What story can I possibly tell about the place which in itself is a beautiful poetry? About where should one go to, I could possibly end this Hampi guide with just two words – go everywhere.
I kept wondering about why Hampi, the place which is covered in ruins, has such a laidback and soothing aura to it. Aren’t ruins supposed to be reminders of wars, destruction and bloodshed? With gigantic boulders all over the place and the river with green banana plantation in the background, this place can set your imagination on fire – a very liberating feeling indeed. May be this is where all my answers lay – in the imagination. Instead of being reminders of the gruesome past, every piece of relic is an indication of the flourishing empire that Hampi once was. I am sure every pair of eyes looking around is imagining the merchants exchanging horses for gems, colourful festivals, bustling market, bejeweled courtesans, and everything that once was. And this takes away all the attention from the destruction and makes Hampi one of the most sought after places in India.
Speaking of which, one cannot go to Hampi and not get curious about the tales from the history.
The city of Pampakshetra
Once one of the richest cities in the world, there is a story about how the empire was built. It was not by conquest, not by fighting or killing but it was built by coming together. Legends have it that Harihara and Bukka saw an unusual sight during a hunting expedition and thus, an Empire was born – the Vijayanagara Empire.
Where stones tell a story
Virupaksha temple – The first thing that anyone would turn their heads to in Hampi is the Virupaksha temple and so it just makes sense to begin the Hampi guide with this. The majestic temple dome and the pillars, the beautiful pillars captivate everyone walking around here. Moreover, this is the only temple where prayers are being offered.
Group of temples in the Hemakunta hills – To have a panoramic view of the Virupaksha temple, with the boulders in the background, there could be no better place than the Hemakunta hills. Legend has it that when Shiva married the local girl Pampa here, the heavens showered gold. Hence, the hill is called Hemakunta, which translates to heap of gold.
Vittala temple – Well well! How could any Hampi guide not mention this one? This is the place where you will find the famed stone chariot which is the trademark of Hampi. Rightly so, because the stone chariot is a brilliant piece of art. The stone chariot is often assumed as single stone monolithic chariot. As it seems so at first glance, however, it is masterly built interlocked stone blocks. The joints are smartly hidden in the structure.
This temple is also known for the musical pillars. It is believed that that the musicians would perform in the temple pavilion which is adorned with pillars. Upon being struck, the pillar would create musical notations.
Anjaanadri temple – This place is considered to be the birth place of the monkey God, Hanuman and here is a temple dedicated to him. Perched on top of huge boulders, this place makes for a great point to enjoy sunrise and sunset. They say anyone can enjoy a sunset but it takes determination to enjoy a sunrise. You Hampi guide recommends to head here for a sunrise.
Underground Shiva Temple: This temple for some reason was built several metres below the ground level due to which the sanctum and other main parts of temple remain under water for most part of the year.
Krishna Temple: This temple in Hampi is a place that should not be missed. The temple was built to commemorate the conquest of the kingdom of Udayagiri (present day Orissa) by King Krishnadevaraya. The main idol of this temple is displayed in Chennai state museum.
Royal enclosure: The royal enclosure of Hampi was once a seat of power for the rulers of Vijayanagara emperors. Now it’s mostly in ruins and one can only see the basement of the palace. In it, resides the stepped tank, Mahanavami Dibba (the great platform).
Zenana enclosure: This enclosure houses in it, lotus mahal (dressing place for queen), a wide ground that has royal elephant stable and a small museum with collections of sculptures found during excavation.
Matanga hill: If you are up for an adventurous trek, then there is no place better than Matanga hill in Hampi. Being at the centre of Hampi and the highest point, this is the best place to get an aerial view of the spectacular place. You could also witness a quiet sunset on the hill. There are several routes to hike up the hill and would take 30min to do so.
Hampi Bazaar: This stretch of 100 feet road was once a happening bazaar (market) for selling and buying goods. The road stretches from Virupaksha temple to the foot hills of Matanga hill. Legend has it that merchants sold heaps of gold coins in these streets – such was the wealth of the kingdom. You get to see one storey stone lanes on either side of Hampi Bazaar.
River side walk: As you walk alongside the river, get ready to be mesmerized by the remarkable ruins in cluster. This is where your true thirst for exploration begins. You see pavilion, partially submerged temples in the river and many more relics as you walk.
Queen’s Bath: This is a rectangular complex encircled by big water channel that one needs to cross by a bridge like structure. This was built to block unwanted intruders when royal women bathed. It is believed that in the ancient times the pool used to be filled with fragrant water and flowers, which is now nothing but an empty brick like pool structure.
The hippie side of Hampi: If you are bitten by Hampi’s charm and intend to stay for few days and relax; perhaps there’s no better place to chill out than in Virupapuragaddi (the other side of Hampi after crossing river). Once you cross the river guess what? You experience the counter culture – living the hippie way!
Anegundi: This tiny village was once the capital of the region, before it was moved to Hampi. In fact, this was the core of a tiny kingdom that eventually expanded and became Vijayanagara Empire. It is located on the opposite bank of the river and 2kms from hampi. The best way to reach Anegundi from Hampi is by crossing the river on boats. It has a few ruins in the surrounding.
Daroji sloth bear sanctuary: 30kms from Hampi, amidst scrubby terrain, lay Daroji bear sanctuary which nurses a population of around 150 sloth bears in an area of around 83 sqkms. Best time to visit is between 4pm to 6pm. You will need to arrange your own transport – either a tuk-tuk or a cab.
Archaeological museum (Kamalapura): This tiny but worthwhile museum located in Kamalapura (4km from hampi) contains immensely useful exhibit to a novice visitor. A scaled model of Hampi topography with monuments located on it, it is an excellent way to get an idea of about the geography of Hampi.
Badami, Pattadkal and Aihole: Around 150kms from Hampi, Badami caves and Pattadakal group of monuments is UNESCO world heritage site.
Activities in Hampi: Hampi is the undisputed bouldering capital of India. The entire landscape is made of granite crags and boulders. Get some rappeling lessons and rock climbing trips in the country side.
If rock climbing is not your thing, do you fancy a round boat ride on the river side? This is possibly the best way to explore some of the offbeat ruins hidden around the corners.
Accommodation in Hampi: Hampi is divided into the Hampi side and the other side by the river. While the Hampi side is sober, the other side is the hippie side. Accommodation is available on either side. Ferries are available from sunrise to sunset to cross the river to hop from one side to the other.
There are cottages, guest houses, huts that fit into the budget of every traveller on the other side. Some of our picks are – Mowgli Guest House, Shanthi Guest House, Gopi Guest House.
On the Hampi side, our picks – Rocky Guest House and Vicky Guest House.
Getting around Hampi: Hampi can be explored best on a cycle/ motorbike. The shopkeepers rent bicycle and bikes on daily basis (prices vary depending on demand).
To reach Hampi, one has to alight from train at Hospet. From Hospet there are good Government run air-conditioned Volvo buses to reach Hampi. Though there are cabs and tuk-tuks as well, buses are the best and most economical. Moreover, there are plenty of buses plying very frequently.
Food in Hampi is everything from the local fair of paddu (rice balls) and pancakes, crepes and all things fancy. Most of the guest houses have their own restaurant so finding food is easy. Most of the eateries are around the Hampi Bazaar. Some of the other places that you could check into are:
Sagar hotel – The go-to place if you are a fan of South Indian breakfast – you will find meals that tastes home-cooked.
All Tribes cafe – This is the place for some great coffee and some great stories.
Sri Thulasi Garden – This is in Anegundi and serves the yummiest vegetarian fair. Remember to call before you head here.
Laughing Buddha – Great meal, scenic environment, amazing music, kickass company – enough said! A must visit in Hampi.
Going around Hampi should be more fun with this Hampi guide. However, travel gets better when you observe the details and understand the way of living of the people in a locality. This is where we at goMowgli can help you. Not just places, we tell you the whats and answer your whys. May be these are the stories that gives the travellers a different perspective. May be these stories help them understand a bit of this vast country.
If you are planning a trip to Hampi, you can spend a day with us (you can book the tour here). We take you to the offbeat locations without compromising on the must-visits.
And if you have been to Hampi and have some suggestions that we have missed, do leave a comment. We promise to include them in our Hampi guide.