Best places to see in Karkala, Karnataka
Karkala is one of the quieter towns of western Karnataka. But it is also home to some of the most impressive sites from medieval history! There are many architectural marvels belonging to Hinduism, Christianity and Jainism. Karkala is definitely worth exploring if you’ve been looking to visit an offbeat place in Karnataka!
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Karkala in Karnataka. This guide contains details on what to see in Karkala and where to stay, where to eat, getting around in Karkala and so much more! We’ve also put together the ideal itinerary for Karkala if you are spending a day exploring the city and its surroundings.
Our experience of visiting Karkala
We did not consciously plan our visit to Karkala. We just happened to stumble upon it on our way from Agumbe to the western coast of Karnataka. However, we were so glad to have explored the old town!
Karkala is a pilgrimage town for many Hindus. The Shri Venkataramana Temple is an important holy spot and people flock from various parts of Karnataka. Similarly, the town is also very famous for its collection of Jain heritage sites. Some of these temples are over seven centuries old! Interestingly, the crowds are also much smaller in these places of interest.
We were thrilled to explore these architectural marvels at our own pace (and space) all day long! For instance, there were three other people at the Chaturmukha Basadi. We even enjoyed the delicious and simple food in town. It made our experience even more enjoyable. Above all, we found Karkala to be very cheap to travel in and explore. Therefore, we’ve put together this little easy-to-use guide to the best places to see in Karkala, Karnataka. Check it out!
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Saint Lawrence Church, Attur
The St Lawrence Catholic Church was built in the 1759 in the Attur village. It is popularly known as the Attur Church in Karnataka. The Church features beautiful gothic architecture and looks very European. In fact, we even thought that it is one of the most beautiful Churches in Karnataka! However, this beautifully built cathedral became even more famous for its miracles since the 18th century.
Tip: The Attur Jaatre is hosted in the last week of every January. The Jaatre is a very famous village festival and celebrated at the Cathedral and the surrounding open spaces. In addtion to special prayers, the village comes alive with an open-air market, festive music and cultural activities.
History: Many Christians were once migrating through Karkala in the era of oppression by Tipu Sultan. They were tired at mid day and decided to rest at a small spring. The men were carrying a small statue of Saint Lawrence who was one of the most virtuous saints of the third century. They had laid the statue down near the spring while resting. After that, as they thought of resuming their journey. But no one could lift the statue from the ground! A Goan priest who accompanied the group recongised this as a miracle of the Saint himself! This miracle was enough for the locals and the migrating Christians to get together and construct the shrine.
Chaturmukha Basadi means ‘Temple of Four Faces’. It is a must visit in Karkala. The monument is situated atop a small rock hill in the eastern part of town. The temple was built with hard granite and features many carvings. In addition, the pillars are also beautifully symmetrical. The entire temple looks so perfectly designed in proportions when seen from the sky above!
Tip: Visit in the evenings after 4 pm to enjoy the evening glow of the grass and the vibrant colours of the stone pillars.
Anekere or ‘Elephant Lake’ is a large man-made lake in the heart of Karkala. There is a small Basadi or temple in the centre of the lake. King Pandyadeva constructed the tank in 1260s to supply drinking water to the city and nearby villages. It continued to be the primary source of water for many centuries. However, many royal elephants were brought for watering and bathing in the sixteenth century. The tank was later expanded to make more space for the elephants. After that, the locals began calling it as AneKere or Elephant Lake.
Tip: This is the best sunset spot in Karkala! There is a park surrounding the lake. It features a beautiful garden patch and seats overlooking the temple.
Saavira Kambada Basadi
This temple is only a short twenty minute drive away in neighbouring Moodbidri. The Savira Kambada Basadi has very impressive architecture. The name literally means ‘Temple with a thousand pillars’ in Kannada. In other words, it has numerous pillars supporting the three tiered structure! The temple also exhibits traditional malenadu architecture of a sloped roof. There is an idol of the most important Jain thirthankaras (Chandraprabha) inside the temple.
The Basadi is actually made of mutliple floors. The lower one was built with granite and the upper ones were made entirely of wood. This was the prevalent style of the Vijayanagara empire back in the fifteenth century.
Tip: Visit this temple in the morning to beat the crowds. There is a small entry ticket of INR 10 and camera permit is extra.
Karkala Gomateshwara Hill
A large monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali was erected in 1432 in the name of the royal Wodeyar family of Mysore. The naked, enlightened man was also known as Gomata or Gomateshwara. Many Indian children hear stories about this man while growing up. Legend says that he and his elder brother waged many wars to further their holy father’s legacy of Jainism and the empire. Although Bahubali (“strong arms” as it literally means) won every challenge, he felt very disappointed with his acts against his own elder sibling. After that, he retired to the Himalayas where he meditated and attained enlightenment. The naked body depicts the enlightenment and liberation from a materialistic life.
Tip: The fifteen minute climb to the top is fairly easy and worth the views! There is a small roadway to the top as well.
You will also get to see the neighbouring Chaturmukha Basadi while climbing up the Gomateshwara hill. You can actually see how high up the Chaturmukha Basadi. The Basadi’s symmetrical design is also very evident from up there. In addition, the city of Karkala looks absolutely beautiful too! Karkala is surrounded with dense green all around. You will see plantations, forests, coconut groves and the seemingly endless hills of the distant western ghats.
Do you like unique temples? Check this out
Best Itinerary for Karkala, Karnataka
You can easily explore Karkala in one day. People can freely visit the attractions during the day except for Chaturmukha Basadi and Gomateshwara. These attractions have specific open hours. We recommend this itinerary for Karkala:
- Visit the Shri Venkataramana Temple in the morning.
- Taste ‘Buns’ at a local restaurant in the main town.
- Visit Attur Church during mid-day followed by lunch.
- Set out to the Gomateshwara Hill in the afternoon.
- Visit the Chaturmukha Basadi by 4:30.
- Enjoy the sunset at Anekere Lake and have dinner.
- Visit Saavira Kambada Basadi on your way out of Karkala the next morning.
Stay, food, transport, weather and budget in Karkala, Karnataka
Karkala has very few lodges available for online bookings. You can find some of them here. We stayed at a Oyo Spot On Hotel just outside Karkala town for INR 800. It had an in-house restaurants (veg and multi cuisine) and ample parking space too.
Budget and costs: Food is very reasonably priced in Karkala. Expect to pay INR 20 for a plate of Idlis, INR 20 for a pair of special buns, INR 30 for a full rice meal in small hotels. Expect to pay about INR 80 for north Indian dishes. There are many small Chaat stalls in and around the major tourist attractions. Street food is generally safe to consume. Fresh coconut water costs about INR 30.
Recommended restaurants: Hotel Anurupa (small and rustic), Hotel Ratna (upscale), Mahavir Juice centre/Mallya Fast food (near Gomateshwara).
Auto-rickshaws and local buses are available in Karkala and they are very affordable. However, we recommend exploring the place with your own vehicle (road-trip) as the frequency of public transport is low.
Weather is just like any other malenadu town: hot and humid. It gets a little cooler in the monsoon season. We feel that the best time to visit Karkala is between September and March. April and May are unpleasantly hot. June-August is very wet (best for waterfalls and lush greenery).
Tip: Dress modestly to respect conservative local beliefs and traditions. Wear cotton clothing to beat the hot and humid weather and carry an additional layer for rains and evening chills.
How to get to Karkala, Karnataka
Karkala is very well connected with most major cities in South Western Karnataka. There are daily buses from Mangalore, Udupi, Mysore and even Bangalore. Karkala is also very close to Agumbe, Varanga and Moodbidri which are the other important tourist cities in the region.
Love road tripping? Check this list of weekend getaways from Bangalore
Karnataka is indeed a very beautiful part of India! It is very popular for its greenery and architecture from the yesteryears. In fact, it is our home state and we’ve explored a few other places which you might just find just as appealing to explore! Check it out here.
If you have more questions or want to explore Karkala with us, please write to us – we’d be very happy to help!
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Shishira & Navneeth