Mangalore, India

Most dismiss Mangalore (officially Mangaluru) as a stopover between Goa and Kerala, or a hub to access Coorg and Hassan. However, this bustling multicultural town is packed with history and many visit for its famed coastal cuisine. Named after the ancient temple of Mangaladevi at Bolar, 3km from the centre, Mangalore was one of south India's most famous ports frequented by Arab traders. It was already well known overseas in the sixth century as a major source of pepper; the fourteenth-century Muslim writer Ibn Battuta noted its trade in pepper and ginger and the presence of Persian and Yemenese merchants.

The best travel tips for visiting Mangalore

In the mid-1400s, the Persian ambassador Abdu’r-Razzaq saw Mangalore as a lucrative “frontier town” of the Vijayanagar Empire, which was why it was captured by the Portuguese in 1529, and later Tipu Sultan and the British.

Nowadays, the modern port, 10 km north of the city proper, is principally known for the processing and export of coffee and cocoa (mostly from Kodagu), and cashew nuts (from Kerala). It is also a centre for the production of beedis (local cigarettes).

Mangaluru’s strong Christian influence can be traced back to the arrival of St Thomas further south. Some 1400 years later, in 1526, the Portuguese founded one of the earliest churches on the coast, although today’s Rosario Cathedral, with a dome based on St Peter’s in Rome, dates only from 1910.

Closer to the centre, on Lighthouse Hill Road, fine restored fresco, tempera and oil murals by the Italian Antonio Moscheni adorn the Romanesque-style St Aloysius College Chapel, built in 1882.

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Beach-Ullal-Mangalore-shutterstock_3448128

Ullal beach © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Mangalore

From sandy beaches to temples and churches, here are the best things to do in Mangalore.

#1 Seek out Manjunatha temple in Mangalore

Atop the Kadri Hill, 3 km north of the centre, Mangaluru’s tenth-century Manjunatha temple is believed to be the oldest Shiva temple in the city and an important centre of the tantric Nathapanthi cult, a divergent form of Hinduism and similar to cults in Nepal.

Enshrined in the sanctuary are a number of superb bronzes, including a 1.5m-high seated Matsyendranatha, made in 958 AD. To see it up close, visit at darshan times (6am–1pm & 4–8pm), although the bronzes can be glimpsed through the wooden slats on the side of the sanctuary.

If possible, time your visit to coincide with mahapuja (8am, noon & 8pm) when the priests give a fire blessing to the accompaniment of raucous music.

Opposite the east entrance, steps lead via a reddish-coloured path to a curious group of minor shrines. Beyond this complex stands the Shri Yogishwar Math, a hermitage set round two courtyards.

#2 Head to the beaches at Ullal

To escape the city for a few hours, head to the suburb of Ullal , where a long sandy beach stretches for kilometres, backed by wispy casuarina trees.

It’s a popular place for a stroll, particularly in the evening when Mangaloreans come out to watch the sunset, but a strong undertow makes swimming difficult, and at times unsafe.

You might be better off using the pool at the Summer Sands Beach Resort immediately behind the beach.

#3 Visit the tomb of a saint said to have floated across the sea on a handkerchief

Towards the centre of Ullal, and around 700m from the main bus stand, is the dargah of Seyyid Mohammad Shareeful Madani, a sixteenth-century saint who is said to have come from Medina in Arabia, floating across the sea on a handkerchief.

The extraordinary nineteenth-century building with garish onion domes houses the saint’s tomb, which is one of the most important Sufi shrines in southern India. Visitors are advised to follow custom and cover their heads and limbs and wash their feet before entering.

#4 Visit one of south India’s holiest Vaishnavite centres at Udupi

Udupi (also spelt Udipi), on the west coast, 60km north of Mangaluru, is one of south India’s holiest Vaishnavite centres.

The Hindu saint Madhva (1238–1317) was born here, and the Krishna temple and mathas (monasteries) he founded are visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.

The largest numbers congregate during the late winter, when the town hosts a series of spectacular car festivals and gigantic, bulbous-domed chariots are hauled through the streets around the temple.

Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with a festival, Udupi is a good place to break the journey along the Karavali coast. Thronging with pujaris and pilgrims, its small sacred enclave is wonderfully atmospheric.

#5 Watch some Kambla (buffalo) racing

If you’re anywhere between Mangaluru and Bhatkal from October to April and come across a crowd gathering around a waterlogged paddy field, chances are they’re there to watch the spectacular rural sport of Kambla, or buffalo racing.

It’s a centuries-old tradition unique to Dakshina Kannada, the southernmost district of coastal Karnataka.

Two contestants, usually local rice farmers, take part in the race, riding on a wooden ploughboard tethered to a pair of buffaloes.

The object is to reach the opposite end of the field first, but points are also awarded for style, and riders gain extra marks – and roars of approval from the crowd – if the muddy spray kicked up from the plough-board splashes the special white banners, or thorana, strung across the course at a height of 6–8m.

Kambala (or KamblaKambula) is an annual buffalo race held in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, Mangalore © Shutterstock

Best areas to stay in Mangalore

From the bustling and vibrant area of Hampankatta, with its proximity to major attractions and markets, to the serene and scenic surroundings of Kadri and Panambur, Mangalore caters to all kinds of visitors.

Hampankatta

This bustling commercial area has a range of hotels, guesthouses, and budget accommodations.

Balmatta

Another central area, Balmatta has budget hotels and serviced apartments.

Kankanady

Located slightly away from the city centre, Kankanady is a peaceful residential area. It offers a mix of budget and mid-range hotels.

Kadri

For a quieter and greener setting, head to Kadri, home to the beautiful Kadri Park. The area has a handful of guesthouses that provide a tranquil stay.

Browse the best hotels in Mangalore.

Best restaurants and bars

As well as serving delicious coastal cuisine and traditional local dishes, Mangalore restaurants offer a range of memorable dining experiences. Here’s where to head.

At the heart of Mangalore, Hampankatta has the widest choice of places to eat and drink in the city. Kadri Well known for its seafood restaurants, serving delicious coastal delicacies like prawn rava fry.

Balmatta is a commercial hub with a variety of restaurants and cafes, expect Indian, Chinese and Western food options. This is a good place to go drinking too.

Kottara Chowki neighbourhood has gained popularity for its casual dining scene with plenty of options..

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Udupi temple, India © Shutterstock

How to get around

Travelling around Mangalore is relatively easy, thanks to its well-connected transportation infrastructure. From the efficient public bus system, auto-rickshaws, and taxis readily available, here’s how to do it.

By bus

The city has a well-developed public bus system operated by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).

Local buses are an affordable and convenient way to travel within Mangalore, with routes covering major areas and landmarks.

By auto-rickshaw

These three-wheelers are readily available throughout the city and most commonly used for short-distance travel in Mangalore. Fares are typically metered.

By taxi

Generally more expensive than auto-rickshaws, the city has both app-based ride-hailing cabs and traditional taxi services.

What is the best time to visit Mangalore?

The best time to visit Mangalore is during the winter months, from October to February. During this time, the weather is pleasant with milder temperatures and lower humidity. It is a great time to explore the city's attractions, enjoy outdoor activities, and relax on the beaches.

Mangalore experiences a tropical monsoon climate, with heavy rainfall from June to September. While the monsoon season brings lush greenery to the region, it can also result in frequent rain showers and high humidity, which may limit outdoor activities.

The summer months, from March to May, can be quite hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). If you don't mind the heat, you can still visit during this time and enjoy indoor attractions or spend time at the beaches.

Find out more about the best time to visit India.

Our Lady of Dolours chapel surrounded by greenery of coconut palms at Bishop's House, Mangalore, Karnataka, India © Shutterstock

Our Lady of Dolours chapel surrounded by greenery of coconut palms at Bishop's House, Mangalore, Karnataka, India © Shutterstock

How many days do you need in Mangalore?

A stay of 2 to 3 days is generally sufficient to explore the main attractions of Mangalore and get a taste of the city's culture and cuisine.

This gives you time to visit popular landmarks such as Kadri Manjunath Temple, Mangaladevi Temple, St. Aloysius Chapel, and the Sultan Battery. Stay for 3 days and you’ll also have some time for the beaches at Panambur or Tannirbhavi.

If you wish to explore nearby destinations like Udupi or the famous pilgrimage site of Dharmasthala, you may consider extending your stay by a day or two.

How to get here

Most arrive in Mangalore by train from all across India, though there are domestic and international flights landing at its airport daily too.

By plane

Bajpe airport, 22 km north of the city has regular flights to Bengaluru and Mumbai besides services to Goa, Hyderabad and Kochi. There are also daily connections with the Gulf States.

By train

The railway station, to the south of the city centre on Station Rd, sees daily services from cities all over India. Though rail services to Goa and Mumbai operate from Mangaluru, note that Konkan Railway through trains do not stop at the city terminus.

A better choice of train connections north and south is at Kankanadi, around 10 km north, or Kasaragod, an easy bus ride across the Kerala border.

By bus

Mangaluru’s busy KSRTC Bus Stand (known locally as the “Lal Bagh” Bus Stand) is nearly 3 km north of the town centre, in Hampankatta, from where you can catch city buses to most local destinations.

By private bus

Private buses use the much more central stand near the Town Hall. There are plenty of state buses heading north to Udupi and south along the coast into northern Kerala, though it is easier to pick up the more numerous private services to those places.

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Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 9.06.2023

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