Hampi was once the centre of the mighty Vijaynagara Empire, which held sway over a large part of South India between the 14th and 17th centuries. Over three hundred and fifty years have passed since the empire was put to the sword by an alliance of the Deccan sultanates, but Hampi is a splendid legacy of Vijaynagara's days of glory.
Today, it is an excellent tourist destination that has not yet been ravaged by mindless commercialisation. This little town is simply bursting at the seams with lovely temples, monuments and a rich air of history. It is recommended that travelers keep aside at least 2-3 full days to explore Hampi well.
Hampi is easily accessible by road or rail via the nearest town - Hospet, which is less than 15 kilometers away. Karnataka State Transport buses stop at Hospet bus station, If coming by train, look out for Hospet Junction.
We took the Rayalseema Express from Hyderabad, which reaches Hospet at 0530 (which gave us the entire day to start exploring!)
From Hospet, one can take an autorickshaw to Hampi. Be prepared for some haggling here. INR 100 is the usual fare, but enterprising drivers will start at INR 200...or more!
Hampi is relatively easy to explore. A small part of Hampi can be explored on foot. Bicycles can be hired for the day from any of the shops in the bazaar in front of the Virupaksha Temple. The rent is around INR 20-30. While the bicycles are generally in decent shape, do check the tires and the brakes for wear and tear before you ride off.
Those with good stamina will find that a bicycle is just the ideal way to explore Hampi. If one is looking to move around faster, motorbikes and autorickshaws can also be hired at the bazaar area.
What to see:
We started off by getting hold of a map. Some shops in the bazaar give out maps and a little advice for free. The map is little, but it is not difficult to see the history and heritage that is packed into this place.... and we found our map to be more than enough to do our exploring.
One may even come across a lone pillar in the middle of a field, which may have been a part of some mighty structure that succumbed to the sands (or swords) of time.
2-3 full days are more than enough to explore Hampi.
Make sure your sightseeing checklist includes:
- Virupaksha Temple
- Vittala Temple area
- Elephant Stables
- KIng's balance
- Lotus Mahal
- Narasimha Statue
- Queen's Bath
- KIng's Audience Hall (and surrounding area)
There is truly a LOT to see here, which makes it an explorer's paradise!
The bazaar street and the surrounding area in the direction of the river has several nice restaurants to choose from. We ate at three different ones while we were there.
We found the food to be reasonably priced and of decent quality. Some restaurants also serve Israeli, Russian and Continental fare. However, one must remember that this is a small town, so the 'international' cuisine they serve is edible, but may not remind one of home!
A few savvy restaurant owners have emblazoned 'Recommended by Lonely Planet' on their signboards! These included two of the restaurants we visited, and we had nothing to complain about.
Where to Stay
One choose from a wide array of budget-friendly guesthouses and homestays. During our research, we found the rates generally ranged between INR 300 - 800 a night.
Do check the rate before you choose a place, especially during season time, when they can go as high as INR 1500.
Safety: We found Hampi to be relatively safe. But do observe the usual precautions such as not wandering around alone after dark, especially near the ruins.
Money: Carry enough cash with you. We used an ATM near the Virupaksha temple area, but come with the assumption that it may not always be in working order