What is Hampi?
Hampi ( a.k.a Humpi or Hampe ) is both a historic & relegious place in India. This was the capital of the Hindu empire,Vijayanagara, who ruled the south India during 14th to 16th century AD.
The ruins of Hampi, as it is known today, is a vast open museum of history, architecture and religion .
Spread over an area more than 25 square kilometers (10 square miles), Hampi ruins is packed with giant temples, palaces, market streets, aquatic structures , fortifications and an abundance of other ancient monuments.
The giant boulder strewn hills and the river that bisects make a bizarre landscape for this ancient metropolis. Together with its historic and mythological residues this rural area makes a perfect tourist spot. Hampi is in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
Where is Hampi?
Hampi is located in Karnataka state , a southwestern province of India.
It’s about 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Bangalore, the state capital.
How to reach Hampi?
The primary connectivity to Hampi is by road. Rail connection comes second and the air link is a third option.
Hospet, a small town located about 12 kilometers (8 miles) from Hampi is the nearest railway station. This is the main gateway to Hampi. Hospet is connected by rail to other important towns like Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli , Guntakal ( a major rail junction) , Hyderabad and Vasco Da Gama (Goa). Train is a preferred mode
Hospet has a bus station too with frequent bus services to the above mentioned places. The local bus service to Hampi starts from here.
The nearest airport to Hampi is Bellary (60km/ 37miles) and Hubli (170km/106miles). Other airports are Belgaum (190 km/188 miles) and Bangalore (350 km/ 217 miles). Flight connectivity varies depends on the destinations.
The typical access strategy to Hampi is simple (well, the standard Indian disclaimers apply!).
Get ‘airdropped’ in India, that’s if you are not from India.
Reach the nearest major town or city close to Hampi. ‘Close’ means it could be a place anywhere from 100 to 300 kilometers (about 60 to 200 miles) away from Hampi.
These places are in general connected with the rest of the Indian cities by rail, air and road. A few examples are Bangalore, Hyderabad, Goa and Hubli, that can be labeled as the near major cities to Hampi . Travel onward to Hampi by road or train.
Hospet, the gateway town to Hampi, can be reached by bus, car or by train. Typically it’s an overnight journey from Bangalore, Hyderabad or Goa.
From Hospet catch the local bus or hire a taxi/auto-rickshaw, in about 30 minutes you would be dropped at the centre of Hampi.
Follow the reverse path to get out of Hampi.
Some more tips , especially access to Hampi by train is given in this page : How to reach Hampi
What to see at Hampi?
Vittala Temple : This temple complex dedicated to Vittala, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu is an architectural highlight of Hampi.
This temple campus contains many halls and shrines. The halls are noted for its extraordinary pillars with the animated carvings on it. A set of pillars, known as ‘musical pillars,’ resonates when tapped. A huge stone chariot complete with wheels carved out of stone stands in front of the main temple. The environment of this temple is packed with numerous smaller but ornate temples and a wide chariot street of the temple. More on Vittala Temple ?
Virupaksha Temple: This temple dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction is located at a riverbank. Virupaksha temple is believed to be one of the oldest active temples (from 7th century AD) in India. This is a place equally sought-after by the tourists and the pilgrims. The temple complex consists of the god’s sanctum, pillared halls and a series of giant entrance towers. This is one of the fine places to witness the Hindu religious functions in close proximity.
Royal Enclosure: The seat of the erstwhile kings, this is a fortified campus. Royal enclosure is a sprawling area with the ruins of many stately structures. For example the Mahanavami Platform from where the king used to watch the annual parade of imperial majesty and military might. The area is packed with numerous palace bases, underground temple, aquatic structures and the likes.
Riverside Ruins: This is the path that connects the ancient Hampi Bazaar to the Vittala temple. Numerous shrines, carved artifacts, ruins of ancient structures are scattered all around along this path. For example the 1008 and 1008 Siva lings carved in a matrix like pattern on a sheet of boulder at the river shore.
Hemakuta Hill Temples: This hill is basically an expanse of rocky sheets with interesting undulations. A large number of pre Vijayanagara (the empire) temples of note are located in this hilltop. The highlights are the sets of triple chambered temples with its pyramid like granite roofs. This is an important mythological site in the local folklore. That explains the density of such temples on this hill.
Kadalekalu Ganesha: This is a giant statue of the elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha. According to Hindu Mythology, Ganesha is the god who is responsible for removing obstructions! This 4.6 meters (14 feet) tall sculpture id carved in situ on the slops of the Hemakuta Hill. The tall slender granite pillars with many mythological themes carved decorated the front hall of this shrine. Kadalekalu means gram seed in local language. The shape of this statue was the reason for this witty name for a god’s statue.
Sasivekalu Ganesha: This again is a giant statue of Ganesha located inside an open pavilion. The potbelly of the god is in the shape of mustard seed and hence the name (Sasivekalu means of mustard seed in the local language). This four handed god is a fine example of the Vijayanagara’s artistic skills.
Krishna Temple: This temple is dedicated to lord Krishna, one of the ten incarnations of lord Vishnu. In Hindu mythology Krishna is known for his romantic encounters and political shrewdness! This temple was actually dedicated to the lord in his infant (crawling) form. The complex consists of the main shrine, shrines of the goddesses, the chariot/market street and the temple tank. The main hall spots a series of pillars carved with mythical rampant creatures
Lakshmi Narasimha : This giant monolithic statue of the man-lion god is the largest icon in Hampi. Narasimha which is one of the ten avatars (incarnation) of lord Vishnu is depicted in a cross-legged seated position. It’s believed that the original image contained his consort Lakshmi sitting on his lap. This image was destroyed during the enemy invasion. Currently only a hand of the goddess resting on his waist can be seen.
Queen’s bath: This structure belongs to the royal area of the capital. Probably used by the courtly ladies or the king himself, this looks like an indoor aquatic complex. A large veranda with protruding balconies all around faces the central pool. This is one of the typical example of the Indo-Islamic hybrid architecture.
Lotus Mahal:This ornate structure was probably used by the military chief as his office or the queens of the palace as a pleasure pavilion. The pavilion spots Islamic architecture style arches and the roofs and base typical of Hindu temples.
Hazara Rama Temple : This was a private temple of the king. The temple is special with its exceptionally carved outer walls, an unusual feature in other Vijayanagara temples. The story of Ramayana (the Hindu epic) is impressively carved on all around the shrine walls like a comics strips on stone. The inner shrine contains four polished pillars with detailed carvings of godly themes.
Elephant Stables: That was the shelter for the royal elephants. This long structure is made of a series of chambers with domical roofs. Each chamber is big enough to accommodate two elephants. The central hall with an elaborated tower probably was used by the ceremonial band troop.
Pattabhirama Temple:This is a sprawling temple campus dedicated to lord Rama. The pillared halls are of special note. Tall mythical beats carved in the shape of a series of pillars.
Anjaneya Hill & Temple
and many more…
Where to stay in Hampi?
Hampi on Karnataka map Visitors stay at Hampi for many days. This is a norm considering the time it requires to ‘explore’ the sites. There are three or four clusters of accommodation locations.
Hospet town is the place where one can get accommodation that is rated as luxurious in Hampi’s scale. Kamalapura, a village centre close to Hampi is the second option. This is the place where the state run hotel with fair level of staying comfort is located.
Hampi village, the epicenter of backpacker tourism, is the budget type accommodation scene. In fact every other house here is a guest house. They rent out rooms within or attached to their homes.
Virupapur Gadde across the river is the den for the hippy genre.This is a place where you can rent huts, mostly located close to the riverbank
In general, gatecrash is a reputed check in style in town. But advance booking is preferred during the peak season.
You can make a decent tour of the hampi ruins in 3 to 4 days. Though it’s not uncommon to see tourists do a 1day crash tour of Hampi, it’s not worth the effort.
This kingdom was located at the edges of the Muslim sultanates of the Deccan area. That brought in an unusual combination of cultures that Hampi could boast of. The evidences of these are loud in Hampi’s architecture. Apart from the Hindu and Islamic traditions, Jainism was a major religion in Hampi.
Today, far from its erstwhile metropolitan status, Hampi is very much a rural place. Many villages are scattered around this area where agriculture is the prime occupation.
Though it owns the much-touted UNESCO World Heritage tag, Hampi at its heart is a humble place. This is a place where a city dweller can savor the raw village life at its best. For me it looks like the villagers over here don’t mind a nosy-goofy tourist stray into their village.
And time, it seems, have forgotten to move on…
More on local Etiquette , for those who are new to India.
How to tour Hampi?
On foot! , that’s if you want to comb all the major ruins. You can hire bicycle or mopeds to cover a wider area ,say spots located 5 kilometers(3 miles) apart.
A smart combination of bicycle/moped and on foot explorations is the optimum strategy.And if you include an occasional coracle ferry crossing and a couple of hill climbs in the agenda, your route plan is deemed perfect.
The local three wheeled taxi (Autorickshaw) or car is available for hire at the site. The major ‘hotspots’ are connected by motorable road. But this doesn’t cover all the highlights of Hampi (the riverside ruins, for example).
You can hire a driver-guide as a package or hire ‘spot guides’ locally at each major attraction. If you need assistance to hire a trained guide for full-day / half-day, contact the tourist info center in Hampi Bazaar near the Virupaksha Temple. Some more details about the guide fees are mentioned in the Cost & Budget page.
Exploring Hampi independently has its special charm and pleasant surprises. See 3 Day Hampi Itinerary
When to go?
The popular tourist season is October to February with the New Year holidays as the centre peak. This period is the optimum time of the year with a pleasant weather.
Tourist Season, Hampi However Hampi’s festival calendar is spread throughout the year.
Hampi Festival (November): This is the largest festival at Hampi. Generally they are scheduled for 3 days during the first week of November. The celebrations typically packed with shows of music, dance puppet shows fireworks and a pomp procession as the grand finale showcasing the cultural richness of the place. Of late items like rock climbing, water sports and rural sports also has been included in the schedule. More on Hampi Festival ?
Purandaradasa Aradhana (January/February): This is principally a classical musical festival. The festival is held every year to commemorate the birthday of the ancient poet Purandaradasa who lived in Hampi. Musicians of national and international repute participate in the 2-3 days of concerts.
Virupaksha Car Festival (March/April): This is the largest religious festival in Hampi. The highlight is the procession along the main chariot street in Hampi. The image of the god & goddess is kept on the temple car (the giant wooden chariot) which is the centre of the procession. The festival marks the annual ritual marriage of the god & goddess.
Phalapuja Festival (December): This again is held at the Virupaksha temple to mark the ceremonial betrothal of the divine couple.
Diwali (October): Though not specific to Hampi, Diwali is celebrated in Hampi in a grand way (usually in October). Noisy nights with firecrackers are the hallmark. Hampi Bazaar area is the epicenter of the celebrations. Visit Virupaksha temple to witness some special ceremonial functions during the evening. That includes a local procession where the temple elephant too participate.
Sivaratri (February/March): This is a special festival earmarked for all Siva Temples in general. This nightlong religious offering is held at Virupaksha Temple. More>>
Hampi Hampi’s climate is generally dry & hot.
March to early June is the summer. Monsoon brings some wet weather that typically lasts from late June to early August. The colder period of the year is from November to February.
Irrespective of the climate, Hampi is open for visitors all round the year.
Tourist crowd (and prices too!) drops during the summer & rainy seasons. Day temperature in summer can reach close to 40 deg C (104 deg F). If you are planning to tour during this season wear protective loose cotton cloths & headwear (hat or scarf). Carry plenty of drinking water during the tour. One of the bonuses of touring Hampi during off season is the quietness and the relative seclusion of the sites.
Rains can put your local tour plan out of gear. Most of the spots you are going to tour are open areas. The unpredictable rain can make you camp at the hotel room, or restrict your tour to a limited number of spots.
Remember, most of the ruins you are going to cover on foot or by bicycle/moped. Even if you hire a cab, you will require walk along open areas. Bring a plastic raincoat, if you are still committed to tour the ruins during the rainy season. Dust settled, the river full and the monuments got a though wash, post rain weeks the whole of Hampi spots a fresh & green look.
Though the nights are cold, the winter offers a pleasant climate to tour the ruins. The day temperature in the winter can be in its mid 20 deg C (about 68 deg F) range. Visit Hampi during the winter (Nov-Feb) period and join the mob in style!
How much does it cost?
Let’s put the last line first: Hampi won’t burn a hole in your wallet !
An overnight bus ticket from Goa or Bangalore to Hampi can cost you about Rs300 to Rs400 (about USD 6 to 9); a budget type guesthouse room (double) can be rented for Rs200 to Rs300 (about USD 4 to 6);
For about Rs5 (10 US cents) per hour you can hire a bicycle for the sightseeing trips; or for about Rs200-Rs300 (about USD 4 to 6) you can hire a moped including the fuel cost for a days roaming; In case if you chose to hire an auto-rickshaw (three can share) for local sightseeing, it can cost you anything from Rs300 to Rs600 (USD 6 to 10) depends on the coverage and time.
Admission is free to a large number of the monuments except two or three. For The Vittala Temple & Elephant Stables the entry fee is Rs250 (USD 5) for all foreign nationals. For Indian citizens the entry fee is Rs10. The ticket is valid for both the monuments if visited the same day.
Generally still camera usage is allowed free at all the monuments. Virupaksha Temple charges Rs50 (USD 1) camera fee.
A local guide (for a single monument) would charge you about Rs50 (USD 1) for about an hour’s tour.
A decent meal can cost you about Rs40 (USD 1). For about Rs200 (USD 4), you can enjoy a great dinner by the riverside.
That’s it about the major cost factors one would encounter in Hampi. It’s however possible to tighten this a bit. For example you may prefer to trek instead of hiring a local taxi or stay at that Rs50 (USD 1) a night hut by the riverside.
Also there are a couple of luxury places (in Hampi’s standards) where you can burn more cash.
For a more detailed list of the costs see the Cost & Budget page.