day traffic and continues to straddle the Kallada river as it did in its hey days. Only difference being, then it was a working bridge, while today it is a historical attraction and a protected monument under the Archaeological department of Kerala.

Constructed in 1877 during the reign of the erstwhile Travancore king Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma and under the supervision of the British engineer Albert Henry, the Punalur Suspension bridge is a 400 feet long bridge that connected the town of Punalur with the forest area of old Kattupathanapuram. The idea behind having a suspension bridge was to promote trade with outsiders while preventing the animals of the jungle from entering the village at night. The shaky nature of the bridge used to scare off the animals. Built using iron, Kambakom wood and stone masonry, the Punalur suspension bridge, looks like a micro mini version of the Brooklyn bridge of New York.

Even today, there is mystery surrounding its overall engineering. And that’s what makes it a historical gem of Kerala. If you ever happen to visit this offbeat side of Kerala, do stop by Punalur and experience this hanging bridge at close quarters. May be, you can even walk on it and teleport yourself to the late 19th century when this suspension bridge ushered in a new era of connectivity and trade.

Location: Punalur in South Kerala

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Lesser known mountain railways of Kerala: A treat for nature lovers

2) Thenmala forest and Palaruvi falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

3) Courtrallam falls: A great place to enjoy herbal baths under a waterfall

4) Tenkasi town: Famous for its 13th century Kasi Viswanathar temple with its big gopurams

4) Kollam: A coastal town known for its beaches, light houses, backwaters and riverine islands

5) Kappil beach: A great beach sandwiched between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea

6) Varkala beach: That stunning cliff beach of Kerala where you can wash away all your sins

7) Ponmudi: The offbeat hill station of Kerala with a 360 degree mountain panorama

8) Papanasanathar Temple: 1000 year old temple by the river Thamarabharani where you can wash all your sins away

9) Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve: The hidden wildlife gem

10) Meenmutty Falls inside Peppara Wldlife Sanctuary: A beautiful tropical jungle trail leading to a forest waterfall

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Dabbaguli at Manchinbele: Offbeat rustic getaway an hour away from Bangalore

Dabbaguli - an offbeat lush green getaway near bangalore

Don’t confuse this Dabbaguli with the off-roading jungle paradise by the Cauvery river on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border that also shares the same name. This Dabbaguli is also offbeat, lush and green. But, it is located on the other side of Manchinbele dam, a gorgeous dam on the Arkavathi river. It is a small agriculture focussed village located by the banks of the Arkavati river at Manchinbele reservoir. And it is my offbeat rustic getaway for a Sunday morning bicycle or motorcycle ride.

A king's throne in Dabbaguli village

At just about an hour away from Bangalore city, Dabbaguli allows you to soak in the beauty of the fruit orchards and farm land in Bangalore rural’s countryside while enjoying the lush expanse of blue and green that make up the Manchinbele dam landscape. If you start early, Nice road will greet you with fog and once you cross Mysore road and enter the small road leading towards Dodda Alada Mara, beautiful nurseries and farmland greet you at every turn. It is here that you feel that you have left the acrid air of the city behind and are breathing pure nature.

My favorite pit stop on this route is the small family run shack/restaurant at the junction of Dodda Alada Mara and Manchinbele dam crossing. The thatte idli with spicy chutney and piping hot chitra anna is the perfect way to kick start your relaxed Sunday getaway. With a full stomach, you can head forward towards Manchinbele dam. If you feel like it, you can walk to the top of the view point and soak in the views. If you wish to head straight to Dabbaguli, cross Manchinbele and a few kilometers ahead, you will see a right turn for Dabbaguli village. After 6 kms of curvy roads, you will finally reach the village of Dabbaguli where pretty little traditional brick homes and the fresh smell of cow dung greet you.

The pristine Manchinbele reservoir view from Dabbaguli village

As you keep going forward, you will lose the tarred roads and come upon unpaved roads. If you keep going down the road, you will pretty soon see the shining waters of the Arkavathi and the lush green expanse surrounding it. The surprising thing that you will notice here are huge stage like setups next to the riverside. These are incomplete shooting locations of Kannada film movies. You can park your vehicle here and go for a walk by the riverside. Fruit orchards, flowering trees and large houses will catch your attention. If you happen to reach there at 9 AM or so, you might also find some boats and boatmen ready to take you for a ride on the Manchinbele reservoir.

The mud roads lined by farms that lead you to the Manchinbele reservoir side of Dabbaguli

To me, Dabbaguli is the place to unwind and relax. The sounds of nature, clean air and rustic environment are ideal to super charge your batteries. A walk by the reservoir side and in the village in the early morning sun is nothing short of surreal. And if you wish to catch up on some of your Sunday beauty sleep which becomes very appealing especially after a lip smacking breakfast, then the trees by the reservoir side with the gentle breeze make for that dream bed.

You can do a lot at Dabbaguli if you choose to or you could opt to do nothing. Either ways, your Sunday morning will be full of nature and pleasantness and at only a hour from Bangalore, we couldn’t have asked for a more offbeat rural getaway. Go visit Dabbaguli on your next Sunday day trip from Bangalore and let me know how it goes.

Manchinbele Reservoir panorama from Dabbaguli village

Activities to indulge in at Dabbaguli:

1) Walking in the village

2) Boating on the Arkavathi river

3) Simply chill and enjoy the rustic environment

4) Walk or cycle by the banks of the Manchinbele reservoir

5) Take selfies at the couple of incomplete film shooting locations by the waterside

The lush view of Machinbele Dam at Dabbaguli village

How to reach there:

Dabbaguli should be between 30 and 50 kms from Bangalore depending on where you are based in the city.

The route would be: Nice road Mysore road exit –> Take right at Raja Rajareshwari college of engineering–> Cross railway track –> Cross Dodda alada mara (Big Banyan Tree) –> Take left at junction towards Manchinbele –> After crossing Manchinbele dam, continue straight till you come to a right where a sign board guides you to Dabbaguli.

Once you reach Dabbaguli, you will have to negate some unpaved roads to reach the banks of the Manchinbele dam reservoir.

Skyscape at Dabbaguli, Machinbele

Where to eat:

There are a few small shacks near Manchinbele dam in case you wish to have a snack or a hot beverage.

If you don’t mind delicious food served in a simple rustic environment, try the small shop run by a husband and wife at the corner of Dodda Alada Mara and Manchinbele junction. It is here that you take a left if you are coming from the Dodda Alada Mara direction. This shop serves excellent local breakfast like thatte idli, chitra anna and bajji.

If you wish to eat at a nicer place with good toilets and ample parking space, you should try the many restaurants on Mysore road.

Countryside view at Dabbaguli

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Manchinbele Dam: Perfect Sunday morning getaway near Bangalore

2) Savandurga: Monolith hill, temple and rustic day trip

3) Dodda Alada Mara: Bangalore’s 400 year old Banyan wonder

4) Shri Shantmurthy Shanishwara Temple: Offbeat temple with stunning Savandurga and other rock views and an adventure hotspot

5) The various nurseries of Dodda Alada Mara area

6) Channapatna: The city of toys

7) Ramanagara: The rocks where the movie Sholay was shot

Monday, November 23, 2020

11th Century Bhojeshwar Temple: Home to one of the largest Shiva Lingas in the world

Offering prayers at the Bhojpur Shiva Temple, Madhya Pradesh

It is one of the top heritage destinations of Madhya Pradesh. It is home to one of the largest Shiva lingams in the world. I am talking about the 11th century Bhojeshwar temple that was never completed, but that is used today for religious purposes and festivals. But, why has this temple remained incomplete? What is the story surrounding it? Let’s find out.

Located by the banks of the Betwa river in the Bhojpur village of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhojeshwar temple was constructed under the reign of Raja Bhoja, the most celebrated ruler of the Paramara dynasty. Raja Bhoj selected the region around Bhojpur to build a series of dams over 9 rivers and 99 rivulets. Prior to the dams being constructed, there was no village or town in that region. Bhojpur, the dams and the Bhojeshwar temple came about the same time all under the guidance of King Bhoj.

Some people believe that a natural calamity could have halted the construction, but according to Dr. KK Muhammed, the archaeologist who restored the Bhojeshwar temple, says that a mathematical error could have caused the collapse of the roof and subsequently, Raja Bhoj might have stopped the construction either considering it as a bad omen or because they did not know how to fix the roof.

I am very happy that the Archaeological Survey of India and its team led by Dr. KK Muhammed restored this temple or else we would have lost a beautiful temple of gargantuan proportions. Such sizes are usually seen in the temples of Greece and is rare to see in India, but the Bhojeshwar temple is one such rare specimen. Be its 65 feet high doorway, 43 feet high pillars or the 40 feet high lingam, everything about the Bhojeshwar temple is massive in size. The lingam, built using 3 superimposed limestone rocks is the star attraction of this temple. It is 7.5 feet high, 17.8 feet in circumference and is set on a square platform whose sides measure 21.5 feet. In total, the lingam platform measures over 40 feet, making it one of the largest Shiva lingams in the world.

The ramp in the north eastern corner of the temple and unfinished architectural fragments in nearby quarry sites show us the extent of the temple plans. If it had been completed, it would have been one of the largest temple complexes in India. But, that was not to be. However, we can all appreciate the vision of Raja Bhoj by visiting this temple, soak in its gargantuan proportions and offer our prayers to Lord Shiva. If you are looking for an offbeat rural getaway or offbeat culture getaway in Madhya Pradesh, the Bhojeshwar Shiva temple at Bhojpur would definitely be a top choice. I love this place and would recommend to all.

The 3 level Shiva Linga at Bhojpur Shiva Temple

Temple timings:

The Bhojeshwar Shiva temple is open from sunrise to sunset. Opening and closing times might vary on festival days.

A flower shop outside of Bhojpur Shiva Temple, Madhya Pradesh

Where to stay:

Bhopal city and its suburbs are home to a wide range of properties that cater to a diverse set of budget requirements.

If you wish to be in the heart of all action, I would recommend finding a property near Taj-ul-Masajid.

If you wish for some nature and scenic location, find properties located by the lake.

And if you wish for some remote and quiet, do look for properties located in the countryside.

My favorite property to stay in Bhopal is the Jehan Numa Palace, a place with oodles of history and that was once Bhopal’s royal boutique address. The same owners have another property called Jehan Numa retreat for those who seek some solitude and quiet time.

Bhojpur Shiva temple - home to the largest shiva lingam in the world

Where to eat:

Bhojpur has a few small restaurants where you can find limited food, snacks and beverages.

It might be prudent to head to Bhopal in case you seek a much wider food choice or if you have something particular in mind. The street food scene in Bhopal is also worth exploring and experiencing.

A pundit of Bhojpur Shiva temple

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Sanchi Stupa: The 2300 year old heritage monument and a UNESCO World heritage site

2) Khajuraho: The UNESCO world heritage site that includes many temples built by the Chandela dynasty. Also, famous for its erotic art

3) Bhimbetka rock shelters: It houses some of the oldest known rock art in the Indian subcontinent. Also, a UNESCO World heritage site

4) Orchha: The erstwhile capital of the Bundelkhand kingdom and an offbeat cultural destination

5) Chanderi: Famous for its sarees, but is also known for its Bundela and Malway history

6) Taj-ul-Masajid: The largest mosque in India and one of the largest mosques of Asia

7) Udayagiri Caves: 4th century heritage gem of the Gupta empire that is home to some of the oldest surviving Hindu temples and iconography in India

8) Bhopal: The city that was once ruled by Begums and that is fondly referred to as the ‘City of Lakes’

9) Mandu: Historical city that has historical treasures dating 3000 years

10) Pachmarhi: A gorgeous hill station and one of the hidden gems of Madhya Pradesh

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Belavadi Veeranarayana Temple: The Hoysala Gem with 108 Lathe Turned Pillars

The gorgeous Veera Narayana Temple at Belavadi, Karnataka

Allow me to take you to yet another offbeat temple gem from the Hoysala era. This temple from the 13th century is a trikuta (which means it has three shrines) and it is one of the largest temples built by the Hoysala kings. It is located at the place where the Pandava prince Bheema killed the demon Bakasura to protect the villagers. On the day of the summer solstice, the rays of the morning sun fall directly on the idol of Lord Veera Narayana deep in the garbha griha.  This amazing temple that I am talking about is the Veeranarayana temple and it is located at Belavadi, a small village just a few kilometers away from the world famous temples of Halebid and Belur.

Carved elephant at Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi

As you park your vehicle in front of the temple and by the lane of pretty little village houses, you will notice the elephants that greet you right at the temple entrance. The jagli katte (or relaxation arena) right behind these elephants is one of my favorite areas of the temple as this is where you can put your feet up, enjoy the rustic atmosphere, the cold breeze and have a nice conversation with your family and friends while being surrounded by oodles of art and culture.

108 lathe turned pillars inside Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi, Karnataka

As you cross the jagali katte, you enter a mahadwara mantapa with a massive door. This door opens into the main temple complex where you are greeted by two more elephants, but these elephants are much larger in size and are much more ornate. 108 lathe turned pillars (some of them look like pineapples) greet you once you cross these large elephants. To your left is the shrine of Venugopala and to the right is the shrine of Yoganarasimha. And these lathe turned pillars and the two shrines together make the sabhamantapa and they then open into the mukhamantapa in the East. As you go further east, you come across some more lathe turned pillars, ornate pillars and the main shrine belonging to Lord Veeranarayana.

Just before I entered the sabhamantapa beyond the ornate elephants, I couldn’t stop but notice that this temple was not built on top of a jagati (raised platform) like the other Hoysala temples. As it predates most of the other Hoysala temples in the region, it’s architecture is quite unique.

Beautiful lathe turned pillars at Belavadi Veera Narayana temple

As you explore the temple slowly taking multiple pradakshinams (circumambulations), you will realize that this Veeranarayana temple has 3 different styles of architecture owing to its 3 different states of development.

The first part of the temple is the shrine of Veeranaryana (East facing) and the pillars around it. This part is fairly simple in terms of architecture and is devoid of any carvings on the exterior walls. Even the carvings in its interiors are limited to the roof of the sukhanasi and the prabhavali.

Intricate sculpting on the walls of Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi

In the second phase, the shrines of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha was built. One shrine was built on a square platform, while the other is star-shaped. The pillars of this complex merge into the pillars and structure of the earlier complex, thus giving the feel of one temple, but a person with a keen eye for detail will figure out the different architectural elements. Dashaavatar (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) can be seen just outside the shrine of Yoganarasimaha. The exterior walls of this temple complex is covered with large size statues of Hindu gods and goddesses, stories from our mythological stories and more. Varaha avatar and Kalingamardana stand out proudly even after 800 years. The gorgeous pillars and detailed roof work are the highlights here.

In the third phase, the flat roofs of the mahadwara mantapa was built and it was made to mirror the mukha mantapa. This is the simplest part of the temple.

Stone elephants in front of Mukha mantapa of Veera Narayana Temple, Karnataka

Even though the temple was built over 3 different phases, their alignment is so precise that upon entering the temple (270 feet away from the garbha griha of Lord Veeranarayana), you can clearly see the idol of Veeranarayana. May be, that is why on the day of summer solstice, the rays of the morning sun fall directly on the idol of Veeranarayana even though he is located deep into the temple complex.

Varaha Avatar on the exterior walls of Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi

Compared to the other modern Hoysala temples, the Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi is definitely simple when you think of intricate carvings, but its architecture is unique. It’s lathe turned pillars, pineapple pillars, bell shaped pillars, ornate elephants, roof carvings and overall large temple size make it an architectural masterpiece in the world of Hoysala temples.

Beautiful campus of Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi, Karnataka

At just 220 kms from Bangalore, it makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway. Do visit this offbeat temple gem from the Hoysala era on your next weekend road trip from Bangalore. I am sure you will really enjoy its rustic ambience and unique architecture. I definitely recommend the Belavadi Veeranarayana temple to all art, culture and temple lovers.

Stunning carvings  at Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi

Guide services for the temple:

There are no official guides available at this temple. However, if you strike a conversation with the temple priest, he will share a lot of details about the temple. In case the temple priest is unavailable, there is a temple caretaker from ASI who would give you some basic information about the temple.

Kalingamardana statue at Belavadi Veeranarayana Temple

How to reach there:

There are two different routes by road to approach the temple. Both of them take about 4 to 5 hours for the one way trip (about 230 kms or so).

1) Tiptur – Shimoga route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Yediyur –> Turuvekere –> Tiptur –> Arsikere –> Banavara –> Javagal –> Belavadi

2) Hassan route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna –> Hassan –> Halebeedu –> Belavadi

The nearest railway stations are Kadur and Birur.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore airport, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.

Elephants and lathe turned pillars greet you at the entrance to Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi, Karnataka

Temple timings:

The Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. The temple priest lives in the house right opposite the main temple entrance. So, you can always drop in and check in case the temple is closed.

Jagli Katte at Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi

Where to stay:

If you wish for close proximity and something cheap, there are a lot of budget hotels in and around Belur and Halebid.

If you want something more luxurious, look up the Hoysala Village Resort between Hassan and Belur.

If you want to stay amidst nature, look up the homestays, hotels and resorts located in Chickamagaluru. Some of these would be farm stays or plantation stays.

Beautiful view of Belavadi village from the Veera Narayana Temple

Where to eat:

You cannot find anything more than biscuits and tender coconut water. If you seek some better food, you will either have to head to Belur or Halebid.

If you want high quality dining with good washrooms and ample parking space, I would recommend that you visit Hoysala Village Resort that is located between Belur and Hassan.

If you want to eat in nature, look up the restaurants in and around Chickmagalur.

Bejeweled elephant at Belavadi Veera Narayana Temple

Other offbeat Hoysala temples nearby:

1) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

2) Chenna Keshava temple at Javagal

3) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

4) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

5) Brahmesvara temple at Kikkeri

6) Panchalingeswara temple at Govindanahalli

7) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Hosaholalu

8) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur

9) Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe

10) Chenna Keshava temple at Turuvekere

11) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

12) Chenna Keshava temple at Anekere

13) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

14) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

Gorgeous elephants at the entrance of Belavadi Veera Narayana Temple

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) The hill station and coffee estates of Chickamagaluru

3) The wide Hemagiri waterfalls on the Hemavati river

4) The temple town of Melukote famous for its Iyengars and delicious Puliyogare

5) The Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

6) The hill station of Kemmangundi

7) The beautiful Hebbe Falls surrounded by coffee estates

8) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

9) The butterfly forest of India called Bisle Ghat

10) The world famous Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

11) The world famous Chenna Keshava temple at Belur

12) Bhadra tiger reserve that is known for its river terns, tigers and leopards

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Bisle Ghat: The Butterfly Forest of India

A Bisle forest view during a bright monsoon day

It is one of the prettiest ghat roads in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. It is one of the few untouched tract of pristine forests left in Karnataka. It is one of the top monsoon routes of Karnataka. It is home to some of India’s most spectacular rainforests. It is one of the wettest regions in Karnataka. I am talking about the lesser known Bisle Ghat of Karnataka.

Straddling 3 regions of Karnataka, namely Kodagu, Malnad and Dakshina Kannada, Bisle Ghat is an absolute joy to the senses. To its north lies the rolling hills of Kaginahare forest, to its south lies the Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary of Kodagu from where the Kumaradhara river begins, to its west lies the Bhagimalai forest and to its south west lies Kumaraparvatha and the Kukke Subramanya forest range.

Hairpin turn on the Bisle ghat road of Karnataka

I have been to Bisle ghat and Bisle forest a good number of times and in spite of that, I cannot stop but admire its beauty. It is quite rare to see such a pristine and untouched ecosystem in this day and era, but somehow this forest has escaped any kind of human infrastructure development and may be that is why this forest seems to thrive. And one can see this richness through the hundreds of thousands of butterflies that call this place their home.

Bisle Forest - the butterfly ghat of Karnataka

You don’t have to go deep into the forest to see these butterflies. They seem to be present almost everywhere including on the main forest highway where they can be seen frolicking in thousands next to their favorite alkaloid plants that grow wild in Bisle forest. A few months back, I saw hundreds of thousands of blue tiger butterflies at many corners of the Bisle forest highway. I was extremely lucky to see them at close quarters and as there were hardly any vehicles on the highway, I got to immerse myself in the full blue tiger butterfly experience. I got to see how they got high while sipping on the nectar of these alkaloid plants. And their flapping wings contrasting with the vibrant green background made for some fantastic views.

Even though, I fondly refer to Bisle Ghat as the butterfly forest of India, there is so much more to Bisle than its butterflies. King Cobras, tigers, elephants, sambar deer, spotted deer, macaques, langurs and many other diverse variety of flora and fauna can be seen here. In the early hours of the morning, Bisle forest is home to a musical symphony of tropical birds going about their morning chores.

Blue Butterflies at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

During the monsoons, Bisle turns into a wet curtain accompanied with a heavy roar. Innumerable streams and waterfalls come alive and each try to make their way to the Kumaradhara river in the valley below. The forest highway is usurped by a constant mist cover and this moist habitat gives birth to many unique flora that attract a wide variety of birds and insects. All of this makes for an absolutely magical monsoon experience.

A bright monsoon day at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

Come bright sunny days and you can see the lush beauty of Bisle forest where montane rain forests stretch far and wide interspersed with the view of the meandering Kumaradhara river. And standing tall behind these rainforests are the Kumara parvatha, Pushpagiri, Dodda betta, Patta betta and Enni Kallu mountains. The Bisle beauty spot and a few other locations become fantastic locations to experience this surreal view.

Bisle to me is not just a destination. It is more of an emotional connect. There is something about it that makes me return to it. Such is the affinity that I try to spend at least a few weeks there every year during the monsoons. Just being in the forest environment is good enough for me. I relax, refresh and rejuvenate all in record time. I don’t know if it is due to the pure air, the lush green views or the pristineness of this ecosystem. It just seems to magically heal me.

View of Bisle Forest from the Kukke highway

This butterfly forest of India is truly a magical monsoon destination and at the same time is vibrant all year round. It’s beauty is special. It’s close proximity to Bangalore makes it an ideal weekend getaway. If you are a nature lover, love monsoon holidays and/or love motorcycling/bicycling, this place should definitely be on the top of your travel bucket list. Just one small request, let’s try and keep this place as clean as possible so that the future generations can continue to enjoy its riches.

Activities that one can indulge in at Bisle forest:

1) Driving a car, riding a motorcycle or bicycle through this beautiful forest

2) Experiencing the gorgeous views at Bisle beauty spot

3) Checking out the Bisle ridge point where all westward streams head to the Arabian Sea and all eastward streams head to the Bay of Bengal

The Bisle Forest Highway of Karnataka

4) Trekking inside the forest. This requires forest permissions

5) Bird watching, butterfly watching and flora watching

6) Picnicking next to the many mountain streams. Do ensure to carry all trash back with you

The carpet of green as seen from Bisle view point, Karnataka

Timings for Bisle ghat road:

As Bisle ghat comes under the purview of the forest department, the road is open only from sunrise to sunset. There are forest check posts at either side of the bisle forest highway and there could be random checks from time to time. If you happen to reach very early in the morning and find the check post closed, you can ask around for the forest guard. He will open the check post barricade.

Best season to visit:

Bisle ghat is open all year round, but the best time to see it in its full glory would be the monsoons, when the vegetation is lush and when the waterfalls and streams are gushing with water. The post monsoon season would be best for seeing the forest and mountain views from the Bisle beauty spot, which are covered in heavy mist during the rains. My favorite time to visit Bisle Ghat is the monsoons. This season is perfect for motorcyclists and cyclists.

Stunning views that greet you on the Bisle Ghat highway

How to reach there:

Bisle Ghat should be about 250 kms from Bangalore city. You could either approach it from Mysore road - Kodagu or from Hassan road direction. If you are driving a larger vehicle, you might want to take the road via Sakleshpur, while if you are on a motorcycle or in a small car, you can take this route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna–> Holenarasipura –> Arkalgud –> Shanivarsanthe –> Kudrasthe –> Vanagoor –> Bisle Ghat.

The nearest bus station would either be Sakleshpur or Somwarpet. Public buses visit Bisle Ghat only a couple of times every day, so it is best if you opt for private transportation to cover the last mile.

The nearest railway station would be Hassan or Mysuru, but the one with the best connectivity would be either Mangalore or Bangalore.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.

Where to stay:

Traditional homestays, plantation stays and farm stays should be everyone’s preference here. There are a lot of homestays in and Vanagoor, but my favourite is the gorgeous family run Malnad homestay located at Athihalli. I go there for lip smacking local food and a quiet village environment surrounded by spice plantations and forests.

If you prefer something slightly more luxurious, try the resorts in Coorg, in Chickmagalur and the hotels in Mangalore.

Butterfly mania at Bisle Ghat, Karnataka

Where to eat:

The nearest place to eat would be either at Kudrasthe junction or at Kukke Subramanya town depending on which direction you are headed.

It might be prudent to eat your meals at your place of stay in case you are staying at a nearby homestay or plantation stay .

If you want a wide range of vegetarian hotels, Kukke Subramanya town would be your best bet and if you are looking for a wide range of non-vegetarian restaurants, Sakleshpur would be a better choice.

Butterflies at Bisle State Forest, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Mallalli Falls: Coorg’s prettiest waterfall

2) Mookanamane Falls: Hidden waterfall amidst the pristine forests of Malnad

3) Kaginahare view point: A paradise of green rolling hills

4) Yedekumeri railway bridge: A remote jungle and railway trek

Lush green expanse at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

5) Manjarabad fort: A start shaped fort surrounded by lush greenery

6) Kukke Subramanya temple: A temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya located by the banks of the Kumaradhara river and at the base of the Kumaraparvatha mountain

7) Kumaparvatha: One of the top monsoon trekking destinations of Karnataka

8) Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary: A pristine forest home to many endemic species and the birthplace of the Kumaradhara river