Rachel first visited and wrote about this beautiful landmark back in 2014. You can read her original post here. With the help of one of her close friends, Jules, we’ve given this post a much needed update. Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Hampi today!
I, Jules, first made a last minute trip to Hampi in 2016 on my last holiday to Goa before I decided to move there. It was a crazy trip squashed in the middle of a jam packed 2 week holiday with 15 people. We decided we didn’t want to be away from Goa for too long so 5 of us thought it would be a good idea to do a rapid overnight trip to Hampi and back. Looking back it was great but wow it was quick with a lot of time spent in the car and I am not sure I would recommend going for that short of a time. Instead I’d spend at least two nights here.
We left at 10am from North Goa and arrived in Hampi after the sun had gone down and actually the boats across the river had stopped. This left us no choice but to take an illegal Karnataka coconut boat (these are explained below) trip across the river in absolute silence and complete darkness so we didn’t get caught by the police. We stayed one night, did one full day of temple sight-seeing, watched one glorious sunset, and got back in the car and drove 8 hours back to Goa.
My second trip to Hampi was in 2017 where I gave myself a more reasonable 2 night stay which included a huge thunder and lightening storm, two glorious sunsets, and some of the same and a few new temples.
Before I tell you all about Hampi, I want to make sure you know about the India Guide ebook which is literally everything you need to know about traveling in India safely and will make sure you see all the best “do not miss” places here on your budget, which can be under $20 a day if you wanted it to. Buy it here. Read more about the book and see reviews here.
Hampi is like something straight out of the set of Jurassic Park. The huge boulders don’t seem to make sense. How are they placed in such strange positions? Why aren’t they rolling down hills and squashing all tourists in their paths? Not to mention the sheer size and open landscape of it all. It is literally a magical town where they must have used some form of magic or sorcery to build the temples all those hundreds of years ago… To have all those beautiful boulders scattered around as they are – some are even purposefully balanced on top of another. Apparently some of that magic is erosion but we will come on to that.
If you can fit Hampi into your trip schedule, do not hesitate and if you can’t then you should try and re-work your schedule. Hampi has the right balance between history, beautiful architecture, nature and fun backpacker vibes.
What is Hampi?
While you can only see it in ruins now, it was once one of the richest cities in the world. Yep, the whole world, not just India. It was the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire for over 200 years. Once upon a time, you would enter an ancient metropolis adorned with temples, palaces, markets streets, and religious monuments. It flourished between the 14th and 15th century with most temples and monuments being Hindu alongside a few Jain temples and one Muslim mosque and tomb.
In 1565, everything changed after the battle of Talikota took place and the city of Vijayanagara was defeated. Armies spent 5 months destroying monuments, and what you see today is what remains.
As Rachel said, unlike Stonehenge, where the attraction is a small area, the entire town of Hampi is the attraction. This city is in the middle of nowhere and you can spend days exploring different corners.
Hampi Travel Tips
When to Go to Hampi
Don’t go in the hottest months (April and May) as sightseeing will be unbearable.
How to Get to Hampi
If you are travelling from Goa, a bus can be taken from the bus stands of Mapusa or Panjim, directly to Hospet. This is an overnight bus and takes around 11 hours. Have a look or on Redbus and if traveling solo think about booking 2 sleeper beds next to each other to avoid having a stranger in your compartment.
The bus stop is also a small market.
Once at Hospet take a rickshaw to your chosen accommodation in Hampi which should be approximately 13km away.
Getting Around Hampi
The best way to explore Hampi is by rickshaw (more on that below). If you want to stay on the same side of the river as Rachel did, do not drive there, it’s a huge wrap around. Instead, take the taxi boat across. It only takes 3 minutes, BUT it stops running at 5:00 PM, and there is no way to the other side except to drive for an hour. If it’s late at night you’re bound to get lost in the jungle as Rachel did!
Where to Stay in Hampi
2020: Please check the area you have booked is not Anegundi, across the river as most places are unfortunately closed awaiting demolition
Another great and slightly more expensive option is Boulders. It is located outside of the main tourist area of Hampi and is approximately 7km from the main World Heritage sites. It is set on the banks of the Tunghbadra River in the Yamini Hills. Perfect for nature lovers and travellers who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the usual India. The accommodation can help with a driver to take you around sightseeing during the day. Check prices here
Rachel originally stayed at Shanthi Guesthouse which was 12,000 INR for 3 nights, although she thinks they could have negotiated better had they not been fairly intoxicated the majority of the time. That price included breakfast and laundry and was in December at peak season (when rates are doubled). The cottages are along the rice paddies and you are GUARANTEED a badass view of the greatest sunset of all time from a swinging porch bed. Check prices here
Sloth Bear Resort
If you want another option for where to stay in Hampi, Rachel also stayed at Mowgli Guesthouse which is pretty identical and has similar reviews online. They have the same exact view from the rooms, which are now called “vista rooms,” as well as many guesthouses in Hampi.
The service wasn’t great. It’s the view that counts. Hampi doesn’t have a lot to offer for accommodation so these are your best bet. Check prices here
Places to Visit in Hampi
When visiting Hampi, be ready to spend your day exploring temples. There’s a lot, like really a lot, of incredible landscapes to see and unbelievably huge boulders you’ll want to take photos next to. Rachel walked through mazes of boulders wondering how in the hell it all came to be, and when it is your turn, you will be feeling the same. After doing a quick Google search you will find out that geologists state after millions and maybe even billions of years of erosion from rain, sun and wind, the monoliths began to crack, break and fall into what we see today. Still sounds pretty magical!
The Vijaya Vittala Temple is famous for its intricately carved chariot while the Virupaksha Temple is an impressive 49-meters tall. The Narasimha Statue, which was Rachel’s favorite and also one of mine, is carved from one single stone, and the Hanuman Temple sits on top of a hill. There’s also the underground Shiva Temple which remains partially flooded all year round and many many more temples you’ll want to see!
Rachel wrote that Hampi is said to be the Vanara Sena, or Kingdom of the Apes, which as Hindus believe, is where Lord Rama fought in the Ramayana. You will understand this reference when faced with the large groups of monkeys trying to steal the bananas you were coerced into buying from the local salesman – be careful!
10 Things to Do in Hampi: What Not to Miss!
1. Hire a local rickshaw driver to take you around all the sites for a day
There is a lot see in Hampi so maybe narrow it down. If you have time, split your temple visits across a few days. After a few temples I know we all can feel a bit temple-d out and then miss the beauty of what we are meant to be seeing. My advice would be to find a rickshaw driver you like and ask him to take you to 3 temples, somewhere for lunch and one sunset spot each day.
If you are lucky some rickshaw drivers will tell you information about each temple as you are about to enter it. However, I suggest buying a little information book from the bazaar with facts and pictures of each World Heritage Site to help explain the beauty of what you are seeing. Your rickshaw driver may also have some secret spots to show you, away from the crowded tourist track! And if you are lucky, he might even let you have a sneaky test-drive on the deserted back roads of Hampi. It is definitely more difficult that it looks!
The price you should pay per day really depends on the amount of sites you visit, the distance covered and how much you enjoyed the day. I would suggest between 500 and 800 INR per day per rickshaw – not per person.
2. Take the taxi boat across the river to the “hippie” side of Hampi, Anegundi.
2020 Update: Unfortunately, Anegundi is currently going through some major developments with a majority of the area about to be demolished. Hold off any plans to stay on this side for now and hopefully we will have some good news by the beginning of next season – October.
Don’t forget to see both sides of the river! As Rachel said, this is so you can take part in drum circles, dread-lock making, and whatever other hippie activities. This also puts you on the side of the reservoir where you can experience the quiet of Hampi. You will usually find a big hippie community with hostels, restaurants, movie nights, bouldering groups, and lots of lovely luscious green rice paddy fields.
3. Catch the sunset from Hanuman Temple on top of the hill
This is a beautiful spot that gives you a 360 degree view over the amazing and unbelievable selection of boulders in Hampi. It is a 572 step climb so don’t make the mistake of trying to conquer this hill during the daytime heat and don’t let the step count put you off as it really is a view you shouldn’t miss. It does get busy at the peak sunset hour so if you are feeling motivated, try and make it for sunrise instead. You will need to hire a rickshaw to take you to this spot – ask for Monkey Temple Hill or Hanuman Temple.
4. Go cliff jumping and cool off in Hampi’s lake – watch out for the crocs!
Cool off in the large swimming lake a short drive outside the main sites of Hampi. This lake has a huge warning sign for crocodiles painted on the rock but Rachel never saw any and everyone there was swimming. Locals said there aren’t any in the lake, only the river. You’ll see a group of people laying out near the main cliff, and if it’s empty that day, ask a guide where people jump. The water isn’t clear, but people have been jumping from this same place for years! Take a rickshaw or ask the locals for directions to the swimming lake.
5. Be amazed by the size of the Elephant Stables.
The old Elephant Stables are on the same grounds as the Lotus Mahal. Venture inside what used to be where the Maharajahs would keep their elephants and compare the size of these to your usual horse stables. Have a seat in the shaded grassy area with a freshly cut coconut and think about the unlucky soul who had to clean each one.
6. Enjoy views from Matanga Hill after all your temple sightseeing.
This is a slightly more challenging climb that doesn’t have a specific route, more like a climb up along some man-made rock steps. It should take no more than 30 minutes with reasonable fitness and gives you a 360 degree view of Hampi including some of the World Heritage Sites. A great place to see the full beauty of Virupaksha Temple from a distance. Another great spot for sunrise and sunset.
Rachel did it with a guide who gave her some cool bits of information. For example, the statue of Ganesh (who is her favorite god!) has a snake around his stomach. The guide/driver shared that it was to keep him from eating too much food!
7. Get a guide at Vijaya Vittala Temple – Chariot Temple
You are probably sick of being offered guided tours around every single site you visit but if you are going to choose one in Hampi, do it at Vijaya Vittala Temple which is also where the famous carved stone chariot is. I suggest a guide here because they will show you how to play music on the 56 musical pillars (probably/hopefully not all of them) at the Ranga Matapa. If hit in the right way each pillar makes a different note. You can have a try yourself but good luck finding the right pillars!
8. Hire a Karnataka boat and driver to take you out in the lake. Go for a swim!
The boats are traditional fishing boats for the state and are made from trees and tar. Maybe even buy the boat, like Rachel did. On the Hampi lake you shouldn’t pay any more than 250 INR for a little boat trip around the lake. These are the same boats that were used to cross over to Anegundi before the introduction of the actual motor boat, and the same boat I had to sneak across the river in on my first trip to Hampi!
9. Take a break at Mango Tree
On the same side of the river as the Virupaksha Temple there is a great restaurant for backpackers called Mango Tree. Take a break from the Hampi heat and have a mango shake or a thali. Word has spread about this place so it can be difficult to get a seat at peak times.
10. Go bouldering
I am sure you are well aware by now but in case you aren’t, Hampi is full of boulders. All different shapes and sizes that keep you waiting for a dinosaur to pop its head around the corner any minute. If you are feeling like you can’t see another temple or you’re in the mood for a challenge then pay a visit to to one of the few bouldering centres located in Anegundi. Tom and Jerry, Goan Corner – Boulder Centre (also a great hostel) and Sunny’s Bouldering School. We don’t have any personal testimonials but check out their TripAdvisors page for the latest reviews. And if you are lucky you might even get a few dogs to oversee your climb!
Again seeing as this is taking place in Anegundi, we will need to wait for some more information regarding the demolition and update you in October, until then please do contact the centres directly as the boulders will be there, demolition or no demolition.
And there you have it, all the best things to do in Hampi. Have you been? What did you think?
General India Travel Tips
- Can’t go to Hampi, if you can’t get into India. Yes, you do need a visa, even if you’re only here for a short time. It’s super easy, and you can get it right on iVisa.
- Don’t forget to get some travel insurance! Especially if you’re going to do some of the more adventurous activities. We always recommend World Nomads, and you can even easily get a quote on the sidebar or going here.
- For cheap domestic flights, compare on Kiwi.
- If you need a phone while in India and you can’t use SIM cards, try out Trabug.