If you haven’t been to Hampi yet, then you’ve been missing a journey back in time at one of the world’s largest open-air museums. If you’ve been visiting Hampi over the years, you know that there’s more to this magnificent city than meets the eye.
Hampi is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, set on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, in northern Karnataka, India. A former capital of the prosperous Vijayanagara Empire (1336 - 1646 AD), these ruins evoke the magnificence of a bygone era.
Spread across 29 square kilometers of scenic boulder-strewn landscapes, you can easily spend a few days soaking in the sights.
THE MAIN SIDE
While entering Hampi, you will begin noticing lush paddy fields and shrublands dotted with stone structures.
You’re most likely to first experience the riverside Sacred Centre, due to its proximity to the vehicle parking area. It comprises the bustling Hampi Bazaar and the towering Virupaksha Temple. Nearby, there's the Achyuta Raya Temple complex near the base of Matanga Hill. Further down the river is the jewel of Hampi called the Vittala Temple complex that houses the famous Stone Chariot.
Further inland, the Royal Centre contains ruins of ceremonial structures, baths, palaces and pavilions. The main attractions here include the Elephant Stables, Queen’s Bath, Zenana Enclosure, and Stepped Tank, to name a few.
THE OTHER SIDE
You could extend your travels and consider exploring the other side of Hampi, across the Tungabhadra river.
The area of Virupapura Gaddi, famously known as the ‘Hippie Island’, is now devoid of tourism infrastructure thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, since 2020. Limited in number, accommodations and eateries have moved to the nearby villages of Anegundi, Gangavati and Sanapur.
You can still visit this river island, and explore its natural attractions. Enjoy coracle rides in the morning, cool off in the Sanapur Lake by noon, and witness the golden skies at the Sunset Point overlooking the river, paddy fields, and hills beyond. The Monkey Temple atop Anjaneyadri Hill - believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman as per Hindu mythology, is also a good vantage point. Other attractions include two prehistoric sites - one called Onake Kindi, which features rock art, and the other called Maurya Mane, which is a dwarf settlement littered with cave paintings.
During the day, adventure seekers can try their hand at bouldering, supported by an experienced guide. In the evenings, wildlife enthusiasts can plan to visit the Daroji Sloth Bear Sancutary, a first-of-its-kind in Asia, located about 15kms away from Hampi. In addition to the protected sloth bears, expect to sight leopards, pangolins, hyenas, and monitor lizards among others, from the watchtower within the premises.
Cruising through this region, you will come across women wearing colourful baggy clothes, adorning heavy jewellery, and sporting tattoos. Although this description seems like hippies of old, we're referring to the historically nomadic Lambani tribe who have settled down in Hampi and the nearby Sandur village, among other parts of India. Learning about their culture and especially the Sandur Lambani type of embroidery is something to consider while travelling in this region.