A centre of sandalwood-carving, silk and incense production, Mysore, officially renamed Mysuru in 2014, is one of south India’s more appealing cities. Nearly 160km southwest of Bengaluru, the city is Karnataka’s most popular tourist destination by a long shot, attracting about 2.5 million visitors each year. Nevertheless, it remains a charming, old-fashioned and undaunting town, changed by neither an IT boom nor its new-found status as a top international yoga destination. That said, the erstwhile capital of the Wadiyar rajas can be a little disappointing at first blush: upon stumbling off a bus or train you’re not so much embraced by the scent of jasmine blossoms or gentle wafts of sandalwood as smacked by a cacophony of tooting, careering buses, bullock carts, motorbikes and tongas. Still, give it a few days and Mysore will cast a spell on you.
In addition to its established tourist attractions, chief among them the Mysore Palace, Mysuru is a great city simply to stroll around. The evocative, if dilapidated, pre-Independence buildings lining market areas such as Ashoka Road and Sayaji Rao Road lend an air of faded grandeur to a busy centre that teems with vibrant street life.