A small, quaint town in Karnataka, Halebeedu is famed for its temples, built during the Hoysala dynasty. Together with Belur and Shravanabelagola, it forms the golden triangle of the state. The Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara Temple are ancient holy shrines that are now mostly in ruins. Beautifully located near the Dwarasamudra, these stone-carved temples with intricate designs of classical tales are often compared to the temples of Khajuraho. The temples are constructed out of chloritic schist, a soft stone that is used for complex detailing. The sculptures are carved out of sandalwood and ivory. The temple complex also has an archaeological museum stacked with wooden sculptures, figurines, maps and photos from the past. A state tourism hotel and a handful of lodges are what are available in this town if you want to spend a night. Rather than Halebeedu, you can opt to stay in Hassan, a town close by that offers decent stays. The restaurants majorly serve vegetarian food but if you need your chicken or fish, look for the eatery opposite Canara Bank.
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If suggesting an alternative to the Taj Mahal felt blasphemous, even talking about parallels to Hampi feels like a betrayal to our own love for the rumbling, dilapidated former capital of King Krishnadevaraya and the many stories it whispers through its wise old sandstone. It is a sweeping landscape of poetic history lessons lying on the banks of the mighty Tungabhadra, a sunset over which is a humbling experience that leaves you quite speechless. However, Hampi is no longer a well-kept secret, and each of these views will need to be shared with several other people, making the experience of soaking in the history a little elusive.A little more than three hundred kilometers to the south of Hampi, in the quaint district of Hassan, lie the remains of the Hoysala kings, another great Kannadiga empire. While the remains are mostly in the form of temples scattered across the district, hardly recreating the feel of actually walking through the empire, the temples themselves are in a beautifully preserved condition, allowing you to get lost in the intricacy of every exquisite soapstone facade for hours on end. While Belur and Halebidu were the two capitals of the empire and house the most popular of these temples, the other ones – all within shooting distance – are equally fascinating, and offer fewer crowds.