It was with a heavy heart that I departed Mysore. The city that I had great expectations for and that exceeded all of them. The city that I intended to be a “time-filler” that ended up being the highlight of my trip. I planned to stay for just 3 days and ended up leaving, reluctantly, after 5.
Truth be told despite the length of time I spent there, I barely even scratched the surface. Nope, I never even made it two of the main tourist sites- Chaumandi Hills and the Mysore Palace. (Yup, I’m a bad traveller..)
Most travellers use Mysore a stop-off point on their way South to Kerala, maybe spending a day or two seeing all the main sites, then heading onwards. For me, staying a while gave me enough time to really appreciate the relatively laidback pace of life in this mini metropolis.
Going by my experiences visiting Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, I was definitely hesitant about visiting Mysore which I feared may be “just another busy Indian city.” When I arrived and found it to be clean (actually, it’s the cleanest city in India!), calm and easy to navigate, I was pleasantly surprised.
Mysore has a lot going for it and you should definitely stay for at least a few days if you’re looking for a place to slow down and recharge on your India trip. Here’s an overview of some of the things that I loved most about it.
Famous for it’s prized silk and sandalwood, I knew that I would inevitably have to break my “no shopping in Inda” rule (hahaha, as if that was ever going to last) when I arrived in Mysore.
I left with bags full of beautiful silk scarves, sandalwood essential oils, some Indian-style clothing, handspun organic cotton shirts and handmade incense sticks.
I was lucky enough to have an afternoon being shown around by Go Mowgli. As part of my mini customised version of their awesome city tour, I was taken around a few of the city’s lesser-known sites.
The first stop of the day was the silk factory, where we saw the whole process behind how the famous Mysore silk is made. After seeing the complicated process, I could definitely appreciate every rupee that I spent on the scarves that I had bought!
Kaa from Go Mowgli has so much knowledge about pretty much everything in his home state of Karnataka (and probably the rest of India, and maybe even the universe, too…) He was able to explain the whole process to me and fill me in on all the history behind it. I would recommend anyone coming to the South of India to do at least one Go Mowgli tour. The guys really helped deepen my understanding of this complex country and made me appreciate it so much more, too!
We also spent some time at the Devaraja Market which is a place you really need to experience on your trip. Although this is a popular “tourist site”, it also gives you an authentic glimpse at local life in Mysore. Be prepared for a complete sensory overload!
Kaa really kept me right by pointing me in the right direction of the best vendors (it’s a pretty huge and overwhelming place so this was really helpful), making sure I got the best prices and showing me what all the foreign produce was.
My favourite stop of the trip was the perfumery. The guy that worked there showed me all the oils that are used to make the most popular designer perfumes. I ended up buying a few since they smelled so amazing and only cost 200 rupees!
Mysore isn’t really the place to buy the usual backpacker favourites like elephant pants and patchwork bags. However, it’s a great place to buy traditional, authentic products which make much more memorable souvenirs anyway! Well, that’s my excuse for breaking my no-shopping rule…
When I started planning my trip to Mysore, I knew that I had to fit in a few Ashtanga Yoga Classes.
Mysore is famous for its own style of teaching Ashtanga Yoga. Rather than being lead through a class as a group, students work through the asanas at their own pace and are offered individual assistance from the instructor.
Although Mysore is the most famous place to study Ashtanga Yoga, finding drop-in classes can be difficult. Most yoga-schools only accept students who can commit to at least a month of practice.I managed to find one school that offered drop-ins called Mystic Yoga School. It’s definitely worth checking out if you want to practice Ashtanga in Mysore.
After I found the school, I woke up early every morning to attend private Ashtanga classes.
Luckily for me, I was the only student at the drop in, so I had the instructor’s full attention- which I definitely needed! Although I’ve been frequently practising yoga at home for a few years, this was my first time studying the Primary Series of Ashtanga which was extremely challenging (and ended up being a huge component of my Yoga Teacher Training course!)
The instructor was so patient with me, correcting my alignment and showing me a whole host of variations for the asanas. I enjoyed practising with him so much that I considered cancelling the next part of my trip just to study with him for longer!
Drop-ins are 500 INR but you can save money by signing up for a week or longer. Definitely recommended for anyone wanting to learn the fundamental asanas of the Primary Series from a true expert!
History and Architecture
Among those who know me, it’s no secret that history isn’t exactly my biggest passion… Or my strongest subject either, for that matter.
However, coming to India and not learning the history would have been shameful. As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, there’s a lot to learn about in India. Sometimes so much that it can get overwhelming
Luckily for me, I was accompanied by Kaa, the human encyclopaedia. Unlike guides in my previous experience taking tours, Kaa explained things to me in a really interesting and engaging way. Yup, even I managed to learn and understand a few bits and bobs about history which is a pretty huge achievement for me!
Staying true to the Go Mowgli ethos, Kaa took me to a place that I could never have found on my own; a museum locally known as Mysore’s best kept secret. (And to keep the secret even safer, I’m keeping the name to myself!) Even if you don’t go for the history, the museum is set in the most beautiful grounds beside a river. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the city.
Being home to a huge yogi community, Mysore is brimming with healthy organic and vegan restaurants. I managed to try out 2 of the most popular while I was there- Dhatu, and Depth & Green.
Both cafes do a mix of Western and Indian cooking, using all fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Indian favourites that are often packed full of cream and ghee are given a new, vegan makeover. One of my favourite examples of this was the traditional thali at Depth and Green. This had all the elements of a regular thali, but with healthier ingredients. So, rather than plain, white rice, it was served with purple sprouted rice. The curries were cooked with less salt and had coconut oil instead of ghee. I ate here several times and enjoyed both the Indian and Western food.
They’re both tucked away in the trendy Gokulam neighbourhood where you can find lots of healthy cafes and yoga studios. I recommend staying here on your trip! I stayed at Sonder Hostel which was really conveniently located, clean and social. Definitely, check it out!
Another restaurant that foodies should not miss is Anima Mhadva Bhavan- a traditional South Indian thali restaurant. Not only was the food amazing, but it was a great, authentic way to experience South Indian cooking. Guests sit on the floor and eat off a banana leaf the true Indian way- with their hands! Of course, you can get a knife and fork if you want to but when in Rome, do as the Romans do! The meal was only around 150 rupees with unlimited top ups. Make sure you don’t miss this place!
Mysore is unlike any other place I’ve been to India. It’s laidback and chilled out, without being too touristy. It’s got a big city feel, without the chaos. It’s the sort of city that you visit and imagine yourself living there. I’ve got high hopes that I’ll visit Mysore again and manage to see all the places that I missed. If you’re visiting the South of India, make sure you don’t overlook it and give it a few days to get under your skin.
Heading to India, don’t miss these posts!
- South India 1 Month Itinerary
- Highlights of 2 Months in India
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Palolem Beach, Goa
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Hampi
- 8 Tips for Travelling in India on the Cheap
- Rajasthan: 2 Week Itinerary
Many thanks to the guys from Go Mowgli for kindly showing me around on my trip to India! As always, all opinions are my own.