Mysore or Mysuru surprised us in many ways. It is beautiful with wide roads, many parks, lots of greenery, and great places to eat. There are no high rises either, giving you a sense of openness with a clear view of the skies from anywhere in the city. The old world charm still lingers around every corner and hopefully people recognise what an advantage it is and not try to change it in the name of development.
The Mysore Palace has been on our list of places to see for a long time, but it always got sidelined by other tourist cities. Recently my sister moved to Mysore, so we immediately planned a trip there. We wanted to drive from Hyderabad to Mysore so that it would be convenient to move around Mysore at any time of the day. It is quite expensive to rent a self drive vehicle in India, making it difficult to plan logistics for domestic travel.
We were in Mysore for six days, including the days of travel and could roam the city at leisure. There were a lot more places on our list that we decided to save for our next trip to the city.
Road Trip from Hyderabad to Mysore
The roads on this stretch are excellent and we only got stuck in traffic once we reached Bangalore. It’s always best to leave early in the morning so that you reach your destination before evening. We left at 5:30 am and reached around 4 pm.
There are small eateries on the way though only a few were open early morning. Some places had usable, clean washrooms as well.
Andhra Pradesh and onwards, speed bumps are not clearly marked, so you must be extra careful to avoid large bumps or sudden brakes.
Once you enter Bangalore outskirts, cops are just waiting at this stretch of airport road (both ways) to fine you for speeding over the limit of 80 kmph. The fine is Rs 1,000, and even if you don’t see them, they’re hiding there and will catch you at the next checkpoint.
We had planned to take the bypass road from Bangalore to Mysore, but the bifurcation of that road and the one leading into the city was chaotic and easy to miss. Going through the city can take anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours. If you miss the bypass road, take a U-turn once you get off the flyover. Google Maps didn’t show us this option so we just went through the city. In fact, even Google Maps gave up trying to navigate the chaos that is Bangalore roads and traffic.
The last stretch of the journey was slower than usual because the new Mysore Expressway was not fully functional, and we had to switch over to the service road part of the way.
On our return journey, we planned to meet a friend in Bangalore in the morning before continuing to Hyderabad. If possible, don’t plan to enter Bangalore because we regretted our decision. Although it was nice to meet our friends, the day traffic added an extra two hours to our travel time. This snowball effect meant we were on the road till late evening, which meant more truck traffic, further slowing us down. We reached home around 10 pm and were on the road for almost the whole day.
Things to see in Mysore
There’s plenty to see and do in Mysore if you have the time and inclination. Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to lounge your days away in one of the city’s many cafes and parks.
It’s best to keep your itinerary light, especially if you’re travelling with kids. The weather is mostly warm, even in December, so take it easy and stay hydrated.
For me, the best part about going around the town was that everything was within a 20-minute driving range. We didn’t face any major traffic jams, except around the Palace, making it easier to get around the city.
Here are some of the places we visited while we were there.
The Mysore Palace is the first thing everyone thinks of when they picture the city—and for good reason. It is simply gorgeous inside and outside, especially when it is all lit up in the evening—with 97,000 light bulbs!
We had gone during the holiday season, so it was crowded even on a weekday. It is best to go in the evening, around 4 pm, so that you can roam inside the Palace, then wait outside on the lawns till the lights are switched on at 7 pm.
The inside of the Palace is stunning. The main entrance corridor displays the various items used during the famous Dussehra procession every year, including the Golden Howrah, covered in 80 kg of gold leaves.
As you go further inside, each pavilion leaves you spellbound with its beauty. Every aspect of the design is awe-inspiring, from the floor tiles and gorgeous pillars to the painted walls and ceilings. Take your time to admire all of it.
We walked around the Palace grounds after the tour on our own. There are temples you can visit and canteens for snacks. We settled in front of the Palace fountains waiting for sunset. Vendors were selling tea, snacks, and toys that kept us entertained meanwhile.
The lights are turned on section-wise to not overwhelm the grid. It is a marvellous sight to behold once it’s lit up in all its glory. It was worth the wait.
Be aware that lights get switched on only on Sundays and Public Holidays. However, since Mysore is trying to attract more tourists, especially around the December holidays, we saw that the lights would be switched on every day.
Everyone needs to take off their shoes to enter the Palace, which we found absurd. There’s a counter where you can deposit your footwear and collect them after the tour. We kept our socks on!
Also, note that taking pictures inside the Palace is not allowed. However, since we had gone in on a heavily crowded day, no one bothered to stop the hundreds of clicking cameras—a silver lining to an uncomfortable time.
The inside tour required a bit of a walk that included stairs. There were no ramps in some of the places.
Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery And Auditorium
Close to the Mysore Palace is the Jaganmohan museum. The impressive facade you see as you enter is being used as an auditorium, and the museum space is behind it. It used to be one of the mansions owned by the royal family, and this is where they stayed when the Palace was under repairs or renovations.
Here too, you need to remove your footwear (I don’t know why!), and you’re not allowed to take pictures. The halls are beautifully decorated and lined with paintings from the Royal Family’s collection.
This tour involves a bit of walking because you snake along a pre-set queue till the end, and if you step the wrong way, you’ll hear a sharp whistle asking you to get back on track.
Mysore Railway Museum
This was such a pleasant way to spend an evening. Even if you don’t have kids, you can go there to check out some relics from the Indian Railways. It is interesting, interactive and well-maintained. Kids can explore the inside of a railway buggy or its engines. There is also a small train ride around a (very short) circular track, which is good fun for kids. The ride is included in your ticket price. It was the highlight of the trip for our son.
Although it was a fun evening, it was annoying to hear a loud whistle every other minute from one of the many security guards trying to stop someone from touching this or going there. It’s a children’s place—if you don’t want them touching it, don’t keep it out!
A rail buggy has been converted to a coffee shop here, but we heard quite a few customers come out disappointed with the food and the expensive rates so we didn’t bother going in.
You can also take a walk to the Mysore Railway Station just next door. It’s a small and charming station, not very crowded, and reminds you of scenes from stories such as Malgudi Days.
St. Philomena’s Church
The church spires tower over the cityscape amid a busy street. The Gothic style architecture and its colourful stained glass windows look beautiful. Visitors can go inside, but since we had visited on Christmas day, the timings were not listed and it was overflowing with people wanting to go inside. We contended ourselves with admiring this beauty from the outside for this trip.
This is a beautiful nature trail with a lake inside. It’s close to the Railway Museum, right in the middle of the city. We reached here just before closing time and couldn’t enjoy it in its entirety, but it’s on our list to revisit as soon as we can.
The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm and is frequented by walkers and joggers, although you can just grab a bench at the edge of the lake and take some time to relax, watching the many birds go about their daily routine. Around the winter months, you’re also likely to spot many migratory birds.
With the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam towering over the gardens, it is a magnificent sight from afar. Just a 30-minute drive from the city, it is one of Mysore’s most popular tourist sites. The roads could be better, and signages and maps point to the old route, which is now closed to the public. If you ask a local, they’ll be able to direct you to the right track.
No doubt this place used to be glorious; however, signs of wear and tear are now clearly visible. We skipped the boat ride as it was pretty hot and walked around the gardens with their cooling fountains and the artificial waterfall feature.
We walked up to the children’s playground and were disappointed to find most of it broken or unsafe to use. The small aquarium offers a short respite from the sun, but it was annoying to see the caretaker agitate the fish with a pocket laser light to give the visitors a ‘show’.
Evenings are supposed to be better for visits as the gardens and fountains are lit up. There are two hotels inside the gardens for those who want to enjoy the peaceful view for the duration of their stay. Brindavan Gardens is a good place for taking pictures, but the trip did not feel worth the time for us.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is on the circuit between Brindavan Gardens and Srirangapatna. It is best to visit from November to February as the lake inside is filled with migratory birds. It is more of a park than a wildlife sanctuary, and you’ll find many families coming here for a day of picnic.
We saw hordes of Spoonbills, Openbill storks and a few ibises. We even spotted a crocodile sunning itself on a rock in the lake.
As we neared the entrance to the sanctuary, we saw a line of cars parked on the sides and assumed we needed to park there. However, there’s a designated parking area near the entrance gate, which is better to use. These wrongly parked vehicles created quite a nuisance blocking the already narrow roads and increasing the wait time for everyone.
Mornings are the best time to visit here. We felt we could’ve avoided Brindavan Gardens and come here instead. By afternoon, it was crowded, and the wait time for the boat ride was over an hour. We chose to take the EV ride instead. The small electric vehicle takes you around the park and stops at specific viewing points for you to get a better view of the birds. After the ride, you can also choose to walk around on your own.
There was a small play area for kids and a snack stall inside, but since it was overflowing with people, we decided to call it a day and head back to the city.
The erstwhile capital of Mysore under Tipu Sultan, Srirangapatna is a city full of historical, religious, and cultural significance. It is about a 30-minute drive from Mysore city, and is best to explore during the early morning so that you’re not roaming in the hot afternoon sun. It is called an island town as it is surrounded by the Kaveri River. The town is under consideration for a UNESCO Heritage Site status.
As soon as you enter the town’s main gate, also called the Bangalore Gate, you’ve entered the fort, so don’t go looking around for the Fort (as we did) that Google Maps shows in some obscure place. Although there are many spots you can explore if you have the time, we just did some of the more prominent ones.
- Jama Masjid: The Mosque is the first monument you see as you enter from the Bangalore Gate. The mosque grounds are open to visitors during the day if you’d like to look around (only men can go inside, that too only during prayer times); however, we chose to just marvel at it from outside.
- Monument to Tipu Sultan: A small plaque marks the spot where the body of Tipu Sultan was found after he was killed in battle. It’s right on the main road, so you can catch a quick glimpse as you drive by.
- Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple: Dedicated to Vishnu’s avatar of Ranganatha, this temple is part of the important pilgrimage route on the River Kaveri. It draws many devotees, and there’s a thriving tourist market right outside it. Instead of going inside, we walked around the temple, admiring its beautifully carved exteriors. There’s also an impressive wooden chariot near the entrance with wheels almost as tall as us.
- Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon: Just behind the temple grounds is the dungeon where Tipu Sultan imprisoned British soldiers. It is named after Colonel Bailey, one of the prisoners who died there. You can still see the hooks to which the shackles were tied and the prisoners tortured, but now it just looks like a place of serenity with its plain white walls below ground level with a cool breeze flowing on a sunny day. It is a prison without a single door, and the symmetry of its arches is eye-catching.
- Daria Daulat Bagh: Also called the Summer Palace, it is one of the most beautiful monuments on this circuit. Set in a well manicured garden, the structure is built on a raised platform with a roof and open on all sides. The walls, pillars, and ceilings are adorned with colourful frescoes of portraits of kings, scenes from the royal palace, or battles being fought. Bamboo curtains have been installed all around to protect the precious paintings inside. The rooms inside have paintings and artefacts from the era. The ticketing system is only online/digital payment, not at a counter. This created chaos, and it took much longer to get in. I hope they sort this out soon.
- Tipu Sultan Gumbaz: This is a tomb where Tipu Sultan was buried along with his father, Hyder Ali and mother, Fakhr-un-Nisa and other family members. The white dome glistens against the blue skies in the sun and is a beautiful sight to behold. Just outside the entrance, there are vendors selling souvenirs, snacks, and rows of horses available for short rides. The Nimishambha Temple is also close by if you want to stop there.
- Sangam: This is the confluence point of the three rivers—Kaveri, Lokapavani, and Hemavati. It is considered a holy site for Hindus. Many families offer prayers and perform the last rites for their departed loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone cleans up after themselves. The view of the rivers looks fantastic, but everything around it is filled with garbage. There are some food stalls here, and that too, contributes to the piles of plastic wrappers strewn about. Go there if you have time just to look at the serene waters.
What to eat on the Hyderabad to Mysore Route:
There are plenty of food options on this route, but we packed some breakfast and lots of fruits and snacks to avoid longer stops. If you’re starting from Hyderabad, there’s a food court in Kurnool and some smaller ones on the other side of the road as well if you prefer a hot breakfast.
Just after the Kasepali toll plaza, there is another breakfast spot with a coffee counter by Chennai Aroma Coffee. We just stopped for coffee.
There’s also a small food court with a KFC at Anantapur. The KFC opens at 11 am, but there’s a biryani and tea counter that was open at 10. You’ll get clean loos here, so it’s worth a stop.
Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh has a massive Kia factory, and the town has some of the best Korean food we’ve had in India. We stopped at Time Korean Restaurant on our return journey. The food and service were exceptional. They serve a variety of banchan or small side dishes, and the portion sizes of the mains are on the larger side as well.
There’s a Korean grocery store just below the restaurant, which is a great place to stock up on some snacks for the road.
The restaurant is near the Penukonda Fort entrance. If you want to go to the fort, you’ll need to account for a few hours of walking. In that case, it would be best to stay overnight in a guesthouse in town. (Check Noah Guesthouse.)
On the way back, since we got delayed and were on the road till late evening, we wanted a quick, light dinner before reaching home. There are lots of small eateries starting from 150 km away from Hyderabad. We had a simple dosa at Sandarshini Udipi restaurant at Jadcherla.
What to eat in Mysore:
I was surprised at the variety of eateries in Mysore. There are, of course, plenty of small local eateries for the quintessential South Indian breakfast of idlis, dosa, and vadas. We tried a few places for breakfast and loved it. My husband usually went to the nearest shop and packed some goodies for breakfast. If you’re staying in a hotel, you could just request housekeeping for some plates and bowls.
Some other places we loved to eat in Mysore are listed below.
The Old House has delicious wood-fired pizza. Their pasta, salads, and desserts were top notch too. Service is slow because it is always crowded. We waited a long time to place the order and then even longer to get served. Parking is also difficult to get. They’re in the process of expanding, but I doubt the seats will be empty even then.
Glen’s Bakehouse has a lovely laid-back ambience. The coffee was good, but the food was too creamy/cheesy for our taste. They had a minor gas leak incident when we were sitting outside. The staff ran out without alerting the customers, and then they put cotton mattresses on the leak, which caught on fire. Thankfully, the fire brigade came in time to put it out before it got worse. I’m not sure about rules in India, but it should be mandatory for all restaurant staff to be trained to handle fires.
We loved the breakfast and coffee at White Teak Coffee Roasters. The spacious lawns are great for chilling out in the evenings and their pancakes and sandwiches are delicious.
The Dolphin Bus was a treat for our son, who had been very patient with our busy day. It is a stationary bus opposite the Mysore Palace. It has good ice cream sundaes and chaat. They have a bakery section with cookies, bread, and sweets, so you can also pack some goodies to take with you.
If you like seafood, then Fresh Catch Seafood restaurant is a must-visit. It feels like a fast food restaurant because the service is such. It’s not a place to lounge about. Squid ghee roast, prawn molly, and fish mango curry with appams were finger-licking good. They do have some Chinese and tandoor items as well but we felt the local cuisine options were far superior.
Noodle Theory is a tiny place with just a few tables. The concept is to make your own mix of noodles or rice. It is a vegetarian restaurant, so the protein choice is limited to tofu and paneer. The noodles and rice we ordered were great, and so were the lemonades. We didn’t like the sushi, though.
Farmer’s house is a place for fresh honey and vegetables, and they have a weekend bazaar for fresh produce. There’s also a bookstore inside, which is a pleasure to browse. On its terrace is a nondescript place where you get an excellent vegetarian thali meal served on a banana leaf. The food is not spicy and is wholesome. The hosts don’t advertise it as they want it to remain a slow pace eatery. The food is made around 12:45 pm and served till they run out. Go for a lazy afternoon fare because you’ll want to sleep later.
On Christmas morning, we went to Radisson Blu for breakfast. It was a decent spread at a reasonable price.
The Cute is a small resort on the Srirangapatna and Brindavan Gardens circuit. We stopped there for lunch since we couldn’t eat the spicy food served at the roadside stalls. It has good Indian cuisine, and they catered to our preference for non-spicy food. The rooms looked clean and up to par.
Shopping in Mysore
If you are looking for something traditional, Mysore silk and sandalwood items can be bought from one of the many Cauvery government shops around the city.
We loved the Clay Arts store at Mandya, which is between Brindavan Gardens and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. They have cookware, planters, gifting items, water jars, and much more for much cheaper than city stores.
I also loved Jaipur Junction in Gokulam. They’re great for some block print clothing and silver and gemstone jewellery.
Silver Nest, also in Gokulam, is a great place to get silver jewellery, malas, and brass artefacts at reasonable rates.
Beware of the tourist trap that most auto or car drivers will take you to. These stores, they say, are government-approved, but the quality of the merchandise could be better and seemed expensive. We fell into that trap even though we had our own car. On our way to the Mysore Palace, an auto driver spoke to us at the traffic signal and told us the Palace was closed in the afternoon. He then said why don’t you visit this shop meanwhile, and we did!