Quick Guide: Hampi

The greatness of the Vijayanagara Empire, one of the largest medieval-era cities of the world, wealthy enough to attract traders from as far as Persia and Europe, can be witnessed today through the ruins of its capital, Hampi. Spread over 4,100 acres and surrounded by a vast boulder-strewn landscape, Hampi is a sight unlike any other.

Need To Know

Hampi is open to visitors year-round, but the weather is best between November and February. Temperatures climb to 45º C in summer, and monsoon rains are occasionally heavy.

The best way to get around Hampi is on a bicycle or moped. Carry comfortable shoes though, some of the ruins are only accessible by foot. Take a ferry** across the Tungabhadra river from Hampi to reach the Anegundi ruins; at nearly 5000-years-old, it’s worth the effort.

Hampi is strictly vegetarian, and no alcohol is allowed. However, Virupapur Gadde, on the other side of the Tungabhadra river has a variety of non-vegetarian options, and a choice of cuisine as well – including Israeli, and Italian.

Did You Know?

While the earliest mentions of camera obscura come from Chinese and Aristotelian writings, a practical demonstration of the pinhole camera can be seen even today at Virupaksha Temple. Built in 700 AD, it is one of India’s oldest temples. At the exit, on the right side, is a small opening and as the sun’s rays pass through it, almost poetically, an inverted shadow of the main temple tower presents itself on the western wall.

Things to Do

For Architecture Enthusiasts

Yes, you can visit Hampi for religious reasons, but the biggest draw is the architectural style of the city. A mix of Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya, Chola and, later, Deccan and Dravidian styles, the carefully preserved temples, markets, and living areas show the grandeur of kingdoms past. The iconic stone chariot, Vithala temple complex, the Virupaksha Temple, Ranga Mantapa with its 56 musical pillars, the Sule bazaar, the courtesan street, the majestic Queen’s bath, and the Monolithic bull are just some of the architectural marvels.

Hampi’s boulders and paddy fields. Image via Shutterstock.com

For Adrenaline Junkies

Hampi’s surreal boulder-strewn landscape is one of the oldest exposed surfaces in the world. These granite boulders were once part of a large monolithic mountain that has eroded over three thousand million years. The unique landscape has made Hampi a mecca for rock climbing in India. First timers can go on a guided climb to navigate the rocky paths, which vary in difficulty. Tom and Jerry Climbing Shop (Tel: 094827 46697) in Virupapur Gadde offers guides for novice climbers.

For Leisure Seekers

Across the river in Virupapur Gadde, popularly known as the “hippie side”, you can go restaurant hopping, indulge in some yoga, or attend movie screenings. Despite being just across the river from Hampi, which is busy and has noisy markets, Virupapur Gadde is surprisingly serene (but can get busy, quickly, during tourist season).

What to Eat and Where

There are plenty of great vegetarian options within Hampi bazaar. Cross over to Virupapur Gadde, and the choice widens to include alcohol and non-vegetarian dishes. The service and pace on both sides remain uniformly lackadaisical.  

For unforgettable vegetarian food, visit Mango Tree (Tel: 094487 65213) on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Sagar Hotel (Tel: 094494 46230), right near Virupaksha Temple, is famous for its idli, dosa, and gunta pongal.

On the other side of the river, visit Prince Restaurant (Tel: 094485 11017) for delicious biryani. Places like Nargila Restaurant (Tel: 082773 35218) offer more of the hippie vibe with low seating, lounge music, great food, and movie nights.

What to Buy

At Hampi Bazaar, you can find hippie jewellery reminiscent of Goa’s Anjuna flea market. The shops and push carts alongside the temples sell stone carvings at much lower prices than ones found in Bangalore. You can also buy banana fibre craft products made by local women at the Kishkinda Trust’s Hoova Craft Shop and Café in Anegundi.

*Visiting during summer or monsoon means fewer tourists and cheaper rates.

**Ferry services are usually affected by rains and are available until sunset.

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