The first week at 40K Globe can only be described as hectic. Coming in a week late meant that there was a lot to catch up on and dozens of friends to make. The week was equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. By the time the long weekend rolled around, I was ready to relax and process the progress we had made with our PLUS Pod project.
My wonderful roommates from the 40K Globe accommodation suggested a weekend trip to Hampi. In all honesty, Hampi is not a place I had heard of before so I was going in blind. With a thirst to explore more of India and excited to spend the weekend with new friends, we all jumped on the sleeper bus from Bangalore and headed North.
The surprisingly comfortable bus trip saw us arrive near Hampi at 5:30am as the sun was rising. It already felt a lot calmer than Bangalore. Watching the red sun rise over the river as people performed their daily rituals was a surreal and appreciated welcome. It felt as though we had landed somewhere quite unique. The calmness was noticeable after a few weeks of horns and busyness.
Hampi is a temple-covered town in the state of Karnataka that has culture, spirituality, and atmosphere in spades. It is an oasis of calm in a country of boundless activity. Spreading over two sides of the River Tungabhadra, this ancient land has plenty to enjoy. The landscape was completely different to anything I have experienced in India, with time-rounded boulders dotting almost every surface. The peacefulness was was revitalising.
Over the years Hampi has earned itself a positive reputation with travellers. The stunning vistas and cheap prices have drawn a consistent backpacker crowd. A relaxed backpacker vibe has been maintained in Hampi with the presence of small guesthouses, eateries, and hostels, as opposed to resorts and hotels. This atmosphere is unique, chill and a huge draw card.
The Hampi UNESCO site spreads over 16 square miles and is a mixture of temples, forts, and royal structures. On one side of the Tungabhadra River lay the majority of the ruins and the Hampi Bazaar, on the other lies the more relaxed backpacker area with rice paddies, palm trees, and popular hang outs. Spending time on both sides of the river gives a much better sense of the town as a whole and its full appeal.
Us girls split our time between sides and tried to soak up equal doses of culture, landscape, and lifestyle. The weekend saw us lying by the rice paddies one minute, climbing hills for sunset the next, and then jumping into dams not too long after. For only two days, it felt like we packed in a lot but still felt overwhelmingly chilled out. It was a weird combination but when you go to somewhere like Hampi, you will understand it too. If you are in the region, you will not regret visiting this unique part of the Indian Subcontinent. With rumours rife that the site is changing, being demolished, and pushing travellers out, it would be better to get there sooner rather than later.
The golden Indian sunset from atop a Hampi boulder, surrounded by other likeminded travellers
Rice paddies are a common foreground for the dramatic boulder landscape of Hampi
Getting To Hampi
As happens sometimes with travel in India, getting to Hampi can take some thought. Most people come to Hampi from either Goa or Bangalore. We came from Bangalore where we were working for 40K Globe so the advice following is for Bangalore, but similar options are available for Goa.
Overnight buses run from Bangalore to Hospet. Both the overnight buses we caught actually ran on time which was a major miracle. The journey takes between 7 to 9 hours. I was bracing myself for a sketchy experience but the sleeper buses were very comfortable. The beds were fully flat and one bus company even had working power points. So aside from the bumpy roads, it was a good sleep. I would recommend S.R.E. Travels as a good company and it cost about 450INR each way.
The buses drop you in Hospet, and from there you will need to bargain with one of the dozens of awaiting tuk tuk drivers for a ride into Hampi. This journey is between 20-30mins and is very affordable.
Trains also run from Bangalore to Hospet. There are 6 services a day ranging from 6 hours to 11 hours. The first train is at 12:00am, and the last is at 8:35pm. Prices depend on which carriage class you want and whether you want a sleeper train. Again, you will need to figure out a tuk tuk from Hospet to Hampi itself.
If public transport isn’t your thing (although you should definitely try it when you’re in India), you can hire a private driver. The journey will take around 7 hours and usually the driver will stay in Hampi so you can have transport within the town, too. The price depends on the company and where you are coming from, but is more expensive.
The nearest airports are still around 3 hours from Hampi so flying does not save time or pain.
Overlooking Virupaksha Temple before boarding the boat to cross the river
Getting Around Hampi
As mentioned before, Hampi is split in two by the River Tungabhadra. There are plenty of hills and raised areas to explore, and a river that needs crossing (hard to take bikes on the little boat) so choose where you plan to go each day before committing to transport. Some of the options are outlined below.
There are plenty of young men standing around the laneways of Hampi offering ‘bicycle’. Getting a bicycle is an easy and safe way to get around Hampi. Some of the attractions, such as Sanapur Lake, are a little far away and many of the temples are hill top – so get a bike if you’re confident you can make it to where you need to go. Bicycles cost less than motor scooters, tuk tuks, or cars, and don’t be afraid to look around for the best price and barter.
I am a scaredy cat and have never ridden a motorbike before, but there are plenty around Hampi. They aren’t too expensive and are a lot less physical effort to take around than a bicycle. Again, always barter, and remember that you won’t be able to cross the river with one.
It is possible to see a fair amount of Hampi by foot. Some sunset spots, temples, and eateries, are accessible. We opted for a combination of walking for the close attractions and then tuk tuks for the far away ones. This combination ensured we saw what we wanted to see and had flexibility.
There are plenty of tuk tuks around Hampi and Hospet. The prices are always negotiable and the usually friendly drivers can double as guides, offering insightful information at each stop. Tuk tuks come with some predictable stops at handicraft stores for kick back, but overall it is a good way to get around. Many tuk tuk drivers offer a sightseeing schedule which packs all the highlights of Hampi into a day of activity. We opted to see the route and pick the places which appealed most.
It is always possible to hire a car to get around the sites. If you arrived by private car you are sorted but you can also hire one online or ask around. Driving around by car is not too convenient because they have to detour significantly to cross the river. It is an option, but it is easier and cheaper to hire tuk tuks on either side of the river if you don’t want to walk/ride.
Crossing between the sides of the river is easiest by boat. The little boats shuttle from side to side when there are enough people to fill them. The pricing doesn’t seem to have a shred of consistency; it varies between 20 and 50Rs each time. The last boat runs at 5:30pm. There are also coracles available if you don’t want to take the motor boat.
Boarding the little shuttle boat as the sun rises over River Tungabhadra mid morning rituals
Things To Do In Hampi
It is almost impossible to list all the things to do and sights to see in Hampi. There are just so many beautiful spots around every corner. No matter what you choose to do, whether it’s hiking, bouldering, temple seeing, or chilling out, there are activities to fill your days.
Virupaksha Temple is the most famous temple in Hampi and can be seen from many vantage points — it is a must-visit. Other renowned temples to visit include Hazara Rama, Achyutaraya, and Vijaya Vitthala. Hanuman Temple is another stand out due to the panoramic view and unique structure. All the temples are individually beautiful and have different history and culture to offer. Hampi is famous for its temples so it is worthwhile spending time enjoying them.
I personally really enjoyed Malyavantha Ragunatha temple because it had fewer crowds and just as stunning views. The temple was around 18km from Hampi which was a downside but did mean that the view was different to other temples. The relative peacefulness, and no entry cost, made it the perfect place to explore at leisure.
Virupaksha Temple stands out in the Hampi skyline
Some of the details at Malyavantha Ragunatha Temple, Hampi
Malyavantha Ragunatha Temple was a peaceful place to explore at leisure without the stress of crowds
The whole hilltop was covered with interesting temples and archeological sites at Malyavantha Ragunatha
The view from Malyavantha Ragunatha over the boulder-covered landscape of Hampi
Aside from temples, there are other interesting archeological sites to see in Hampi which can teach and remind you of powerful empires of the past. My personal favourite was the Queen’s Bath which was an elegant stone building with a peaceful atmosphere. The Royal Enclosure and Elephant Stable are also both beautiful historical places to add to your itinerary, too. Hampi Bazaar is an ancient marketplace, and when you’re there you can sense the history of trading. Today there are still many stalls and shops to explore around the Bazaar.
One of the recessed windows overlooking the ancient royal bath at Queen’s Bath
Overlooking the Queen’s Bath — the warm colour of the stone made it a beautiful place
If you are looking for a historical site with a view, look no further than Matanga Hill. The historical complex atop Matanga is beautiful on its own, but add the uninterrupted views over Hampi, and that is something else. It is a well-known place for sunrises and sunsets.
Catch the sunset at what is known as “Sunset Spot” on the hippy side of the river. Ask anyone on that side of the river and they will be able to point you the way. The walk is only around 15 minutes long but involves a bit of climbing to get to the top. Each morning and evening as the red sun rises and sets, dozens of travellers clamber up the boulders to catch a glimpse. It is a rather spiritual experience to be surrounded by so many other people genuinely soaking up the same moment.
You can’t make this stuff up, just look at that killer sunset!
I spent the half hour sunset gawking at the colours. The oranges and reds changed the whole landscape.
The reflections from the rice paddies add an interesting dynamic to the sunset
Visiting Sanapur Lake was not originally in our plan of things to do but it turned out to be one of our favourite parts of the trip. The lake was virtually empty of tourists and it felt like you were almost completely alone. The locals reassured us that the “Beware Crocodiles” signs were unfounded (well, at least, we hoped they were telling the truth), and we cliff jumped into the water. It was nice to also take a coracle ride from one of the wonderful boatsmen around Sanapur. It was a truly relaxing experience (aside from the spins he did at the end) and something we all needed!
Our wonderful boatsman who for the most part paddled us gently around Lake Sanapur until it was time to do some mad spins in the coracle
The moment the coracle pulled into the small bay beneath us, we knew we had to try it
Lake Sanapur was something a bit different to explore in Hampi and very relaxing
Where To Stay In Hampi
There are plenty of accommodation options around Hampi and Hospet. As I was with a group of people when exploring, we all stayed in different places. This meant I was privy to information about a lot of varied accommodation types, but the two that I experienced the most are outlined below.
Shanthi Guest House is where I chose to stay. The place has a laid-back atmosphere with beautiful rounded huts and swinging chairs on the porch. The dining area overlooks rice paddies and palm trees, and the rooms are basic but comfortable. It cost almost 2000Rs to book online but was only 1000Rs if you rock up and book a room.
The view from breakfast at Shanthi Guest House
Mowgli is incredibly similar to Shanthi but with more of a backpacker feel and more vibrant colours. The atmosphere in Mowgli is bustling with travellers but relaxed. The rooms open up onto rice paddies and have beautiful swings.
The swings overlooking the rice paddies at Mowgli Guesthouse
Some Useful Hampi Travel Information
ATMs are few and far between in Hampi. To get to an ATM is a tuk tuk/motorcycle ride away. Either make sure you have enough rupees before you arrive or schedule a journey to an ATM once you’re in Hampi.
Hampi is in a no alcohol area so it can be a little difficult to find. Some restaurants and hostels will sneakily provide it at a cost; it doesn’t hurt to ask.
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