Mysore Trip Report - Palace and Zoo

There are a couple of ways to reach Mysore from Ooty - a longer (25KM more) and more scenic route via Gudalur and a shorter but tougher (for the driver) route via Masinagudi with  36 hairpin bends. From Coimbatore, the best bet is to go via Sathyamangalam as the traffic is far less that way. Although the Gudalur route is scenic and easier to drive, it takes quite a bit more time as the road has several potholes and speed-bumps. Pykara Reservoir and Falls (open 10AM to 5PM) and Shooting Hill are both on the way within the first 15KM from Ooty. Gudalur-Madumalai Tiger Reserve on the Tamil Nadu side and Bandipur Tiger Reserve on the Karnataka side are both on this route as well. Several Safari Lodges dot the area. It is common to see all kinds of wildlife on this drive. Deer and monkeys are the most common but we also saw several peacocks and wild-boar. Good restaurants are rare in the 150KM stretch although once you get near Mysore there are options - for basic vegetarian fare, Kamath Madhuvan around 3KM before reaching the city limits is a good option. Pugmark Restaurant at Bandipur Safari Lodge and other similar options also exist.

Our reservation was at Parklane Hotel at Sri Harsha Road. It is an off-road in the area around Mysore Palace. The traffic is terrible within Mysore city but both Sri Harsha Road and Parklane Hotel are well known and so it is fairly easy to get guidance from locals - the only caution is that a lot of the people on the road are travel guides over-eager to “help” any tourist asking for directions. Parklane Hotel is a very good option when touring Mysore because of its location, and excellent overall service. There is plenty of parking on the street in front but the vehicle needs to be moved in the night to avoid ticketing - limited parking in the front of the building is available to guests and we had no trouble getting a slot there. Check-in was a breeze - they collect the full payment upfront and provide a complementary toiletry pouche along with the keys. There is a smallish indoor pool on the fifth floor - the shower area is not well maintained. The hotel has an excellent restaurant with a nice seating area on the terrace in the 2nd floor.

It is walkable distance to the South Entrance of Mysore Palace from Parklane Hotel. We chose to take an Otto(tuk-tuk) instead for around Rs 50. The palace is open all days between 10AM and 5:30PM. As the most popular tourist destination in Mysore, the place gets crowded very quickly and so your best bet is to arrive early. Ticket pricing is Rs 40 for Indians and Rs 200 for others. One has to go in bare-foot and photographing inside the palace is not allowed although you can click to your hearts content in the palace grounds. A palace was first constructed in the area in the 14th century and the current palace was built in the late 19th century and expanded up till around 1940. The palace is popular due to the vast opulence seen through-out, its wonderful murals, other paintings, and overall architecture. The design of the main building is described as Indo-Saracenic: a combination of Hindu, Gothic, Muslim and Rajput styles of architecture. The royal wedding hall and the Public Durbar are the most impressive areas of the main building. The palace grounds also houses twelve temples. A not-to-be-missed experience of Mysore Palace is illumination - the whole palace is illuminated for an hour on Sundays and government holidays between 7PM and 8PM. A good way to experience this to the fullest is to hire a taxi/otto for an hour to go around the palace  - the fare runs upwards of Rs 200.  

Mysore Zoo is an outstanding but underrated facility. The setup and maintenance are comparable to other great zoos of the world. It was established in 1892 on just 10 acres and opened to public in 1902. Over the years, the zoo was expanded several times with the most significant one being the 150 acre acquisition of Karanji reservoir in which a sanctuary for birds was set up. The Zoo Authority of Karnataka, an autonomous organization has managed the zoo since 1979 and they do a wonderful job - funding mostly comes from the meager entrance fees: Rs 25 for adults and Rs 10 for kids. The hours are 8:30 to 5:30PM (Tuesday holiday). It is around 3.5KM of leisurely walk around the zoo - another option is to go with a group in a battery operated vehicle for Rs 100. It took us around two hours to cover the zoo on foot. The facility hosts around 1500 animals and has the distinction of being the first zoo in the country to host gorillas and penguins. Captive breeding of many rare species is an area of expertize at the zoo - they have successfully bred the white tiger and many elephants.

It can be fairly exhausting to cover these two attractions the same day but with good planning it is very doable. We returned back to the hotel by early evening, took an early dinner, and then hired an otto (tuk-tuk) to experience the illumination - a fitting finale!

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