Hampi – the land of the last super power of the Deccan region in the Indian peninsula, the Vijayanagar Empire.
This mythical landscape, littered with huge granite boulders balanced precariously on top of each other bound by mythology and history. Bisected by the Tungabhadra and ancient irrigation canals that create a sliver of blue and green across the rugged terrain, this is a land imbued with the presence of gods, goddesses and heroes. Scattered among this is the ruins of a once magnificent city. Described as the ‘the best provided city in the world’ the ruins of Hampi is a destination in itself. One that the discerning traveler will relish exploring one leaf at a time.
This erstwhile capital of the massive empire is a true architectural marvel and a backpacker’s haven.
Here I highlight the famous sites of the kingdom and unravel the infamous ‘Hippie Island’.
Hospet is the nearest railhead/bus-stand to Hampi, I took an overnight bus ride from Bangalore.
Hampi is jam-packed with truly incredible sites and you could easily spend a week or more travelling around this village and only manage to see half of them. Hire a two-wheeler (150RS a day) and explore away. A few of my favourite places to visit are…
Virupaksha Temple – This is the oldest temple in Hampi. Virupaksha means ‘the one with the oblique eye’. Lord Shiva who is said to have three eyes is the principle deity of this temple. This temple also has the iconic broken rock chariot. I would suggest wake up early and visit the temple so you can walk or cycle back through the Hampi village and soak in the early morning rural feel of the place. You could also sit in on one of the ceremonies at the temple.
Explore the Anjaneya Temple/ Monkey Temple – Hampi has special importance for the worshippers of Hanuman (the monkey God). You can see plenty of colourful carvings of Hanuman all around the site. The vibe of the temple is crazy!
Chill at the Lotus Mahal – This is a pleasant deviation from the typical architecture you see in Hampi. Shaped like a lotus, this was where the women folk of the royal family chilled.
Swim at the Dam – Though there are signs hung all around the Hampi dam, warning tourists of the crocodiles in the water, there are actually none. But just to be safe it’s better to ask the locals before you dive in. You can go for a nice peaceful swim in the dam, the water is beautiful and clear. You could also go for a coracle ride. Make sure to ask the coracle guy to point out nice spots for a swim and for cliff jumping.
Check out the Elephant stables – This is one of the few well preserved structures in Hampi. The Elephant Stable is a major tourist attraction so expect a ton of camera-happy tourists to be milling around. The row of chambers was used to house the royal elephants that were used for royal processions back in the day. The stables are huge and well worth exploring…
Watch sunset at the hilltop – It’s impossible NOT to catch an epic sunset when you are in Hampi. Every day on the top of the ‘Sunset Hill’, backpackers get together to catch the sunset and play some chill tunes on their guitars. More often than not local children who sell tea at the spot join them and sing along. It’s a fun experience. If you want something a bit more peaceful, simply stake out a spot on one of Hampi’s many boulders and enjoy the sunset by yourself.
Bouldering in Hampi
Hampi used to be a bouldering mecca only for those in the know but not anymore. Hampi has exploded in popularity amongst climbers and many travel to India specifically to check out Hampi. Make sure to take an experienced climber with you if you are new to this since Hampi rocks can be pretty tricky. November and December is the best time of the year for bouldering in Hampi. It’s better to avoid the rainy season. Make sure you have the right gear before you venture out. You can usually hire bouldering mats from your guesthouse and go climbing on the amazing piles of rocks littering the area.
Hampi is an ideal weekend get-away or a a place where one could spend a couple of weeks to lose and find themselves spiritually. These cafe`s are fun and a great place to meet fellow travelers.
Until next time, Thank you Hampi.
PS. who’s got bigger boulders, Hampi or RJ? take your time on that .. 😉