Hampi, located in central Karnataka was once the capital of the famous Vijayanagara Empire. In 1565, it was captured by the Deccan Muslim Confederacy, looted over a period of six months, and abandoned. Currently it is in ruins and is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s incredibly wealthy princes built striking Dravidian temples, palaces and forts that have fascinated tourists and locals for centuries. In addition to the ruins, Hampi is also known for its hospitality, local cuisine and natural scenery. Hampi’s setting is surreal, with piles of giant boulders dotted with rows of monuments as far as the eye can see. Next to it are picturesque palm groves, extensive banana plantations and rice paddies, the peaceful Tungabhadra River and majestic hills in the background.
Having visited Hampi a few years ago, I can say with confidence that there is no place like this and everyone should visit this unique city at least once. A long weekend is the perfect time to explore this unique destination. Here’s your guide to the sights of Hampi.
Where to stay
Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace is located 4 km from the ruins of Hampi. This lavish 5-star property shows Vijayanagara architecture at its best. The cobblestone walkways, arched hallways and royal chambers of the resort will take you back in time! The hotel attributes exquisite Indo-Islamic architecture and four categories of suites: Jal Mahal, Nilaya, Nivasa and Zenana. While all suites are lavishly appointed, we recommend that you stay in the Jal Mahal Suite, which has a private pool and outdoor shower. The Evolve Back resort in Hampi also features an infinity pool, a luxurious Ayurvedic spa and a lavish salon. In their terrace restaurant, Tuluva have a drink with a breathtaking view of the infinity pool, and in their Hyderabadi cuisine restaurant, Bahmani Restaurant have dinner.
Shivavilas Palace Heritage Hotel is located an hour’s drive from Hampi. This budget hotel has 12 luxurious rooms and suites that feature a blend of traditional and modern interiors. Dine at their restaurant, which serves local Karnataka dishes including dishes such as holigae, jowar roti, enne badanekai, kempu khara, and mosaranna.
Where to eat and drink
Explore Hampi (explorehampi.com) offers a village life tour where a local family will welcome you for lunch. This is the best way to try the authentic local culinary delights of Hampi.
Plus, don’t miss dining at Laughing Buddha, a multi-cuisine restaurant with panoramic views of the meandering Tungabhadra River. Have a few beers or indulge in their delicious Middle Eastern food as the sun sets.
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Where to shop
Hampi Bazaar, near the awe-inspiring Virupaksha Temple, is the place to go for local crafts. It’s a bustling market with many winding alleys dotted with budget hostels, shops and restaurants. The shops are famous for their stoneware, leather crafts, knickknacks, rugs and spices. Plus, visit the Akash Art Gallery and Bookstore for antiques and books on Hampi and India, and the Gali Djembe Music Shop for Indian and Western musical instruments.
What to do
Currently, more than 1,600 ruins remain in the town of Hampi. These include forts, temples, shrines, pillared halls, memorial buildings, and water reservoirs, among others. The ruins of Hampi exemplify the opulence and prosperity of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire. Start your exploration journey in Hampi by visiting the imposing Dasara Dibba, a large stone platform.
The king of Vijayanagara celebrated the feast of Dasara or Dussehra at Dasara Dibba. This is one of the highest spots in Hampi, offering a bird’s eye view of the ruins. In addition, the Dasara Dibba presents the daily life of the Vijayanagara Empire with its intricate carvings. There are detailed carvings of performers, artists, soldiers, parades, hunting game scenes and many other royal scenes.
Next, visit an architectural wonder: the symmetrical stepped reservoir of Hampi. This tiered tank was used for religious ceremonies and was considered sacred. The reservoir displays a great architectural advance and innovation of the empire of Vijayanagara.
Next, head to Hazara Rama temple. The temple was dedicated to Lord Rama and was the special place of worship for the Vijayanagara royal family. This ruined temple complex is well known for its intricate carvings and inscriptions, elaborate wall paintings depicting the Ramayana, and expansive interior gardens. Currently, it is not a functional temple and is mainly visited for its architectural beauty.
You cannot go to Hampi and not visit the Virupaksha Temple, located near the Hampi Bazaar. This temple has been operating continuously since its construction in the 14th century. It is completely intact, unlike other monuments in Hampi. The temple is dedicated to a form of Shiva, Virupaksha. The main highlight of Virupaksha temple is the giant tower or Gopura which opens into the first courtyard of the temple grounds. This pastel-colored 9-story tower is Hampi’s most important monument. Other highlights of Virupaksha Temple include Lakshmi, the temple elephant who blesses visitors by placing a garland of flowers on them and the multitude of mischievous monkeys who are always present at the temple.
Finish your exploration of the ruins of Hampi with a visit to the Kadalekalu Ganesha, one of the largest statues of Lord Ganesha in southern India. This huge monolithic statue of Ganesha is approximately 15 feet tall and has been carved out of a single massive boulder. The Kadalekalu Ganesha temple also offers a fascinating view of Hampi, as it is located on top of a hill.