Hampi, Karnataka - The land of ruins and boulders
"If dreams were made out of stones, they would be called Hampi"
Hampi is an ancient village located on the banks of River Tungabhadra in the northern Karnataka region of India. Hampi is recognised by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites in India. Located exactly between cities of Bangalore & Hyderabad, it is frequented by tourists from both these cities as well as people from nearby localities and not to forget the plethora of foreigners. While foreigners come here for extended stays spanning a month or two, Hampi is a perfect weekend destination for tourists from Bengaluru or Hyderabad. Historical monuments, ruins and temples amuse the families and the old, foreign cuisines and a chilled aura enthuse the group of friends and the young while the stone hills and paddy landscapes amaze every visitor travelling to Hampi. In this travelogue, we take you through our long weekend trip to Hampi detailing various places to visit as well as our experience at one of the luxury resorts here.
Hyderabad to Hampi:
We travelled to Hampi on a late-night bus from Hyderabad. It takes about 8 hours to reach Hospet, the closest town near Hampi. Hampi is about 30 minutes from Hospet. Hampi can also be reached by taking an overnight train from Hyderabad to Hospet. You can book the train from IRCTC website.
Hospet to Hampi:
On reaching Hospet early in the morning we took a state-run bus to Hampi. Ride to Hampi was wonderful with an amazing view of paddy fields and sugarcane farms with the ruins and excavations seen every half a kilometre. We also happened to see the beautiful sunrise from the bus. The river named Tungabhadra runs through the small village of Hampi splitting it into two as if separating two areas which are a world apart. As we were in Hampi for 2 nights, we had booked our stay on different sides of the river each night. Our first night stay was on the other side of the river. We got down the bus, walked towards the magnificent Virupaksha temple and the Hampi market and took a ferry which operated right in front of the temple to the other side. Being early morning, it felt cold; but we were surprised to see pilgrimages bathing in the ice-cold river water. We also saw a huge elephant being bathed by its mahout. A huge crowd stood against the banks to see the elephant display its art of completely putting its head into the water with just its trunk out to breathe. We also spotted many wonderful birds while crossing the river.
Once on the other side, our hotel was just walking distance. On our march towards the hotel, we rented a scooter to roam about and visit places on that side. The rented two-wheeler are available only on the other side of the river. This side of the river is completely beyond the imagination. It is easy to forget that we are in India as there are a string of guest houses, hotels, shops lined up filled with foreigners. This side of the river has a hippie culture and people from all around the world flock here round the year. In fact, you will be able to find all sorts of cuisines here except Indian cuisines! No parathas or even Idli - Dosas which is really surprising for any place in South India. Hampi seems to be a popular stop for them after landing at Goa. Our hotel was just very basic. The rooms were small but just enough to accommodate a double bed and a mosquito net. The attached bath was clean. Apart from a chair and a mirror there was no other furniture in the room. But we didn’t care as the room was just to spend the night and the whole day we will be out visiting places. We quickly freshened up and had breakfast in the restaurant. I ordered just a sandwich as I wasn’t very hungry but there came a heavy double-decker big loaves of bread filled with different vegetables with a lot of cheese and mayonnaise. I somehow managed to eat slightly more than half of it after which my husband helped me finish it. We were also accompanied by a cute cat sitting near us as if she was our pet. After the heavy breakfast and some cat pics, we left for our first place to visit – Sanapur Lake.
I was just too thrilled to ride a scooter after a very long time. In the maps, the Sanapur lake seemed to be really small but in reality, it was a huge water body with ferryman offering small rides in their coracle boats. Not sure how many people visiting Hampi visit Sanapur lake, but we would highly recommend it for a beautiful, peaceful time. We started with our basic photography session here.
Sri Krishnadevaraya tomb in Anegundi:
Our next place of visit was Sri Krishnadevaraya tomb in Anegundi. Now, due to a 3-day holiday in schools and colleges, a lot of crowd had emerged to Hampi from nearby places and Anegundi was so full of crowd that we returned back just from outside. We instead decided to go to Durga temple which was not very far from there.
Durga temple in Anegundi:
The Durga temple is located in the centre of Anegundi village. The steps were easy to climb and we found a lot of guides following us to guide us through the place. We didn’t hire any as we are not so much into history or even mythology. After climbing about 50-70 steps we reached a big temple which we did not enter because of a lot of crowd. On further climbing, we reached another small temple where we did our prayers. Outside the temple, we sat for a while on a podium under a huge tree. For you to know, Hampi gets really hot in the afternoon probably because it is surrounded all over by rocks. The afternoon heat now started bothering us. We decided to climb down the hill and look for a good cool place to spend some time until the sun starts setting.
On our drive back to the plains, we spotted a nice cosy restaurant on the banks of the Tungabhadra. It was an open restaurant with the climbers and creepers as a ceiling and no walls. A few pillars supported the climbing vines that grew voraciously all over the wired thread like supports over the pillars. The cool breeze from the river kept the place nicely ventilated. The cemented floor was divided into equal spaces where small mattresses were placed with a low lying cemented table between each mattress. We selected a shady end of the setting and occupied one mattress each with a table in between. Our first order was cold-drinks as we were too thirsty facing the heatwave on our ride. After having light snacks I fell asleep on the soft mattress. Everything about the place was very peaceful. After spending more than an hour there, we decided to start climbing the Hanumanahalli hill which is a very famous tourist spot to view the sunset. But my husband was not very convinced with the idea as there were just too many tourists over the weekend and we knew that the entire crowd would go there. Hence, we dropped the idea and headed out on our bike to discover our own private sunset point.
We drove towards the Tungabhadra dam crossing the Sanapur Lake in between. The road was surrounded by paddy fields and small hills all over. After a good search and taking too many small roads, we found a perfect spot- a huge area of low lying rocks. We walked to the highest point and all we could see all around was paddy fields. The place was empty, full of greenery with the sun setting on one side and the birds flying back to their nests. We witnessed the best sunset in this beautiful place. Soon after the sunset, we drove back towards our guest house returning the vehicle first. We strolled through the lively market selling all sorts of colourful things from imitation jewellery to lifestyle products. We had a light dinner in the restaurant attached to our guest house and were too tired that it didn’t take time to fall asleep.
The next morning, I woke up late. Meanwhile, my husband went to the river bank to see the sunrise. He returned with some amazingly beautiful photographs of the paddy fields, the birds and the river. We checked out and had a quick breakfast in a restaurant surrounded by paddy fields. We then walked towards the river to get to the other side. We soon took a ferry to the other side and visited the Virupaksha temple. There we enquired about the cycle tour and decided to give it a try the next day as the sun was already up and it had started getting hot. We roamed about in the Hampi bazaar enquiring for cycle rentals. Unlike the side where we were a day back, this side of the town prohibited bike rentals. Hence, the only option we had to visit places was either autos which were heavily charged or a bicycle. We decided to go with the second option as it sounded adventurous.
Photographing in the Hampi bazaar was a joy with all sorts of creative handicrafts all around. We discovered Mango tree - this is a restaurant we had read about a lot and it is rated as the most happening and best restaurant in Hampi. I decided to give it a try as it got very hot outside and I had already started getting hunger cramps. So within seconds, we were inside the restaurant ordering lunch. We had again selected to sit on the ground on the mattresses and time just passed listening to Russian music till our food arrived. After a fulfilling lunch, we headed towards the bus stand to get to our resort which was in a village named Malpangudi towards Hospet.
Though the resort was a bit expensive, we had got an amazing steal through online deals and hence we decided to try it out. Getting down the bus, we walked towards our grand resort. It was spread across a huge expanse with some 40 cottages nestled among 60000 plantations. The owner has planned this resort around the philosophy of Pancha Bhoota - the five elements comprising earth, fire, wind, water and sky. The reception was beautifully decorated with heritage village themes. We went through a smooth check and were surprised as the manager called for a car to drop us to our room. We were informed that the property was so huge that the cottage allotted to us was very far to walk on foot. We took our seats in the car and as we drove towards our room I saw the huge lush green lawns which were very well maintained and the heritage villas spread sufficiently distant from each other giving a secluded feeling to each guest. We had booked a Royal Haveli and it certainly came as a big surprise to me. It was as big as a house with a drawing-room, a bedroom, a small kitchenette, a dressing room and a big bathroom. It had all the amenities one can think of right from refrigerator, a king-size bed, a tea/ coffee maker, to a safe locker and a Jacuzzi. We were just too thrilled to get this deal. As it was peak afternoon, we spent all the time in our Haveli taking rest and watching television.
In the evening, the resort offers a theme Heritage village experience to its guests. A mini-village has been built just adjacent to the resort where one can experience bullock cart ride, horse ride, and camel ride. We were welcomed with Rajasthani folk music and free snacks with tea that we enjoyed sitting on a charpai. I also got a mehendi tattoo done. The mini-village was spread across a gigantic area with so many activities going around. There was a puppet show, folk dance, magic show, rope walk which were very different from what we generally get to see. There was also a small playground with swings etc. where kids were playing. Altogether it was a wonderful experience. Finally, they served us a full Rajasthani meal (sit down type) and really pampered us with their excellent hospitality. Walking back towards our room we roamed around the whole property. It had a large swimming pool, a buffet restaurant, a coffee joint and a spa and indoor game area, all very spacious and clean. We sat outside the room on a bench in the lawn late night talking and planning for the next day. I had one of the best sleep in the softest bed.
Next morning we woke up early and went for a tour in the big lawns of the resort photographing birds. We ate our complimentary breakfast and bade farewell to the heavenly place. We were yet to explore Hampi’s historical ruins and excavations. We took a bus to Hampi and soon were dropped to the Hampi bus stand near Virupaksha temple. Hampi being such a small village houses people who either have shops selling stuff or guest houses or restaurants. That’s it. Their only source of income is tourism and hence it is easy to find what you are looking for. As we had planned, we rented our bicycles from Hampi bazaar and also dropped our luggage in the bicycle owner’s house. I bought a map from them and they also guided us quickly to a few places. We rode our bicycles out from the Hampi bazaar to the broad lanes that took us to our first place to visit – Achyutaraya temple. Parking our bicycles, we walked a few steps towards the temple. It was situated in front of a small water body with ferryman offering coracle rides. The temple was surrounded by ruins and pillared rocky caves. Next, we started walking towards stone chariot, where on the way, we saw a banyan tree with lots of colourful cloth potlis tied around its branches. It was a long tiring walk reaching back to our cycle stand and by that time the sun was up shining bright. The sweet coconut water from a roadside vendor quenched our thirst.
We rode to the following places: Queen’s bath, Pushkarani, Royal enclosure, Elephant’s stable, Zenana enclosure and Underground Shiva temple. All these places were partly destroyed but still magnificent with the finely carved figures of warriors, elephant, horses and various other deities. The best attraction to me was Mahanavami Dibba which is a pyramid-like structure somewhat reminiscent of the Mesoamerican edifices with flights of structures on all sides. I was impressed with the grandeur and mystique location of the Elephant’s stable. And visiting through all these places we spent hundreds on quenching our thirst drinking cold drinks, lemon water and lemon soda.
Our last place to visit was Matanga hills. Our bicycle tour ended with visiting Matanga hills for sunset. Atop the hill, we could see the whole Hampi town, some amazing views of the orange bright sun, the green fields and the majestic Virupaksha temple standing erect next to Tungabhadra River. We trekked down the Matanga hill before it got dark, returned our bicycles and collected our luggage to head back to the bus-stand bidding adieu to the exquisite Hampi town with promises to visit again.
Back in Hospet, the dinner was a simple affair in a small restaurant. A short wait later, we boarded our bus to Hyderabad, thus marking the end to our very adventurous visit to the temple town!
"It's just looking at stones and sculptures"; some friends had convinced me not to go to Hampi. But now I can say for sure that Hampi is more than stones and ruins if you have an eye for it. We were surprised by the casual atmosphere as well the low cost of everything from hotels and food to transportation. With foreigners and heritage sites all around, it was sometimes confusing to accept it all. Without a doubt we will be back again to this literally timeless place again soon, hopefully, to spend more time than we did on this trip.
Have you been to Hampi or are you planning a trip? Did you like our travel blog and the photographs? Do let us know in the comment section below. We visited Neil Island in The Andamans couple of years later and while riding a scooter there, we could not help feel a similar aura like Hampi. Though the exotic beaches and underwater life replaced the stone hills and ruins, somehow we feeling of being on Neil island was similar to Hampi. Have you felt something common is such starkly different places?