Woof! This is sooo late, I apologize. I am writing this in a cafe in Dubai while my friend Tess works. I hope I will be able to catch up on some of my India posts, but there was so much in such a small amount of time. But to continue from my previous post, after I was in Bangalore for two days I headed off to Hampi.
Everyone I met early on in my travels said that there was one place I absolutely needed to go: Hampi. They kept saying it is the most relaxing place, you can chill, ride scooters, etc. And since I hadn’t really thought about it, I decided sure, why not. So I planned my trip and said Hampi here I come! And I didn’t regret any time I spent there.
Below is an ultimate guide to fully enjoy Hampi.
How to Get to Hampi
Even though Hampi is one of the most famous spots in India, it is actually a little difficult to get to. The town that is considered Hampi is located next to the Tungabhadra River in the state of Karnataka in south-central India. It is about 234 miles from Bangalore and 239 from Hyderabad. Hampi does not have a bus stop or train station because the actual town of Hampi is very small and has only about 150 residents.
You can take overnight buses from the major cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Goa, etc. There are also overnight trains. But since there is no bus or train station, you will be dropped off in Hospet. Hospet is the closest large city to Hampi. Once in Hospet you will have to take a tuk tuk or cab into Hampi, which is about 8 miles away.
Be forewarned if you take a bus! Like many roads in India, the “highways” coming into Hampi are some of the worst ever. I didn’t sleep the entire ten hour bus ride because the dirt roads had so many potholes in it that I was bouncing everywhere in my sleeper bed and had the bruises to prove it.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay in and around the ancient city of Hampi, then your hotels are going to be limited. Most of the places you can stay are guest houses. These are not your traditional western hotels but are much more basic, but can be just as nice because the staffs are usually extremely attentive.
You can stay in Hampi near the Virupaksha Temple or you can stay on the other side of the river. The guest houses on the other side of the river have a little more of a true hippie feel then the guest houses do on the the temple side. I stayed in Hampi at Gopi Guest House and absolutely enjoyed it. Another guest house in Hampi that is recommended is Rocky Guest House. I also go to experience Dilwale (festival of lights) while I was there!
Where and What to Eat
There are many good restaurants around Hampi and across the river. Each guest house in Hampi has a rooftop restaurant so you can see the view of the temple and the restaurants on the other side of the river are placed by the river side so you can enjoy the scenery.
All of the restaurants have a caravan tent or little cafe feel.Some of my favorite places while I was there was the Mango Tree and the Laughing Buddha (best hummus I have had so far!). heads up! Because Hampi is so close to a religious and culture site, the town of Hampi is all vegetarian and no alcohol. You have to go about three miles to a local town and hotel to get any sort of alcohol.
What to do in Hampi
If you are looking for laid back, slower paced action than the big cities of India, then Hampi is the place for you. It was a nice relief from city life for me. I stayed there a full 5 days, which is probably 2 more than you really need, but it all depends on how much time you need.
This is was the most pleasant surprise when I came to Hampi. I had no idea what to expect and was amazed at the archaeological sites and ruins that are around Hampi. Hampi was the center of what would be the Vijayanagara Empire that began in the 14th century. It was a very prosperous city and empire and by 1500 CE it was the second largest medieval city after Beijing. With its location, Hampi was a major center for trade in central India and saw millions of dollars of gold, jewels, silk, and stones pass through its markets. The ruins spread about 16 square miles around Hampi.
The ruins include temples, walls, royal complexes, forts, and so much more. I had planned on doing a tour, but my guest house connected me with two British travelers and we did the tour together. We liked hanging out so much, we did so for the next 2 days. It is important to make friends as a solo traveler!
Across the River
If you spent your first day traveling all around the ruins of Hampi, then a perfect relaxing day across the river is just for you. Once you travel across the river taxi (should be only 10 rupees, don’t let them try to charge you more), there are plenty of places where you can rent scooters or bicycles to ride around the roads. There are plenty of small roadways that wind through the prehistoric landscape that Hampi has to offer. You can go through the little towns or visit the various temples on that side. But remember the last water taxi leaves at 5:30. So if you don’t want to have to drive 40 minutes out of your way, be back by 5:30.
One of the most imposing temples is the Hanuman Temple (Monkey Temple). The temple is atop one of the seven hills of Hampi and you have to climb approximately 575 steps to get to the top. I did this after walking from the river to the temple and climbed it and walked back. All doable if you are looking for a good work out. But the view from the top of the hill is worth the climb. It is the one spot where you can see all of the seven hills of Hampi from one spot.
After you climb the never-ending stairway, you can go cool off in the lake/reservoir. The Sanapur Lake is a lake just across the river. You can swim in there even though it says “no swimming, there are crocodiles.” We never saw one and the locals say they just say that so tourists won’t swim in the water. Didn’t work.
Like everywhere else in India, Hampi has its own special landscape. If you ever wanted to know what the world looked like when dinosaurs were around, Hampi is your jam. The area around Hampi is covered in volcanic boulders that were formed and then moved around by glaciers. These boulders have created a perfect place for hiking and boulder climbing. I heard from a fellow traveler that Hampi is one of the best places for boulder climbing in the world. Hampi is also dotted with rice patties, palm trees, and various vegetation that you can explore and enjoy.