The South Indian state of Karnataka is known for its rich culture spanning many centuries. Many dynasties have made a permanent mark in the timeline of this beautiful state, which you can experience now by visiting some of the famous temples in Karnataka.
From a time when travellers from across the world were amazed by the beauty of Hampi to the present day, with a megapolis as a capital, the famous temples in Karnataka will take you on an unforgettable journey through time.
Join us at Madras Travels and Tours on this journey as we explore some of the most famous temples in Karnataka. We have compiled a list of temples to visit in Karnataka based on their popularity and importance. We have decades of experience in organising pilgrimage tours across the country, so you can bet this list tells you everything you’ll need to know!
The Chennakeshava temple, also known as the Vijayanarayana temple, is located in the city of Belur in the Hassan district. This 12th-century Vaishnavite temple is an iconic monument that represented the then capital of the Hoysala Empire and took a whopping 103 years to build. Despite years of strife damaging essential parts of the temple complex and requiring extensive repairs over the years, the temple has withstood the test of time and has remained an active place of worship since its inception.
The temple has a unique Ekakuta Vimana design, meaning there is only one shrine in the main temple. The iconography depicting the temple’s history encompassing six centuries is also a unique factor in making this one of the must-see famous temples in Karnataka.
One other point of attraction is perforated stone screens depicting 10 acts of the Puranas. When combined with the sanctifying atmosphere of the temple, you are guaranteed a serene experience!
Sun-Sat: 07:30 AM – 07:30 PM
Only one Empire can claim to be the greatest in the history of Karnataka – the Vijayanagara Empire. As the Empire’s capital, Hampi was known worldwide as an architectural marvel and one of the best-developed cities of the time. The Shree Vijaya Vitthala temple in Hampi is said to be the grandest monument in this historic city, making it one of the mandatory temples to visit in Hampi.
The Vaishnavite temple was built during the reign of King Devaraya II and was later expanded by Krishnadevaraya, the most famous ruler of that dynasty. The temple features architecture and carvings made by the greatest artisans at the peak of the Empire.
What makes the Shree Vitthala Vijaya temple one of the most famous temples in Karnataka is the host of attractions you will find here, the key attraction being the 56 musical pillars. When you tap each pillar, you will hear the Sa Re Ga Ma notes, which form the base for Indian classical music.
These ‘musical pillars’ coupled with other architectural designs within the temple complex, like the stone chariot, make it a must-visit temple in Karnataka. Our temple tour packages from Chennai, never forget to add this entry to the list of temples to visit in Karnataka!
Sun-Sat: 08:30 AM – 05:00 PM
While we are discussing temples to visit in Hampi, there is one that should always be acknowledged. The Virupaksha temple in Hampi has an uninterrupted history from the 7th century onwards and is considered Hampi’s main pilgrimage centre. The Shaivite temple is even older than the Empire itself, making it famous worldwide!
The grand history is not the only thing that makes this one of the most famous temples in Karnataka. The temple features a unique architecture which you will not find anywhere else. The temple uses complex mathematical concepts like fractals for the design, with a triangular shape for the main temple, which gives the temple complex a unique look.
When viewed from the top, you can see repeating patterns that look like snowflakes!
The temple’s beautiful architecture has led to the Virupaksha temple being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the “Group of Monuments at Hampi”. This fact alone guarantees it a well-deserved spot in the list of famous temples in Karnataka.
Sun: Open 24 hrs
Mon-Sat: 06:00 AM – 07:00 PM
A list of famous temples in Karnataka cannot be complete without mentioning the temple town of Sringeri. This is the site of the first Matta established by Adi Shankara, the foremost proponent of Advaita Vedanta.
The temple was built to commemorate the Saint Sri Vidyashankara. He was the patron saint of Harihara and Bukka, the two brothers who founded the Vijayanagara Empire. Therefore, the temple received the utmost care from the Empire, leading to many artistic endeavours that have beautified the temple during their reign.
Unlike most temples built during that era, this temple worships multiple deities and has separate shrines dedicated to them. The temple is made entirely of stone and divided into western and eastern halves.
While the western half is dedicated to most worship, the eastern half is the biggest point of attraction. You will find twelve pillars named Rashi Stambhas, named after the twelve zodiac signs. The Sun’s light falls on each pillar in the order of the solar months. Our temple tour packages from Chennai, which take you through South India, will have a day dedicated to exploring this temple town so you can experience the serenity of this temple yourself.
Sun-Sat: 05:00 AM – 10:00 PM
As far as temple towns are concerned, one that stands out is Bagalkot, with the Pattadakal area holding particular significance. Pattadakal is an ancient temple complex with both Hindu and Jain temples and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple complex has been around since the 7th century at the latest and hosts many of the famous temples in Karnataka. The vast majority of the temples in Pattadakal are made of stone and have a square-shaped shrine. All of them feature intricate carvings and inscriptions. The architectural beauty of this temple is one of the greatest joys you can experience on a pilgrimage.
The ancient temple complex has shrines dedicated to multiple deities, making a trip to Pattadakal a worthwhile destination for temples to visit in Karnataka if you are looking for efficiency. Jokes aside, remember to dedicate at least one whole day to Pattadakal during your trip, as there is a lot to cover here!
Sun-Sat: 06:00 AM – 06:00 PM
The Shri Kotilingeshwara Temple is a unique temple with a special focus on numbers, so much so that it is part of the name! The Koti in Shri Kotilingeshwara temple means crore, and true to its name, there are almost one crore lingams dedicated to Lord Shiva in this temple. The Shaivite temple is one of Karnataka’s most famous temples and holds multiple world records. The temple is so iconic that it was the main subject of the 2001 movie “Sri Manjunatha”.
The main feature of this temple is the 33m tall Shiva lingam, one of the tallest in the world. Apart from that, there are 90+ lakh lingams. Devotees can donate a lingam in their name and have their name engraved on the platform it is placed.
The Shri Kotilingeshwara temple is one of the important temples to visit in Karnataka for any Shiva devotee or even those who want to witness the spectacle of so many lingams placed in one area.
Sun-Sat: 07:00 AM – 09:30 PM
Many famous temples in Karnataka have ancient origins, but very few have confounded archaeologists, like the Durga temple in Aihole, Bagalkot. The 8th-century temple has a lot of historical significance but was lost for a long time until a British artillery officer rediscovered it in the 1860s. Since then, multiple theories have been proposed about the origin of this architectural marvel.
As of the present, it has all been confirmed that the original temple was dedicated to the God Surya. The name of the temple itself is a story worth telling. The name comes from the word Durg, which means a fortified lookout constructed during the wars in the 13th century. After the temple was rediscovered, the name stuck.
A lot of the confusion about the origins of the temple originates from the lack of knowledge about the culture of the area and the unique architecture of the temple. Since few temples are dedicated to the God Surya, archaeologists misinterpreted the apsidal design to Buddhist origins, and other theories followed. It was only in 1976 that the true origins of the temple were confirmed.
It has beautiful carvings and inscriptions throughout the complex. The historical significance and the beautiful artwork make this one of the mandatory temples to visit in Karnataka.
Mon: 06:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Tue: 06:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Wed: 06:00 AM – 05:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Fri-Sun: 06:00 AM – 06:00 PM
One of the more enjoyable aspects of a temple tour in Karnataka is the unique artwork you can find in some of those temples. The Chennakesava temple in Somanathapura is perhaps the greatest example of this. The Vaishnavite temple built at the peak of the Hoysala Empire has such beautiful artwork detailed throughout the complex that it will leave you stunned.
From inscriptions on the wall to carvings on the pillars and stunning reliefs on the ceiling, there is no spot in the entire structure of the temple devoid of beautiful artwork. The temple is an ode to that era’s artistic and architectural talents.
Most of the artwork is reliefs that depict the various mythical epics of Hinduism. You can find incredible carvings that portray significant events in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Puranas. The artwork alone makes this temple one of the most beautiful among the famous temples in Karnataka.
Sun-Sat: 08:30 AM – 05:30 PM
The Badami Cave Temple complex is one of the oldest entries in this list of famous temples in Karnataka. A stalwart example of ancient Indian rock-cut architecture, the 6th-century temple complex was carved out of sandstone during the period of the early Chalukya dynasty. This temple is a constant entry in the list of temples to visit in Karnataka due to the incredible carvings you will find inside the temple complex.
The temple complex is divided into four main caves, each depicting a different aspect of Hindu mythology. You will find many different styles of stone carvings throughout the complex. Both Hindu and Jain aspects are represented in the temple, which you will experience as you tour the temple, from cave to cave.
The Badami Cave temples promise to be an unforgettable experience for each visitor. That’s why we always include this destination in our temple tour packages from Chennai!
Sun-Sat: 09:00 AM – 05:30 PM
The famous temples in Karnataka are not all about historical significance. There are many temples to visit in Karnataka that also hold active worship. The Sri Krishna Matta in Udupi is the best of both worlds. The 13th-century temple is modelled after ashrams, with areas for devotion and residence.
The Vaishnavite temple was built by the founder of the Dwaita school of Vedanta, Jagadguru Sri Madhvacharya. A unique feature of this temple is that the resident deity is worshipped through a Navagraha Kindi, a silver-plated window with nine holes. The only God worshipped in this temple is Lord Krishna, and eight different monasteries manage all offerings according to the principles of Dwaita philosophies.
This temple is a very popular temple in Udupi, so you’ll have to deal with large crowds when you visit the temple. But if you are looking for a day of devotion, there’s no better place on this list than here, as this temple offers multiple Sevas throughout the day at different times.
Sun-Sat: 05:00 AM – 11:00 AM; 06:00 PM – 09:00 PM
One of the most significant eras in the history of Karnataka is the reign of the Hoysala Empire, during which around 1500 temples were built in the region. The chief among them is the Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu, the erstwhile capital of the Hoysala Empire. As the main temple in their capital, the Empire wasted no money in constructing the grandest monument of the time.
The importance of the temple goes beyond its historical significance. For one, it is the largest monument in Halebidu. It is also unique in that it is wholly dedicated to the concept of worship and lacks any inscriptions detailing the temple’s history that is seen in other temples of the era. It also features a Dvikuta Vimana structure that is rarely seen.
Despite being a Shaivite temple, the Hoysaleswara temple features shrines dedicated to other deities like Vishnu, Shakti and Surya. Apart from being a temple, the complex is also believed to be an art gallery, showcasing art pieces from the most prominent artists of the time. The temple is often said to be the highest achievement of Hoysala architecture and deserves its spot on this list of temples to visit in Karnataka!
Sun-Sat: 07:00 AM – 06:30 PM
This is the oldest temple on this list of famous temples in Karnataka. The Mahabaleshwar temple was built in the 4th century and features a history seeped in mythology. Nestled next to the beautiful beaches of Gokarna, the trip to the temple promises to be an exciting experience by itself!
The mythology behind the temple starts with the mother of Ravana, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. One day, Lord Indra, jealous of the devotion shown to Lord Shiva, stole the worshipped lingam and threw it into the sea. Ravana, the dedicated son that he was, went to Mount Kailash for a replacement, ending up with a blessed lingam that can never be moved after it is placed. Hijinks ensued on his return, with both Lord Vishnu and Ganesha playing a prank on him, leading to the lingam being placed here. Suffice it to say, the lingam is here to stay. Even the name Gokarna, which means “cow’s ear”, was also derived from this story.
Despite the apparent age of the temple, it is still an active place of worship. In fact, it is one of the Muktishetras, seven pilgrimage sites in Karnataka where one is said to achieve moksha or spiritual liberation. That makes this one of the definite temples to visit in Karnataka if you go on a pilgrimage.
Sun-Sat: 06:00 AM – 12:00 PM; 05:00 PM – 08:00 PM
The Mookambika temple in Kollur, Udupi, is one of the most popular temples to visit in Karnataka. The temple was built in the 8th century and is dedicated to worshipping Mookambika Devi, a form of the Mother Goddess.
Even though the temple is situated in Karnataka, the architectural style resembles the ones found in Kerela, and devotees from the state form the majority of visitors to the temple. That’s not to say that the temple is unpopular with the local crowd in Udupi. It is one of the few temples from that era that still offer active worship, which makes it incredibly popular.
It deserves its spot on this list of famous temples in Karnataka due to its immense popularity and unique architecture not seen anywhere else in the state.
Sun-Sat: 05:30 AM – 01:30 PM; 03:00 PM – 09:00 PM
A unique entry on this list of famous temples in Karnataka is the Amruteshwarar Temple. Made entirely out of soapstone, the Amruteshwarar temple in Annigeri, Dharwad, is one-of-its-kind. It served as a prototype for similar temples built in the Kalyani Chalukyas style.
The Shaivaite temple, made of black stone, features carvings of mythological figures throughout the structure. It is supported by seventy-six pillars, also covered in carvings and inscriptions. What makes this one of the temples to visit in Karnataka is that it is the starting point of a culture of building intricate temples that have been an integral part of the state’s culture for over a millennium.
Sun-Sat: 06:00 AM – 05:30 PM
We’ve mentioned a lot of Hoysala-era temples on this list of famous temples in Karnataka, each featuring stunning inscriptions of intricate designs. While that may be the modus operandi of the temple construction crew of the Hoysala Empire, some go against the grain. The Veera Narayana Temple in Belavadi, Chikkamagaluru, is one of them.
Eschewing the intricate inscriptions that Hoysala-era temples are most known for, though not completely, this temple focuses on incredible architecture. This temple is an architectural marvel, featuring a trikuta vimana structure with a bigger superstructure on top, made entirely of soapstone.
The Vaishnavite temple is a must-visit if you enjoy incredible architecture. From the carvings on the surface of the temple to the tall superstructures and the carved stone pillars, there is more than enough to experience in this temple.
Sun-Sat: 08:30 AM – 02:00 PM; 04:00 PM – 07:00 PM
We will finish this list with a temple that marks a symbolic end of the ancient era and steps into the modern era. The Sri Radha Krishna temple in Bengaluru, popularly known as the ISKCON temple, has been around for less than three decades.
It is the largest temple dedicated to Lord Krishna in the world. It is also one of the most famous temples to visit in Bengaluru. True to its nature as a megapolis, the temple accurately represents the city. It features a modern and efficient process for offerings and worship, where you can even make donations online or through UPIs set up at payment stations.
Ever the popular temple, you must be prepared to go through crowded hallways and stand in a large queue for hours unless you plan your visit in a timely manner! Fortunately, all the details about different offering services can be found online, which makes timing your visits easy.
Mon-Fri: 04:30 AM – 05:10 AM, 07:15 AM – 01:15 PM; 04:15 PM – 08:00 PM
Sat-Sun: 04:30 AM – 05:10 AM ; 07:15 AM – 08:20 PM