I don’t want to over do this post with lots of knowledge, but frankly speaking, if I don’t say little history, then it would be an injustice to Hampi, to our history, to the travelers who are thinking to visit the place soon. Something is thrilling about Hampi which hard to describe in few words and that’s why this place very much on the backpacker trail in India.
For me telling a history of a great city is the most difficult task, so I take you through a very brief history but mostly from my understanding.
Hampi – history in the air:
Hampi has a lot of rich history from Epic Ramayana to Vijayanagara founder king Haritha (1336-56) and king Bukkaraya (1356-77) to the Great king Krishnadevaraya (1509-29). It was the capital of the Vijayanagara empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom. Anybody from South India would have grown up hearing stories of Vijayanagara and its most famous king Krishnadevaraya. Hampi in its peak was also at one point, one of the richest cities in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site in India.
Hampi is divided by the river Tungabhadra in two parts, one side the Virupapur Gaddi or Hampi Island, also known as Hippy Island. And the other side has all the ruins, heritage places and bazaar. All the major ruins are located around the Hampi Bazaar side.
Travellers note for budget travel:
- There are no ATM in the main city, it is either 4 km or 12 km away, depending on which side of the river you are. (NOTE: Please carry CASH!!)
- No alcohol shop
- The Hampi bazaar side area has mostly vegetarian restaurants (9:30 PM closed).
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- Peaceful place; away from the chaos of city life. Forget 4G or 3G, most areas barely have any phone network.
- It’s just an overnight journey from Mumbai/Bangalore/Hyderabad.
- Hampi is probably the best destination in South India for a ‘weekend backpacking experience’.
- For the open-air restaurants, replete with travelers, where you can sit for however long you want.
How to reach Hampi?
- There are a lot of buses from Mumbai to Hospet and it costs approx Rs 1200 to 1500 for a 14 hour journey.
- You can come to Goa / Bangalore / or Hyderabad to Hampi or Hospet and it cost approx. 500 – 600/- for 8 hours journey.
- If you’re getting down at Hospet, then you can take a local bus from Hospet to Hampi, which is at a frequency of every 15 minutes and costs around Rs 15/-.
- A rickshaw from Hospet to Hampi will cost you Rs 300. If possible you can share your auto with other tourists as well, as I did.
- Hospet is the nearest railway station from Hampi (about 12km).
- Nearest airport is Bellary (60km). The nearest international airport is Bangalore, which is about 350 km far. From both the airport car and taxi services are available.
Where to stay?
There will be two options for accommodation, Hampi Bazaar side. Accommodation will be very easy to get here. The locals have converted their homes into dormitories and lodges. So you will find a number of options to choose from depending on your budget. Approx. room rent 400 to 1200 rupees per day.
While there are a lot of guest houses near Hampi Bazaar, but I stayed at the Netra guest house. This area is very busy during the morning because of the bazaar, the Virupaksha temple and the tourists. But after sunset this place becomes very peaceful and the other side of the river becomes very happening.
Virupapur Gaddi (Hampi Island)
It’s truly a backpacker’s experience. ‘Hippie Island’ is the nickname of the tiny island which is across the river, also known as Virupapur Gaddi. This is not the place for you if you prefer luxury. Most guest houses here have open-air dining areas, with music being played in the background. You can sit there for however long you want, and do whatever you want – eat, drink, smoke, chill or play cards. Here Room rents are in between rupees 500 -800 approx. Some of guest house play movies as well on a projector. It is THE PLACE to meet new people and make new friends.
To reach Hampi Island, you need to cross the river. Try the coracle ride instead of the normal boats. It’s a great experience, the boat ride cost 30 rupees and the last boat ride are at 5:30 pm, so plan your travel schedule accordingly. After 5:30 pm the surges really become high, like coracle boat INR 200 person.
Recently many homestays, guest houses got closed for political reasons.
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Hospet is a decent town, so if you are looking for some other stuff other than visiting the monuments and food, Hospet is the place you should think of. There is a lot of luxury hotel and resort.
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Getting around in Hampi
If you’re a solo traveler, or if you’re going with a group of youngsters, then biking or cycling is the best way to explore Hampi. A Bike can be rented for Rs 300 per day and cycle 100 per day.
You’ll come across rickshaw-drivers speaking fluent English/Hindi some of them know Russian as well. They’ll offer to take you around Hampi for an entire day. They charge Rs 800-1000 per day and they’ll show you all of the major attractions.
I have booked an auto for my Hampi tour. Mehboob was my guide, auto driver and sometimes photographer too. If anyone wants to get his services, then you can contact him at this number 8277350734. The number is given with his consent.
Things to see in Hampi
Most tourist attractions in Hampi close by 5:30pm. Plan your schedule in such a way that you check out the monuments during the day, and cross the river to go to the other side of the island after sunset. The below list has all the places you could visit when you go to Hampi, and these are a must-visit.
Virupaksha Temple – The first thing you’ll see as soon as you enter Hampi.
Krishna temple and Krishna bazaar
Zanana Enclosure (The compound for royal females, which would have been inaccessible for laymen in those times)
Vittala Temple and Stone Chariot–
Vittala temple is known for musical pillars, which produce a sound when tapped on the top side. Don’t miss that.
King’ s Balance
Matanga Hills – Best place in Hampi for sunrise view. You need to climb approx 500 steps to get there.
Hanuman Temple(Monkey temple)
Hajara Rama Temple
Mahanavami Dibba – You have to climb more than 50 stairs to get to the top, and it’s an amazing view. It was quite windy when I reached at the top. Perfect place to meditate .
Laxmi the elephant
Laxmi is the elephant of Virupaksha temple is quite famous and you can find Laxmi taking bath in the Tungabhadra riverfront early morning around 8 o’clock. She is a friendly elephant and you can touch her, give her a bath if you like. Tourists click pictures with her and she is quite used to people. Generally, I don’t like animals to be chained. But here, it’s a tradition, and Laxmi has taken under good care.
A must visit
Hampi has a lot to offer for travelers, backpackers, history buffs & worshipers. Whether you’re going solo or in a group; you cycle, trek, swim or do rock climbing; you want to just sit and chill; Hampi has something in store for everyone. And all this is amidst the deserted ruins of a five hundred year old empire! If you just take a purposeless walk, I bet you will find places never anywhere mentioned. So pack your bags and go Hampi!