Formerly part of the Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka, India, Udupi is a small coastal city located about 56 km from Mangalore and about 400 km from Bangalore. Like the Dakshina Kannada district, Udupi belongs to Tulunadu or Tulunaad, which basically means land of the speakers of Tulu, a Dravidian language. The city gets its name from the Sanskrit word udupa which means ‘moon’, and is famous for its temples (so much so that it is known for its status as a temple town), cuisine, beaches and culture. There are several places to visit in Udupi, most of which are centres of religion and spirituality, although there are recreational places for other visitors. There are also several attractions in Udupi, and apart from visiting tourist destinations, you can also eat at some of the most iconic eateries in the city.
Various Wonderful Places To Visit In Udupi
1. Udupi Sri Krishna Temple: Housing An Idol Commissioned By Krishna
Of all the places to visit in Udupi, Sri Krishna Temple (or Matha), dedicated to Lord Krishna is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India for Hindus. This 13th-century CE temple, founded by Vaishnavite seer and Hindu philosopher Saint Jagadguru Sri Madhvacharya, is located in Thenkpete, Maruthi Veethika, about 1.3 km from Udupi and 60 km from Mangalore. The best time to visit the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple is during Krishna Janmashtami which usually falls in August or September.
The main deity of the temple is Balkrishna, which Krishna’s child form. The Sri Krishna temple opens at 4 AM and visitors are allowed inside between 5 AM and 9.30 PM. All year round, thousands of devotees from all over the country visit this temple, which is world renowned for its religious customs, traditions, and as the upholder of the Tatvavaada philosophy or Dvaita, advocated by Madhvacharya.
There are two features of this temple that set it apart from others. The first is that none of the devotees gets a close look at the idol of Krishna as it is a tradition for the deity to be worshipped through a carved, silver-plated inner window, known as the navagraha kitiki, that has nine holes that depict the incarnations of Vishnu.
The second is that Krishna’s idol is placed in such a way that it faces the west, whereas, in other temples, Vishnu’s idol faces the east. As a matter of fact, all idols in the astha mathas (eight monasteries, all of which surround the Sri Krishna Matha) face the west.
The navagraha kitiki of the temple is attached to a wall in the Chandrasala Hall with many bells hanging at its entrance. This hall is filled with the sound of the bells when they are rung. It is here that devotees either sit for meditation or try to peep through the inner window to catch a glimpse of the idol.
This temple is one of the most interesting and serene places to visit in Udupi and takes about two to three hours to explore. While visiting the temple, people are required to wear full-length clothes. Men have to wear a dhoti or set-mundu and women have to wear either a saree, half-saree, salwar-kameez, or a skirt and blouse.
2. Malpe Beach: Home To The Mogaveera Folk
This beach by the Arabian Sea is a beautiful and popular destination among tourists for its water sports, pristine shoreline, beautiful sunsets, and St Mary’s Island that is just off its shore. Fondly known as Malapu, Malpe Beach lies 5.7 km from Udupi and is home to the Mogaveera folk, which is a community of fishermen. Like any other beach, Malpe Beach is a fun place to hang out with your family and friends. There are various water activities that one can partake at Malpe beach like surfing, jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, and speed boat rides which makes it one of the best places to visit in Udupi. You can also opt for adventure sports like white river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and trekking.
What makes Malpe Beach one of the best places to visit in Udupi is the main attraction of the beach, St Mary’s Island which is just a short ferry ride away, about 6.5 km from the shore. According to legend, this uninhabited island in the Arabian Sea is where Vasco da Gama landed when he came from Portugal. This cluster of four islands (Coconut Island, North Island, Darya Bahadurgarh Island and South Island) is said to have been formed by the sub-volcanic activity of Madagascar (in Africa), and even though there is not much to do there, the island’s beautiful waters, rock formations and the coconut trees will make you want to stay forever.
This is one of the most popular places to visit in Udupi. There are some great places for visitors to take selfies and photographs, a stroll on the beach, and stalls to eat. If you are lucky, you will even get to see some dolphins. Another reason why this is one of the popular tourist places to visit in Udupi is that the island is listed as a geological monument by the GSI.
Read More: A complete travel guide to St Mary’s Island
3. Corporation Bank Heritage Museum: Legacy Of A Bank Founder
Another of the many tourist places to visit in Udupi is the Corporation Bank Heritage Museum which is housed in a 125-year-old building that used to be the home of the bank’s founder, Haji Abdullah Saheb. One of the most unique places to visit in Udupi, the museum is dedicated to all things financial and its displays include ancient and rare items like coins, stamps, notes, and even barter items of trade. The oldest coins in the museum, located in Thenkpete, Maruthi Veethika, date back to 55 BCE.
Some of the collection comes from dynasties like the Mauryas, Satavahanas, Kushans, Guptas, the western Kshatrapas, and even from Portuguese India, British India, and Republic India.
What makes the Corporation Bank Heritage Museum, also known as the Coin Museum, one of the most interesting places to visit in Udupi, is that it provides information on the history of banking since its inception in 1906 in the Dakshina Kannada district and also contains a financial research centre and a credit counselling centre.
The Coin Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM and it takes about one hour to tour the whole place.
4. Ananteshwar Temple: Where Madhvacharya Taught His Disciples
Like the Sri Krishna Matha, the Ananteshwar Temple is one of the most popular religious places to visit in Udupi and one of the oldest shrines in the Tulunadu region. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is enclosed by hills on three sides and the river Manjeshwar on the fourth side and is said to have been built by the Alupa dynasty in the 8th century CE.
Located in the locality of Thenkpete, Maruthi Veethika is about 1.5 km from the Manjeshwar railway station, and the temple is part of a complex that houses a total of three deities, Sri Iswar (Shiva), Sri Ananta, and Bhadra Narasimha (an avatar of Vishnu). It has been an important pilgrimage centre for the followers of Vishnu since the 12th century CE.
According to legend, Hindu philosopher Acharya Madhawa’s father served as a priest at the temple. It is also said that Madhvacharya taught the holy scriptures to his disciples at this temple’s premises. To this day, the granite slab on which the philosopher sat to teach his disciples is worshipped.
When devotees come for their pilgrimage to this temple complex, this is the second temple they visit after the Chandramouleshwara temple and before the Krishna temple.
5. Jomlu Theertha: River Sita’s Second Waterfall
Located in the dense forests of the Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, the Jomlu Theertha is about 40 km from Udupi city, although it falls within the Udupi district of which Udupi city is the headquarters. Formed by the Sita river, the Jomlu Theertha is a 20-metre high waterfall and is one of many places to visit in Udupi for families and youngsters who want to experience the beauty of nature. Jomlu Theertha is ideal for family picnics and general fun by the waterside. This is the second waterfall created by the river; Koodlu Theertha Falls in the Hassan district being the first.
The best time to visit the waterfalls is after the monsoon season, from November to April. This is when temperatures are pleasant and optimal for sightseeing. Even though it is not advisable for people to visit the falls during the monsoons, there are many adventurous folk who come here at this time. Caution must be exercised as the waterfalls are filled with leeches and the rocks become slippery, making it dangerous for visitors, especially during monsoons. In case you want to swim in the river or bathe under the waterfalls, it is advisable to visit the Jomlu Theertha after the monsoons.
Additionally, people are prohibited from swimming in the waters as the currents are strong and many have already lost their lives by drowning.
Visitors are also advised to carry food and water with them as there are no shops nearby. Visitors can also carry fishing rods to catch fish at the waterfalls.
6. Jumadi Islands: The Ultimate Leisure Destination
Tucked away in the backwaters of the river Swarna (or Suvarna), the Jumadi Islands is a vacation destination for those wanting to experience nature in all its beauty. Unlike the other places to visit in Udupi, this is a preserved island where visitors can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery, coconut trees, and emerald waters. Located near Kukkede Ramamandir Road in Bramavara, nearly 18 km from Udupi, the Jumadi Islands has a private beach where visitors can sunbathe, swim, read a book, enjoy, or even go skinny dipping without any worries. The island also has a homestay called Vamoose Jumadi Homestay, where you can stay and spend a few days with your family and friends. There are only two rooms available which can be booked online.
7. Barkur: The Village Of Temples
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Udupi, this quaint little town is located on the banks of the river Sita, 17.5 km from Udupi city. Barkur boasts of a thousand years of history. Barkur is said to once have been the capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom in the 14th century CE. The best time to visit Barkur is from January to May and October to December.
This is a great place to visit if you want to spend an entire day exploring the various remnants of an ancient civilization. Some places you can visit are the Kattale Basadi, Barkur Fort, various temples, Saint Peter’s Church, and Bennekudru Island. The Kattale Basadi (a Jain temple) is unique as it houses temples for Nagakaali, Shiva, and Vishnu. This means that this area was ruled by rulers who had different beliefs. The old Barkur Fort is spread across an area measuring 20 acres, however, it is mostly in ruins.
Barkur houses many temples, which is why it is called a village of temples. Some of the important temples in this town are the Chowlikeri Bhairava Ganapathi and Mahalingeshwara Temple, Moodukeri Somanatha, Banashankari, Panchalingeshwara, Batte Vinayaka, Balegara Keri Maha Ganapathi and Manigara Keri Someshwara.
St Peter’s Church is around 150 years old and sports Gothic architecture and beautiful interiors.
Bennekudru Island is close to Barkur and houses a 1,000-year old temple of the Mogaveera fold (community of fishermen). One of the main attractions of this island are the wooden statues of people and animals.
8. Pajaka Kshetra: Birthplace Of Madhvacharya
Next on our list ofplaces to visit in Udupi is Pajaka Kshetra, a quaint village that is the birthplace of the Hindu philosopher Madhvacharya. This village is considered to be sacred and finds a mention in a biographical poem called ‘Sampraday Paddhati’ written by Hrushikesha, a disciple of the Hindu philosopher. Devotees and tourists visit the village as a pilgrimage site to explore and witness the artefacts and monuments connected to Madhvacharya that have been maintained throughout the years.
According to legend, the main temple of Sri Madhvacharya is built on the spot where the great thinker left his footprint when he is said to have jumped back home from a nearby hill in one hop. Another legend says that Madhvacharya made the Vasudeva Theertha, a pond, for his mother to take a holy dip.
Some places to visit while in Pajaka Kshetra are Madhvacharya’s ancestral home, the Aksharabhyasa, Dhanus Theertha, and Gada Theertha.
Some things to keep in mind while visiting the temple at the village are to wear modest clothing, take off footwear, and offerings of even small amounts are appreciated.
9. Sita River: For The Adventurer In You
The Sitanadi or Sita river at Hebri is another one of the popular tourist places to visit in Udupi, especially among adventure sports enthusiasts. If you are looking for fun things to do in Udupi, this is one of the best places to visit as the raging waters are perfect for rafting. If you are not interested in river rafting, you can also stay in the jungle camps and lodges and experience a different part of the scene.
The course of the river (about 60 km) runs mostly through the Agumbe Ghats, and as this region receives the highest rainfalls in south India, the Sitanadi flows with great force throughout the year. Like many places to visit in Udupi, it would be best to avoid the waters during the monsoon season as they can be quite risky.
If you want to go river rafting here, it is best to take an entire day as, depending on the distance you want to cover, one rafting session can last anywhere from four to six hours. It will also cost you about INR 2,000 (variable) on average for the experience. You can approach the certified outfitters at the location in order to plan out your rafting tour and you will be provided with the necessary safety equipment for the same.
You will need to book the session in advance and the timings will be confirmed one day in advance. Some things to carry with you are an extra set of clothes, valid ID proof, flashlight with spare batteries, and insect repellent (if you want). Additionally, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants if you are camping and quick-drying shorts for rafting.
Keep in mind not to carry any valuables, avoid the use of plastics, and don’t smoke or consume alcohol before going rafting.
10. Kodi Bengre Beach: Where The River Meets The Sea
Another marvel connected to the river Suvarna, the Kodi Bengre Beach, located about 9 km from Udupi in Kodi Bengre, is a great spot for tourists who love the seaside. Also known as the Delta Beach or sangama, this is where the river Suvarna meets the Arabian Sea. The Kodi Beach has a small port for fisheries and is well-known for the availability of toddy or palm wine (an alcoholic drink created from the sap of various species of palm trees) and fresh seafood.
This is one of the best places to visit in Udupi as you can peacefully enjoy the beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Although this beach is a known site, not many people visit the area, giving you a sense of serene solitude.
Unlike other beaches, swimming at this beach is not advisable as it has quicksand, and the area is dangerous. The Delta Beach is dotted with small quaint fishing villages that you can visit and take a look at the life of the fishing community.
Also Read: 6 lesser known beaches to visit in Udupi
11. St Lawrence Minor Basilica: Church With A Miraculous Origin
Popularly known as the Attur Church, this 1845-built basilica dedicated to St Lawrence is a popular pilgrimage site for people of different faiths. While most of them come from the Dakshina Kannada region, some come from other parts of the world to pray for favours or healing. Located in Attur, on the outskirts of Karkala in the Udupi district (about 34 km from Udupi city), this church is known for miracles, which is why it attracts scores of people every year.
St Lawrence, the patron saint of the basilica was one of seven deacons of ancient Rome who served under the then Pope Sixtus II. He was martyred in 258 CE during the persecution by Roman emperor Valerian.
According to legend, the Christians of this locality, who were freed from Tipu Sultan, the tyrant king of Mysore from 1780 to 1799 CE, returned home from captivity and rebuilt their houses and churches. They were carrying with them a 1-foot tall statue of St Lawrence and prayed to him to help select a suitable place for the new church. They stopped at a spring at the foot of the Parpale hills to drink from it but after placing the statue on the ground, they were unable to lift the saint’s likeness and it was almost as if it had taken root. Seeing this, the priest who was leading the group said, “Oh St Lawrence, if you have chosen this spot then we will build a church in your honour at this place.” It was only after this promise that the party was able to lift the statue.
This is one of the best places to visit in Udupi in January as the basilica is also the centre of the popular Attur Festival, celebrated annually during the feast of St Lawrence. Thousands of people gather here every year, and the sprawling open grounds before the entrance of the basilica are dotted with food and game stalls. During this time, a popular candy called thamde gule or Bella candy is sold. This is a Mangalorean style jaggery pop of different colours and is seen in abundance during religious festivals in Udupi and Mangalore.
12. Kudlu Theertha Falls: Perfect For Trekkers
This is a beautiful waterfall located deep in the jungles of the Western Ghats near Hebri, 47 km from Udupi. The Kudlu Theertha is also known as the Sita Falls and if you are looking for some adventurous things to do in Udupi, this is a great place to go trekking.
The Kudlu Theertha, which falls on the banks of the Sita river, is about 300 feet tall. The waterfalls directly into a large pond, which the locals consider to be holy as sages used to meditate here thousands of years ago. Those wanting to swim can do so in the pond and can even get close to the bottom of the waterfalls when the water is not gushing with force. There is another waterfall above the Kudlu Theertha known as the Manga(meaning monkey) Theertha, however, there is no direct access to this waterfall. Only monkeys can reach the latter as the trail is very steep, therefore the name Manga Theertha.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Udupi, this is a great spot to get away for a weekend trek as, to reach the falls, you have to take a long walk from the road. Kudlu Theertha is becoming more popular among trekkers and students from nearby and far off places. The trek to the falls is not easy as the terrain is difficult. The river is also dangerous during the monsoon season so the trek to the waterfalls will be longer as you cannot cross the stream. However, the beauty of the waterfalls will take away any tiredness you might feel from the hike.
One thing to keep in mind when travelling to the Kudlu Theertha is that you will have to carry food and water as there are no shops nearby. The closest place where you will find shops is in Hebri which is 17 km from the falls. You also need to be careful while trekking in the forests as there will be a lot of leeches. Carry salt or lime to keep them away.
13. Anegudde Vinayaka Temple
This temple, also called Kumbashi, is located in the Anegudde village in Udupi District at a distance of 9 km from Kundapura and is among the places to visit in Udupi for religious purposes. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vinayaka (another name for Ganesha) who is said to have provided Bheemasena with the weapon to kill the demon Kumbhasura. This spot is where the demon was supposedly killed. Ganesh Chaturthi is the main festival celebrated here.
14. Anejari Butterfly Camp
Visit the undisturbed natural and lush green setting of the Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary at Anejari Butterfly Camp to get an experience of a lifetime. The camp is located near Kollur, about 80 km from Udupi with the Souparnika river meandering gently nearby. Nature lovers get an amazing opportunity to trek the Kodachadri peak (10th highest peak in Karnataka), watch beautiful butterflies and birds in their natural habitat or go on soothing nature walks through the reserve. Although not necessarily among the places to visit in Udupi, it is still worth checking out.
More Than Just A Temple Town
Udupi is also known as a temple city as there are several temples and places of worship in the district. As seen in this article, the district has much more to offer and there are several more places to visit in Udupi which cater to a variety of different people from all over the world. There’s also a plethora of attractions in Udupi, from trying the local cuisine to exploring places of historical significance, from which you can take your pick. Udupi is a culture, tradition, and history-rich district with a lot to offer when it comes to places and experiences.
There are many famous spots in Udupi. Some of them are Kapu Beach, Anegudde Vinayaka Temple, Kudlu Theertha Falls, Malpe Beach and Mattu Beach etc.
Best time to visit Udupi is winter (December to February) when the temperature ranges from 10°C to 32°C and you will experience a pleasant atmosphere.
Udupi is known for its temples (so much so that it is known as a temple town), cuisine, beaches and culture.
The Krishna Temple in Udupi is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in South India. It also has places like Kapu Beach, Anegudde Vinayaka Temple, Kudlu Theertha Falls and Mattu Beach etc.
Masala Dosa is the popular dish of Udupi cuisine.