A rare destination that could be the charm of a pilgrim, the safe home of a backpacker, the enigma of a historian, and the wandering of a geologist—Hampi has it all! Located on the banks of the Tungabhadra Stream, Hampi could be a small but charming sanctuary town bounded within the state of Karnataka by the ancient chronicled ruins of Vijayanagara town. With this Hampi travel guide, plan your journey.
Hampi Travel Guide – Best Things to Do in Hampi
Hampi has an unearthly rock scene, fascinating history in every corner, thousands of ancient ruined temples and royal residences (Virupaksha Temple, Hemakuta Hill, Vitthala Temple, Matanga Hill), mind boggling architecture (Lotus Mahal, queen’s shower), green rice paddy areas and evil monkeys. It is really a world of fantasy. Hampi allows travelers to plunge into history to discover the misplaced tales of the Vijayanagara Empire, the oldest, richest and most powerful kingdom in South India.
Hampi was Vijayanagar’s last capital, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in the history of India. There are some extraordinary ruins in the field, oddly mixed with huge boulders covering the landscape. It’s a must-visit destination in India and provides everyone with everything.
Colin Mackenzie, who became the first Surveyor General of India under British control, discovered Hampi’s ruins in 1800. Extensive excavations followed, and the Archeological Survey of India is still conducting them. Hampi was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
In central Karnataka, Hampi is situated approximately 360 kilometers (217 miles) from Bangalore in South India. The distance from Hyderabad to Hampi is around 380 km. So, both from Bengaluru and Hyderabad, you can easily access the place. Hospet is the closest town.
Hampi is divided into two areas, one is the ruin/heritage side and the other is Hampi’s hippie friendly side, known as Hampi Island (across the Tungabhadra river).
How to Get There
Bellary (two hours away) and Hubli Airport are the closest airports (four hours away). From there, you will need to arrange transportation by bus or taxi.
Alternatively, Hospet, about half an hour away, the nearest railway station is. Overnight trains run from Bangalore and Goa to Hospet a few days a week. Buses are also running from Bangalore and Goa, as well as from Karnataka to Mysore and Gokarna, and will drop you off at Hospet. However, the train is certainly more convenient and attractive. You can take a bus or an auto-rickshaw from Hospet to Hampi.
When to Visit Hampi
From November to February, the best time to visit Hampi is when it’s cool and dry. The weather is beginning to get unbearably hot in March. Make sure you go during the three-day Hampi Festival if you enjoy local colour and culture (also known as the Vijaya Utsav). With Hampi’s ruins as a backdrop, dance, drama, music, fireworks, and puppet shows all take place. This famous festival typically takes place in the last few years in January, so it’s wise to check the dates with Karnataka Tourism in advance.
How to Explore Hampi
Hampi is best explored by foot or by bicycle, so wearing comfortable shoes is necessary. It is also an option to hire a scooter or moped.
An entry pass is required for the main group of monuments (including the Vittala Temple, Elephant Stables and the Royal Center). For foreigners, the cost is 600 rupees and 40 rupees for Indians. The pass also gives access to the Archeological Museum. The Temple of Vittala is open from 8:30 am tp 5:00 pm everyday. The Stables of the Elephants, once home to the Royal Elephants, are available from 8:30 am to 6:30 p.m. everyday. Get there to beat the crowds as early as possible. You can visit the surrounding ruins at your leisure, and there is no fee.
What to See and Do in Hampi
The ruins of Hampi extend for just over 25 kilometers (10 miles) and consist of over 500 monuments.
Vittala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is the most striking one. It is located on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River, not far from the center of the city, among boulders, and reflects the mix of architecture of the Vijayanagara temple. His main hall has 56 pillars that produce musical sounds when struck. The classic Stone Chariot is to the east of the hall. Most amazingly, the wheels are always able to move!
In and around Hampi, another highlight is the ancient traditional water storage tanks, or step wells. Their channels were bringing water all over the city. The Stepped Tank is especially impressive on the southeast side of the Royal Enclosure. Up until about 20 years ago, it remained covered by mud and sand, with a mound on top.
Hampi is known for its monolithic sculptures as well. Some, like the Kadalikelu Ganesha on Hemakuta Hill in a temple, are as high as 15 feet tall. Alongside the river, there are beautiful sculptures on rocks that were prototypes of those within the temples.
Sunrise and sunset over the village are absolutely magical and not to be missed, as seen from the top of central Matanga Hill. Take a ferry across the river to Anegundi if you have time and explore the ancient structures there too.
Best Things to do in Hampi
1. Temple Hopping
Virupaksha Temple -This is the oldest functioning temple in Hampi. Virupaksha means ‘the slanting eye one’. Lord Shiva, who is said to have three eyes, is the temple’s principal deity. The temple is a great structure with many smaller shrines, pillared halls and gateways spread over a wide area. Don’t forget to visit Lakshmi, the Virupaksha Temple elephant, as Lakshmi goes to the Tungabhadra River for a bath every morning.
Vijaya Vittala Temple-This is a temple from the 15th century, which is also believed to be Hampi’s largest of all historical structures. It will take almost half a day to visit Vittala with its majestic stone chariot and hall with musical pillars.
2. Sunrise at Hanuman Temple in Hampi
A must-see location in Hampi is the Hanuman Temple, situated on the top of Anjaneya Hill. Believed in Indian mythology to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, this hill is situated in the Anegondi district on the other side of the Tungabhadra River.
The viewpoint, where the Hanuman Temple is situated, can be reached “easily” by steps. The most stunning views can be found on the roof, along with many not so friendly monkeys! Since Anjaneya Hill is located at outskirts; renting a motorbike or scooter and driving there yourself would be the simplest way to get there. Or, for a half-day tour, you might hire a tuk-tuk. Sunrise or sunset will be the best time to visit, as this will give you a stunning 360-degree view of the Hampi landscape.
3. Sunset at Hemakuta Hill in Hampi
A lovely place lined with a variety of Hindu temples, ruins of defensive walls, and broken paths is Hemakuta Hill. It is considered to be one of Hampi’s most beautiful places. Along with temples of Mustard Ganesh, Kadalekalu Ganesha, there are several small temples scattered around the hill. It’s a popular point of view for witnessing the mesmerizing sunsets of Hampi. The hill has no entrance fees and is only a couple of minutes away from the temple of Virupaksha.
4. Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, also known as the Statue of Ugra Narsimha, is the largest monolith statue in Hampi, inside the ruins of Hampi. In 1528 A.D., this 6.7-meter high statue was installed which was vandalized during a Mughal raid in 1565. The statue of Lord Narasimha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and half a man and half a lion, depicts the god in his fearsome form, sitting in a cross-legged position.
5. Explore Lotus Palace
The Lotus Mahal is an elegant building with delicate painted floral doorways that look like petals, beautiful intricate overhanging balconies looking into an indoor pool and a few places remain with traces of ceiling paintings. Another well-preserved large structure is the nearby Elephant Stable, and apart from that there is the Queen’s Bath, Stepped Bath, Royal Enclosures, remains of fortifications of the city, etc.
Hampi became a popular destination among enthusiasts of rock climbing after the film ‘Pilgrimage’ was shot here. If you like to climb up a rock without a rope or harnesses; you should go to the Hippie Island! The bouldering hotspots are all clustered on the side of the river on Hampi Hippie Island, so this is where you would want to stay if you are planning to climb or boulder.
The best time of the year for bouldering in Hampi is in November and December. It is easier to skip the rainy monsoon season. Before you head out, make sure you have the right gear. Typically, from your guesthouse, you can hire bouldering mats and climb on the awesome piles of rocks that litter the place.
7. Cliff Jumping
Not known to many, but on Hippie Island in Sanapur Lake, you can actually go cliff jumping. Crocodiles are said to swim here in general, but the locals believe it’s just a local government rumor. Undoubtedly, an enjoyable experience, but a word of advice, please do this at your own risk.
8. Archaeological Museum
One of the most notable tourist places in Hampi is the Archaeological Museum in Hampi, which has four separate art galleries that house a wide range of objects. Here you can find ancient coins, statues, drawings, metal plates, armor and sculptures by different Hindu deities.
9. Day Trip to Badami
Badami was the part of the 5 kingdoms and it is renowned for sandstone rock cut temples that have an influence on both the North and South Indian architecture. Despite your interests, these are bound to mesmerize you. If you’re searching for the surge of adrenaline, you can give rock climbing a shot here!
10. Daroji Bear Sanctuary
It is a secure woodland region where lovely Indian Sloth bears can be seen roaming about or scaling the trees or interacting with each other. Established in 1994, this sanctuary also houses leopards, hyenas, jackals, spotted deer and numerous other animal and plant species, making it one of the most beneficial areas for nature and wildlife lovers to see in Hampi.
11. Coracle Rides
A coracle trip in the Tungabhadra River is another special activity that you have to engage in during your stay in Hampi. Similar to the ones used by the emperor in the 14th century, this country boat is built like a cup, and can accommodate up to 4 to 6 passengers.
12. Hire a Moped / Scooter to Explore Hampi
With these breathtaking boulder formations and lush rice paddy fields in between, there’s no wonder that Hampi has some of the most spectacular natural sights. The best views, however, can be seen out from Hampi and slightly farther from the island’s middle. To find the most peaceful and serene places of Hampi, hire a moped and travel across the most scenic rice fields, through small villages and along the shore. Escape the crowded Hanuman Temple and climb up the boulder formations to find your own lovely view point to appreciate the sunrise or the sunset.
13. Go Shopping at Hampi Bazaar
Hampi’s bazaar might be small, but it’s still a nice spot for some fresh street clothing, junk jewelry or bags. It won’t take you long to walk around the bazaar, so it’s a fine reason to make your way across the water, leaving the hippie island, and visiting the bazaar temples as well.
14. Visit the Hippie Island in Hampi
The backpackers usually choose this little river island where the real fun happens while the pilgrims remain in the main Hampi area. Let’s get one thing right—if you want comfort or luxury, this is NOT the spot for you. In Hampi, Hippie Island is renowned for its comfortable and chilled-out vibes. It is not as busy as the heritage side, and to just relax, it has many cafes.
15. Climb Matanga Hill – Hampi’s Best Viewpoint
Matanga Hill is just in the center of Hampi, and from here, you can get a bird’s eye view of the whole place. Do not overlook to watch the stunning sunset from the Matanga Hills when in Hampi.
16. Ride a ferry on RED river
Yeah, the River Tungbhadra has red water! What’s more, every rock peeking out of the river has some statue on it. This is the same river that you cross from Hampi by ferry to meet Hippie Island. Although this journey only lasts about 5 minutes.
Places to Stay & Eat in Hampi
Hampi has a number of choices for different ranges of accommodation. You should remain near the market area near the Temple of Virupaksha where you can easily find a lot of stay options. On the other side of the Tungabhadra River, you may also chose to stay for a more happening experience. This place has a variety of homestays and there’s a Goa like vibe to this place. In this section, the foreigners mostly prefer to stay.
Though Hampi is the best place for lovers of adventure and history, there are ample restaurants and street food stands for food lovers to keep you occupied for days. At one of the several rooftop cafes, you can have a tasty vegetarian Thali while enjoying the river view. Or maybe try some Idli in the early morning from the street food stalls. Dosa, a pancake made from rice flour along with the most tasty chutneys, can also be had any time of the day.
For dining out, Hampi has a variety of restaurants. Many guest houses have rooftop cafes where you can stay. Between locals and visitors, Mango Tree is Hampi’s most popular restaurant. You could notice a queue for lunch and dinner during the peak season here.
Camping in Hampi
Hampi has lots of fantastic lodging choices, but it is also a great place to camp if you feel adventurous. Matunga hill is one wonderful place, among many others. With absolutely no problem, you can set up shop here. It is an outstanding sunset spot, but a much better sunrise spot! Before you camp in some locations, search around with the locals since there are a few areas that are off limits because they are temple land.
Marijuana in Hampi
Hampi is very popular for loving the inexpensive and abundant marijuana that seems to be almost everywhere in Hampi. It’s quick to locate, just stop smoking in the main town otherwise you will have to pay a fine or bribe for yourself.
How many days required to explore Hampi ?
Hampi can be covered comfortably in 2-3 days. Only get a rented scooter or a bike and roam around Hampi for your leisure time. Start with Virupaksha Temple, Vijay Vittala Temple, and hill temple Complex on Day 1. Visit the Hampi bazaar to buy some souvenirs from your vacation. On day 2, you can cover Queen’s Bath, Hazara Rama Temple, Stepped Bank. If you have time, a couple more attractions in Hampi could be covered until you leave on day 3.
Why should you visit Hampi ?
If you are interested in heritage and tradition, if you are excited by the tales of the past, then Hampi is a spot that you have to experience. Every stone in Hampi tells a story, be it the tales of the kingdom of Vijaynagar or the mythological tales that are so pleasant to listen to.
Visit Hampi if you are fond of ancient architecture. The strongest architectural references are the Virupaksha Temple and the Vittala Temple. The complex patterns and craftsmanship of these constructs would absolutely astound you.
If you enjoy adventure, you’ve got to see Hampi. You’ll have a nice chance to do bouldering. The coracle trip on the river Tungabhadra is also a blend of elegance and thrill.
If nature likes you, visit Hampi. A tiny temple town riddled with various boulders beside the Tungabhadra river appears like a sandbox for the design of nature.
Visit Hampi simply. You would certainly not know why you should visit Hampi until you visit the venue.