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India is full of "hill stations," charming towns in the hills and mountains founded by the British during the colonial Raj as respites from the heat and dust of summers on the flatlands. And down in the country's southwestern state of Karnataka (known until 1973 as Mysore), the most charming is Coorg (today called Kodagu), well known among Indians for its breathtakingly exotic scenery and lush greenery as well as being India's largest coffee producer.
This small district on the slopes of the western Ghat Mountains has a history stretching back more than 2,000 years, but its character today was set in place by the British, who created an oasis redolent of old-Europe charm (and indeed, compared the area to Scotland due to its regal highlands and sturdy, mountain-dwelling locals), yet one that's also home to rewarding eco/adventure tourism and fascinating landmarks of long-ago Indian history. Here are a few of Coorg/Kodagu's most popular draws:
Situated in the center of Kodagu's capital Madikeri (pop. 33,400), this fort was built by the then local raja in the last quarter of the 17th century, with highlights including a mud palace, an archaeological museum, and a unique of a tortoise with the initials of King Vijayarajendra engraved on it.
Dubare Elephant Camp
An elephant training center on the banks of the river Cauvery, it's a project undertaken by forest department and jungle lodges and resorts. The elephants used for the famous autumn festival Mysore Dasara are trained at this camp. Visitors can participate in various activities involving elephants, such as safaris, as well as bathing and feeding them. River rafting is also popular here.
Also rendered as Talakaveri ,the spot on the slopes of the Brahmagiri mountain range where the Cauvery River is marked by a small square water tank, considered a holy place for Hindu pilgrims to bathe, as well as a temple dedicated to the river goddess Cauvery, and shrines dedicated to Lord Agastheeshwara and Lord Vinayaka.
A lovely Madikeri garden and pavilion built on a high point with a commanding view of the surrounding cliffs and valleys, it was a favorite place of recreation for the local rulers, who especially used to delight in the sunsets from here - and now you can, too!
A huge and beautiful Buddhist complex situated in the town of Bylakuppe, the Golden temple is the biggest and most important of the temples established by a large Tibetan exile community after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. Home to more than 5,000 Buddhist monks and nuns, it houses among other things 40-foot-high gilded images of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha Sakyamuni, and Amitayus.
Nagarhole National Park
Covering an area of more than 642 square kilometers (248 sq. miles), one of India's best wildlife sanctuaries and premier tiger reserves has rich flora and is covered with forests, streams, hills, valleys, and waterfalls.Besides tigers, there are leopards, wild dogs, sloth bears, hyenas, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, four-horned antelopes, gaur, wild boar, and elephants.
Also known as Lakshmana Tirtha Falls and tumbling 170 feet in two stages, this cascade in the Brahmagiri Hills of the western Ghats is situated amid thick forestland, and on the trail leading to it there's also a temple to Shiva.