If you fall among those people who think ruins and temples are boring and old school and you’ll rather be off paragliding or even waterskiing, clearly, you’ve never been to Hampi. The capital of Krishnadevaraya’s kingdom Vijaynagar, Hampi is located in Karnataka, on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The gateway to Hampi is through Hospet (or Hosapet); a small yet bustling town located a few kilometers away from the actual ruins. This place is full of small hotels and inns within various price ranges for the travelers to put up at. While it is not unusual for travelers to explore the whole of Hampi within a couple of days, it is best to linger for a while, so as to get a feel of the alluring aura of the place. Once there, start by visiting the Hampi Bazaar, over which looms the magnificent Virupaksha Temple. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, attracts lots of visitors, as it is the only functioning temple of Hampi. While there, be careful about your belongings, since the monkeys are far too mischievous for your liking. If you’re lucky, you’ll get blessed by the temple elephant, Lakshmi, in exchange of a coin.
Take the rest of the day to explore the Hazararama Temple and its surroundings. First visit the archaeological museum to gather information about the place, and then spend the rest of the day climbing steps and surveying every nook and cranny of the temple enclosure. If you really wish to unravel the dark and mysterious ruins all around, it is best if you hire a bicycle, since the remains are scattered over a large area. Don’t be afraid to take the offbeat tracks on your way, because you will miss out on a lot of things otherwise.
The next day, visit the Vitthala temple complex. This is one sight that will truly take your breath away. It is considered the most extravagant architectural masterpiece in Hampi. The iconic temple, well known for unmatched craftsmanship, has amazing stone structures like the incomparable stone chariot and the fascinating musical pillars. The temple is the most visited place of Hampi, attracting tourists from all over the world. You can ask for certified guides at the ticket counter. Local guides are also in plenty, but it is best to take what they say with a pinch of salt, since they tend to focus on local stories and legends rather than facts.
From the Vitthala temple, it is a couple of kilometers walk to the bank of the Tungabhadra River. If you want to spend some time in peace and tranquility, this is the place to be. You can sit by the bank and watch the sun set behind the rugged terrains. However, make sure not to venture into the river, as there have been incidents of crocodile sightings in plenty. If you are of the adventurous type, then you can explore rock climbing and trekking. Hampi is covered with rocky and undulating terrain, and proves a challenge for both amateur and professional rock climbers and trekkers. If you wish to go on a relaxing trek, do not miss out on the trek along Kampa Bhupa’s Path.
A unique experience in Hampi is the coracle rides in the Tungabhadra River, which cannot be found elsewhere. The coracle is a round shaped boat carrying 7- 8 people at a time, which have been in use since the time of the Vijaynagar era. The ride on the swirling waters of the river is exceptionally enjoyable and thrilling as well. However, make sure not to explore Hampi in the dark or alone, as it is easy to get lost in the ruins. There is also a risk of snakes in the bushes or inside the ruins of the temple, so be careful where you step.
Hampi is in short, an explorer’s paradise. The rugged landscape, craggy mountain boulders perched precariously on the slopes, combined with lush green palm trees and banana plantations make for an unrealistic and mystical experience.
It is surely a place that will set the romantic in your soul free.
-Written by Shayantani Mukherjee