Ensconced on the southern coast, this maritime city makes a pleasant and convenient stop between Kerala and Karwar. It’s the gateway to the Konkan coast and inland Kodagu region. The district is bound by sea in the west and Western Ghats in the East, Udupi district in the North and Kerala State in the South. Mangaluru is the district headquarters of Dakshina Kannada and it has been synonymous with banking and education. It is also famous for its temples, cuisine and beaches.
Till the 14th century, Mangaluru was the capital of the Alup Rulers. Then for over 200 years, it came under the governance of the Vijayanagar Empire. The greatest influence came from the Portuguese who arrived during the 15th century. Trade relations were established and a factory was set up. They also introduced Christianity to this place. Mangaluru was also a major seaport and ship-building centre in Hyder Ali’s time.
Mangaluru is virtually a ‘melting pot’ of cultures as it has a cosmopolitan mix of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins, Roman Catholics, Bunts, Moplahs and Bilavas. The languages are also diverse with many languages spoken like Tulu, Kannada, Konkani, Urdu and Malayalam. Today it is a bustling commercial centre and Karnataka’s major port for the export of coffee, spices and cashew. However, it has preserved its old-world charm too – with its narrow, winding streets fringed with coconut palms, quaint houses with terracotta-tiled roofs, beautiful beaches, temples and churches, and the aroma of spicy coconut curries.
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When to go: September to February is the ideal time to head for the coast, when fish is plentiful so you can relish some scrumptious seafood while enjoying the much-needed vitamin sea break, temperatures benign and the sea absolutely delightful. Summers are hot and humid.
Art & Festivals
- Yakshagana: A trip to the coastal belt would be incomplete without watching the Yakshagana – an elaborate dance drama performance unique to Karnataka. It is a rare combination of dance, music, song, scholarly dialogues and colourful costumes. A celestial world unfolds before the audience, as loud singing and drumming form a backdrop to dancers clad in striking costumes. Hence the name Yaksha (celestial) Gana (music). This is a night-long event, with elaborately adorned performers dancing to the beat of drums in open-air theatres – usually in the village paddy fields after the winter crop has been harvested. Traditionally, men portray all roles, including the female ones, though women are now part of Yakshagana troupes. A typical troupe consists of 15 to 20 actors and a Bhagavatha, who is the master of ceremonies and the main story teller. The performances draw crowds from far and wide, with a fair-ground atmosphere pervading the venue till dawn.
- Huli Vesha: Huli Vesha or Tiger faced dance is a dance form unique to coastal Karnataka. Huli vesha is performed by local youth during the Navarathri festivals (the 9 night long festival which often falls in the month of October).
- Nagamandala: People of Dakshina Kannada perform an elaborate ritual called Nagamandala to appease the serpent spirit. It is conducted in an extravagant manner throughout the night, wherein dancers known as the Vaidyas dress themselves as nagakannikas and dance the night away. The Vaidyas cavort around an elaborate serpent design drawn with natural colours on the sacred ground in a pandal, specially erected in front of the shrine. This nocturnal ritual is performed between December and April.
- Kambala: Famed buffalo race event where well nurtured buffalos race in a slushy field
- Bhootada Kola/ Bhootha Aradhane: No less interesting is the Bhootha Aradhane or devil worship, very common in the coastal towns of Karnataka. Idols representing ‘bhoothas’ are taken out in a procession to the beating of drums and bursting of firecrackers. As the procession ends, the idols are placed on a pedestal. With a sword and jingling bells, a dancer whirls round in imitation of the devil he represents. Frantically pacing up and down, he enters into a possessed state and acts as an oracle.
- Kumara Parvatha Trek: Kumara Parvatha Trek is a highly recommended trekking adventure activity in Western Ghats. Kumara Parvatha Trek is of easy to medium difficulty level and can be undertaken by anyone with standard fitness. Kumara Parvatha trek, also referred to as Pushpagiri trek spans about a total of 25-28 kms from the base and is usually completed over two days in leisure. Maximum altitude reached during the trek will be about 1700 meters from mean seal level. The scintillating views from the top, giant rocks and cool breeze/mist will make all the effort worthwhile
- Manasa Amusement Park: Located inside Pilikula NisargaDhama, Manasa Amusement park offers a full day of water sports, adventure and fun activities.
- Beach activities: Visitors can try ATV rides, JetSki rides, Banana boat rides; horse rides etc at Panambur beach.
- Panambur Beach(10 km): Panambur Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Mangaluru city in coastal Karnataka. Known to be one of the safest and well-maintained beaches, it is also famous for its dramatic sunset. The beach aura warms up during the carnivals, organized by the district authorities. The festivities include boat races, beach sports and sand sculpture contests. Panambur beach has jet ski rides, boating, dolphin viewing, food stalls, besides trained beach lifeguards and patrol vehicles to ensure the safety of the visitors to the beach.
- Someshwara Beach(14 km):The sunset view in Someshwara beach is an unforgettable feast for the eyes and a favourite among photo lovers. The place is dotted with several large rocks with the presence of beautiful hills and lush greenery in its vicinity. These rocks at Someshwar Beach are called Rudra Shile. The spectacular views of the hills and beautiful trees at the time of dawn and dusk are definitely worth watching. The historical Somanath Temple constructed during the regime of the famous queen Abbakka Devi is situated in the north side.
- Tannirbhavi Beach (12 km): It is one of those beaches that have trees on them and offers a picturesque landscape. Tannirbhavi beach also has some basic facilities like life guards, toilets, parking lot, few eateries and concrete benches. One can sit under the green trees and lose track of time while enjoying the scenic beauty of the place.
- Ullal Beach (15 km): Stretched out in a hue of blue and green, Ullal Beach is one of the most serene and calm beach in Karnataka. Set in about 14 acres of casuarinas groves, the beach offers a breathtaking view during sunset. Primarily a fishing village, Ullal also tells tales of the courageous Queen Abbakka, who had repulsed a Portuguese attack near the city killing many enemies in the early 1600s.
- Surathkal Beach (15 km): Surathkal Beach, on the shores of Arabian Sea, is a clean beach with tremendous scenic beauty. The beach has a curving shoreline and a lighthouse at the end of the beach. A steep path connects the lighthouse to the historic Sadashiva Temple.
- Sasihithlu Beach (23 km): The beach has stunning white sand adding to the beauty of it and is indeed a picturesque location to admire. The cool breeze and the silent waves are truly splendid and relaxing. Sasihithlu Beach marks the confluence of Arabian sea and two rivers which are Nandini and Shambhavi. The virgin beach is hidden away from the crowd, making it an idyllic place to enjoy. Sasihithlu beach also is the venue for a few surfing events and competitions.
- Pilikula Nisarga Dhama (15 km):Pilikula Nisargadhama (15 km) Pilikula Nisargadhama is an eco-educational and tourism park located on the banks of the Gurupura River. Promoted by the district administration, it showcases the cultural, heritage and natural wonders of this part of Karnataka. Spread over 370 acres, this eco-zone has a biological park, heritage village, artisans’ village, golf course, amusement park, lake garden, arboretum and a science centre. The recently opened 3D planetarium is Asia’s first.The state-run Jungle Lodges and Resorts also operates Phalguni River Lodge which is located in Pilikula Nisargadhama.
- Bendre Theertha (65 km): A scenic spot on the banks of the River Seerehole, near the prosperous trading centre of Puttur Bendre Theertha is an offbeat attraction. It is the only natural hot water spring in Karnataka and believed to have curative powers.
- Jamalabad Fort: Formerly known as Narasimha Angadi, Jamalabad in Belthangady taluk of South Canara district is famous for an 18th century fort. Jamalabad fort was built on the ruins of an old Hoysala fort. Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan built the fort in 1974 and named it after his mother, Jamalbee.
- Ullal: Ullal is a coastal port town in Dakshina Kannada district on the outskirts of Mangaluru city. Most popular attractions in Ullal are a fort, palace, Someshwara temple and Jain Basadi. In the past, Ullal was ruled by two brave and patriotic queens- Abbakkadevi and her daughter, who defeated the Portuguese army in 1618.
- Lighthouse Hill: A new lighthouse was set up here in 1900. Offers good views and also has a park. Locally known as Bavata Gudda.
- Sultan Battery: It is situated in Boloor and was a watchtower built by Tippu Sultan to prevent warships coming in from the sea. The construction is bafflingly exquisite with a long flight of steps leading to a circular landing and paved with granite slabs. Although it is a watchtower, it gives the impression of a miniature fortress with its arrangements for mounting cannons all round.
- Kadri Manjunatha Temple, Mangaluru:The Kadri Hill is famous for the 11th century Kadri Manjunatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed to be the oldest Shiva Temple in Mangaluru. The temple also has tanks with natural springs and laterite caves, also knows as the Pandava Caves. The bronze image of Lokeshawara and Guatama Buddha in the Dhyani posture point to its Buddhist origins.
- Kudroli Gokarnanatha Temple: Kudroli Gokarnatheshwara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is built by Sri Narayana Guru, the great philosopher, saint and social reformer from Kerala. The temple is built in the Chola style. A huge statue of Nandi stands at the entrance of the temple. There is also a statue of a chariot pulled by horses which depicts the scene of Lord Krishna and Arjuna from Mahabharata in multiple colours. Navarathri and Shivarathri are the two big festivals celebrated at this temple. The celebrations at the temple during Dasara is popularly called as Mangaluru Dasara.
- Mangaladevi Temple: Mangaluru has the ancient 10th century Mangala Devi temple that has given the town its name. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Shakti in the form of Mangaladevi. The presiding deity, Mangaladevi, in the central shrine is in a seated posture. There are shrines around the sanctum for other deities. The Dasara celebrations here attract lots of devotees here and on Vijaya Dashami day, parents perform ceremonies to initiate the tiny tots into the world of letters.
- Venkataramana Temple: A 17th century temple dedicated to Sri Veera Venkatesha
- Durga Parameshwari Temple, Kateelu: Situated towards east of Mangaluru in Kateel is the Durga Parameshwari Temple, located on an island in Nandini river. The temple dedicated to Goddess Durga Parameshwari is in the form of an Udhbhava Moorthi (naturally formed). The pillars of the temple also has beautiful sculptures.
- Infant Jesus Shrine, Mangaluru: Infant Jesus Shrine is a Christian monastery dedicated to St Joseph, located on Carmel hills in Mangaluru. Infant Jesus Shrine was set up by the Teresian Carmelites who migrated to South Canara from Goa in the 17th Infant Jesus church is known for its peacefulness and well maintained campus.
- St Aloysius Chapel, Mangaluru:The St Aloysius Chapel was constructed in 1885. A line of circular pillars holds aloft an arched ceiling. Oil paintings on canvas bonded to the ceiling depict the life of Aloysius Gonzaga to whom the chapel is dedicated. The Chapel also has beautiful paintings done by Br. Anthony Moschemi of Italy.
- Milagres Church, Mangaluru: Milagres Church is one of the oldest churches in South Canara, located in Mangaluru city, dedicated to Our Lady of Miracles. Milagres is a Roman Catholic church set up in 1680 by Bishop Thomas De Castro.
- Dharmasthala: Set in sylvan surroundings on the Western Ghats, this well known pilgrimage center is an interesting amalgam of faiths. It is arguably the most visited religious place in Karnataka. Dharmasthala is a remarkable example of communal, religious and cultural harmony. The Manjunatha Temple is a prominent Shaivaite Center, that has Madhwa Vaishnavaite priests and is administered by a hereditary Jain family, the Heggades. The Jain influence can be seen in the 39 ft. statue of Lord Bahubali, on the hill near the temple. In fact, the Jain Tirthankara and Lord Manjunatha (Shiva) are worshipped on the same consecrated ground. In Dharmasthala, religious charity is a way of life. Irrespective of caste, creed, or religion, pilgrims are given free meals here. During the annual festival, Laksha Deepotsava held in November-December, one lakh lamps are lit and literary/ religious discourses are held.
- Zeenath Baksh Jumma Masjid:It is located in the Bunder area in Mangaluru and this mosque portrays the life stories of Prophet Mohamed. Believed to be established by Arab Muslim traders during 644 AD, this mosque surpasses all others mosques due to its pure Indian architecture style. It is probably the only mosque in Karnataka made entirely of wood. The main highlight of the mosque is the wooden inner sanctum consisting of 16 pillars made of teak.
- Mahalingeshwara Temple: Mahalingeshwara temple is located in Puttur town and a popular temple in the region. Puttur Mahalingeshwara temple is a 12th century temple with red tile roofs and a Kerala style design.
- Moodabidri (36 km): Moodabidri is known as the “Jain Varanasi” of South India. The basadis or Jain temples are found all over Dakshina Kannada district but the basadis here have greater significance and are considered as most ornate. Along with Venur and Dharmastala Moodabidri is one of the main centres of Jain pilgrimage in Dakshina Kannada. There are 18 Jain basadis in Moodabidri. The finest of these is the 15th century Chandranatha Basadi, also known as the Thousand Pillars Basadi. The uniqueness of this basadi, is that no two pillars are identical.
- Kukke Subramanya Temple (105km): Nestled between hills, this pilgrim center is famous for the temple of Kukke Subrahmanya. The epics narrate how the divine serpent Vasuki and other snakes took refuge under Lord Subrahmanya, in the caves. Here Lord Subrahmanya is worshipped as a snake and pooja is offered to Him, who is merged with serpent king Vasuki. Hence, believed to be the ultimate solace for salvation from any sort of Naga Doshas. A ritual dance called Nagamandala is also performed here.
- Venur(55 km):Venur near Belthangady is known for the 11m high Bahubali statue, dating back to 1604, which stands on the southern bank of the Gurupur River. The town is famed for its eight basadis, and the ruins of a Mahadeva Temple.
- Uppinangadi: Known for Lakshmi Ventakaramana T
- Shishila: Known for a small temple of Shishileshvara.
- Southadka Sri Ganapathy Temple (72 km): The uniqueness of the place is Lord Maha Ganapathi is out in the open field without a ‘Garbha gudi’ and temple structure. It is surrounded by lush green environs and is open all day round for devotees to offer prayers.
- Polali Rajarajeshwari Temple (19 km): A pilgrimage centre, this temple that's steeped in legend attracts travelers and pilgrims alike. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Rajarajeshwari and is situated on the banks of the river Phalguni. The Temple was constructed in the 8th century and has been developed by many dynasties which ruled over the region. The idol of Goddess Rajarajeshwari is completely moulded from clay with special medicinal properties. The Polali Chendu festival celebrated annually here is rather unique which is otherwise known as the football festival; with football matches being played to represent the fight of good over evil. During the annual festival, which begins in the month of March and lasts for one month, the deity is placed on 'Prabhavati', a beautifully adorned circular crown-like structure.
- Mulki (30 km): This quaint beach is famous for water sports, especially surfing. It is home to one of the few surfing training centres in India. Mulki is a safe haven for international and domestic tourists interested in surfing and other water activities like wakeboarding, stand-up paddle boards, kayaking, snorkeling and Yoga lessons.
- Karanje: Known for its Shiva temple, Ganapathi temple and Parvathi temple
- Rosario Cathedral: A roman catholic church
- Shanti Cathedral, Balmatta: A huge 19th century church based on Switzerland’s Mission House
- Madani Dargah, Ullal (15 km): Ullal is home to the famous Dargah of Saint Syed Mohammed Sherif Ul Madani, who is believed to have come here from Madina around 400 years ago. He settled here and is credited with having performed several miracles. An urus (festival) is held once in every five years and attracts thousands of devotees of all faiths.
- Golibaje: A unique tea time snack
- Patrode: An itchy, tangy dish made from colocasia leaves one should not miss when in Udupi.
- Neer Dose: A simple but tasty dosa variant made from soaked rice.
- Banana Bun: Mangaluru Banana Bun is a sweetish quick bite snack that is popular in coastal Karnataka. Banana buns are made from mashed ripe bananas, flour and sugar. Banana buns are a must try delicacy while visiting coastal Karnataka. Banana buns may also be referred to as Banana Poori.
- Mangaluru Fish Curry: Favorite non vegetarian dish in the region, made from locally sourced fishes and spices.
- Kadubu: Idli cooked in jackfruit leaves
- Meen Oota: Fish meals, an opportunity to enjoy delicious coastal Karnataka meals along with serving of locally captured fishes.
- Ganji Oota: Boiled Rice meals, usually had with ghee and pickle.
- Manjusha Museum: Manjusha Museum is a unique museum of its kind in the temple town of Dharmasthala in Dakshina Kannada district. It houses a wide range of objects, including ancient scripts on palm leaves, silver jewellery, religious objects including bells, and bronzes, as well as household goods such as sewing machines, spectacles, typewriters and cameras.
- Kadri Park: Large park ideal for recreational activities and kids’ activities
- Banga Fort near Urva: Built during the 17th century and now in ruins.