The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.
This is how Unesco describes Hampi on its website https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/241/. Hampi, which is spread over an area of more than 10.5 lakh acres of land is in Karnataka; 370 km from Bangalore and around 400 kms from Hyderabad. It is one of the most impressive temple ruins we have visited.
Best time to visit Hampi:
October to February are the best months to visit Hampi. March to June is scorching hot and July to September is the rainy season. While the weather is pleasant during rains; the rocks can be very slippery and difficult to walk. We went in November and it was still extremely hot during the day.
How to go to Hampi:
By Air: Nearest airport to Hampi is in Vidyanagar (Bellary). Jindal Vijayanagar airport is 38 kms from Hampi and is a small airport with flights to Bangalore and Hyderabad. You can take a cab from the airport to go to Hampi.
By Train: Hospet railway station (also called Hosapete Junction) is 13 kms from Hampi. It is well connected from Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mysore, Tirupati etc. There are regular buses from the railway station to Hampi. Or you can take an auto outside the station to go to your hotel. We paid the auto Rs.200 from station to Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari. If you plan to take a cab, book one in advance through your hotel because cabs are not readily available outside the station.
By Bus: There are regular buses from Hyderabad, Mysore, Bengaluru, Bellary to go to Hampi. Most of these buses go to Hampi market area.
Getting around Hampi:
The sites in Hampi are roughly distributed in 4 clusters. You need to walk from one site to another inside any cluster and it takes around 3-4 hours to explore each cluster if you do it diligently. There is a lot of walking involved at every place (at least 3-4 kms per cluster). It is good to have your own vehicle to go around Hampi because autos are super-expensive. Most of the auto-drivers claim to be guides themselves and charge guide rates along with their jacked up auto fares. Unless you are fine walking 6-7 km everyday (and taking the local buses or shared auto to do commuting); have your own vehicle or hire an auto/cab.
If you are entering Hampi from Kamalapur side, you will see many guides at the junction trying to stop vehicles and explaining that a guide is must to explore all the monuments in Hampi. They charge anywhere between Rs.1000 – Rs.3000 depending on the number of hours and your bargaining skills. If you feel you need a guide, feel free to hire one. But there is lot of information available at most of the monuments that give insight to the history of the place. Also, there are tons of information online for every site you are interested in. Most of the auto drivers will lure you into getting auto telling you that cars cannot go to places where autos can. But we saw cars at every place where autos were getting into. So there is no advantage in taking an auto if you have your own vehicle.
You can also rent bicycle or scooty when in Hampi. However, there are only 10 rental scootys available in the entire Hampi and they get booked in advance (sometimes 2-3 days in advance and definitely a day in advance). Bicycles are available in plenty but the weather could be gruelling for cycling. Both bicycles and scooty rentals are available near the main Virupaksha temple.
Where to stay in Hampi:
If you are looking for a comfortable and luxury stay, you can stay at Hospet or Anegundi and make a trip everyday. Accommodations inside Hampi are basic. Also, non-vegetarian food and liquor are not allowed inside the temple town Hampi; though you get eggs. We stayed at KTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari which was in Kamalapur; right outside the temple town. The hotel is quite decent. There are no triple rooms or provision for extra beds in the room for families. They serve non-vegetarian too; though I won’t rate the food good!
If you are on budget or would like to get the most authentic experience, stay in the Hampi Bazaar area; close to the Tungabhadra river. There are many guest houses there; Mango tree being one of the famous ones. You can also stay on the other side of Tungabhadra river in Virupapur Gadde.
Food in Hampi:
As mentioned earlier, non-veg is not allowed inside Hampi. Eggs are available though. Also, liquor is banned in this religious town. You can find good food if you are not particular about these 2 things 🙂
Mango tree near Virupaksha temple is the best restaurant in Hampi. We had number of meals there and everything we ordered was always good. Also, we found many repeat customers during out visits; which only strengthens my belief that they are the best! We also tried a few other restaurants like Tibetan Kitchen; but found them unimpressive. There are few idly / dosa shops around the bazaar area; which serve good basic South Indian food.
Some facts about Hampi:
- It was the capital of Vijayanagara empire in the 14th century.
- Hampi was the 2nd richest city in Asia after Beijing; with various grand temples, farms & rich markets.
- Ruins of Hampi are spread in an area of 42 sq.km and has more than 1600 surviving remains.
- Almost all of the monuments were built between 1336 and 1570 CE during the Vijayanagara rule.
- Hampi was also called Pampa-kshetra, derived from Pampa which is also another name for Goddess Parvati. Hemakuta hills located in Hampi is where Parvati persued Shiva to marry her.
- It also finds a place in Ramayana as Kishkindha; where Ram and Lakshman meet Hanuman, Sugriva and their army when searching for Sita. There is a Sugriva cave also in the hills on Hampi.
- Tenalirama, the renowned scholar, poet and a favourite of King Krishnadeva Raya of Vijaynagar; also lived in Hampi. There is a pavilion dedicated to Tenalirama and is situated near the Royal Centre.
Itinerary for Hampi trip:
Ideally you need 3-5 days to explore the various places in and around Hampi. 2 days would be rushed but you can cover most of the major sites. The duration of your trip can be decided based on how much historical facts inspire you and how enthusiastic you are about looking at ruins. It is not uncommon to see some backpacker relaxing under one of the ruins reading a book 🙂
Hampi has total of 83 monuments divided in 4 clusters and you can budget minimum of 3-4 hours for every cluster. There is a 5th cluster which is on the other side of Tungabhadra river. You can go to the other side of the river on a row boat, coracle (the bowl shaped boat) or by road.
The 4 major clusters are shown on this map. You will find this map at all major locations at Hampi:
You can see the list of all monuments in this photo:
I have also marked these clusters on Google Maps:
Cluster 2 – near Monolithic Bull, Hampi (note that Vitthala temple is marked incorrect near the bull temple on Google Maps)
On the map, you can see the Hampi road. This is the bus route for buses going towards Hampi bazaar. Buses stop at all major sites close to the road (except at the Vijaya Vittala temple which is on the other side) . You can get down and one end of the cluster; cover the sites in that cluster and then take the bus on the other side.
You can go to Vijaya Vittala temple by taking buses towards Kamalapuram. There are electric vans from the Vijaya Vitthala parking area to go to the temple. The walk from parking to the temple is around 1.2 kms and you can walk further towards King’s balance and Sugriva cave.
Note that all clusters are connected and you can always cover more than one cluster at one time. Even the Vittala temple cluster can be reached from the backside of monolithic bull if you walk along the Tungabhadra river.
Most of the monuments do not have any entrance fee. The only place you need to pay entrance is at Lotus Mahal / Archaeological museum and Vitthala Temple. There is a fee of Rs.40 for Indians and SAARC citizens / Rs.600 for foreigners that need to be paid to see these places. The ticket lasts for 1 day and you can visit all these places with the same ticket.
The site http://hampi.in/ has detailed route maps if you would like to cover Hampi at a leisurely pace.
10 Tips for trip to Hampi:
- Carry enough cash because there are no ATMs in the city.
- Carry cap/ umbrellas/ adequate sun protection any time of the year. Its extremely hot during the day.
- Keep bottles and food inside a bag. There are monkeys at most of the sites.
- Carry enough water. Though there are stalls available at most of the major sites; you may not find anything once inside and exploring the clusters.
- Start your day early. All sites open at 6 am. The temples are closed between 12:30 pm and 2 pm for lunch (though most of them are ruins and not used for worship now)
- Avoid the peak season if you can (true for all tourist locations I guess 🙂 )!
- Feed Lakhsmi; the resident elephant at Virupaksha temple. You can also see her bathe in the Tungabhadra river everyday at 7:30 am. And at around 8 pm when the temple closes; you can see Lakhsmi walking back from the temple towards the Monolithic bull.
- Bus service starts at 8 am and the last bus from Hampi bazaar leaves at 8 pm. However, if you are staying at Kamalapura; do not rely on the 8 pm bus. It takes a different route from Hampi bazaar to go to Hospet and you may have to go back by shared or private auto.
- Watch the sunset from the Hemakuta hilltop.
- If you plan to do boat ride across Tungabhadra, do it before sunset. The boats do not ply later in the day; though coracles may be available.
Some of the important monuments in Hampi:
There are so many monuments at Hampi that listing all would be impossible. We have hundreds of photos in our 3 day trip. Listing a few of the not-to-be-missed Hampi treasures:
Badavilinga (Monolithic Linga) – I don’t have any good pic of this 🙁
Vijaya Vitthala Temple
Stone Chariot at Vijaya Vitthala Temple
Underground Siva Temple
Stepped Tank or Pushkarini