Hampi is a laid back village that was the last capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history. It has some extremely captivating ruins, intriguingly intermingled with large boulders that rear up all over the landscape.
The ruins, which date back to the 14th century, stretch for just over 25 kilometers (10 miles) and comprise more than 500 monuments. The most striking monument is the Vittala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Situated amid boulders not far from the center of town, its main hall has 56 pillars that make musical sounds when struck. The Royal Center, towards Kamalapura south of Hampi, is another highlight. Vijayanagar rulers lived and governed there.
Hampi is in central Karnataka, approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Bangalore in south India.
The closest railway station is in Hospet, around half an hour away. Overnight trains run to Hospet several times a week from Bangalore and Goa. Private buses also operate from Bangalore and Goa, as well as Mysore and Gokarna in Karnataka, and will drop you in Hospet. From Hospet, take an autorickshaw to Hampi. The fare is around 200 rupees. There are also frequent, inexpensive local buses from Hospet to Hampi.
If you'd prefer to fly, the nearest airports are Hubli (3 hours away) and Belgaum (4.5 hours away). A taxi from Hubli to Hampi will cost approximately 3,000 rupees.
When to Go
The best time to visit is from November to February. In March, it starts getting unbearably hot.
The ruins can be explored at leisure. The Vittala Temple is open from 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily, and it’s worth getting there as early as possible to beat the crowds. The Elephant Stables, which once housed the royal elephants, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Entry Fees and Charges
There’s no cost to explore most of the ruins. However, tickets for the main group of monuments (including the Vittala Temple and Elephant Stables, and Royal Center) cost 500 rupees for foreigners and 30 rupees for Indians. The price was revised upwards, effective April 2016. The tickets also provide entry into the Archeological Museum.
The towering Virupaksha Temple, a focal point in the Main Bazaar, is open from sunrise until sunset. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it existed before Vijayanagar empire and is one of Hampi's oldest structures. It's also the only functioning temple there. The entrance fee is 2 rupees, plus 50 rupees for a camera.
If you enjoy culture, make sure you catch the three-day Hampi Festival (also known as the Vijaya Utsav). Dance, drama, music, fireworks, and puppet shows all take place against the ruins of Hampi. Be prepared to battle the crowds though! In 2016, the festival will be happening during the first week of November.
Hampi also holds a Purandaradasa Aradhana classical music festival in January/February each year to celebrate the birthday of Purandaradasa, a poet who lived there. In March/April the largest religious festival in Hampi, the Virupaksha Car Festival, takes place to mark the annual marriage ritual of the gods and goddesses.
Where to Stay
Unfortunately, Hampi is lacking in quality hotels. If you want to stay at a place with decent amenities, Hospet is a better choice, particularly with the four-star Royal Orchid Central Kireeti having opened up there. It lacks Hampi's eerie charm though. For a super luxurious stay, try the new Orange County Hampi resort, situated in Kamalapura. It's been built to resemble an opulent palace.
Ambient, simply furnished guesthouses are plentiful in Hampi. There are two main areas to stay in Hampi -- near the bus stand and Main Bazaar, and on the other side of the river in Virupapur Gadde. The lively Main Bazaar area is packed with cheap guesthouses, shops and restaurants. Virupapur Gadde, with its rural chilled out environment on the edge of paddy fields, attracts plenty of backpacker hippie types.
Many people choose to spend a couple of nights in each place, due to their different atmospheres.
An incredible energy can be felt at Hampi. The sunrise and sunset over the village, viewed from atop the central Matanga Hill, are truly magical and are not to be missed. Be sure to have a comfortable pair of shoes with you as some of the ruins can only be accessed on foot and you’ll need to walk quite a distance in order to explore them.
Try taking a ferry trip across the river to Anegondi and exploring the relics there. Alternatively, hiring a bicycle is a popular way to get around.
Do note that meat and alcohol aren't available in Hampi town as it's a religious place. However, you'll get it across the river in Virupapur Gadde.
In addition, there are no ATMs in Hampi. The closest one is in Kamalapura, about 10 minutes away. It's a good idea to make sure you withdraw enough cash while in Hospet.
If you'd like to take a guided tour (which is worthwhile as Hampi has a lot of history to uncover), the insightful Hampi tours offered by Travspire are recommended. These include a full day heritage tour (2,500 rupees per person, 8 hours), half day stories from the Ramayana narrated by a local tour (2,500 rupees per person, 5-6 hours), and village tour of Anegundi and surrounding areas (3,500 rupees per person, 6 hours).
If you're into wine, don't miss visiting award-winning Krsma Estate vineyards, about 2 hours north of Hampi.