Hampi has been on my list for a long time! I got the opportunity to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site in March 2019. Though my trip was a short one, I totally fell in love with it and I would definitely want to go back for round 2. So here’s everything you need to know about India’s famed city-ruins – Hampi.
Hampi is located on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, in the state of Karnataka. It was once a flourishing city of the Vijayanagara Empire and became its capital in the 14th century. After the city was conquered and destroyed in 1565, it has remained in ruins.
It doesn’t matter if you are interested in its history or not, the architecture, the landscaping, the royal stories, everything about Hampi makes it truly fascinating!
The Best Way To Get To Hampi
I tried planning a trip from Mumbai and found it was quite inconvenient. Either the journey was too long (by road or train) or the cost was pretty high (by flight). So I decided to club this trip along with another – Bangalore!
I must say that was a good decision because I saved on time and money! There is an overnight train to Hospet (the station for Hampi) from Bangalore known as the Hampi Express. I would highly recommend this route, since Bangalore is a big city and easily approachable.
The train starts from Mysore and ends at Hubli, so club your Hampi trip with nearby places if possible.
Once at Hospet, you can take a taxi or auto to Hampi. It’s about 20-25 minutes from Hospet and can cost you between 150 to 400 rs depending on tourist season and how well you can bargain!
When To Go & Where To Stay At Hampi
We found a lot of options online for hotels in Hospet & Kamalapur. These are neighbouring towns. We stayed at a hotel called Clarks Inn at Kamalapur, which was about 7 minutes away from Hampi. We liked the hotel and would go there again.
But for people looking for a more authentic experience or something inside Hampi, there are some rooms and homestay options available. They aren’t fancy – but they make do for people travelling on a budget.
Another option is to stay on the other side of the river known as Hippie Island, which offers dorms and simple rooms as well – very budget friendly – mostly opted by foreign tourists.
The positive side of living inside Hampi is that you can walk around the place even at night if you like. This is something we missed out on experiencing.
What to see and do in Hampi
There are over 1,600 surviving remains of this ancient city – some more important than the others. So here’s a quick guide to the important monuments in Hampi and how you can cover it in 1, 2 or 3 days!
One Day In Hampi
If you have only 1 day in Hampi, you have no choice but to rush through the monuments. But it will still give you an idea of what Hampi is all about and maybe you can come back some other day. Here is how you can plan your day –
Start at Vijaya Vittala Temple. You will need at least about 2 hours to explore the entire complex and if you want, you can also take a sneak peek at the monuments located just outside the complex like the Kings Balance Ancient Mantapa and Pushkarni.
Next, make your way to the Royal Enclosure. Stop at the Queen’s bath on the way. If you are quick, you can complete seeing the enclosure in about 1 and a half hours. Some of the places of interest are the Secret Council Chamber, The Stepped Tank (and nearby Aqueduct), The Mahanavami Dibba (raised platform — you can climb up) and the Hazara Rama Temple.
Move to the Zenana Enclosure and check out the beautiful Lotus Mahal and Elephant Stables. Both these monuments are definitely not to be missed! The Ranga Temple is just outside – but you can skip this if you don’t have the time.
Lastly, go towards Hemakuta Hill and along the way check out the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple and next to it the 12 feet Shivling. At the foot of Hemakuta hill is Saasivekaalu Ganesha.
Climb up the hill (about 10 minutes walk) to reach the sunset point. Watch a mesmerizing sunset and take back with you a trip full of memories!
Most of the entrances to monuments close by 5 or 6 pm. But if you still have some time to kill after sunset, you can visit the Hampi Bazaar and Virupaksha temple. This is the only temple in Hampi that is still being used as a place of worship – the rest of the temples are more like heritage sites. It is open till 8-9pm.
All in all – this can get quite hectic, but you would have covered all the popular sites. You will need a vehicle to travel to one place to another (local auto-rickshaw, bike/scooter or car). All of this can take around 6 or more depending on how long you take at each location. Make sure you visit during the winter months, else you will find the afternoon heat quite unbearable.
If you want to walk between places, you can consider an additional hour or so.
2 Days In Hampi
I was in Hampi for 2 days – unfortunately, it was during a heat wave (end of March) and the afternoons were unbearably hot – so we did a more relaxed version of the 1-day tour – with a few extras.
We arrived by the Hampi Express by 10 in the morning (it was late) and by the time we reached the hotel and freshened up, it was already almost noon.
We made a deal with our Auto Rickshaw driver who we met at Hospet station and he would be our guide. He charged us Rs. 1000/- per day which was quite high, but still cheaper than hiring a car from the hotel, which was Rs. 1800/-. I don’t drive – so my trips do tend to get slightly more expensive because of this.
Our first stop was Vittala Temple complex – it took us about 2 hours to see everything including the Maha Mantapa, Stone Chariot and Musical Pillars. The pillars were going through some restoration work when we went in March 2019. So we couldn’t see them up close.
By the time we were done, we were quite exhausted – just from the heat. We went back to the hotel for the afternoon.
Around 5 pm we left the hotel to see the Zenana enclosure and then made our way to Hemakuta hill for the sunset (see the 1-day itinerary for the monument list) and then went back to the hotel for the night.
Next morning, we were supposed to visit the Malyawantha Raghunatha Hill (we heard that the climb up isn’t much, just about 10-15 minutes, so you don’t have to wake up too early), but we were too lazy and just didn’t want to wake up! I’ve seen pictures and would highly recommend this if you are a morning person! Another sunrise point is Matanga hill, but we went there for sunset – more about that later.
We started our morning around 10 am and went first for a Coracle ride. We took the 1-hour ride and paid a hefty Rs. 1600/- (2 of us). I’ve heard that the ride is cheaper from the other side of the river – so keep that in mind if you want to do this!
The coracle ride was definitely a highlight of our trip so would totally recommend this! It is so much fun! You can choose between a 30-minute ride and a 60-minute ride. The longer one also allows you to get down at different spots and see some interesting cave temples – so if you have the time, just do the longer trip.
It was noon by the time we were back in the Auto and once again it was too hot to keep going! So we went back to the hotel. We stopped by the Underground Shiva Temple on the way back.
Since we had already checked out – we just sat in the restaurant for the air conditioning! Also, there was the Archaeological Museum of Hampi right opposite our hotel, so we spent about 30 minutes there in the afternoon.
By 4:30 pm, we set out to see the Royal Enclosure (sites mentioned in the 1-day itinerary).
After that, we went to Mathanga Hill to see the sunset. On our way, we also stopped by Sri Krishna Temple.
You need at least 25 minutes to climb up Mathanga hill to the sunset point, so make sure you have that time before deciding to go there. Also, the climb is not all that easy! There are some points where you can stop along the way if you’ve had enough (you would still be able to see the sunset from these spots) – but of course, the best view is from right at the top.
Wear good shoes and don’t have anything in your hand – because you will need your hands free to hold onto the rocks while climbing u in some places. There is no railing and the drop is quite sheer, so it is not for the faint-hearted!
We were done by 7 pm and with this, our trip also came to an end. We got dropped off at Hospet, had a quick dinner and caught the 9:30 pm Hampi Express back to Bangalore. Though it was a short trip, I had taken enough pictures to fill my heart’s content! But I do want to go back again someday!
3 Days In Hampi
Take it slow and easy. Explore everything as per the 2-day itinerary and maybe add a few more sites like the Kadalekalu Ganesha, the Mosque (found near the royal enclosure), the Octagonal Bath (near the Queen’s bath). Most of the other sites you can just see from your vehicle as you pass them by.
What you absolutely must do with your extra day (which we couldn’t) is cross the Tungabhadra river, by a taxi-boat, to the other side of Hampi known as ‘Hippie’ Island. You can just relax here and enjoy its hippie vibe or explore its paddy fields, jump off a cliff at Sanapur lake and visit Monkey Temple for the sunset.
You could also do a combination of Hippie Island and the 1-day itinerary above, to make a compact 2-day itinerary, enabling you to experiences 2 different sides of Hampi.
Hampi – Budget Trip
I’m a flashpacker, so I end up spending on hotels and travel. But for those of you who are looking for a budget trip, it can easily be achieved at Hampi. In fact, we met 2 students who spent less than Rs. 2000/- each, inclusive of their travel from Bangalore for 2 days!
Most of the archaeological sites were free of cost – some had a cost of Rs. 40/- or something as ridiculously low as that!
You can find accommodation for as low as Rs. 500/- and you can rent a moped for Rs. 250/- per day (fuel extra).
Hampi was ranked 2nd in the New York Time’s list of Must-See Destinations in 2019. So go explore this ruined-town and enrich your travel list with yet another place from Incredible India!
For more pictures, check out my Instagram!