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Mysuru, India, city guide: what to see, plus the best yoga centres, hotels and restaurants

Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore; it was renamed in 2014) has hovered under the tourist radar for years and is often overlooked in favour of southern cousins such as Kochi and Puducherry. But the former royal capital of the erstwhile eponymous princely state is a slow-reveal pleasure, a place of culture, eccentricity, architecture, beauty and manners; a gently pious, highly literate and quietly arresting city, connected to nature and imbued with the sacred.

Mysuru, India.

More recently, Mysuru has recently, become known for ashtanga yoga, with a thriving community centred around the northern neighbourhood of Gokulam. But yoga is only one facet of a wider civic tradition where spirit, body and mind converge. India’s first academic Ayurvedic medical institution (established in 1908) is here, while Sanskrit scholars, traditional doctors and massage therapists abound. Learned wellbeing is a way of life in these parts.

This is just as well, given the glorious food on offer: the city lends its name to the outstanding Mysore masala dosa but there are plenty of other treats besides, with idli (steamed fermented lentil rice cakes), vada (deep-fried savoury potato, sago or lentil fritters) and many varieties of thali making it a vegetarian’s paradise. The city also has great Hyderabadi cuisine, especially the famed biryani (usually mutton but also chicken and fish).

Thali served at Anima Madhya Bhavan, Mysuru, India.
Thali served at Anima Madhya Bhavan. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Although there are bars and liquor stores in town, cultural norms and prohibitively expensive licencing make it hard to get an alcoholic drink with every meal. You can turn this to your advantage: rise early like the locals, and a host of wonders await. From the gorgeous pre-dawn Islamic call to prayer, to the morning bustle at Devaraja market via a sunrise temple visit and a breakfast dosa, this city will leave you charmed.


Climb Chamundi

Chamundi Hills, Mysuru, India.
Chamundi Hills. Photograph: Matthew Parker

The city’s south-east quarter is dominated by Chamundi hills, a rock-hewn habitat of leopards and temples. Tour buses drive to the top but to get a true sense of Mysuru and its inhabitants, climb the 1,000-step stairway – ideally starting before dawn, and joining pilgrims and daily walkers as the city emerges with the sun.

Take a walking tour

Guru Sweet Mart, Mysuru, India
Guru Sweet Mart. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Mysuru’s heritage can be hard to decipher on your own, which is where Royal Mysore Walks come in. Its city tour begins with a dose of architectural history, taking in the town hall, Silver Jubilee clock tower, Royal Palace and Devaraja market. It then turns into a street-food feast that includes the confectioner Guru Sweet Mart’s famous Mysore Pak (made from ghee, sugar and chickpea flour) and the delicious lassi at Mr BL Sudarshan’s India Milk Bar. Royal Mysore Walks also offers cycle and open-jeep tours. When you’re sufficiently oriented, it’s also a pleasure to explore the city unguided: with street life, markets and southern Indian heritage homes, the KR Mohalla and Lakshmipuram districts just south of the Mysore Palace are great to explore.
Tours around three hours, from 999 rupees (£12),

Temple island of Srirangapatna

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Mysuru, India.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Photograph: Jagdish Agarwal/Getty Images/Passage

This historic temple island in the sacred Kaveri river makes a great day trip. The Vaishnavite Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple and the Summer Palace, built by Tipu Sultan in the 1780s, are highlights, while the three holy ghats (steps leading down to the river) can be beautiful in the early morning. Stephen Farrell’s MYCycle tour (£18, other cycle tours available) offers a fun and informative way of seeing not only the temples but also the gorgeous countryside and village life. Auto rickshaws take you from the city to the island, where you pick up your bikes and ride for at least three hours. The tour usually finishes with a cold beer at Hotel Mayura Riverview.

Hit the markets

Workers at a flower stall in Devaraja market, Mysuru, India.
Workers at a flower stall in Devaraja market. Photograph: Christophe Boisvieux/Getty Images

Mysuru is famous for its exceptional silk saris. The traditional, government-run KSIC silk factory offers a free tour, while the showroom gives fair and fixed prices for its wares (£140 to £800). Devaraja market (6am-8.30pm), north of KR Circle, is great for flowers, fruit and veg, spices and jaggery, while nearby Gandhi Square is good for tiffin boxes and Indian cooking items. The yoga scene has helped promote India’s organic movement, with many modern stores popping up. Dhatu Organics, with Indian super-grains, hand-rolled incense, essential oils, spices and yoga mats, is the pick of the bunch.

Drink colonial

Lalitha Mahal Dining Room, Mysuru, India
Lalitha Mahal Dining Room. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Once the Indo-Saracenic architecturual and artistic splendours of the Jaganmohan and Mysore palaces have been visited, turn to the city’s quirky living heritage. The opulent Lalitha Mahal (drinks from £5), the city’s second largest palace, was originally a place where the Maharaja’s esteemed but impure British guests could make merry and hunt. It’s now a government-run hotel that has seen better days, and because of this exudes a haunted, gloriously old-fashioned charm – and is one of the few places in Mysuru to get a stiff drink: think gimlets and bloody marys around the antique billiards table.


Yogis the world over make pilgrimage to Mysuru, home of ashtanga yoga, often to study with a specific teacher. Ashtanga founder Pattabhi Jois’s grandson Sharath and daughter Saraswati are naturally the stars, but there are plenty of others who have made their mark. When choosing to study long term, yogi-friendly homes and accommodation can be found through their websites and related social media pages.


Masterji teaching local students, Mysuru, India.
Masterji teaching local students. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Masterji, aka MS Viswanath, is the evergreen, 70-year-old nephew of ashtanga founder Pattabhi Jois, who learned from the master himself while he was a teenager. He’s been teaching a traditional, no-frills self-practice since 1973 and is a gentle and unassuming presence in this crowded and increasingly competitive world. Operating out of a simple shala, he believes “age, background, ailments and disabilities are no barrier to yoga,” and though he prefers a longer commitment from students, he still accepts drop-ins. Besides ashtanga yoga, Masterji also offers a more relaxed class called Vishwanatha Paddhathi, for students with physical and age-related complications, and also daily hatha and pranayama classes.
£6 per drop-in,

Bharath Shetty

Bharat Shetty, practising yoga in Mysuru, India.
Bharat Shetty. Photograph: Matthew Parker

As an asthmatic Karnatakan child, Bharath Shetty studied from the pages of BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga and later practised in a park in Bangalore, until the day someone asked if he’d teach what he knew, which he did, at which point he realised he didn’t know so much after all. So he journeyed to Pune to study under Iyengar himself, finally settling in Mysuru to start his own school. Shetty now teaches ashtanga and hatha yoga with Iyengar precision but without the props, and gives regular classes (with a two-week minimum commitment) and teacher training. The regular classes are in a shala on the second floor of a Gokalum house; teacher training is held in a building at the northern edge of the city, with accommodation and meals included.
Hatha yoga classes from £150 for four weeks (one session a day),


Backbending at Venkatesh’s school, Mysuru, India.
Backbending at Venkatesh’s school. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Known as Mysuru’s back-bending specialist, Venkatesh’s journey started in fun, as he casually mastered difficult postures in his school days and blitzed the competitive yoga circuit before finally focusing on deeper study. He runs his Atmavikasa school with wife Hema, also a teacher. They require a one-month minimum commitment for their various highly rated courses, including teacher-training and classes in classical hatha asana, pranayama, back-bending and meditation.
Courses from £80-£480; the famous back-bending course is £180 for four-weeks,

Dr Kumar

Dr Kumar, Mysuru, India.
Dr Kumar. Photograph: Matthew Parker

Ayurvedic physician Dr Kumar can complement a student’s yoga journey or inform the casual traveller on ways to improve their health. A basic consultation will reveal your dosha (type) and the subsequent diet and lifestyle to best aid you, while deep treatments such as panchakarma are available in his therapy centre.
Consultation from £6, treatments from about £100,

Three Sisters

In a field crowded with men, the Three Sisters – Harini, Shashikula and Akka, old neighbours and students of the Jois family – are a rare find. They offer traditional castor and sesame oil massages (intense and immersive experiences), home-cooked sattvic lunches, cooking classes on certain days, and morning ashtanga sessions, all from their quaint home in the Lakshmipuram neighbourhood.
£7 per drop-in, on Facebook


Dosas at Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari

Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari, Mysuru, India.
Photograph: Matthew Parker

Mysuru offers excellent dosas in every neighbourhood, yet a broad consensus says that Mylari has the absolute best: crisp-skinned but spongy inside, with onion sagu filling, a knob of white butter atop, and fresh coconut chutney on the side. For the full experience, order idli first, and follow with south Indian coffee. There’s another equally good, almost identical Mylari on the same street, run by members of the same family. Also try Dosa Point on Devraj Urs Road. Note: restaurants in India are often called “hotels”.
Dosas from about 40p, open Thursday-Tuesday 6am-1pm, 3pm-8.30pm, 79 Nazarbad Main Road, +91 94486 08710

Hotel RRR

Waiter at Hotel RRR, Mysuru, India.

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