Top Places to Visit in Hampi - 2020
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with ancient temples, forts and historic relics making it one of the most visited places in India by Indians and foreigners alike. Here’s a list of the 9 best places we recommend you cover on your trip to Hampi, along with the best places to eat!
Known best as the capital of the great Vijayanagara empire (14th – 16th century), Hampi was a thriving city in its prime time. According to historical memoirs left by Portuguese and Persian traders, the city was of metropolitan proportions; they called it “one of the most beautiful cities”. It is said that gold coins and precious stones used to be sold in its streets. Such was the prosperity of this great city.
Vijayanagara empire in its 200 years of existence consisted of 4 dynasties : Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu. Rulers from this empire led by example and gave utmost importance to art, architecture, literature, culture and traditions. Temples, trade and life flourished during their reign. Towards the end of the 16th century, a consolidated Muslim attack mainly by the armies of Tuglaq and Khilji for 6 continuous months tore the city apart and left it in ruins that are left to see today. The city since then has also been called “the city of ruins".
Mythological mentions of Hampi and origin of the name
The term “Hampi” is derived from goddess Parvati’s name “Pampa”. It is believed this is where Parvati persuded Shiva to marry her. Young Parvati took upon the Yogini lifestyle to convince Shiva of her loyalty and desire for him (in present day Hemakuta hills). Hampi also finds its mention in Ramayana and is known to be the place where lord Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman and the vanara sena while searching for Rama’s abducted wife Sita.
Best time to visit
☁️ Oct - Feb :
Good mild weather throughout except the peak afternoons. Best weather to enjoy in Hampi. During the winters from Dec-Jan, the climate becomes even cooler and provides a pleasant experience.
☀️ May - Jul :
Best to avoid Hampi during the peak summer months with temperatures going upto 40°C. The weather is hot and dry and it is difficult to visit places with the scorching sun.
How to reach Hampi
✈️ By Air: Nearest Intl. Airport: Bangalore (300 km)
🚂 By Rail: Hampi has no railway station. The nearest is in Hospet, 13 kms away.
🚍 By Road: Frequent buses ply on routes between Hampi and nearby major cities eg Bangalore. KSRTC operates the buses while there are tours conducted by KSTDC . This is the most opted route by tourists.
1. Vijaya Vitthala Temple
A temple complex housing a cluster of monuments - All of which display similar intricate stone carving architecture that this era was famous for. Built initially by Deva Raya II belonging to the Sangama dynasty in the early 15th century, it was expanded by Krishnadevaraya of the Tuluva dynasty in early 16th century. It is dedicated to Vittala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is the most visited site in Hampi. Check out the 50 rupees note and you should see the below image in it.
Noteworthy structures in the complex are : Sanctum of the Goddess (Devi temple), Maha Mantapa or main hall, Ranga Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), Utsava Mantapa (festival hall), and the famous Stone Chariot. The ceilings of the Devi’s shrine are adorned with lotus motifs. Murals and intricate handwork is seen in every nook and corner. The Ranga Mantapa has 56 musical pillars. Each pillar emits a melodious sound when tapped gently. The mystery of what causes these pillars to create these sounds still prevails. A few British architects during the British reign of India cut down 2 pillars to see if there were hidden instruments inside, all in vain. These 2 pillars are still present within the complex. The stone chariot is a shrine that has been designed in the shape of a decorative chariot dedicated to Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu.
Timings : Everyday 8:30 am - 6:00 pm
⚠️ The temple complex is situated about 1.5 km off the main road - cars are not allowed till the entrance. There is a huge parking area dedicated for visitors. From the parking area you have 2 options : either walk or take a ride on the government run electric vehicles charging ₹20 per person one way. Please note that this service almost always has a long slow moving line.
2. Virupaksha Temple
Believed to be operating uninterruptedly ever since its inception in the 7th century, Virupaksha temple is the oldest and the principal temple in Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, local goddess Pampa’s husband. The temple is situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Its large golden gopuram stands out among other monuments of the city and is a symbol of Hampi. In southern India Gopuram is a large pyramidal tower over the entrance gate to a temple precinct. Best time to visit the temple is early morning - it gets very crowded as the day progresses.
Situated beside Virupaksha Temple and walkable up from the Virupaksha Temple enclosure, there are multiple ways to reach the hilltop. It is a famous place to hang out and get amazing views of the setting sun as well as of Virupaksha Temple. It also houses the Hemakuta Hill Temple and is also called the Sunset Point by the locals. Note that it closes down after sundown.
Timings : Everyday 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Don’t forget to visit Lakshmi, the in house elephant. She is very friendly and offers her blessings by tapping the devotees head with her trunk! Note that Lakshmi is a very smart elephant and only accepts notes - no coins! Bananas and other fruits are her favorite and she will readily accept and gobble them happily :) Langoors and monkeys surround her and try to steal her food.
3. Queen’s Bath and Octagonal Bath
Queen’s bath is the ruins of a historic bathing chamber used by the king & his wives. It is a rectangular structure with simple exteriors and ornate interiors.
The Octagonal Bath is situated behind the Queen’s bath. Its a gigantic eight sided bathing area with a platform in the center. Its location is pretty isolated as it is not part of the royal areas, and hence is not very popular among tourists. It is known to be a bathing area built for residents and visitors (non-royals).
Water would flow into both the baths from the various canals(called aqueducts) built in the city to supply tanks, bathing areas and temples with fresh water supply.
4. Stepped Tank (Pushkaranis)
A stunning architectural piece, the stepped tank is believed to be one of the many excavated tanks that the archaeologists found while digging through the ruins. Known to be a holy water reservoir outside temples, the water from them was used by people to cleanse themselves before entering the temple, washing the temple and also for cremation rituals.
5. Zanana Enclosure
An enclosed private complex with high walls on all 4 sides built specifically for the Royal ladies of the Vijayanagara Empire. The complex houses several interesting structures : Lotus Mahal, watch towers, guards house, terraced platform (ruins left from a palace built for the queens), Ranga temple and the elephant stables. Lotus Mahal and elephant stables are the 2 well preserved structures in the complex, rest can be identified by their ruins.
The complex used to have 4 tall watch towers, one in each direction, of which 3 are still seen. Heavy security in the form of Eunuchs was stationed in these watch towers at all times to keep a hawk’s eye watch at the surroundings. No men were allowed inside except for the king. One of these watch towers is still accessible to the public for climbing up top.
Lotus Mahal, a beautiful domed palace built in the shape of a half opened lotus bud. It is a two storied building with an open base floor and tall ornate arched windows. The upper floors have balconies.
The elephant stable is a long building with a row of domed chambers and was used to shelter the royal elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers; some of them are inter-connected. The center one is specially decorated and big.
6. Gagan Mahal
Called as the old palace, Gagan Mahal was once home to the members of the royal family of the Vijayanagar empire. Its uniqueness lies in its engineering design that maintained the interiors of the palace cool even in the hot summer days. It also had a pool with a sophisticated drainage system. Today, a part of it is used as the local administrative office.
7. Hippie Island
Hampi can be divided into 2 parts split by the Tungabhadra river – The Heritage side and the Hippie side. All the sites we read about above form the heritage part of Hampi. A five minute boat ride from opposite Virupaksha temple will get you to the Virupapur village which is home to the backpackers paradise in Hampi – The Hippie Island. Famous among youngsters and foreigners, this part of Hampi has a very chilled out vibe and is best for solace. The peaceful atmosphere lets you reconnect with yourself, reflect on life and enjoy the small pleasures it has to offer. Cycle through the many scenic beauties around this beautiful village, sip a coffee in one of the street side quaint cafes, read a book below a banyan tree and just relish life in this nomadic island! Cycles and scooters are available for rent throughout the village.
⚠️ While getting from the Heritage side to the Hippie side, apart from he road journey there are 2 options to cross the Tungabhadra river : a motorboat ride or a coracle ride. I would highly recommend taking the coracle.
8. Tungabhadra Dam
Considered the biggest dam in Karnataka, it was built across the Tungabhadra river in 1953. The multi-purpose reservoir helps with irrigation, electricity generation and flood control and is the only non-cement and non-concrete dam in the country. It was built using a combination of mud and limestone.
9. Hampi Bazaar
A buzzing market place, Hampi Bazaar is the main central market of Hampi and sells everything from daily groceries and vegetables to local artifacts, traditional jewelry, Lambani crafts work, hippie clothes to musical instruments! Cash is the only accepted form of payment and there is no ATM in walking distance. Like any other market in India, those naggy bargaining skills will come a long way here!
10. Hampi Utsav
An annual cultural extravaganza, the Hampi Utsav (also called Vijaya Utsav) is a celebration of music and dance typically held in the month of November. Incase you plan your visit during this time, then this will be a real good add to your list. The 3 day gala shows the otherwise ruined city in new light. Honoring the rich cultural city it once was, all the sites are lit up and one can imagine what this lavish city would have looked like back in the day!
Best places to eat
🍚 Mango Tree - For Lunch
A multi-cuisine restaurant hidden in one of the small streets beside Virupaksha temple, this place serves the best of Indian and Italian cuisines
🍚 Laughing Buddha - For Dinner
The perfect hippie eatery - great place with people from all over the world lounging on mattresses on the floor and enjoying some mouth watering food.
📌 Use the below interactive map for directions:
✔ Clicking the top right button opens the map in a new tab showing the different sections. Click on view map legend if browsing on phone ✔ Save the map in your Google Maps for easy access later: Click the ⭐star button beside the name of the map. You can access the map later from Google Maps > Saved > Maps