A city that is known for its peaceful and harmonious vibes. Our guide to experiencing Mysore will definitely help you if you’re planning to visit the city or simply inspire you to consider the destination. While the name was officially changed to Mysuru in 2014, Mysore remains a prominent alternate name for the city. The city that’s known to be the cultural capital of Karnataka has a lot to offer. So what about Mysore makes it worth visiting? Let’s just dig into the city’s history a little.
History and culture of Mysore
As is the case with every Indian region, there were numerous kings and empires which conquered and left. Then of course there was British colonisation. Interestingly though, the former Kingdom of Mysore was once ruled by the Wodeyars, who were a royal Indian family. The Wodeyars of Mysore ended up ruling the kingdom for 500 years. They are credited for being the only royal family in Indian history to have ruled a kingdom for so long.
Did you know that for the longest time, the state of Karnataka was in fact called the State of Mysore? It was only after we got our independence did that change. If anything, it has only been 47 years since that change happened officially. That’s how big a deal Mysore used to be. What is fascinating to us is that the city gets its name from the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. Although Mysore is the anglicised version, it is loosely translated to “Home of Mahisha”.
Up until the Vijayanagara Empire’s prominence, the kingdom of Mysore owed their allegiance to them and considered their leaders as liege. This lasted from early 1500s till 1637, when Mysore had received complete Independence. Then there was Hyder Ali who ruled Mysore and later his son Tipu Sultan, till the Britishers eventually managed to usurp them. Another cool fact is that in the early 1900s, Mysore was set to become one of the first planned cities of Asia.
The city has a reputation for having a royal heritage, thanks to the existence of the Mysore Palace, Rajendra Vilas (Summer Palace), Lalitha Mahal, Jaganmohana Palace and Jayalakshmi Vilas. Each of those places have a distinct backstory of their own. But despite the royal past, Wodeyars didn’t differentiate on the basis of caste. If anything, they were known to promote a peaceful coexistence of people regardless of their religion.
All of this can clearly be reflected in how the city has places of worship of multiple different religions. Even today, it wouldn’t matter which religion you follow. The city doesn’t discriminate and that stems from a deep rooted history of non-discrimination that was instilled by their former king. Pretty fantastic, right? Today, even though the city has gone on to evolve, it still remains a heritage city that values traditions.
Traditions are an important part of the Mysore culture which can clearly be seen in the way they celebrate festivals. Dussehra is a great example. We will get to that in a bit. But again, traditions also shape how art is such a huge part of the city’s culture. The numerous art galleries, the decorations for numerous festivities and Mysore’s proficiency at artisanship are just a few of the many factors which bear testimony to that.
There are many opportunities to witness these aspects of the city. So when should you actually visit the city?
How to get to Mysore
By Air – Mysore does have an airport of its own, but it’s tiny and the flights you can get to and from here are limited. The airport does have frequent flights connectivity to Bangalore, Kochi, Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Hyderabad and Belgaum. But if you’re coming from any other city, the closest airport is Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. It’s give or take 4 hours away from Mysore, by road. Or 2-3 hours by train. Also a good option.
By Rail – If you’re coming from far off and can’t afford flights, this is definitely your best bet. Mysore’s rail connectivity to the big cities of India is pretty good so for you to get here on a train won’t be a challenge. In fact, the super fast luxurious train Shatabdi also operates here. That would obviously depend on the city you’re coming from. Whatever train you take, it will be dropping you off at Mysore Junction and it’s not at all far from the city.
By Road – There are Karnataka State Transport buses and apart from that, the general bus connectivity to Mysore is pretty decent. Depending on where you’re coming from and your budget, it could be a good option. There are many private luxury buses also. However, you won’t always get a direct bus, so just keep that in mind. In general though, the roads are well connected, so even driving down yourself is a great option.
Best time to travel to Mysore
Now there are two ways to see this. One would be from a weather perspective and the other would be focused on events around the city. Now all of this would depend on your budget, style of travelling and when you will actually be free. But if you keep all the variables aside, Mysore is a city you can visit all round the year. Same goes for the weather which is pleasant throughout each season. Even the summers here are tolerable compared to some other cities.
Now, in terms of weather, October to March would definitely be the best time to visit as it’s very pleasant and cool this time of the year. Although, it’s only from November to February that’s actually considered as the winter months. The average temperature is usually between 21-27 degrees. However, at night, it can drop as low as 15 degrees while during the day, the highest it goes to is 27 degrees. And that’s also damn comfortable.
Best part is that the weather during the shoulder months of October and March are also pretty enjoyable. And one thing which often takes visitors by surprise is the celebration of Dussehra in the city. We couldn’t believe how literally every corner of the city was lit up. It was bright and colourful everywhere, with fairy lights decorating trees, buildings, shops, fences and everything else you can imagine. Dussehra is really a big deal in Mysore.
The First King Raja Wodeyar is the one who started this tradition back in 1610, which includes 10 days of vibrant festivities. One the 10th day, the celebration takes to the streets where huge Elephants carry the idol Goddess Chamundeshwari. The procession also includes musicians, dancers and a lot more. Witnessing Dussehra in Mysore in a unique experience within itself. If you ask us, it’s a good festival to plan your trip to Mysore around.
Winter season is also perfect if you’re looking to go on adventure trails and treks. Even evening or early morning walks around the many beautiful lakes become a supremely satisfying experience. There are ample of treks and famous campsites around Mysore which are great to visit during this season. The weather really complements the beauty of the city. Just carry some warm clothes. It’s also peak travel season so prices may be relatively higher.
Then there’s the summer which falls Between March and June. See, it’s summer so it does get hot. Especially in the months of April and May. But depending on the kind of summer you are used to, it’s not half as bad. Summers here are definitely more comfortable than in most other Indian cities. Average temperature would be 30-32 degrees and the maximum it can hit would be 39 degrees. But that’s only during the noon. Evenings are still pleasant.
Summer months are not considered the peak travel season for Mysore. But trust us, it’s still a good time to visit. Especially if you’re trying to save a few bucks because hotels would be cheaper around this time compared to during winter. Noons do get hot, so pack loose and light clothes made of cotton to make it a tad bit easier. If the heat isn’t a problem for you (definitely wasn’t for us), you’ll be fine. Or you can always plan your days accordingly.
Finally, there’s monsoon season which runs through June and October. The common belief is that it’s not the best season to visit Mysore. But that’s only partially true. There are places in and around Mysore which look fantastic during the rainy season because of how green it gets. Even the National Parks. If you don’t mind the downpour, it’s not too bad to visit. We would advise you to avoid treks but otherwise you’re good. You will get good rates too.
Getting around Mysore
Like most big Indian cities, cabs and rickshaws are easily available here. However, don’t expect rickshaws to run by the meter and you will often have to negotiate for the prices. So our recommendation would be Ola or Uber. More specifically, Ola auto as it’s pretty cheap and fair. If you’re more than 3 people, then a cab makes sense. But again, we would suggest you take an Ola or Uber cab and not the local ones or even Meru for that matter.
Again, that’s definitely not your only option. There are local buses also within the city which have a good frequency. And it’s definitely the cheapest mode of transportation. If you’re travelling solo, this might be a good option. Or at least something you can try once. In general though, travelling around Mysore is not an expensive affair. Quite a few cool places are located closer to each other. So a local rickshaw won’t be a bad option at all.
Go check out
Mysore Palace – We understand that this might seem very touristy, but there are many reasons why the Mysore Palace is on the top of this list. Mysore Palace was once the royal residence of the Wodeyar Dynasty. The palace is decked with infinite amounts of gold, stained glass roofs, ivory inlays and a host of other materials. Mysore Palace is supremely fascinating with a rich history but the palace grounds and gardens are worth admiring too.
Mysore Railway Museum – A quick fun stop in Mysore that’s an interesting experience. Even more so if you’re a railway enthusiast or a history buff. Getting a glimpse of old school trains is an interesting experience for sure. Even more so when it includes everything from local passenger trains to the ones that were used for military purposes. You could also take a tour of the museum by getting a toy train ride for yourself.
St. Philomena’s Cathedral – If you want to understand why Mysore’s Kings never distinguished on the basis of religion, here’s an example. St. Philomena’s Cathedral is definitely one of our favourites. It has an interesting backstory with pretty marvellous architecture that is inspired by Germany’s Cologne Cathedral. The church even has an underground tomb which holds a relic of Saint Philomena herself.
Jayalakshmi Vilas – You’re in the “city of palaces” alright, so the list has to include more. Now the Jayalakshmi Vilas is named after the daughter of King Chamaraja Wodeyar. The palace which was built for the king’s daughter (do our parents even love us?) is today a heritage structure that’s home to a bunch of artifacts. If you want to time travel and learn about the history of Mysore and Karnataka, this is definitely a great place to start.
Kukkarahalli Lake – This one is for anybody who loves nature or just the idea of relaxing at a peaceful spot. Visiting Kukkarahalli Lake for sunrise or sunset never disappoints. Although the lake is not open 24/7, it also happens to be a great place for birdwatching as it is visited by a lot of migratory birds. Kukkarahalli Lake is famous with locals who often come here to jog, exercise, meditate or simply chill out. You can also experience boating at the lake.
The city of palaces definitely has a few more palaces which are worth visiting. But that’s not all there is to Mysore. There are other places worth experiencing which include everything from a museum to a garden and a lake. But the list we have shared includes places you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. All in all, Mysore has many interesting experiences and is a relaxing city. If you don’t have any preconceived notions, the city will definitely surprise you.