Bekal is located in the Southern state of Kerala, is a tranquil and beautiful place located on the shoreline of Pallikkara village in Kasargod district. Bekal is famous for its well preserved forts built on top of a cliff overlooking the majestic Arabian sea. Bekal is sandwiched between the mighty western ghats to the east and is eternally caressed by the Arabian sea to the west. Many of our friends had suggested us to visit this wonderful place and this time around we decided to take a 5 day break and visit this hidden gem.
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Kerala has remained as one of our favorite holiday destinations. It is undoubtedly blessed with an amazing landscape- right from the sun soaked golden beaches to the evergreen Western ghats. This time around when we were looking for a place to relax for few days, our friends suggested us to do a trip to Bekal. To be very honest, I had not heard much about this place and had to do a lot of googling. Was really surprised when I saw the photos of Bekal fort, the beaches and wondered why this place was never highlighted as a holiday destination in Kerala.
Kerala tourism has in the recent past started to aggressively promote this place as “India’s first planned beach destination developed without disturbing the eco-balance of the region”. There are also couple of great resorts to stay in Bekal – Vivanta by Taj (where we booked our rooms) and The Lalit Ashok. Both these properties are in pristine shape and offer the best of facilities to travelers desperately seeking a serene environment to relax.
Having finalized our stay, the next point of discussion was how to reach Bekal. The easiest option would be take a flight to Mangalore and hire a cab to Bekal. Bekal is located around 50 Kms from Managalore and should not take more than 1.5 hrs to reach. If you are planning to take the train, you will have to find a train which will stop at Kasaragod Railway Station or Kanhangad Railway Station.
The other option that we opted was to drive down from Bangalore.
- Distance: Around 400 Kilometers
- Drive time: Around 8 hours
Route taken while driving from Bangalore to Bekal (via Subramanya):
I usually follow a routine while planning for a road trip (especially if it involves more than 5 hours of drive and ghat sections)
- Service the vehicle well in advance (usually a week or 2 before the trip). In that way I get 2 weeks to see how the handling of the vehicle has changed post servicing
- A day before the drive, tank up fuel at the nearest Shell station.
- Check the air pressure
- Check that all the required documents are in place
The plan was to hit the road as early as possible. We usually prefer to leave Bangalore no later than 6 AM so as to avoid all the morning city traffic. It was no different this time around and we had our engines revving up at 5:30 AM and took the NICE road to reach Tumkur road. NICE road is a boon to people travelling from South Bangalore and one can reach Tumkur road in around 30 minutes. It would easily take more than an hour to reach Tumkur road, if one has to drive through the city.
Tip: Ensure that you leave Bangalore as early as possible to avoid the morning peak hour traffic. If you are planning a trip during a long weekend, you should be hitting the road no later than 6:00 AM, else you would be stuck for almost 30 minutes at the Nelamangala toll.
Since we were travelling on a weekday and had started pretty early, traffic on the highway was relatively thin and we were able to reach the Nelamangala toll within an hour.
The roads from this junction till Hassan are in excellent condition and it is a 4-lane all the way till Hassan ( there is 10 odd kilometer stretch in between where the road becomes a 2 lane). We had taken this highway during our trip to Mangalore couple of years back knew what to expect. We were able to maintain an average speed in the range of 90-100 KM/hr.
En-route to Hassan there are many eating joints that you can find along the highway. The ones that I found family friendly and neat were: Couple of CCD outlets, Upsouth and A2B (In the order that you will find them as you drive from Bangalore to Hassan). We had stopped at the CCD outlet last time around when we were driving to Managalore, but skipped it this time around as the little one was peacefully sleeping in her seat. The A2B joint that we stopped this time around is a relatively new one which we did not find last time around and is right opposite to the Kamat hotel which was one of the landmark eating joints in this route 5 years back.
We had a good breakfast at A2B (co-ordinates: 12.9612497,76.3297731) which is around 30 kilometers before Hassan and continued our drive and were able to reach Hassan at around 9:00 AM. (including the 30 minutes breakfast break)
There is a stretch before you reach Hassan where the road becomes a two lane highway which is also in pretty good condition. You can easily maintain 80-90 Km/hr on this road, unless you might get stuck behind some slow moving vehicle. Be a bit alert about this transition from 4-lane to a 2 lane highway as I found many driving overtaking me at high speeds on the wrong lane, only to find oncoming traffic in their lane.
Having made very good time (thanks to the early start and very less traffic), we continued our drive towards Sakleshpur. Sakleshpur is a well known holiday destination in Karnataka and is well known for Manjarabad fort. This beautiful fort was built by Tipu Sultan, one of the most prominent ruler of the Mysore state. Located in the western ghats, Sakleshpur is also famous amongst the trekker’s community. You can find many budget resorts and home-stays from where you can explore the beauty of this place.
The route from Sakleshpur to Bekal (through Subramanya) has to be one of the most picturesque drive that we have done till date. The road winds through the thick forests of Western ghats and is quite a challenging drive during monsoons. We were doing this trip in the month of September (just after the South west monsoon recedes) and hence had the best of both world – Greenery all around us and sunshine.
One of the major issue that we had after crossing Sakleshpur was negotiating the infamous Shiradi Ghat. Many small vehicle owners avoid this route as this road has huge craters and non existent roads. Since we were taking the Subramanya route, we did not have to negotiate the entire stretch of Shiradi ghat. We drove for another hour or so (around 40 Kms) and took the left turn at Gundya to proceed towards Subramanya.
Roads from here are 2 lane and pretty narrow. The winding roads take you through the thick forests and you will find many vehicles heading to “Kukke Subramanya Temple”, which is one of the prominent religious sites in Karnataka. Another 30 minutes of drive and we were crossing Kukke Subramanya at around 11:30 AM.
Once we crossed Subramanya, roads were pretty empty but not in great condition. It can be a lonely drive through the woods and roads at some junctions are so narrow that there is hardly space for 2 vehicles to cross each other. Bekal is a further 100 Kilometers from Subramanya and it took a good 2.5 hours for us to reach Bekal. We were able to check-in to the resort at around 2:30 PM, just about on-time to have our lunch
Note: If you are planning to take this route, you should take into factor that there are not much of decent eating joints once you cross Sakleshpur. There are few eating joints in Subramanya, but they are usually crowded and you will end up spending considerable amount of time. Finding a parking in and around Subramanya would also be a challenge considering the number of tourist vehicles parked. Also the route can be a bit nerve wrecking for few people as sometimes you might find stretches where there is hardly anyone. It was a very lonely ride for us and hence we decided to take the Kasargod + Mangalore route while coming back.
Drive back from Bekal to Bangalore via Kasargod & Mangalore
Route taken while driving from Bekal to Bangalore (via Mangalore):
We opted to drive through Mangalore on our way back. This route through Kasargod & Mangalore is 30 odd kilometers longer but we did not find any significant change in the drive time (may be an additional 30 minutes at max). Having stayed at the resort for 4 nights we were looking forward to a relaxed drive. Drive through Subramanya was a bit tiring for us as the roads were narrow and one has to always be alert.
Road condition from Bekal to Kasargod was in good shape, apart from few stretches where road widening work was being done. You will also find heavy traffic and since it was a 2 lane National highway, overtaking slow moving traffic was bit of a challenge. The Bekal to Mangalore National Highway (NH66) will join the NH73 at the outskirts of Mangalore. It took us around an hour to cover this distance of 60 kilometers from Bekal.
After taking the right turn, we just followed the NH 73 all the way upto Bangalore through Sakleshpur & Hassan. This road is very picturesque as it runs parallel to the Netravathi river. The only last hurdle that we had was to negotiate Shiradi ghat road. We were hoping that this route would be better after the 13-km concrete road between Heggadde and Kempu Hole Guest House was completed in 2015. But to our surprise, the road conditions were still in horrible shape and it was a nightmare to negotiate this stretch.
Recommendation: If you want to drive through narrow roads and prefer taking national highways, you should take the route through Mangalore. If I ever do this trip again, I would definitely take the Mangalore route over the Subramanya route.