Mysore is considered by many to be Southern India’s most appealing city, combining a glittering royal heritage, magnificent monuments, colourful markets and a cosmopolitan ambience to enchant its visitors. The centre of the India’s production of sandalwood, silk and incense, Mysore is delightfully old-fashioned and its fading colonial grandeur charming – simply wandering the streets is the perfect way to explore.
The seat of the Wodeyar maharajas, the rulers of Mysore from 1350 to 1950, Mysore’s palace is one of India’s most extravagant. The current building was completed in 1912 to designs by British architect Henry Irwin in an elaborate Indo-Saracenic style complete with three marble domes. Inside you’ll find a symphony of wonderfully over-the-top embellishments in the form of stained glass, mosaic floors and mirrors ornamenting rooms painted in bright colours. Visit the armoury to see the display of over 700 weapons before strolling the expansive series of gardens and courtyards. Every Sunday the palace in illuminated at night to great effect.
Mysore’s city centre is overflowing with vibrant streetlife; the perfect way to commune with the city is to stroll through the centre on foot. Here you’ll find some excellent examples of pre-Independence architecture – Government House, formerly the British Residency, sits in 50 acres of lovely gardens; Neo-Gothic St Philomena’s Church; and Rangacharlu Memorial Hall to name a few. Explore the atmospheric Devaraja Market on the Sayaji Rao Road and browse through stalls groaning with fresh produce and traditional items such as spices and vivid cones of kumkum (used for bindi dots).
Chamundi Hill rises 1,062 metres out of the Deccan plateau just outside of Mysore. From its summit, where you’ll also find Sri Chamundeswari, a Hindu temple, there are excellent views back over the city. The temple itself has a magnificent 40 metre high gopuram, or entrance gate, that is elaborately carved and well worth seeing. Whilst the summit of the hill is accessible by road you can join the visiting pilgrims by climbing up the old stone stairway. There are about 1000 steps in total – at around step 800 you’ll find a statue of Nandi, Shiva’s mount, a five metre bull carved out of a single piece of black granite.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.