Hampi used to be one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. At its peak, it was the richest state in India with marvellous temples, trading markets and massive fortifications.
During 1565, this city was destroyed and looted of its wealth by the Deccan muslim rulers leading to the fall of the Vijayanagara empire.
What remains today is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s largest open-air museum.
The entire landscape of Hampi is dotted with huge boulders and archaeological ruins with a rich history behind it. You are bound to feel intrigued and curious as soon as you land in Hampi.
In this guide, I give you a list of some of the best places to visit in Hampi that will transport you back in time and make you come back for more.
10 best places to visit in Hampi
Virupaksha temple is the most popular temple in Hampi. Said to be built in the 7th century AD, this temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the oldest functioning temples in India.
It is a huge complex overlooking the Tungabhadra river and comprises two gopurams (temple towers), one at the entrance and one at the back.
The architecture and the history of this place is what makes it special. You need to have a guide to be able to fully understand the rich history behind this temple.
Prayers are still held a couple of times a day and you can even receive blessings from an elephant inside this temple.
Try to come early in the morning because this place is usually crowded.
Vijaya Vittala Temple
Vijaya Vittala temple is another popular tourist attraction that is 2.5 kms away by walk from the Virupaksha temple. It was built in the 15th century AD and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
There is a large gopuram (temple tower) at the entrance of this complex and a stone chariot in the middle flanked by small temples across the complex. The stone chariot is depicted on the INR 10 note.
Another attraction of this place is the musical pillars. You can create music by tapping your hands on the musical pillars.
There are beautiful inscriptions and carvings on this temple that tells the tale of a bygone era. It is therefore important to have a guide with you to understand the story behind this temple.
Being another popular tourist spot, it is better to visit this place early in the morning to avoid crowds.
A trip to Hampi is incomplete without watching a beautiful sunrise/sunset from the top of Matanga hill.
Matanga hill is located near the Hampi Bazaar. You need to trek to the roof of Veerabhadra temple which is located on top of the hill.
You can climb the hill from different directions and reach the top within half an hour depending on your fitness. Keep in mind that you will be climbing boulders and there will be uneven steps on the way to the top.
It is the highest point in Hampi from where you get a panoramic view of the ruins of Hampi and its surroundings. You will forget the pains of climbing this hill once you experience the views from here.
Hanuman Temple (Anjaneya Hill)
Much like Matanga Hill, this is another spot famous for its sunrise/sunset views. Hanuman temple is located on top of this hill and it attracts a lot of pilgrims due to it being considered as a birthplace of Lord Hanuman.
You would need to climb close to 600 steps to reach the top. But the entire effort will be worth it once you reach the top because you get a bird’s eye view of Hampi and its ruins. From the top, you can see lush green paddy fields, the Tungabhadra river and both the Virupaksha and Vijaya Vittala temples.
Anjaneya hill is located at a distance of 2 kms from Virupaksha temple. To reach here, you have to cross the Tungabhadra river by boat or cross over to Hippie Island by road.
Beware of your belongings as this temple is host to a lot of monkeys.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple and Badavilinga Temple
Within 1 km of the Hampi Bus Stand lies the statue of Lakshmi Narasimha. Built during the 15th century AD, this beautifully sculpted statue is the largest monolith statue in Hampi.
Lord Narasimha, who is one of the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu, is depicted as a half man and half lion sitting in a cross-legged position.
The Badavalinga temple is located right next to the Lakshmi Narasimha temple. This is another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It is a lingam carved out of a single black stone inside a closed chamber. It is submerged in water courtesy of a water canal and there is an opening at the top that lets in the natural light.
Royal Palace Enclosure
The Royal enclosure was the heart of the Vijayanagara empire. The royal family used to reside here.
The Royal Enclosure used to house several palace bases, water tanks, temples, canals, etc. that are in ruins today.
Some of the important places in this enclosure are:
Hazara Rama Temple
It is a temple dedicated to Lord Rama situated in the center of the Royal Enclosure. The carvings on the walls of this temple depict the story of Ramayana.
Mahanavami Dibba/Dasara Dibba
It was a three-tiered stone platform erected for the king to celebrate the festival of Dussehra.
You can get a good view of the other ruins from here.
Stepped tank was a sacred place for the royals. They used to take baths here before visiting any religious place.
The architecture of this place is a sight to behold. It is symmetrical in shape and the steps are made in a way such that water flows naturally to the bottom of the tank.
Durbar Hall/King’s Audience Hall
It was a building primarily used to serve the King. The king used to meet his subjects and address their grievances here.
The Zenana Enclosure was a private area reserved for the royal ladies of the Vijayanagara empire. Some of the attractions in this enclosure are:
These towers were used to keep an eye out for any intruders.
Lotus Palace is a two-storied architectural marvel that resembles the shape of a lotus in bloom from the top. It was a secluded area designated for the royal women of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Apparently, it used to have channels of water running through the arches of the palace meant to keep the queens cool during the hot summers.
Close to the Lotus Palace is the Elephant’s Stables. The Elephant’s Stables were used to provide shelter to the royal elephants of the Vijayanagara empire.
There are eleven dome-shaped chambers that were once used to house the elephants. There is an open area in front of the building that was used for elephant parades.
The Queen’s bath is close to the Royal Enclosure. It is a rectangular-shaped building with a pool in the middle with an open-air ceiling. It is built around a water canal with a garden in the front.
It was said to be used as a bathing place for the queens of the Vijayanagara empire.
This is a must-visit place if you would like to delve deeper into the history of Hampi.
The museum houses four different galleries each pertaining to different aspects of Hampi.
You can find a number of artefacts here like sculptures of deities, paintings, ancient coins, armoury and photos of Hampi during excavation.
Watch out for the miniature model of the entire geography of Hampi.
Kadalekalu Ganesha and Sasivekalu Ganesha
The Kadalekalu Ganesha temple is located on the Hemakuta hill which is close to the Virupaksha temple.
The temple houses a 15 feet monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha supposed to be one of the largest in the world. The belly of Ganesha looks like Kadalekalu (Bengal gram), hence the name.
This temple was believed to be meant for the King and his guests.
The Sasivekalu Ganesha temple is close to 300 metres from the Kadalekalu Ganesha temple. The statue of Ganesha here is almost half the size of the one found at the other place.
It’s name is inspired from the resemblance between Ganesha’s belly and a mustard seed known locally as Sasivekalu.
This temple was believed to be meant for the public.
Best things to do in Hampi
The beautiful thing about Hampi is that it is not limited to its rich history and its architectural ruins. As a traveller, there are other things that you can indulge in that will make your Hampi experience more immersive.
Here are the top things to do in Hampi when you are done visiting the ruins:
Explore Hippie Island, Hampi
In what is a complete contrast to the ruins and heritages of Hampi, Hippie Island is a small island across the Tungabhadra river with a very laid back and chilled-out vibe. You can expect more foreigners here than Indians during the peak season
Hippie Island, known officially as Virupapur Gadde, can be accessed by boat from Hampi. It takes only 5-10 minutes by boat and the rates are reasonable. The boating service is available only till 5:30 pm after which it might become difficult and costlier to get a boat.
You have the option of accessing Hippie Island by road but keep in mind that it takes close to 45 minutes to reach here.
Hippie Island runs across the Tungabhadra river and is characterised by paddy fields and coconut trees. There are lots of homestays, restaurants and shops of various kinds to keep you occupied.
You can shop for clothes, ornaments, get massages, indulge in yoga and play music among others.
Coracle ride in the Tungabhadra river
Coracle is a round boat made with bamboo strips. It can carry 6-8 people at a time and has been around since the time of the Vijayanagara empire.
The ride through this boat is pretty scenic. You will get to see temples and caves during the ride. It typically lasts for less than an hour. Try to bargain because the rates quoted by the boat owners are usually high.
The best time to do this will be during sunrise and sunset.
Bouldering in Hampi
If you love outdoor adventures, this one’s for you! Bouldering is one of the most popular sports in Hampi.
There are shops in Hippie Island run by professional people that help you climb boulders with proper gear. You don’t need to be an expert to indulge in this sport as anyone can do this.
You can check out the Tom and Jerry climbing shop, now known as Golden Boulders, located close to the entrance of Hippie Island.
Cliff jumping is one of the best ways to cool off after visiting the ruins. You can find multiple locations at Sanapur lake from where you can take a dive into the water.
Make sure that the level of water is high enough and that you know swimming. You can ask the locals for the diving spots and it is preferable to do it in a place where people are already diving.
Stroll at Hampi Bazaar
Hampi Bazaar is a marketplace that is flanked on one side by the Virupaksha temple and on the other side by Matanga Hill. It is a one kilometre long stretch and has pavilions on both sides of the street.
It used to be the main market during the Vijayanagar empire where merchants used to sell jewellery, ornaments, precious stones, horses, etc. Take a walk through these ruins to be reminded of its rich history.
How to travel in Hampi
The best way to travel around Hampi is by hiring a two-wheeler. You can rent a scooter at Kamalapura or Hampi Bazaar. You can also enquire at the place you are staying for a scooty.
You can hire autos/taxis to take you around Hampi as well. There are no fixed rates so you would need to bargain with the driver.
At Hippie Island, hiring two-wheelers is the most common practice and it is available almost everywhere.
How to reach Hampi
There is no direct connectivity to Hampi. You would need to get down at Hospet (which is at a distance of 13 kms from Hampi) if you are coming by public transport.
You can find public buses that travel from Hospet to Hampi frequently. You also have the option of hiring an auto.
Hospet is the nearest railway station to Hampi. There are quite a few trains to Hospet.
There are frequent trains from Bangalore to Hospet every week. Hampi Express is the most convenient option for you if you are travelling from Bangalore to Hampi since you arrive at Hospet in the morning.
Similarly you can find trains from Goa, Hyderabad and Chennai as well.
Hospet is well-connected to different towns and cities in Karnataka by both public and private buses. You can also find inter-state buses from Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra as well.
The nearest airport is Bellary which is about 75 kms away from Hospet. If you are coming from a distant state, the best option would be to take a flight to Bangalore and take the Hampi Express from Bangalore at night.
Places to stay in Hampi
Homestays in Hampi
Although this place is a bit far away from the main centres of Hampi, you will still enjoy your peaceful stay here. The hosts are friendly and will help you sort out your travel plans.
There are no restaurants available nearby but you can always have their home-cooked food. And their breakfasts are complimentary. They have a separate kitchen in case you would like to cook something on your own.
They have an open terrace from where you can get great views of the surroundings.
It is located in a village near the major tourist attractions with great surroundings. They have a terrace from where you can get scenic views of the village.
The host is helpful and they provide delicious home-cooked food. They will also help you with your travel plans.
Rooms are clean and spacious.
The host is very hospitable and goes out of their way to help you. You get delicious home-cooked food as well.
The homestay is at a peaceful location. It is near to the main tourist attractions of Hampi.
Hostels in Hampi
They are located at Hippie Island so you would need to cross the Tungabhadra river or come by road from Hampi to reach here. They will also pick you up from Hampi at an additional cost.
They have mixed dorms apart from private rooms. They can help you with renting a scooty as well.
The views from the property are scenic and you will get good home-cooked food here.
It is located in Hippie Island close to Sanapur lake. The location of this homestay is beautiful as it is nearby a lake and paddy fields
The host is very helpful and will pick you up from Hampi if you want. You can rent scooters here as well.
The ambience of this place is very laid back and they provide good food at reasonable rates at their restaurant.
Restaurants in Hampi
Mango Tree Restaurant
If I had to suggest only one restaurant in Hampi, this would be it. You will end up having food from her multiple times because the quality of the food is just too good here.
They have a variety of cuisines including Italian, European, Israeli, Chinese and Asian.
Mango lassi is a must-have here.
Note: You will find a lot of restaurants in Hampi especially in Hippie Island that have good reviews online but from personal experience, the quality of the food that you get at most of these restaurants belies their online ratings.
Best time to visit Hampi
Hampi has a very hot and dry weather in general. November to February is usually cool. But even then, during the daytime, the weather is hot. The next section covers how to beat the heat.
Travel tips for Hampi
- As you will be walking around Hampi from one place to another under the harsh sun, it is imperative to carry a hat to protect your head and a sunscreen to protect your skin.
- Make sure to hydrate yourself regularly as you will get tired easily.
- Avoid cotton clothes and wear active and breathable clothes so as to avoid getting drenched in your sweat.
- Wear sports shoes to walk around comfortably as you will need a good grip when climbing boulders and rocks.
It is highly recommended to hire a travel guide while visiting the ruins of Hampi. They can tell you the story behind a place and give you some context. You can hire guides from the tourism office at Virupaksha temple or enquire at the place you are staying.
And that’s a wrap! I hope you found this extensive guide on the best places to visit in Hampi useful.
If you have any questions or suggestions, do let me know in the comments! And if you want more of such travel guides for Karnataka, you can read my guide on the best places to visit in Chikmagalur.