Erstwhile capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi – once home to half a million people – lies in ruins today. However, the beauty of these ruins have enthralled archaeologists and travelers for centuries now. The old city, around 25 sq km in area, has hundreds of temples, shrines, palaces, fortifications, magnificent examples of city planning, bazaars and even aqueducts. Such is the beauty and importance of the royal city of Hampi that it has been included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. If the man made structures were not enough, Hampi has millions of unique geological formations surrounding it, known simply as the ‘Hampi boulders’.
Time to visit
Hampi has hot summers and warm to cool winters. The best time to visit is from November to February. However, the sun can be harsh even during winters so come prepared with umbrellas, hats and sun tan.
The nearest airport to Hampi is Hubli and a major international airport is Bangalore. Airlines like Indigo and Jet Airways ply on this route. It is advisable to make the flight booking at least 15 days in advance.
Hospet, which is around 15 km away from Hampi, is the nearest railway station and is connected to different parts of the country by rail network. The station code is HPT. Overnight trains run to Hospet from Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa etc.
Frequent buses of KSRTC ply to Hospet from different parts of Karnataka. Other than this, there are private bus services from Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad etc to Hospet.
As Hampi is spread in a large area, it may not be possible to cover all the places on foot. However rental bicycles and gear-less mopeds are available for hire. Bicycles comes for INR 100/- for a day whereas Mopeds will cost INR 200/- . A point to notice here is that there is no petrol pump in Hampi, the nearest being in Kamalapura, and the local shops sell petrol at a premium – often at INR 100/- a litre.
Another way of commuting is through three wheeler auto rickshaws. An auto-rickshaw can be hired for a day at INR 600-700 /- . Although it is more comfortable, it takes away a lot of fun from the trips. Be prepared to bargain.
Since most of the resorts and guest houses are located on the other side of the Tungabhadra river, one has to take boats to cross the river. The last boat plies at 5:30 PM. The tickets cost INR 10/- per passenger and INR 15/- with luggage.
You might also want to take a coracle (round boat made of bamboo) to reach Vitthala temple from Chakratirtha. This will cost you INR 150/- per person.
The places to stay in Hampi can be categorized in two groups, the guest houses and home-stays in the Hampi village and the resorts and guest houses on the other side of the river. The ones on the other side are bigger and more comfortable, more suited to families and tourists who want all the comforts. However, they have two drawback – a) They are far from the place of action b) You need to return at 5:30 PM when the last boat leaves. If you miss this boat, its a 40 km long drive to reach the other side.
The residents of Hampi have converted some houses into guest houses and have also started renting their rooms as home-stays While these places are not very comfortable, they give you the real taste of the place. Hampi bazaar is just 2 minutes walk from these accommodations.
To Do in Hampi
A visit to Hampi will include a lot of walking, hiking, climbing over stone steps and rock boulders, boating, bathing in the river and anything else which you can imagine. For convenience, am listing a few of them here.
- Climb the Matanga Hill in the morning; and morning means early morning, before sunrise. You will not only see a 360 degree panoramic view of Hampi and surrounding mountains, but this will also warm you up for the rest of the trip.
- Visit the Hampi Bazaar, Pan Supari Bazaar, Virupaksha Temple, Achutaraya Temple, Balakrishna Temple and the surroundings.
- Take a coracle to Vitthala temple. Have the time of your life while your boat navigates through the Tungabhadra river flowing between rocky mountains.
- Go on a bicycle / moped trip to the Royal enclosures.
- Take a hike to the Hemakuta hill in the evening and stand at the Sunset point marvelling at the scenery.
- Walk aimlessly. Imagine you are an explorer set out to discover the mysteries of the past. There are chances that you might stumble upon something hidden previously.
- Shop for small souvenirs at the Hampi bazaar. Bargain like there was no tomorrow.
- Have a relaxed lunch at the Mango Tree. It is really wonderful.
Eat and Drink
Hampi is a place with religious significance, hence non vegetarian foods and alcoholic drinks are not allowed in the area. This is a good time to try different kind of fruit punches, lassis, mango shakes etc. The restaurants in the area serve great continental food. Make sure you try some of the Israeli food there.
Some restaurants which we tried and found to be good are Mango Tree, Garden Paradise and Mowgli.