In the 21 years we have lived in Bengaluru, we have driven the 364-kilometre stretch to our home town of Mangaluru innumerable times. There are multiple routes to choose from, but the one via Sakleshpur and the Shiradi Ghat is the shortest at 364 kilometres. The 380-kilometre Hassan and Charmadi Ghat road is equally scenic, but narrower. You can also drive via Mysore and Coorg at around 400 kilometres and the Agumbe route at around 480 kilometres.
The Shiradi Ghat should be your first choice. If it is closed for repairs or if there has been the occasional landslide, you can opt for the Charmadi route. To make it to Mangaluru in time for a 2 p.m. lunch, commence your journey (ours begins at our Jayanagar home in south Bengaluru) at 5 a.m. It’s lovely to watch the city wake up in time for sunrise as you take the Tumkur exit on NICE Road. Look for the large Hanuman statue as you approaching the Nelamangala junction. This is where you exit onto NH-75—the Bangalore-Mangalore highway. After you have driven a few kilometres on this stretch, Malgudi Mylari Mane, a great breakfast stop, comes into view. Their Karnataka-style, meat-heavy breakfast of mutton chops, mutton pulav and koli khara with Mylari dose are popular with biker groups and car enthusiasts. Just after Kunigal (around 70 kilometres from Bengaluru), comes our favourite breakfast place: Shark Food Court. The food joint’s quirky name brought us to a grinding halt 12 years ago when driving on this stretch. Seating is under mid-sized trees and a semi-open kitchen dishes out some of the softest thatte idli, aloo sago, and peanut chutney we have ever had. Crisp dosas and the classic idli-vada-chutney combos are also available, but the thatte idli is a definite winner. The only downside is that the establishment does not have the cleanest of restrooms. A better bet is Coffee Day, around 45 minutes ahead or Mayura, which does a great South Indian breakfast. The latter also has a play area to help your kids stretch their legs a bit. Vaishali—the famous meaty breakfast place on the Bangalore-Mysore highway—now has an outlet on NH-75 and it’s soon becoming our go-to place.
If you have time, set your GPS to Gorur Dam in Shettihalli and take the diversion just before Hassan, the next major city. It’s a short drive and the ideal time to visit is in the summers, when you can walk right up to the abandoned Shettihalli Rosary Church. During the rains, the church goes from being partially to completely submerged. At all times, it’s quite the sight as long as you ignore the thoughtless graffiti by miscreants all over it. Sakleshpur, just before the majestic Shiradi ghats, is the next stop. Choose to go through traffic jams in the city or take a detour. If you are going through the city, The Ossoor is a great place for a quick coffee and snack. Consider the massage chair they have for ₹20 for 20 minutes. There are several Salish tea and spice outlets on either side of the road all through Sakleshpur. Stop at any of them for some fresh spices, great tea blends, freshly pressed coconut oil, and candied fruits.
For the detour, set your GPS to Dhanvantri Medicals, Balupet, Hassan and turn into the road to cross Motorcycle Diaries, an estate that is great for off-roading enthusiasts. The road leads to a bridge over a river, where you turn right to the entrance of Manjarabad Fort in Sakleshpur. This stretch is about 29 kilometres. The 1792-built landmark is a lovely stop, but be prepared for a one-way climb of 252 steps up to the fort. The top affords spectacular mountain views. Remember Sakleshpur is the last place before the Shiradi Ghat stretch for a restroom and coffee break.
Approximately 36 kilometres downhill, roads on the Shiradi Ghat have now been widened, sadly at the cost of some green cover. There are no hairpin bends, but rather, wide curves that are easy to manoeuvre. Through most of your journey, the gushing Gundya River keeps you company. There are several laybys to stop for some amazing pictures. You will find waterfalls randomly speckled across the stretch, especially during monsoon. The most scenic time of the year to drive this stretch is the winter months from December to February. The rains can prove treacherous as this ghat is prone to landslides, despite the preventive measures in place. The end of Shiradi Ghat is marked by a check post with several small snack and coffee shops on either side of the road. Hereon, the road can be bumpy most of the way to Mangaluru.
Stop at Lakshmi Nivas (popularly known as KT-Kalladka Tea- hotel) in Kalladka for the famous KT Chai and Rimjhim coffee served in glass tumblers. Mangaluru is approximately 32 kilometres further. BC Road in Bantwal, at 25 kilometres from the city centre, is a busy junction and the start of the last leg into the city. When you see the long flyover against the skyline at Pumpwell, you know that your destination has arrived.
Shiradi Ghat Route – Approximately 364 kilometres that includes the stretch of Bangalore-Nelamangala-Kunigal-Hassan-Sakleshpur-Shiradi Ghat-Nellyadi-Kalladka-BC Road-Mangalore.
Malgudi Mylari Mane – Yantaganahalli palya, Near Bharat Petroleum Bunk, Mangalore Highway, Nelamangala, PO, Bengaluru, India – 562123
Shark Food Court – Bandadka-Bengaluru Road, Narasandra, Karnataka 562127
The Ossoor – Bangalore-Mangalore Highway, Kollahalli, Karnataka 573127
Lakshmi Nivas (KT Hotel)-G1201, Bengaluru-Mangaluru Highway, Kalladka, Karnataka 574222
Ruth Dsouza Prabhu is a Bangalore-based freelance writer. She writes for several publications on food, travel, lifestyle, interiors, parenting and architecture. She enjoys telling the stories of people who have contributed to a range of fields, and chronicling interesting experiences that don't find a place in the rush of the mainstream. An avid food lover, Ruth loves to explore a city through its food.