The Lonely Planet describes the place as – “A fantasy world of rocks and ruins”.
Well, it’s more real than fantasy, a world that was once covered with richness and grandeur now lies as a devastating beauty. On the banks of the Tungabhadra river, lies the former capital of the Vijayanagar Empire which once had a population of millions, making it one of the largest cities during the 15th Century AD. For the lovers of history, Hampi will surely be a gift from the past, and for others, it’ll make you fall in love with the ancient architecture, its grandeur, and the hippie vibes!
Best Means To Reach Hampi:
TBH, Hampi can be covered in just 48 hours (read: over the weekend) from Bangalore. The best way to travel is to take the (overnight) Hampi Express from Bangalore, which goes to Hospet (the nearest railway station). Well, that’s how we traveled. But there are other options too.
One can take an overnight bus to Hampi from Bangalore, or else, set out for a road trip! The distance from Bangalore to Hampi is 340 KM approx and can be easily covered within 6 to 7 hours.
Hospet will provide you with numerous options for accommodation, ranging from budget hotels to boutique hotels. From Hospet, you can hire a car, or an auto to reach Hampi, which is located at a distance of around 17kms.
Day 1: Exploring the ruins of Hampi
Being budget travelers, we chose to travel by auto, which was considerably cheaper than hiring a car. As the auto entered through the huge gate, Stonehenge welcomed us. We were both trying to imagine how the place would have looked like, back in the 15th Century.
The entire complex comprises several magnificent temples with intricate works of architecture, of which the Virupaksha Temple and the Vittala Temple are the most famous.
(It is advisable to opt for a guide because no matter how much information you gather from books and Google, the guides always have a more spicy version of the tales. Honestly, we always prefer to be accompanied by a guide at all historical places, just to hear them out – the way they narrate the tales!)
The intricate work of art and the way life has been portrayed in the walls can never fail to leave anyone speechless. You might be an atheist, agnostic, or a believer – but the Virupaksha Temple will definitely soothe your senses, keeping aside the thoughts and ideas you’ve encircling Gods!
Coming out of the temple complex, as we walked towards the Tungabhadra river, I could see the little wicker-basket boats floating on the water. Known as Coracle, it took us to the other side of the river, where the Vittala Temple stood.
The Vittala Temple complex has several ‘mantapas’ and the massive Stone Chariot. As I gazed at the huge stone Chariot, I realized how small things appear to us when we see them in the virtual world and try to make its image in our mind. I’ve seen the picture of this chariot several times in the pages of my school books, on the currency notes and also in Google Images – but I always failed to realize its greatness & aura that portrays the taste of its makers.
Apart from the iconic stone Chariot, the temple houses the magical musical pillars, and our guide entertained us by showing how they work!
Our next destination was the Zenana Enclosure, where the main attraction was the Lotus Mahal. The Queen’s Bath, the Narasimha Vigraha, the Pan-Supari Bazaar, and the Shiva Temple immersed in water are a few other sites of attraction that we covered. Of course, the Narasimha (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and a half-man, half lion- depicts the deity sitting in a cross-legged position) Vigraha is the largest monolith sculpted statue in Hampi and it left us in awe!
The sunset at the Tungabhadra River seemed to be a perfect end to the day’s venture. It was time for us to return back to the hotel, and plan for the next day’s adventures!
Day 2 – Exploring Kishkindha, Sanapur, and Anegundi
The plan was to dig deeper into the pages of mythology and explore Kishkindha – the Monkey Kingdom of King Sugriva, according to Ramayana.
The lush green fields on both sides guided us till the Anjaneya Hill, atop which stood a Hanuman Temple, where people flock to get their wishes fulfilled. The view from the top makes it worth climbing up! You can see the landscape, painted with all shades of green, and soak in the beauty before walking downstairs.
At a little distance stands the huge Tungabhadra Dam, which supplies water to the nearby Kishkindha Water Park. This place has grown as a major attraction for the local people as well as for tourists, although one shouldn’t mind skipping it.
Our next destination for the day was Sanapur!
(So, we had no idea about Sanapur, until we met this fellow traveler on the train, on our way to Hospet. Jatin, a resident of Hospet, told us about this place, tucked on the other side of the river, and we made sure to visit this place! Often, people you meet on the roads can turn out to be amazing guides and later, become friends for life.)
The Hippie Town of Sanapur welcomed us with its graffiti-laden streets and pretty little cafes! It initially surprised us, considering the fact that Hampi had a very old-world charm, while this place had all hustle & bustle, with foreigners biking on the narrow lanes, or just chilling!
We headed to the Laughing Buddha Café which turned out to be the best place to satiate our taste buds. Located on the bank of the Tungabhadra, this little café serves everything from Israeli cuisine to Spanish and Mexican, and of course, the Desi-dishes!
After a hearty lunch, we took a walk around the town, clicking pictures and talking to some people who have settled in this part of the town, catering to the needs of the Israeli crowd who come and live here, practicing yoga, and unwinding.
Anegundi was the final destination, located on the Northern banks of the river, was a part of Kishkindha which was ruled by the Monkey King, Sugriva, according to the Ramayana. While doing a little research, we got to know from Wikipedia that Anegundi is said to have one of the oldest plateaus on the planet, estimated to be 3,000 million years old. Even if one doesn’t believe in the stories of mythology, traces of the pre-historic era has been discovered by geologists, who claim that the history of this place is older than that of the Vijayanagar Empire.
The Anegundi Fort, which has now turned to ruins, still stands there. Although Hampi sees thousands of visitors each year, not many people plan to Anegundi, and the villagers here seem to be quite happy and peaceful in their near-secluded lives.
Best Time To Visit Hampi:
We explored Hampi during the last week of September, and it was hot and humid in the day, although the evenings were really pleasant & windy. But since it involves a lot of walking (or biking) – we would suggest that you visit during the months of December to March, when the temperature would be low and it would be nice to walk down the history.
Hampi greets monsoon during the months of July & August, which is also a good time to explore. The moderate rains paint the villages with all shades of green and lower the temperature, making it comfortable for travelers to explore. However, you must be very careful while walking, as the stones & boulders become very slippery.
If you wish to be a part of the Hampi Festival (also known as the Vijaya Festival), then you must plan your trip for the month of November. Make sure to check the dates before you plan your trip, as it usually varies from year to year.
Best Accommodation Options In Hampi:
Hampi, being a tourist hotspot that’s visited by people from all across the world, has accommodations of various kinds, ranging from the shared budget-dorms and hostels, as well as mid-range hotels and luxurious resorts which can be perfect for your staycation! We stayed at the Royal Orchid Hotel, which is in Hospet (very close to the station). It’s a decent hotel with reasonable room rates, but it’s not a resort. Hence, if you’re looking for a resort, then you must go for a 5-star property in Hampi.
You can ‘Evolve Back’ while staying in the Orange Country Resorts, which has the charm of the Vijayanagar and a tinge of heritage with an abundance of luxury! Be ready for a pocket pinch if you plan to stay here – but nonetheless, it’s gonna be an experience to cherish for long.
Other than that, the 5-star hotels like Hyatt, Clarks Inn, etc also have their excellent properties in Hampi which can be booked through Booking.com – meant for those who are too particular about their stay!
There are also some guesthouses around Sanapur, the Hippie Town, for those who want to soak in the culture of the region and spend some more time, binge on the Israeli food and learn more about the history of the place.
Some Off-Beat Things To Do In Hampi:
Biking in Hampi – Yeah, you can rent a bike/ scooty/ cycle for a day, and explore the temple explore on your own. It’ll be really nice to go at your own pace, clicking pictures of the ruins in Hampi, the graffiti-laden streets of Sanapur, and the lush green field of Kishkindha. While we mostly spotted the foreigners biking there, Indians usually opt to hire an auto or a car, but we guess that biking would surely have been more fun! We’re gonna try that the next time we visit Hampi.
Bouldering in Hampi – Although we didn’t try it, Hampi actually is quite famous for bouldering! It is said that these boulders on the banks of the Tungabhadra River are ages old, and they are placed in such a manner that it feels someone has arranged them thoughtfully! Some of the most famous bouldering sites in Hampi are Hemakuta Hill, Matanga Hill, etc, and you can find some Rock Climbing Centers as well, where there are people to guide you for such stunts!
Cliff Jumping in Hampi – So when you climb a boulder on the banks, you can jump into the water from there as well! While it might sound scary to some, others will surely feel the adrenaline rush thinking of experiencing such a thing. Sanapur Lake is also quite popular among the foreigners who mostly try cliff jumping there, but we’d ask you to be sure of your safety before doing any such thing!
Coracle Ride in Hampi – Of course, as we mentioned earlier as well, this is something unique here and not worth missing at all. Ride on the circular wicker-baskets that serve as a boat on the Tungabhadra River, and float as you soak in the views of the ruins on both sides of the river. You may opt to stop and hop off at places, and then again continue with the ride!
Before winding up, we would like to take this opportunity to say that Hampi surely deserves to be explored, as it is a storehouse of incredible artwork and holds the richness of the Vijayanagar Empire. If you’ve been to Hampi and experienced something unique, then we’d love to hear your story too.
Our friends at Plan The Unplanned are too good at organizing such adventure trips, and they do let you experience these ‘out of the box’ activities if you plan to travel with them for a weekend retreat to Hampi.