If you really want to go back in time and get lost in the glory and relics of a bygone era, there is no better place than Hampi – an ancient land of temples and ruins amidst hills, boulders, farms, forest, and a beautiful river. We did a road trip to Hampi last month and must say that we really enjoyed that feeling of traveling back in time by looking at the remains and thinking about how magnificent it would have been back then.
The Hampi ruins are a UNESCO world heritage site. Hampi was the ancient capital of Vijayanagara and was one of the richest cities in its prime. But as legend has it, the cityâ€™s temples and palaces were ravaged by the invaders and burnt down.
Best Time to visit
As Hampi is situated on a rocky terrain and with not much greenery around, it tends to get unbearably hot in the afternoons. And since one has to cover ruins on foot, visiting Hampi should definitely be avoided during summer months (Apr – July). The best time to visit Hampi is during winter months (Oct-Mar) as the sun is calm and the weather is relatively pleasant. You can also time your visit with Hampi Utsav also known as Vijaya Utsav which happens in January every year.
The most convenient way to reach Hampi from Bangalore is via train. The Hampi Express runs overnight between Bangalore and Hospet – the nearest city from Hampi, around 12 km away. We recently drove to Hampi although the drive wasn’t very scenic and road widening work in patches and traffic added to the woes. The total driving distance is around 350 km and usually takes 7-8 hours depending on the flow of the traffic.
Quick Tips if doing a road trip:
- Avoid driving on the patch from Bellari to Hampi as the road is in a really bad condition although Google suggests the Bangalore – Anantpur – Bellari – Hampi as the shortest route. Not sure why?
- Leave as early as possible in the morning – to avoid city traffic and save time and so to reach Hampi before the heat becomes oppressive and the driving becomes uncomfortable.
- Surprisingly we didn’t find a lot of quality highway eateries on the way from Bangalore to Hampi. So better stuff your car with some food, munchies and a lot of water.
One can find a variety of accommodations from budget to luxury in Hampi. If looking for the budgeted Homestays in Hampi – One can stay on the other side of the river in Virupapur Gadde (commonly known as the Hippie Island) in bamboo huts at the edge of the paddy fields. Since we had our car at our disposal we preferred staying in Hospet (around 12 km from Hampi and 20 min drive) as it offers more comfortable accommodations. Below are the hotels where we stayed on our two trips to Hampi
- Hotel Malligi is one of the oldest and finest hotels in Hospet and offers all the amenities and hospitality of an upscale property. The Hotel’s restaurant ‘Temptations‘ offers a variety of appetizing food to suit everyone’s palette – North Indian, South Indian, Continental or Chinese. Also, their Blue lagoon swimming pool was a saving grace for us from the scorching heat of Hampi. Afterall, who would not love a sip of beer and a dip in the pool in the hot Hampi afternoons. Budget – 1500 – 2000 INR per night for the stay. Click here for the google maps link
- Vijaysree resort and Heritage Village is situated 8 km away from Hampi on the way to Hospet. It boasts of traditional Rajasthani charm, comfortable cottages, lush green landscaping and satvik lifestyle (meaning no indulging in alcohol and non-vegetarian food). We had a decent stay here and would recommend it for its proximity to Hampi and preferably for families with kids as the resort conducts art and cultural activities in the evenings. Budget – 3000 – 5000 INR per night for the stay. Click here for the google maps link
Gems of Hampi
1. Sunrise from the Matanga Hilltop
Why would you wake up early in the morning and trek for half an hour over the boulders before the sunrise? Simply to witness the rising sun painting the sky with a variety of hues and the magic unraveling. Also watching the sunrise really lifts our mood up and gets us going for the day. The highest point in Hampi, the Matanga Hilltop offers some stunning landscape views of the ruins amidst the rocky terrain if you are willing to trek a bit.
TIP: Avoid following Google Maps to reach the base of the Matanga Hill as it will take you to the parking spot of the Virupaksha Temple and the hike from there is longer. Special mention to our guide for the trip, Parshuram who took us through a different route to a short but a bit steep hike to reach the hilltop faster. We parked our car at the Shri Hemkut Temple and started a bit steep but a short hike from there and it took us 20 min to reach the hilltop. Click here for the google maps link.
2. The Coracle Ride
The coracles have been used in India for eons. During our first visit to Hampi, we missed doing the coracle ride and we made sure to do it on our second visit. Must say that the ride was quite delightful, and special mention to the spin in the water at the end that boat rafter gave us. We took the half an hour ride and paid 300 INR per person (the charges for an hour boat ride were 500 INR)
Click here for the Google Maps location
TIP: Try to avoid going in the afternoon hours (11-4 PM) otherwise with the harsh sun and no shade in the coracle the boat ride will be quite unpleasant and you won’t be able to spend enough time in the coracle.
3. The craftsmanship of the Vitthala Temple Complex
The intricate architectural symmetry and engineering in Hampi without having any modern age technology makes you wonder of the craftsmanship that existed in those times. Located in the northeastern part of Hampi and on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, the Vitthala Temple Complex is a classic example of exceptional architecture and craftsmanship that existed in those times. The complex houses the very popular Stone Chariot, Musical Pillars and the Lone Tree
Click here for the Google maps location
TIP: Ensure you carry along the entrance ticket bought at any of the monuments as the same ticket gets you free entry at other monuments as well
4. Hemakuta Hill
The Hemakuta Hill is one of the most popular places in Hampi and is generously scattered with many ruined remains on a rocky expanse which give a perfect Hampi backdrop for photography. It is also a popular place to catch the sunset on a low terrain if you don’t feel like trekking.
Click here for Google Maps Location
TIP: Hampi being a UNESCO heritage Site, you are not allowed to use camera tripods at any of the monuments without prior permission from Archaeological Survey of India whichÂ has to be obtained 15 days prior to visiting the monuments. Also there is a prescribed fee for commercial photography. If you plan to use a tripod, would suggest to check for this before visiting Hampi to avoid disappointment.
In spite of the Hemakuta Hill being one of the most popular spots for sunset, we decided to go there again in the wee hours to avoid the crowd, have some solitude and must say we were fortunate to witness yet another beautiful sunrise and the beauty of the ruins under the sky changing colors.
Click here for the google maps location
5. Multitudes of Ruins
We would also recommend to cover the following ruins as well in Hampi for their intricate architecture, symmetry and flawless engineering
- Virupaksha Temple
- Ugra Narasimha Statue
- Badavilinga Temple
- Lotus Mahal
6. Our Guide for Hampi
As they say, people who you travel with are as important as the destination. Our tour guide, Mr. Parshuram deserves a special mention here as without his guidanceÂ our trip wouldn’t have been so memorable. He took the time to know us and tailored the day based on our interests. He was very knowledgeable of the Hampi History and we thoroughly enjoyed the way he weaved in the anecdotes while giving us the guided tours of any of the ruins.Â He infact came along with us for the Matanga Hilltop Trek in the wee hours and made us discover the shorter route even though that was not a part of the guided tour package. We would definitely recommend him for the guided tours in Hampi. You can reach him at +91-9449119485 and [email protected]