For the sake of planing the itinerary , let’s divide this into three groups with respect the distance from Mysore city : attractions in Mysore city, where the attractions are inside Mysore city; attractions around Mysore city, the kind of places that takes about 1hour or so to reach from Mysore City ; and places around Mysore.
The first group is typically a few kilometers apart (about 15-30 minutes travel between attractions). The second group of attractions are located well outside the city, but are popular day trip excursions from Mysore (about 1 hour travel from Myosre city). The last category of attractions are at some distance ( say, about 100km or 2hours ) from Mysore which are popular attractions around Mysore.
First let’s see the attractions that are scattered within the city. The star attraction is always the Mysore Palace.
The next popular (especially among children) is Mysore Zoo. An excursion to the Chamundi Hills top is a must do for any Mysore tour. The main attraction at the hill top is the Chamundeswari temple, dedicated after goddesses Chamundeswari the presiding deity of the Maharajas of Mysore and the giant Nandi of Mysore (bull image). Somewhere around the foothills is Lalitha Mahal Palace, the second largest palace in Mysore ( now a five star hotel). Between the zoo and the hill is Karanji Lake, a large park and natural garden with aviary and a butterfly park inside.
A little away from the main Mysore palace is Jagmohan Palace and Art Gallery. Another popular attraction is the gothic style St. Philomena’s Church on the Ashoka Road.
Those interested in museums, Mysore city has a number of them. The Rail Museum is located on KRS Road close the Mysore railway station. National Museum on Natural History is on the banks of Karanji Lake. Folk Art Museum is located in Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, that is inside the Mysore University campus.Oriental Research Institute is one of its kind in the country that preserves many thousands of ancient manuscripts, including Kautilya’s Arthashastra of 4th Century BC.
There are quite a few heritage structures (200 plus) in Mysore. Many of them are functioning as various offices, establishments or even as private properties. A heritage walk along the popular ‘hot spots’ is a good way to see the heritage buildings in Mysore. Some of them are the Devarajara Market, KR Cricle, New Statue Circle,Gandhi Square,DC Office, Mysore Univeristy, Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts, Cheluvamba Hospital, Lansdowne building and so on.
Short excursions from Mysore includes a visit to Srirangapatna island located some 15km northwest of Mysoreon the Bangalore to Mysore highway. There are many attractions in Srirangapatna including the Ranganathaswamy temple, after which the island is named, Srirangapatna Fort built by Tippu Sultan, Daria Daulat the summer residence of Tippu Sultan, Gumbaz, the mausoleum of Tippu and a large number of historic sites scattered all round the island.
Apart from the Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangapatna has many other places of religious significance. Karighatta hill top temple and the Nimishambha temple are popular among the pilgrims. So is Paschima Vahini, the confluence of Cauvery river at the end of the island.
Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary located on the way to Brindavan Gardens from Srirangapatna is a popular place to spot migratory birds in large numbers. A little upstream are two bunds across the river, locally called Balmuri and Yedamuri Falls. This is a popular picnic site for the folks of Mysore and around. Further up is Brindavan Gardens with the KRS Dam as its backdrop.
A relatively less visited, yet attractive, Venugopalaswamy Temple is located further upstream beyond the dam. This ancient and massive temple got submerged when the dam was built, as is now ‘transplanted’ stone-by-stone to the new location on the banks of KRS.
Srirangapatna, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and Brindavan Gardens needs a days time to visit. It can be visited in that order, starting with Srirangapatna during the cooler part of the day (it involves quite a deal of walking ), then proceed to Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary which is wooded and cool anyway and finally reach Brindavan Gardens by the evening (here too a few kms of walking is needed).Spend time in Bringavan till sunset and then watch the illumination and the musical fountain before returning from Brindavan.
Another popular excursion from Mysore is to the Thonnur Kere. This is a sprawling lake located after Srirangapatna and Pandavapura , some 30km from Mysore . This is a popular place among the youngsters who are all out on a weekend splash.
So that’s a quick overview of short trips from Mysore.
If your Mysore tour has a day’s time or more to spare, consider other nearby attractions too. Practically there are way too many places one can visit keeping Mysore as base. It may require many days of day trips to cover even all those popular ones scattered around Mysore. If you are having limited time , pick a few based on your taste and time available.
Towards the eastern side is the ancient capital of Talakadu with numerous temples buried under sand dunes. Near to Talakkadu is Somnathpur, known for the Hoysala style Keshava temple. Further east of Somnathpur is Shivanasamudra (Bluff) with the twin waterfalls – Gaganachukki and Barachukki ( Bharachukki).
Mysore to Somnathpur distance is about 40km. Somnathpur to Talakadu is some 30km. Bluff is another 35km northeast of Talakadu. Somnathpur-Shivanasamudra-Talakadu make a triangular route ideal for a days trip, if one can start a bit early from Mysore and prepare for a bit hectic schedule. Both Shivanasamudra and Talakadu involves some trek.
Coorg district located east of Mysore is popular tourist hub by itself. However it is also a day trip destination from Mysore. Tibetan settlement Bylakuppe is one its kind of place in this part of the country, further up Nisargadhama island is a popular picnic destination. Madikeri town, the headquarters of Coorg too has numerous attractions. On the southern fringes of Coorg district is Nagarhole, a very popular national park. All these can make a ideal theme for an excursion from Mysore. The distance from Mysore to Madikeri is about 120 km. That means about 3-4 hours travel by road.To that extend it is a very busy trip from Mysore, if you are thinking for returning to Mysore on the same day from Madikeri.
Another doable day trip from Mysore is a combination of Bandipur (National Park) and Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta. This is in the direction of Ooty from Mysore.
A highly popular day trip from Mysore is Belur, Halebid and if you are willing for a trek, Shravanabelagola. While the first two are popular tourist attractions for its dexterously carved Hoysala temples, Shravanabelagola is a very important Jain pilgrimage center. The 17 meters (55 feet) tall Gomateshwara ( or Bahubali ) statue at the hilltop is considered as one of the largest monolithic statues in the world. Mysore to Belur is some 150km. Halebid is another 18km northeast of Belur. Shravanabelagola is around 85km north of Mysore. Another popular religious destination in this direction from Mysore is the Vaishnava site, Melkote, that’s about 50km from Mysore. Obviously all these can not be easily done in a single days trip. So make your selection of itinerary accordingly.