…. Rajesh Deshpande. Based upon my personal visit in October 2014.
Destination Type – Architecture. Trip Type – Leisure. Click here to view Photostream of Hampi
The abandoned ruins of Hampi lie scattered over a landscape that leaves one spellbound – craggy hills with giant boulders perch over 40 Sq. Kms. of undulating terrain crisscrossed by the Tungabhadra river, offset by palm trees, sugarcane and banana plantations, paddy fields and an azure sky donning white cirrus clouds rendering magical vistas. Hampi is a place to linger around and simply be mesmerized with the vagaries of nature which has resulted in to a fascinating landscape.
Hampi is a UNESCO world heritage site popular for the ruins of the Vijaynagar Empire which was at the pinnacle of glory during the 13th to 15th century CE. Hampi is situated at a distance of 13 Kms from the town of Hospet in Bellary district of the state of Karnataka, India.
Content of this page is focused on providing useful information to a prospective traveler wishing to explore Hampi. Even though there is ample information available in various books, websites and blogs about Hampi’s religious and historical past, the glorious past of Hampi deserves a brief mention here.
Hampi seems to have been in existence since ages. According to legend, today’s Hampi was Pampa Nagari in the Kruta Yuga, it was Kishkinda in the Treta Yuga of Ramayana and it was the Vijaynagar of the present Kali Yuga.
Vijaynagar was ruled by four dynasties – Sangama, Salva, Tuluva and Araveedu during the two centuries of its existence (13th to 15th century CE). The Sangama sons Hakka and Bukka established the Vijaynagar Empire at Hampi.
The most celebrated King of Vijaynagar Empire was Sri Krishnadevaraya who won many battles with the Moghuls and neighboring competing kingdoms. During his tenure of twenty years from 1509 CE to 1529 CE, Krishnadevaraya made Vijaynagar a powerful and wealthy empire expanding its borders deep in to Orissa.
After Krishnadevaraya’s death, the Bahamani sultans invaded Vijaynagar, looted and destroyed the temples and turned a magnificent kingdom in to ruins.
How to reach?
By Rail – From Mumbai, there are no direct trains to Hospet. There are two rail routes to reach Hampi, one is through Madgao in Goa and the other one through Hubli in Karnataka. Take any south bound train on the Konkan Railway to reach Madgao. From Madgao, take the Vasco Howrah Express to Hospet station. Alternatively, take a train from Mumbai or Pune to Hubli and take another train from Hubli to Hospet. There’s also a third route from Kolhapur. The Kolhapur – Hyderabad express starting from Kolhapur halts at Hospet. If travelling from Hyderabad this would be an ideal train to Hospet. From Bangalore, take the Hampi express which halts at Hospet. Irrespective of the choice of route, train travel is more time consuming and involves changing of trains. Check for train timings on www.irctc.co.in or www.erail.in Also note that many trains don’t run daily e.g. the Vasco Howrah express runs for only three days in a week. Keep a time cushion of three hours if changing trains at Madgao or Hubli.
By Road – From Mumbai and Pune, private operators like VRL Travels and SRS Travels operate regular buses to Hospet. It takes about 14 hrs. to cover a distance of about 725 Kms from Mumbai to Hospet. This is the best option to reach Hospet. Auto rickshaws are available from Hospet to Hampi, they typically charge Rs. 250/- one way. It takes about 30 mins. to reach Hampi from Hospet. If travelling in a private vehicle from Mumbai or Pune, drive along the NH4 up to Hubli and then along State Highway 63 up to Hospet.
By Air – Hubli is the nearest airport 151 Kms away. Check flight schedules and availability.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Hampi is from November to February. The climate is pleasant during this time of the year. Even though Hampi could be visited throughout the year, summers could be very hot. Monsoon is typically from June to August. The period from March to August is the lean period for tourism at Hampi.
From Hospet, there are two routes for reaching Hampi through the villages of Kaddirampura and Kamalapura. Hampi is a village crammed with budget lodges, shops and restaurants, all towered over by the majestic Virupaksha Temple is on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River. The ruins are divided into three main areas – the Sacred Centre, which is the area around Hampi Bazaar has many temples and bazaars; the Royal Centre which is towards Kamalapura village has ruins of the administrative seat of Vijaynagar Empire; the Outer areas of erstwhile Hampi are around Kamalapura village. Anegondi village is to the northeast across the Tungabhadra River.
Where to stay?
There are many lodges providing basic accommodation in and around Hampi bazaar. There are some hotels with backpacker type stay facilities across the Tungabhadra river in the Virupapura gadde area – such as the Hampi Boulder Resort, Mowgli Guest House and Jungle Tree Resort. KSTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuwaneshwari in Kamalapura provides decent stay and dining facilities. Kamalapura is strategically located, all major sites in Hampi are easily accessible from here. Don’t expect star facilities in any hotel in Hampi. Hospet town has some star rated hotels like The Hampi International hotel, Royal Orchid Kireeti Hotel, Shanbhag International and Vijayshree Resort. However, staying at Hospet may not turn out to be a good option for exploring Hampi.
Things to do
The purpose of visiting Hampi is to see the forlorn ruins of Vijaynagar. Although many of the temples, mandapas and bazaars were destroyed by the Moghuls, their ruins still offer imposing views and leaves one awestruck with the expanse and foresight of the Vijaynagar planners, sculptors and architects.
Many travel websites and tour operator’s present impressive itineraries of Hampi, Anegondi, Badami, Pattadakkal, Aihole and Bijapur as one single tour of 3 days. This is good if the tour objective is to just see these places and nothing more.
If the tour objective is to explore Hampi and Anegondi, indulge in to photography, linger around to see the temples and monuments in detail, understand the history, mythology and religious facts about Hampi, it is recommended to set aside three full days. Badami, Pattadakkal, Aihole could be a separate tour. It could be clubbed with Hampi only if 5 – 6 days could be set aside for an extended tour.
There are limited restaurants in Hampi serving full meals and refreshments. The restaurants get crowded with tourists on weekends and public holidays. The restaurant of KSTDC’s hotel Mayura Bhuwaneshwari at Kamalapura is open for non-resident guests. It could be an option if restaurants in Hampi get overcrowded. Do not have high expectations of delectable cuisine as the local fare is simple and variety is limited. The locals predominantly speak Kannada and some can also speak Tulu. English and Hindi is not spoken and understood by the locals except for few guides, shopkeepers, police and auto rickshaw drivers.
Tips for photography enthusiasts – The important monuments and temples in Hampi are oriented in the East-West direction hence 7 – 9 in the morning is the best time for photography. Many prominent Hampi monuments like the Ugra Narsimha, Badavalinga, Krishna Temple, Sasivekalu Ganesha, Kadalekalu Ganesha, Hemakuta Hill, Virupaksha Temple and Vijaya Vithala Temple are oriented in the East-West direction due to which sunlight directly fall on these monuments making an ideal setup for photography.
Getting around ….
Hampi and Anegondi can be explored thoroughly in three full days. The best way to explore Hampi is given here as a ready reference presuming that the stay is at KSTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari at Kamalapura for 2 nights and 3 days.
P.S. – Hampi is a large geography spanning about 40 Sq. Kms. Many websites and blogs suggest exploring Hampi on a rented bicycle, moped or a motorbike. This may not be a good idea for everyone. It is recommended to hire an auto rickshaw for full day sightseeing. The rickshaw drivers charge Rs. 800/- for a full day sightseeing of Hampi (from 9 AM to 6 PM). The drivers can also double up as guides. Engaging an auto rickshaw for 3 day sightseeing of Hampi and TB Dam and a drop at Hospet for return journey would cost around Rs. 2,800/-to Rs. 3,000/-
A road journey from Mumbai or Pune to Hampi takes about 14 hrs., so for example if someones begins the journey at 7 PM in the evening from Mumbai, he would reach Hampi at 9 AM on the next day. After some rest and lunch, the excursion of Hampi could begin from 3 PM. It would be a good idea to first explore the outer areas of Hampi around Kamalapura.
Start from the Kamalapura museum. The museum charges a nominal entry fee of Rs. 10/- per tourist which is also valid at the Vijaya Vithala Temple, Lotus Temple and the Virupaksha Temple. The museum has many sculptures of Hindu deities like Lakshmi Narsimha, Hanuman, Ram, Laxman, Sita and Shiva recovered by ASI (Archaeological Society of India) during the excavation of Hampi.
From the Kamalapura museum, proceed eastwards to see the Pattabhirama temple which is dedicated to Lord Ram. It has three Gopurams and two Mandapas spread over a vast area. It was built during the period of King Achyutaraya.
The next stop could be at the Ganagitthi Jain Temple and Bhima’s gate which is on the right side of the road from Kamalapura to Kampli. Bhima’s Gate was an entry point to the walled Vijaynagar Empire which stands in good condition even today. It has Bhima’s idol which is intact to this day.
A little ahead on the road to Kampli is a diversion with a sign board of the Vijaya Vithala Temple. Skip this for the moment and head on straight to the Malyavanta Hill. There is a tarred road to the top of the hill for bikes, cars and auto rickshaws. The Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple is atop the Malyavanta hill. This is one of the few ancient temples of Hampi where pooja and rituals are performed. Malyavanta hill is popular for witnessing a truly mesmerizing sunset, the sandstone boulders glitter when rays of the setting sun directly fall on them.
After witnessing an enthralling sunset it would be a good idea to return and relax at the hotel to get ready for the next day which would be packed with excitement.
Start early from Kamalapura to reach the parking area of the Vijaya Vithala temple by 8 AM. From the parking area, the Vijaya Vithala Temple is at a distance of 2 Kms. There are shared Golf Cars available from the parking area to the temple at a nominal cost of Rs. 20/- for a return trip per tourist. Entry fee to the temple is Rs. 10/- per tourist. The same ticket is valid for the Museum, Lotus Mahal and Virupaksha Temple.
It could be a good idea to walk the distance of 2 Kms and linger en-route at the Vithala Bazaar called as Pushkarni. The Vithala temple gates are opened at 8:30 AM. For amazing photography of the stone chariot, sangeet mandapa and kalyana mandapa in the temple precincts, be the first one to get in before the crowds come in the way of a good frame.
A mud road besides the Vithala temple leads to the King’s balance on the backside of Vithala temple and further down to the Purandardasa Mandapa on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. This is a must visit place to see a magical landscape and sights of the pillars of an ancient bridge over the Tungabhadra river. Diagonally on the opposite side of the Tungabhadra River is the Anjanadri Hill situated in the Anegondi village which has the temple of Hanuman. The hill has about 500 steps leading to the temple.
A detail exploration of this site requires about four hours. After seeing the Vijaya Vithala temple, return to hotel at Kamalapura for lunch. Post lunch and a little rest proceed to see the Royal center which is about 2 Kms from Kamalapura. Start at around 3 PM. First site to see would be the Chandrashekhara temple, Saraswati temple and the Octagonal bath. From here proceed to see Queens Bath and the Royal Centre which has ruins of many buildings and platforms like the Mahanavami Dibba, Stepped Well, Underground Chamber, Mint, Watch Tower and King’s Audience Hall. A little ahead from here is the Hazara Rama Temple and further ahead is the Zenana Enclosure which has the Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Tenali Rama pavilion and basement of Queen’s palace.
Exploring the Royal center in detail and at leisure requires four hours. It would be end of day by now. Return to hotel, rest well for an exciting next day.
Start at 8 AM from Kamalapura and head on straight to the Sacred Centre of Hampi to see the Ugra Narsimha sculpture and the Badava linga (a giant Shiv linga) besides it. Next to see are the Krishna temple and the Krishna bazaar. Move on to see the Sasivekalu Ganesha and the Kadalekalu Ganesha temples. A well carved path besides the Kadalekalu Ganesha temple leads to the Hemakuta hill which has many temples and shrines. The path from Hemakuta hill leads downhill to the magnificent Virupaksha temple which is an important religious place of worship and the chief attraction of Hampi. Explore the Virupaksha temple and the Manmattha pond besides it. Take advantage of the morning sunlight falling directly on the temples for some splendid photography.
From the Virupaksha temple, take the straight road through Hampi Bazaar to the Monolithic Bull (also known as Akhandashile Basavanna). A small diversion to the left before the mud road to the monolithic bull pavillion leads to the banks of Tungabhadra River. Walk ahead to see the Chakra Tirtha and the Rushyamooka hill (on the opposite bank of the Tungabhadra). Visit the Yantroddaraka Hanuman temple and the Kodandarama temple which are worshiped by the locals. A mud path from here leads to the Achhutraya Temple, Achhutraya bazaar and further to the Veerbhadra temple.
The entire Sacred center can be seen in 4 hours before breaking off for lunch at Hampi Bazaar. There’s nothing much to see at Anegondi except for the Anjanadri Hill, Pampa Sarovar and Gaganmahal palace. This can be visited if time permits and if the coracle ferry is available. The coracle ferries are suspended if the water level in the Tungabhadra river rise due to the TB Dam releasing water in to the river. Since there’s no bridge over the Tungabhadra river at Hampi, the only road to reach Anegondi is through Hospet which is 60 kms long one way. The Tungabhadra Dam and Gardens offer imposing views and deserves higher preference over Anegondi.
If the choice is to skip Anegondi and proceed to see the Tungabhadra (TB) Dam, start at around 2:30 PM after lunch. It takes almost an hour to reach the dam from Hampi. En-route it’s a good idea to stop at the Kamalapura lake for taking some good pictures of this placid lake. Tungabhadra Dam is 4 Kms from Hospet. After seeing the dam return to Hospet for boarding a bus for return journey to Mumbai or Pune or to board a train for return journey.
Tips for alternate routes to explore Hampi
Alternate way to reach Vithala temple from Virupaksha temple
A coracle ferry from the Chakra Tirtha through the Tungabhadra River 2 Kms downstream leads to the Vithala Temple. There’s also a mud road from the Yantroddaraka Hanuman temple and the Achhutraya temples to the Vithala temple. However this road is not recommended as there are large boulders in the way.
A coracle ferry from the Vithala temple to the opposite bank of the Tungabhadra River could be taken to reach Anegondi. The ferry service could be suspended in the TB dam releases water in the river, check this in advance. By road, Anegondi is about 60 Kms one way from Hampi via Hospet. There’s no bridge over the Tungabhadra River at Hampi.
What to eat?
There nothing special to eat at Hampi. Local fare of Idli, Vada, Sambhar, Upma, Curd Rice and Ghee Rice is readily available in the restaurants. Few exceptions like the restaurant of Mowgli Guest House at Virupapura Gaddi serve Italian and Israeli cuisine in addition to the local cuisine. Some of the popular restaurants in Hampi are Mango Tree, New Shanthi, Gopi Rooftop and Durga Huts. These restaurants are multicuisine and serve North Indian cuisine along with local fare. Some also serve Italian.
Shopping at Hampi
There’s nothing to shop at Hampi except some stone artifacts and souvenirs.