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Most travelers head directly for Bengaluru, Karnataka's capital, using it as a springboard to fly to Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh (discussed at the end of the chapter), or -- more usually -- as a base from which to catch an overnight train to and from the "lost city" of Hampi, which lies 320km (198 miles) north. (Note that more adventurous travelers, usually backpackers, can also catch a bus from Goa and head straight to Hampi.) Remote and serene, Hampi is good for a few relaxing days -- at least 3 days if you intend to explore the undervisited temples of the Chalukyas, which lie north of Hampi. The second principal destination in Karnataka is Mysore, again usually reached from Bengaluru. If you're traveling to or from Tamil Nadu or Kerala, it's also possible to drive directly to Mysore, passing Rajiv Gandhi National Park, or to approach it from the coastal city of Mangalore, which is in turn connected to Goa and Kerala via the Konkan railway. Spend at least a day in Mysore before spending the next day or two visiting the beautifully decorated 11th-century temples at Belur and Halebid, and the nearby Jain monolithic statue at Sravanabelgola. Karnataka also has a few stunning beaches, just south of the Goan border, but unless you can make do with limited facilities, save your sunbathing for Goa and Kerala. Finally, if the heat and dust of the plains is exhausting, then a quick escape lies just 3 hours from Mysore, in the cool coffee plantations of Coorg. And if all this sounds like a mission to plan, simply hop on to the superluxurious Golden Chariot (www.thegoldenchariot.co.in) and chug your way across the state, taking in all the major sights (with Goa thrown in as a bonus) over just 7 days.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.