Bangalore Rounds Hop On Hop Off, launched last month, takes passengers on a joyride through the city’s heritage sites, entertainment spots, lakes and gardens

You might have recently spotted sleek, white Volvo buses, decorated with sketches of the cityscape zooming along the streets of Bangalore. The more cynical of you might say, “Those buses mostly run empty.” But don’t be too quick to judge. These Bangalore Rounds Hop On Hop Off buses, launched last month by Bangalore Transport Metropolitan Corporation (BMTC) make for an unhurried, leisurely journey through 21 of Bangalore’s tourist destinations, including heritage sites, temples, lakes, gardens and malls.

The tour is good for those visiting the city for a short while and even for those who have never got the time to explore the city in its entirety.

On a bright and pleasant Thursday morning, we begin our journey from Kempegowda Bus Station. We are told we will get enough time to explore the destinations, choosing to skip some of them if we want. We quickly decide not to visit the malls on the list. Seven buses ply throughout the city at intervals of 35 and 40 minutes from different locations.

For those keen on visiting all the 21 spots, it is advisable to arrive at 8.30 a.m., the time when the tour starts. You could get onto the buses at any time, from origin locations, till 9.35 p.m.

The traffic, which we thought would act as a spoiler, didn’t bother us half as much as we expected. As the driver made his way to our first destination, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, he acted as our guide, speaking in Hindi, tracing the history of Bangalore, from being founded by Kempegowda to being under the control of the Mughals and Marathas, to the reign of Tipu Sultan and finally, being taken over by the British.

Our first destination was Tipu’s Summer Palace. First constructed by Hyder Ali, Tipu’s father, the Palace was completed by Tipu in 1791. The Palace is made in the Indo-Islamic architectural style, made of teak wood and still looks impressive, though not too ostentatious. As you enter the Palace, you will get a glimpse into the history of Tipu’s life, how he evolved an effective administrative structure and his absolute dislike for the British.

Our next destination was Freedom Park, which originally was the Central Jail. Though Freedom Park has come to be known as a place where people hold protests, the Park, actually, has a beautiful layout. There are large gardens, play areas for children and a watch tower. But what caught our attention were the remnants of Central Jail. Walking through the barracks and peering into the cells took us back in time, and made us wonder at the difficult conditions prisoners had to endure.

Our next stop was Lalbagh Botanical Garden, one of the city’s must visit spots for its beautiful gardens and flora and fauna. But as no announcements were made that Lalbagh was the next stop, we didn’t get to visit it. Passengers should be alert and request the driver to make announcements. The Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium was next on our list. If you want to watch any of their shows, conducted in Kannada and English at different timings, it is essential to plan your trip, accordingly.

The next stop was the Gurudwara and later Halasuru Lake. You could either take a long, languid walk along the path ways of Halasuru Lake or take a boat ride. We opted for the latter. We cruised gently down the Lake, as dusk fell, and the waters shimmered under the rays of the mellow, setting sun.

The next stops were M.G. Road Metro Station, where you could eat a quick lunch. St. Mary’s Basilica in Shivajinagar, built by Portuguese explorers in the 16 Century and rebuilt by the British as a cathedral later, was another popular site. The bus headed to Fun World, Lumbini Garden and then to ISKCON Temple, which many people were keen to visit.

The buses leave from Kempegowda bus station, Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple, Freedom Park, M.G. Road Metro Station, St. Mary’s Basilica/Shivajinagar Bus Station, Hebbal Bus Station and Malleshwaram 18 cross Bus Station. We suggest you carry snacks and water bottles during the journey.

Till July 15, tickets for adults are priced at Rs. 150 and for children Rs.100.

The bearer of the ticket can also travel in any of the BMTC buses, with the exception of Airport Service (Vayu Vajra), free of cost for the day. Advance reservations are available. Call 7760991399 or 1800-425-1663 or visit www.mybmtc.com.