Stones, stones, stones and more stones. That is what Hampi is! But these stones have a meaning. Some are ruins dating back to the Middle Ages, some created impressive hills of boulders, some are used for carvings and others to build temples. Hampi is not just another historical village, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must visit on your trip to India.
Lately on my third visit to India I finally made it to this sleepy but popular town. I heard a lot of great stories about it and I could not wait to travel to Hampi myself. Loads of backpackers call Hampi among the best places to visit in India. So I was curious and excited!
What is Hampi?
Actually there is not really a village or a city center. Hampi consist of lots of different temple complexes scattered around a vast area dived by a river. Until a couple years ago locals were living in the temple complexes, but since it got declared a UNESCO World Heritag Site, locals had to move out. Now all there is left in Hampi are ruins, temples, boulders, hills and a handful local homes all over the area. So where to stay in Hampi? I will talk about that later.
History of Hampi
Can you believe that Hampi was considered the second biggest city in the world in the year 1500? When my guide told me this I had to Google it. It was the capital of the Hindu Vijaynagara Empire and in 1565 conquered and destroyed by Muslims. Ever since Hampi remained in ruins, can you believe it? To me it sounded kind of unbelievable that it never got rebuilt in all those hundreds of years. It is estimated that there are over 2,500 temples and monuments all over the more than 4,000 hectares of the Hampi UNESCO World Heritage site.
Backpacking in Hampi is popular
Thanks to the popularity among backpackers traveling to Hampi is a popular thing to do in India. The tourism business is flourishing and now that I have been I can understand why. Hampi tourism has everything: nature, history, sightseeing, mythology, tours, spirituality, cheap accommodation, great food and an incredibly laid-back vibe. This is one of those sleepy places where you can escape the hustle and bustle of India. No honking cars, no street vendors that annoy you, no tricycles that hassle you. When you travel to Hampi be prepared to fall in love and leaving this place is going to be hard. It actually reminded me a little of Pushkar, another amazing place to visit in India.
In this Hampi travel blog I will give you all the vital tips and information you need to know with things to do, accommodation options, places to visit, where to go and some handy Hampi travel tips.
14 things to know before you travel to Hampi
First let me start with some essential Hampi travel tips. As there are numerous temples scattered around the UNESCO World Heritage Site I am sure you will go to at least one of them during your trip. Try to learn some of the values of the Hindu religion, before embarrassing yourself while roaming around the temple complexes in Hampi.
1. Don’t step on thresholds
When entering a temple don’t step on the doorways, always step over it. This also counts when you enter someone’s house. Never even think about sitting on a threshold!
2. Remove shoes before entering a temple
Always remove your shoes when entering a living temple. There are places to deposit your shoes for just 2 INR (3 cents).
3. Take off your hat
There is no need to take off your hat when entering the temple complex, but when you enter the sacred place within a temple always take off your hat. I wish I had read a Hampi travel blog before my trip as I always wear a hat and I learned about it after it was too late.
4. Dresscode Hampi temples
Officially there is no dresscode and I have seen women in skirts and sleeveless inside the temple complex. Although there are no official rules for the Hampi temples I later heard that religious people judge tourists who do. So please cover your shoulders and knees out of respect, this counts for men and women! Unfortunately I only found out about this later too, so consider this as a vital Hampi travel tip to not upset pilgrims. Just bring a cloth to wrap around your waist so it covers your knees.
5. Enter a temple from the left side of the bull or Garuda
Before entering a temple there will always be a bull or Garuda at the entrance. Move left from the bull or Garuda to enter the temple.
6. Always move clockwise inside a temple
Once inside the temple complex walk in a clockwise direction so the sacred object/god is always on your right side. Moving around in a counterclockwise direction is considered disrespectful to the god.
7. No photos inside the Gods sanctum
When entering the Gods sanctum not only take off your hat but also turn off your cameras and put your phone away. Taking photos inside the sanctum is prohibited.
8. Exit the temple on the opposite side of the bull/garuda
When you entered you walked left of the bull/garuda (clockwise) and when you exit you take the opposite side.
9. Hampi temples are free
Essentially the Hampi temples are free but sometimes you need to pay a fee for cameras/phones. It is less than a dollar (50INR) and is used for the preservation of the temples. I only had to pay the camera fee in two temples, so spending $1,5 towards preservation when you travel to Hampi is not that bad, right?
10. Temples are closed between 12.30pm and 2.00pm for lunch
This is the time when priests have their lunch breaks and the temples will be closed.
11. Women having their period are not allowed to enter the temple
Just for your interest. This is against the rules of the religion.
12. Don’t enter a temple with leather products
As you know cows are believed to be sacred and therefore try not to bring your leather backpack or anything else made from leather when you go sightseeing in Hampi.
13. Accept offerings
When visiting the temples of Hampi you might be offered some snacks like bananas. These are offerings and considered an honor. Eat it or pass it on, don’t throw it away!
14. Ask people before taking a photo of them
You don't like to be photographed secretly either so don't do that to pilgrims. Kindly ask if it is ok to take a photo. Point at your camera and ask ok? You will hardly get a no, but I think it is respectful to ask first.
I wish I had known all these 14 things before visiting Hampi as I definitely made a couple rookie mistakes like stepping on the threshold, not removing my hat and wearing shorts inside the temple. Like many tourists that travel to Hampi it happens because we simply don’t know. Therefore I hope this Hampi travel guide teaches you a little about the customs of Hampi sightseeing. So you know what not to do when you travel to Hampi.
12 Places to see in Hampi
1. Virupaksha Temple
Surely this is the number one place to see in Hampi. The Virupaksha temple is the main tourist spot in Hampi and can be seen from all over the area. With its beautiful golden tower it is the main place for pilgrims when they visit Hampi. I roamed around this living temple for quite some time, took photos with locals and kids and admired its spiritual vibe. There is an elephant living inside the temple complex, which goes bathing in the nearby river every morning. More about that when I speak about the things to do in Hampi.
2. Hampi Bazaar
Back in the days the street leading away from the Virupaksha Temple towards Mantanga Hill was a thriving market place. On both sides there are the remains of a pavilion and until recently locals made this place their homes and converted the place again into a little market place. When Hampi officially got declared a UNESCO World Heritage site everyone had to move out again.
3. Monolith Bull
At the end of the Hampi Bazaar, up a couple stair cases, you find the impressive monolith Bull. A huge bull carved out of a rock. To protect this statue they built a shrine around it.
4. Achyutraya Temple
When you pass the Monolith Bull and continue walking up the staircases and slightly turn right you will walk up to the Achyutraya Temple.
This non-living temple is unfortunately pretty damaged and there is no maintenance work going on. This temple complex got built by a king in 1534 and was offered to his wife. In front of the temple there was a ladies market.
5. Vithala temple
If you continue your walk you pass through several impressive ruins before you hit the Vithala Temple. Here you will find an impressive stone chariot. There are only 3 stone chariots in India.
6. Big Shiva Linga or Badaviling Temple
Carved out of a single stone this big Shiva Linga sits in a bed of water and is now protected by a shrine built around the monolith. There is a priest in front of it sprinkling you with the holy water from the Shiva Linga. People throw in coins for good luck.
7. Lakshmi Narasimha Statue
Don’t mix this with the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, which is in Nuggehalli. The statue in Hampi is a huge half man half lion next to the Big Shiva Linga. It was created in 1528, got destroyed in 1565 and reassembled in 1985. Impressive!
8. Sasivekalu Ganesh
This huge monolith Ganesh sits next to the entrance of the Hemakuta Hill Temple. It is protected by a shrine.
9. Hemakuta Hill Temple
A short walk uphill will bring you to the Hemakuta Hill Temples from where you have an amazing view over Hampi. There are several ruins and temple up here on top of the hill with, a popular sport to watch the sunset. It also gives an amazing view over the golden Virupaksha Temple and the river.
View over the Virupaksha Temple from the Hemakuta Hill.
10. Malyavanta Raghunatha temple
This temple built around a huge boulder on Malyavanta Hill is home to a couple priests practicing their religion with music and chanting. It is a famous tourist spot in Hampi for watching the sunset. Cars and tricycles can drive uphill to the entrance of the temple so for the lazy tourists this is the easiest viewpoint.
11. Durgadevi Temple
On the other side of the river and therefore a little ride by car you will find the Durgadevi Temple. A living temple were every morning and evening pilgrims, locals and devotes come to pray. It is common practice to wrap a coconut in cloths and hang it in the tree in front of the temple. Then exactly one year later you come and pick one from the tree and eat the holy coconut. Continue 10 minutes uphill for another great viewpoint over Hampi.
12. Monkey temple
According to the Hindu mythology this is the birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey warrior God. On top of the hill there is a white temple an important worship place for pilgrims of Lord Rama. To reach the top and enjoy the amazing views you have to climb almost 600 stairs.
If you have ticked off all the above places to see that does not mean your trip to Hampi is finished. On top of all these places there are many more things to do in Hampi.
If you are looking for a Hampi itinerary or a kind of heritage walk then combine the first 5 places to see in Hampi. They are all within walking distance. You could even add one of the cooler things to do in Hampi: climbing Mantanga Hill. The start of the hike is next to the Monolith Bull and the Hampi Bazaar.
The 9 most unique things to do in Hampi
1. Chill on backpacker island
In the middle of the river there is a huge island, an icon in the Hampi tourism industry. Loads of guesthouses settled there and now it is the most popular place to stay in Hampi. If you want to meet other travelers then find your Hampi accommodation here. You can drink alcohol here, there are many restaurants, coffee places and simply relax in a hammock. Backpacker Island is the reason many backpackers travel to Hampi and don't want to leave.
2. Smoke weed
Of course this is officially illegal in india but with so many hippie travelers around Hampi you will find plenty opportunities to smoke weed. I am not a smoker myself but I have seen many tourists taking a drag. To me it is not, but I am sure for a lot of hippies this is a reason to visit Hampi.
3. Bathing ritual with elephant
Every morning around 7.30 the elephant that lives in the Virupaksha Temple comes down to the river to take a bath. The ritual takes more than an hour and foreigners are welcome to help washing the elephant in exchange for some gifts in the form of bananas. When I was there in April I was the only tourist, but I heard in peak season there can be hundreds of people.
4. Climb Mantanga Hill
I already mentioned this Hampi tourist spot when I was talking about the Hampi itinerary. Hiking up to the top of Mantanga Hill is a good option for either sunrise or sunset. The climb can be though during the day when it gets too hot but on top there is plenty shadow. Go to the roof for a 360 view over Hampi and feel free like a bird.
5. Bird watching
If you like birds then arrange a car to take you to Ankhasamudra bird sanctuary to spot endless birds including some rare species, pelicans and flamingos. It is also possible to arrange a boat ride. Definitely a unique thing to do in Hampi that you have not read in any other Hampi travel guide.
6. Boat ride on the Tungabhadra River
You can take a boat ride on the same river that created the Backpacker Island in Hampi. The boats that have the shape of a bowl are called Coracles and can be hired to take a leisure ride on the river exploring the boulder hills and some hidden temples and carvings. They are pretty expensive (up to 1,000 INR) for less than an hour.
7. Visit a local village
Head out to the countryside and walk around in a local village. Visit local houses, eat at a local place, visit some handicraft shops and mingle with locals. Anegundi is a good place to go.
Lunch at a local home in Anegundi.
8. Rent a scooter
The best way to visit Hampi is to rent a motorbike and drive all around the area. You can visit the temples like this, but also find hidden places in the countryside. It is beautiful to just getting lost in the rice fields. Renting a motorbike in Hampi cost only 500 INR, a push bike cost only 200 INR per day.
9. Hire a guide
Last but not least hire a guide. The stones and ruins of Hampi are just stones when no one tells you a little bit about it. I am not a fan of guided tours, but here in Hampi it is nice to have someone actually telling you a little bit about it. A professional guide will cost around 2,000 INR, a tricycle guide, who probably tells you anything but the real thing cost 1,000 INR for a day sightseeing in Hampi.
Some last Hampi travel tips:
- Hampi can be busy in the peak season. If you want to avoid the crowds you gotta face to heat and come in April and May.
- Phone signal in Hampi is weak and wifi is unreliable. The best phone signal can be found with a JIO sim card. I traveled to Hampi with a Airtel sim and lost connection constantly. On top of the hills there is always a good 4G signal!
- On November 3, 4 and 5 there is the Hampi Festival which will be held at the Hampi Bazaar. Thousands of pelgrims mingle with tourists, Bollywood stars and locals and enjoy the dancing and singing performances. If you want a real cultural experience you have to travel to Hampi in the beginning of November.
How to get to Hampi
Hampi is located a little east of central Karnataka close the city of Hospet.
Getting to Hampi by train
There are no direct train connections to Hampi and everything goes via Hospet. Once you reach Hospet you will have to arrange a taxi (300 INR) or a tricycle (200 INR) into Hampi. The local bus cost 40 cents but it is a lot of hassle, time consuming, uncomfortable and not worth the $2 you would save taking a tricycle.
Train from Mumbai to Hampi
There are direct trains from Mumbai to Hospet but they only run twice a week and take 18 hours.
Train from Bangalore to Hampi
There are 2 trains daily from Bangalore to Hospet. The journeys take between 6,5 – 9,5 hours.
Train from Hyderabad to Hampi
There is a daily train from Hyderabad to Hospet that take around 11 hours and cost 900 INR.
How to get to Hampi by bus
- A bus from Bangalore to Hampi cost about 700 INR and will take around 8 hours.
- A bus from Hyderabad to Hampi cost about 750 INR and will take around 9,5 hours.
- A bus from Goa to Hampi will cost about 900 INR and will take around 9 hours.
Most busses to and from Hampi are overnight sleeping busses, so you save money on accommodation and the sleepers are not too bad.
My experience: I took a sleeper bus from Hampi to Goa with Paulo Travels. A double sleeper was 900 INR per person and a single sleeper 1,000 INR. The trip went by quickly, we left around 9.00pm and arrived at 6.30 am. The AC was not too cold, it looked pretty clean and the beds were pretty long (180cm). So my trip by bus from Hampi to Goa was not too bad!
Best time to visit Hampi
According to most Hampi travel guides the best time of the year to visit Hampi is winter. It does get super hot in the months before monsoon (April and May) and it is advisable to avoid rainy season as well.
The monsoon season in Hampi is like everywhere else in India and lasts from June to September. I once traveled in India in monsoon season and I strongly advice you not to do the same! Trust me! :)
My trip to Hampi was towards the end of April and yes temperatures rose up to 40 degrees Celsius that month. Sightseeing in Hampi is not much fun after 10.00am that time of the year. But the good thing about it: there are no tourists! Yes the heat was draining me fast and it was definitely not ideal, but if you want to avoid the crowds this is the best time to travel to Hampi. Sometimes it was just me and my guide at the temples.
The best time to travel to Hampi is October to March when temperatures are cooler. Peak season is around December, January and February. This time of year thousands of backpackers travel to Hampi and stick around for a while.
Where to stay in Hampi
Mass tourism has not found its way to Hampi and a good things about this is that there are no resorts or big hotels chains. If you are a luxury traveler and looking for 5 star Hampi accommodation then you are not spoiled for choice.
For budget travelers there are plenty of places to stay in Hampi. I already told you that staying on Hampi Island is popular but you can also stay on the rice fields or somewhere off the beaten track when you rent a scooter. It all depends what you are looking for.
Boat to Hampi Island, it only takes 2 minutes!
These are some Hampi accommodation with at least decent reviews.
Hampi travel blog
With this blog I hope I gave you an insight in everything you need to know, where to go, the best places to see and things to do in in Hampi. If you have any specific questions I am happy to answer them. Just leave me a comment.
After 4 days I was templed-out, this was a candid shot closing the book of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hampi! I honestly had a fabulous time in this laid-back place. I surely will be back!
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