I think I need to hire a writer to explain centuries-old Hampi, because I know I can’t do this place justice. It’s seriously one of the top places to visit in India and home to some incredible landmarks. I’ve been back TWICE, once with goMowgli and another with my parents. If you feel like skipping my awesome intro (you really shouldn’t), I have listed halfway down the page eight things to do in Hampi during your trip. There are actually so many things to do in Hampi that you’ll want to extend your time here!
It’s like walking on a movie set or as if you’ve teleported back in time. The GIANT boulders scattered around Hampi had me day-dreaming about dinosaurs jumping around on them while the palm trees swayed overhead. The mass quantity of intricate towering Hindu temples on barren sandy land had me envisioning Shiva wandering around having a smoke.
General India Travel Tips
Before I tell you all about Hampi, I want to make sure you know about my 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.
What is Hampi?
Getting to Hampi by flight: I do all my flight bookings these days on Kiwi. It is the BOMB and searches all the budget airlines plus gives you a free flight if you miss a connection!
Unlike Stonehenge, where the attraction is in a small area, the entire town of Hampi is the attraction. Hampi is sort of in the middle of nowhere.
We chose to drive during the day instead of taking a bus so that we could see the jungle. If you’re not comfortable with either of those options, Viator offers a private 2-night tour from Bangalore.
Signs warned us not to pee on the side of the road, you know, in case a tiger gets us.
Places to Visit in Hampi
One can spend hours in the hot sun taking a rickshaw from temple to temple or hire a guide to tell you about each one. We saw a parrot hiding up in one of the temples.
You’ll walk through the mazes of boulders (the ruins of Vijayanagara) wondering how in the hell this all came to be (apparently volcanoes and erosion).
The hills and boulders surrounding Hampi made for a great hideout for Kings of India’s past. Many battles were fought here, and many important words from India’s rich history were written here.
It’s known to have once been the home of Lord Rama. You’ll see the Queen’s baths, Narasimha statue which is my favorite all carved from one stone, the chariot of the Vijaya Vittala temple, and, just a short walk up, the giant Hanuman statue.
In the center of town is the impressive 49-meter tall Virupaksha temple, the only temple to have its own elephant!
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.
please excuse the excessive mushy gooshey-ness… we’d only known each other a week at this point!
When you’re done on the Hampi Bazaar and Kamalapuram (two entry points) side of the river, where all the boulders, temples, markets, and other city life exists, retire to the other side of the Tungabhadra river to sleep in peace in Anegundi.
bus station and Bazar
8 Things to Do in Hampi!
1. Take the taxi boat across the river to the “hippie” side of Hampi, Anegundi.
This is so you can take part in drum circles, dread-lock making, and whatever other hippie nonsense. This way you’ll be on the side of the reservoir and be able to experience the quiet of Hampi.
2. Where to Stay in Hampi: A cottage on the rice fields.
We stayed at Shanthi Guesthouse which was 12,000 IDR for 3 nights, although I think we could have negotiated better had we 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.
If you want another option for where to stay in Hampi, I have also stayed at Mowgli Guesthouse which is pretty identical and has similar reviews online. They have the same exact view from the rooms. I’ve noticed they now are both called “Vista rooms”, as well as many guesthouses in Hampi, so I guess some company has bought out a bunch of guesthouses?
The service wasn’t great. It’s the view that counts, so I don’t think it’ll matter. Hampi doesn’t have a lot to offer for accommodation so these are your best bet. If you want to stay in luxury in Hampi or to stay at an eco-resort, there are options for that too.
When my parents came, these were booked and nothing else looked appealing so we stayed 45 minutes away at the Hyatt, which was in a unique workers complex. Previously, I have also stayed out at the Sloth Bear Resort, which is part of a National Park and you can, as you might guess, see Sloth Bears on safaris.
3. Rent a bike and finally learn how to drive one!
Take a tour up the empty winding paths to the reservoir. No one will be around so you’ll have all the space you need to learn to drive. Take time to get off and photograph the locals, village life, and the fields. I might have driven the bike straight into a wall the very second I got in control of it. Woops.
4. Go cliff jumping, but watch the crocs!
There are signs up for possible crocodiles, but we 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 jump from this same place for years! It was HIGH and FUN! If it scares you, jump off the smaller bridge instead.
5. Bathe/Get blessed by an elephant
Of all the things to do in Hampi, this might be the best. Lakshmi gets her bath every morning; she is the temple elephant. You’ll have to wake up early, but your hotel will sort it out for you. You can see the old “elephant stables”, yes just like we use for horses, at the Lotus Hall Complex.
6. Enjoy views from Matanga Hill after all your temple sightseeing.
Be sure to hire a guide so you can learn! For example, the statue of Ganesh (who is my favorite god!) has a snake around his stomach. The guide/driver shared that it was to keep him from eating too much food! You’ll see lots of domestic tourists that are on a pilgrimage to Hampi, and they may want photos with you which is okay.
7. Enjoy a fresh coconut and sit in the grassy shade to relax at Lotus Mahal.
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 we did. I mean, who doesn’t need a small circular boat in Goa? Ben truly has used it for fishing. When I went out on it in Mandovi river it sunk a little.
Ben buying the boat
Hampi 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. I always recommend World Nomads, and you can even easily get a quote on my sidebar or going here.
- Check out all the places to stay in Hampi here.
- For cheap domestic flights, compare on Kiwi.
- Don’t forget a copy of my India Guide.
- If you need a phone while in India and you can’t use SIM cards, try out Trabug.
- The bus stop is also a small market.
- Don’t forget to see both sides of the river.
- Don’t go in the hottest months (April and May) as sightseeing will be unbearable.
- If you want to stay on the same side of the river as I did, do not drive there, it’s a huge wrap around. Instead, take the taxi boat across.
- Don’t forget the taxi boat which takes 3 minutes ONLY goes across during the day until 5 PM and there is NO way to the other side after, except driving over an hour (yes, we had to do this). If it’s late at night you’re bound to get lost in the jungle as we did.
If you want to take a tour in and around Hampi these are the cheapest and best options I found with Viator, a brand I trust and have worked with in the past:
- Two nights in Hampi, coming from Bangalore. Bangalore is a hub for travelers in South Goa, so you could do this tour to get there and back then head onward.
- Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal – I HIGHLY suggest you do this! I think these were as cool if not cooler than Hampi. You can see them all in one day. Links to information about these places are below.
For more things to do in Hampi
- The Sloth Bear safari in more detail
- Aihole & Pattadakal side trips from Hampi (day trips)
- Badami caves side trip from Hampi (two hours, awesome place)
More Tips on Visiting India
- 100 India Travel Tips
- What to Wear in India (and the Dos and Don’ts of How to Dress)
- India Bucket List
- What’s an Indian Bucket Bath?
- 4 Easy Tips on Responsible Travel in India
What to Wear in Hampi
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