Whether you travel the Karnatakan (Karavali) coast on the Konkan Railway or along the busy NH-17, southern India’s smoothest highway, the route between Goa and Mangalore ranks among the most scenic anywhere in the country. Crossing countless palm- and mangrove-fringed estuaries, the railway line stays fairly flat, while the recently upgraded road, dubbed by the local tourist board as “The Sapphire Route”, scales several spurs of the Western Ghats, which here creep to within a stone’s throw of the sea, with spellbinding views over long, empty beaches and deep blue bays. Highlights are the pilgrim town of Udupi, site of a famous Krishna temple, and Gokarna, another important Hindu centre that provides access to exquisite unexploited beaches. A decent inland road winds through the mountains to Jog Falls, India’s biggest waterfall, which can also be approached from the east.

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