A non-biased guide to visit Hampi and its ancient monuments in South India.
📕 Where and what is Hampi?
Hampi is a place in South India, Karnataka, known for its ancient Indian monuments.
It was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. The capital of the empire was also known as Vijayanagara and was the second-largest city in the world in 1500 CE, some 500 years ago.
Today Hampi is a small fishing village situated among large boulders surrounded by an endless area of ancient temple ruins, statues, and other stone structures.
It’s a surreal place that any avid world traveler should visit.
The complete area surrounding the small village is part of the UNESCO world heritage protection. The Archaeological Survey of India is maintaining the area.
Yet it’s such a vast area that you will need a way to get around. We recommend that you hire a bike, cycle, car, rickshaw or taxi to get to those places that are further away.
Here are some of the places that you will want to have seen.
Hampi Bazaar and Virupaksha Temple
This is the center of the village and where everything starts. The parking area is just around the corner (called hampi parking lot on google maps).
The bazaar is a rebuilt area with stones and it’s an elongated lane without active shops.
To the left is the Virupaksha temple, to the right is the pathway to all the main countless monuments.
The Virupaksha temple is a 7th-century temple and it’s the only remaining active temple in Hampi. All the other monuments are temple ruins.
You can enter the temple but without shoes of course. Beware the age-old stone floor is sticky oily. I use wet wipes after the visit.
The temple is beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
The Monument Ruin Area
This is the primary area to discover the countless temples and monumental structures of what’s left of the Vijayanagara Empire.
At the end of the Hampi Bazaar street is the police station. Continue the pathway towards the east, either by taking the Kampa Bupha Path or the path past the Nandi (stone bull).
At the Chakra Tirtha you can take a ride down the calm Tungabhadra river in a coracle, which is a handmade basket-like boat.
In this area, you will find the stone chariot, the Vijaya Vitthala Temple, the king’s balance among many other sights.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours in this area. There is a lot to walk. Somebody had a golf cart to get around, but to be honest I hope those don’t become the norm.
The village is located below the Virupaksha temple.
You get food and drinks there, some shade too, which you will need eventually.
The restaurants are more like budget travel shacks, so don’t expect much. Running water doesn’t seem to be a problem but I did see some not so hygienic conditions.
The village itself is cute in its own ways. This place is for you if you are longing for a simpler existence and if you want something more budget-friendly.
You will easily meet friends and fellow backpack travelers.
The village is facing the Tungabhadra river and ends with ghats (stairs).
You will also find the ferry point there to get to the other side of the river. *see nearby attractions
Hill Temple Complex
Above the Virupaksha temple is another separate temple complex. It’s located on the hilltop and it’s often while overlooked because there are so many other monuments.
The temples on Hemakuta Hill can be easily accessed by foot from the main Virupaksha temple. You get a great sunset picture from there.
The other monuments in this area are better visited with the help of transport. This includes the Saasivekaalu Ganesha temple, the Krishna temple, and the Krishna water tank/bath.
There are smaller monuments between those as well worth visiting.
This area is a bit away from the other monuments.
When leaving Hampi behind drive towards Kamalapur (a town) passed the sister stones (or the so-called two kissing stones).
This area includes the so-called underwater temple, which is known as the Sri Prasanna Virupaksha Temple on maps.
You can also visit the Lotus Mahal, the Elephant stables, and one of the archeological museums.
Then there is also the Hazara Raama Temple, which is known for its detailed carvings.
If you ever wanted to see an ancient Indian stepwell, then there is that also to see.
And at last is the Queens Bath, which is pretty in its own right.
📍 Nearby Attractions
Some other attractions nearby might be worth a visit if you are visiting the area for more than 3 days.
You can hire a cycle and discover the area around.
- Hanuman Temple – take the Hanuman Temple Trail and hike up a hill. You will be surrounded by hungry monkeys, I warned you.
- Bird sanctuary – for bird spotting
- Sanapur lake – for coracle boat rides and sunsets
- Hampi Archeological Museum in Kamalapura
- All the other old monuments and ruins that are further away such as the Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple
🌡️ When to Visit
Hampi is located in Karnataka South India and it gets really hot there.
I visited once in February and once in November, it was always way too hot, hotter than Goa for example.
I recommend you visit end of November and December, right after the rainy season because it will be still a bit green around there.
January and February are ok as well.
The hot summer season starts in March and goes up to mid-June/July. You don’t want to experience such heat but you will have the area for yourself.
The rainy season is from mid-June/July to October. I can’t tell you how the monsoon is in Hampi, since I haven’t experienced it there during that time.
When you walk around visiting sights, I recommend that you take a break from 12 noon to 3 pm. It’s way too hot to be out in the sun during that time.
🛣️ How To Get There
The best way to get to Hampi is by car. Either hire a car and drive yourself in India or hire a taxi with a driver.
That said the roads can be a bit difficult, depending on where you come from.
- From Bangalore to Hampi it takes about 7 hours.
- From Goa to Hampi it takes about 9 hours.
- From Hyderabad to Hampi it takes about 9 hours too.
Google maps can be misleading, the time to destination calculation is usually off by 1-2 hours.
You can also get there by motorbike, but the ride will be exhausting but it’s an adventure, right?
Taking an overnight bus is another option to get there. I personally don’t recommend it if you value comfort and cleanliness. This however is still a great option for budget travelers and those looking for a fun experience.
Your best bus option from Goa is Paulo travels (starting Panjim or Mapusa) and from every other place lookup redbus.
The nearest train station to Hampi is located in Hospete city.
Connections, however, might not be straightforward so the only direct train is the one from Mysore/Bangalore to Hospete.
Ironically this train connection is called the Hampi Express.
In Hospete you can take a rickshaw for cheap to get to Hampi or a taxi. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
Ballari airport is the nearest airport. It’s a small domestic airport.
For international travelers, I recommend flying to Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Goa.
Day 1 – Start as early as possible because it gets hot. Explore in the morning the monument ruin area, lunch in the village in the shade, in the afternoon after 3 pm visit the Virupaksha Temple. Dinner at your hotel or in the village.
Day 2 – Start early again. Visit the Hill Temple Complex in the morning. Go for lunch. Visit after 3 pm the royal enclosures. Dinner at your hotel or in the village.
Day 3 – Choose one or two of the nearby attractions. A cycle is a great thing to get around but again it can get really hot. So, if you want to make a cycle tour plan according to the heat levels during the day.
🥘 Places to eat
If you love South Indian food, then you will have a great time eating your way through the local delicacies.
I honestly don’t always understand south Indian food and tend to look for something that I can relate to.
The village food hangouts cater to an International crowd so you can find pizza, fried eggs, and sandwiches there.
But don’t expect food as you are used to in the west. It’s a bit different but they are all making a great effort to accommodate their guests.
If you want South Indian food or Karnataka specialties from the region, look out for dosa, sambar, and co. Street food and small Dhaba food places will be your best friends.
Something that you will not find in Hampi is meat. Maybe somebody is serving chicken and fish somewhere but that’s about it. The temple rules are respected.
Also, alcohol is taboo. You will not find beer or wine there. Nearby resorts and hotels have to adhere to these rules too.
We mainly dined in our hotel. They had a decent Indian food menu and a clean dining room.
The Hampi area is a UNESCO world heritage site, which means new hotel constructions are not permitted in this area. The site of the monuments is also very large!
Therefore, you will discover that most 3 star plus hotels and resorts are located away from Hampi.
The village does have some of those backpacker-type huts or so-called cottages. Mainly youngsters tend to hang out there. Yet they are a bit overpriced for what you get, as they are missing hygiene and the rooms are not properly closed (open ceiling points).
There is also another part of Hampi, which was coined the hippie island in the past 10 years or so.
To access it you will need to take the ferry and yes the area is pretty with the green rice paddy fields, but it’s only for those who can take rats in their rooms. I surely don’t.
Besides hippie island wasn’t that super legal anyway and it was taken down. Demolished. Yet they relocated and smokers still have a place to hangout.
If you are looking for a classy stay with everything to make your family happy, I recommend something like Hyatt.