Udupi (also spelt Udipi), on the west coast, 60km north of Mangaluru, is one of south India’s holiest Vaishnavite centres. The Hindu saint Madhva (1238–1317) was born here, and the Krishna temple and mathas (monasteries) he founded are visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. The largest numbers congregate during the late winter, when the town hosts a series of spectacular car festivals and gigantic, bulbous-domed chariots are hauled through the streets around the temple. Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with a festival, Udupi is a good place to break the journey along the Karavali coast. Thronging with pujaris and pilgrims, its small sacred enclave is wonderfully atmospheric.

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