10 Best Things to Do in Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi is a prehistoric town in Karnataka in South India. Hampi is a small town north of Karnataka, on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, and it is one of those places where you feel at ease as soon as you arrive. Hampi is located about 300 km from Bangalore. Hampi is often called the city of ruins, and some of them are listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The region is famous due to the temples, ruins, beauty and several spectacular viewpoints it possesses although but there’s so much more to it. The ancient place, positioned amidst the past’s stunning ruins, has been getting a lot of tourists from different world places for long now. It was said to be so prosperous and beautiful that it attracted numerous merchants and travelers from other parts of the world.

On the banks of the Tungabhadra River, along almost 26 square kilometers, we find today more than 1,600 remains of what was one of the most important cities of India until the sultans of the Deccan occupied and destroyed it. South India can be an enjoyable experience for your children. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hampi boasts of rich history and can be a great experience for a family vacation.

Hampi is famous for being the largest open air museum in the world with hundreds of ancient monuments from the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire spread across an area of about 5 sq km. Traveling to various temple ruins can be a very interesting experience. Check out the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary to see the bear go bustling. Locate some of the last remaining structures of the mighty kings and queens that still stand at Hampi, including elephant stables and queen's bathing spaces.

If you are visiting Hampi or planning to do so, stay here for a considerable amount of time, like a week. People need at least one week to explore entire Hampi. There are various remarkable things to do when visiting different parts of Hampi. However, most individuals visit the place for a short period, mainly the temples and then move to their next tour point.

It's hard not to fall in love in Hampi. With its emblematic monuments (Badavai Linga, Achutaraya Temple, Hazara Rama temple), Islamic-style architecture, Hampi is practically built for lovers who are a bit inclined towards history. Because of its temples and large structures, some of which are in ruins, Hampi is even recognized as a world heritage site.

A quaint town in the state of Karnataka, Hampi is recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Site for its archaeological splendour and natural beauty. The ancient ruins of Vijaynagar expose countless narratives that are best explored in tranquility. Some of the notable places to visit in Hampi include Nandi Statue, Queen's Bath and Hemakuta Hill.

Hampi is mixture of so many kinds of places like an empire ruins, a beautiful riverbank, nightlife, wildlife places and many more. Hampi has thousands of large rock formations, polished stones that seem to lie with their perfect forms, all distributed between kilometers and kilometers of palm trees and rice terraces. Hampi has more than 300 temple ruins in total excluding Queen Palace, Fort Ruins, horse markets and jewelry market ruins.

Shrine of Hanuman (the monkey god) atop Hemakuta Hill, Hampi
Shrine of Hanuman (the monkey god) atop Hemakuta Hill, Hampi.

Here are the best things to do in Hampi:

1. Exploring the Sacred Virupaksha Temple

Capital of the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom, Hampi is situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Here, couples can visit many places of interest such as Badavai Linga, Achyutaraya Temple, Hazara Rama Temple, Krishna Temple, Vittala Temple, Chandramauleshwara Temple, Mosque of Sunni Muslims, Lotus Mahal, Stepped Tank and Watch Tower.

The UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site is known for its architectural splendour epitomised in Queen’s Bath, Lakshmi Narasimha Statue, Virupaksha Temple and many more. Hampi is UNESCO World Heritage site as there are Vijayanagara Empire ruins from 7th Sanctuary.

Ruins of palaces, temples with carvings depicting the powerful story of the erstwhile kingdom, a huge stone chariot will take you back to the time of kings and queens. Situated amidst three hills, Hampi is the ideal place for tourists as it gives you scope for adventures, trekking and also a place to unload the pressures of the material world.

Temples and ageless forms of architecture make up Hampi. You will be amazed visiting the religious sites found in Hampi. They look striking to the naked eye. The city has temples or monuments mushroomed everywhere with each having an interesting story to inform. Before heading to other places, you can start your day by paying a visit to the famous Virupaksha Temple and get blessed by the temple elephant, called Lakshmi.

Hampi is located literally among the ruins of Vijayanagara, the ancient capital of the Vijayanagara empire. Still today it is an important religious center, and the Virupaksha temple is a clear exponent, since important Hindu ceremonies are held continuously. The numerous Dravidian temples of the Vijayanagara Empire made it one of the largest medieval cities of the time after Beijing. Touring the place should take you approximately an hour.

Located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River and in a spectacular enclave, stands the oldest (and main) temple of Hampi is the Sri Virupaksha adorned with sculptures that represent gods and other divine and celestial beings, in addition to a lot of erotic figures, related to fertility rites.

Cross the river Tungabhadra via boat and explore the mighty Virupaksha Temple, take a reserved auto which will take you to all the major ruins/monuments one by one and finally drop you back near Virupaksha Temple itself, half day booking (INR 500–1000).

Krishna Temple, Laxmi Narsimha temple, Badava Linga, Underground Shiva Temple, Hazari Rama Temple, Mahanavami Dibba with royal mint and secret Chambers, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable are the places you must visit with an eye to witness the glory of Vijayanagara Empire which despite being plundered by invaders still tells you a story.

By now you would be super tired, so take your lunch and relax for a while. Eat near to Virupaksha Temple in some fine eatery amidst those marrow lanes of Hampi Bazaar. Keep yourself hydrated all the time. It's gonna be hot during daytime. Take fluids, juices, coconut water and bananas at regular intervals.

2. Visit the Vijaya Vitthala Gudi

Vittala Temple is the symbol of Hampi. When you get to this area you have to walk about 2 km to reach the temples. If you do not want to walk there are some carts. One of the most striking elements within the Vijaya Vittala Temple complex is a sanctuary in the shape of a stone car (one of the three most famous in India) pulled by elephants and dedicated to Garuda.

Inside the temple, which stands out for its elegance and grandiosity are some curious musical pillars. They say that each of them emits a different rhythmic sound when hit with a sandalwood stick. Vijaya Vittala Temple will show you the pinnacle of art/architecture of Vijayanagara Empire and it is famous for its musical pillars.

Ask any local about it and they will show you the pillars. Then you have the stone chariot inspired by the Sun Temple of Konark in Odisha. Just on the backside of the temple, you have King's Balance and after it, there is a nearby temple on scenic riverfront. If you are hungry by now, grab something near the Entry complex (sugarcane juice and Coconut water should be your best buddies till you find some meals).

3. Watch the sunset from Matanga Hill

Sunsets here are a bliss. In the center of Hampi is Matanga Hill, the best place to watch the sunset. Achyutaraya Temple is one of the most imposing and striking. Visible from Matanga Hill and at the end of the street of the courtiers, the idol to which the temple is dedicated is Tiruvengalanatha.

Mahanavami Dibba is a ceremonial enclosure built by King Krishnadevaraya to commemorate the victory over Udaigiri.

4. Visit the Royal Enclosure

A visit and trail of the Royal Enclosure makes the ultimate Hampi tour complete. It is a region filled with military and court-related structures. Royal Center was Vijayanagara capital’s fortress. Presently, various zigzagging dirt pathways link up several enclosures and other structures in the location.

Mythology says Rama, Sita and Lakshamana spent rainy season at Malyavanta Hill. You need to reach the top of the hills and see the temple complex. It's time to witness a panoramic view like never before. Just climb few steps from the complex towards the outer hills. Foreigners do meditation sitting on these giant boulders with winds splashing their faces. You can also relax, feel the peace and reflect upon.

Spend the other half of your day retiring near your stay, roaming around on Hippie Island or something different or probably watching sunset all over again at same spot. It is very important to have flexibility in your trip.

5. Have a New Experience in the Lotus Mahal

One of the most different palaces in the entire Hampi complex is the Lotus Mahal. This building is located inside the Zenana Enclosure, used by women of royalty for recreational activities. Enjoy cool moments under the tree shades within the Lotus Mahal lawns and you can boost your imagination by paying a visit to the Queen's Bath.

All of Hampi's visitable ruins are scattered about 36 square kilometers, so it is essential to have some kind of vehicle to visit it completely. Discovering Hampi should be about more fun as you visit and explore the place especially without local tour guides. You can hire a bicycle or a moped and use it to explore Hampi because hiring a vehicle is a bad idea as you can experience overcharging depending on how you bargain.

Also, using a vehicle to explore limits the adventure. Again, Hampi is a small city where you can easily finish exploring it within a span of time. Consider hiring a bicycle from the local cyclists or vendors. You will find many of them requiring you to pay between 50-90 rupees daily. You can also use a hired moped that requires you to pay approximately 150 rupees each day. Explore the city!

6. Cycle around on a Bicycle to Hemakuta Hill

To the north of Sri Virupaksha is a hill with steps called Hemakuta Hill, an excellent place to glimpse all the ruins that are in this area and, if you can, see the sunrise or sunset. Wherever you are, by 5 pm, you should start moving towards Hemakuta Hills which is an easy climb beginning near to the Gopuram (temple gate) of Virupaksha Temple. It offers amazing sunset experience and panoramic view of Virupaksha Temple with Tungabhadra River in background. The largest temples, Sasivekalu Ganesha and Kadalekalu, are found on the side of the hill.

Post sunset, you need to return back to Hippie Island fast because the boat services reduce their frequency from temple side to Island. Retire at your stay, enjoy the hippie way of life, as in the way you would like to.

7. Relax in Pampa Sarovar

Apart from the serenity and remarkable attractions, Hampi is also home to amicable and hospitable people who would readily help you in every possible way. Being a solo backpacker, the cheap accommodations of the town will also excite you. Considered one of the five sacred lakes of India, Lake Pampa Sarovar is located south of the Tungabhadra River.

8. Go shopping at Hampi Bazaar

In front of the Virupaksha temple is a street with old pavilions on both sides of it. It is Hampi Bazaar. You can shop items for personal use at the Hampi bazaar that is next to the bus stand. The commodities being sold is like the Anjuna Flea Market in Goa as here also you can get fabrics and ornaments at the bazaar. You can also find some gold jewelers there.

If you wish to buy gold jewelry you can shop from there or even if you prefer diamond jewelry. In general, Hampi, until not long ago, was famous for the hippie stuff. However, lately, not too much shopping happens there. Still, you can consider visiting the place just for fun and have an experience.

It is not worth it to travel in a place and fail to consider knowing the type of foods that the local people offer to their visitors as they interact with them. Through the interactions and food consumption, as a visitor, you get to understand about their lifestyles, food habits and other ways of living. For instance, you can find time to converse with the roadside fruit juice sellers you would find across.

9. Watch Sunset from the Anjanadri Hill

Start towards the other side of the river on your scooty and take help from locals to get onto the scenic state highway with lush green paddu fields and so much peace. Move towards Anjanadri Hills and park your vehicle at the base. It is a 600 steps high Hill top but definitely worth it because of mythological reasons, divine ambience and amazingly unbelievable views from top.

There is another side of Hampi which is its association with Ramayana. Yes, you read right. The famous Kishkindha, Vanar Rajya (Monkey Kingdom) is believed to be here and even the birthplace of Hanuman at Anjanadri Hills is close by on the other side of island. If you have more time (and desire) you can make an excursion to the other side of the river, where there are several temples, although they are not as beautiful like the Hanuman Temple. You will have to climb 572 steps to get to the top but you will enjoy incredible views of Hampi.

Monkey temple is Hanuman’s birthplace and it is located on top of Anjaneyadri Hill. As a visitor in Hampi, you can watch the sun as it sets in the West from nearly everywhere whether you are climbing a top place or crossing the river to the either side of the town.

Watch the sunset from the Monkey temple’s view, which is located on Hampi’s other side. You have to pass the Tungabhadra River on a boat to shift to the other side. The place is ideal as you enjoy the tranquil instance while observing the sun going down past the horizon.

10. Meditate at Hippie Island

Alongside these monuments, Hampi is also famous for it's laid back hippie culture. Hippie Island is flocked mostly by foreigners who come here for longer period of time and let their hair down in peace. Very close is Lake Sanapur, with large stones of boulders scattered here and there and fields of rice fields in the valley. There is no place that matches Hampi in unique rustic beauty which is very different from other places.

One can go on a Coracle ride, monuments, temples, cafes filled with lots of hippies coming from different countries, amazing sunsets, all add up to a great experience. And all those who are yet to find love, then are guaranteed to meet beautiful people. On a romantic holiday to Hampi, a boat ride on Tungabhadra River is a test.

The outstanding lake with a breathtaking view is found approximately five kilometers away from Hippie Island. It is enclosed by giant boulders and rocks, apart from being less visited. While in Hampi, do not forget to visit the lakeside to relax and enjoy the cooling breeze. Also, you can take part in jumping over the cliffs as you enjoy the natural view.

Hampi is built near the river of Tungabhadra and it has a beautiful man made lake Sanapur where people can enjoy coracle rides. As well, you can ride on a coracle and the boatmen can only charge you approximately 100 rupees per a trip. What you have to do is just carry around an appropriate gear for the coracle ride.

Do not forget to explore Boulders. Bouldering in Hampi is an amazing activity which attract people from the world. Hampi is mind-blowing with the boulders and ruins of temples, chariots.

The grand old lost city of Hampi, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a backpackers paradise and Hippie haven. It attracts travelers not just from India, but from other countries as well like Israel. Accommodation options are available at Hospet, which is barely 12 kilometers from Hampi. The best way to reach Hampi is either by road or rail.

Do you know the best way to go Hampi is a train. You can catch the train to Hampi for the weekend!
Kalyan Panja