Probably Matunga Hill is the most talked about hill in Hampi. Let it be its central location, the oversold sunset/sunrise view or the myths associated with it, this hill commands a special attraction.
Being at the centre of Hampi, and also the highest point, Matanga hilltop is the best spot to get an aerial view of Hampi and it's environs.
If you trace the foothill in a clockwise direction, the road that ends at the Hampi bus station runs along the eastern side of the hill. At the northwest the east end of Hampi Bazaar terminates.
The north part of the hill practically ends at the south bank of the Tungabhadra River where the Kodanda Rama Temple is located. The eastern ridge shares its border with the Achyuta Raya’s Temple. The south is generally an irrigated valley where the zigzagging Turthu Canal and a cart track located.
There are a couple of paths leading to the topmost point where the Veerabhadra Temple is located. The most popular is a stepped ramp at the west; and the other, a tedious but thrilling trekker's trail located a bit north of the stepped path. The steps are reasonably intact and they are as old as the Vijayanagara kingdom. There are multiple trails at the foothill that leads you the bottom of the stepped way.
The most prominent is the wide unpaved road that branches eastward from the main road just close to the Kadale Kalu Ganesha statue. This path eventually takes you to the foothill after a couple of turns.
The next popular access trail is the one located at the east end of the Hampi Bazaar street. At the end of the southern row of pavilions, a narrow trail goes towards east tracing the edge of the hill. This path, sometimes scramble through stray rock clusters and a few fallen shrines, passes along the point where the ascending path to the hilltop begins.
The third and the less used path is at the south of the hill. This trail links the Matanga Hill footsteps with the cart trail that runs parallel to the Turthu Canal mentioned earlier. A pavilion nested into the banana plantations at the north edge of the path is a landmark. The narrow path towards north branches out at this point and seems disappears into the thick of the plantations. This trail too eventually reaches the foothill from where you can find your way to the hilltop.
The ascent can take about thirty minutes. The rooftop of the Veerabhadra Temple at the summit is the ideal place to the sunrise and sunset of Hampi. Avoid climbing the hill during the hot part of the day. However it doest matter if you have already used to the hot climate of Hampi.
Relatively a larger crowd trickle in to bid goodbye to the sun than to witness the sunrise. The west most edge of the temple rooftop is the prime real estate in the sunset affair. First come first served is the rule and squat on the western edge if possible. Only the motivated ones make it to the top for the sunrise, as it requires you to wake up at least by five in the morning and start trekking up. In either case see to that you are among a group as a matter of prudence.
Matanga Hill is one of the important locations mentioned in the Hindu mythology, Ramayana. The place was the hermitage of Sage Mathanga. Monkey prince Vali killed a buffalo demon called Dundhuvi and thrown the corps on to the sacred Matanga hill. Angry at this act, sage Matanga cursed Vali that he could never venture on to this hill. Later Dundhuvi's son Mayavi fought with Vali to avenge his father's death. Vali chased him into a cave; and asked his brother Sugreeva to stand guard outside.
After a while thinking that Vali was killed in the fight, Sugreeva closed the cave. Finally Vali emerged from the cave and chased Sugreeva out of the monkey kingdom. Sugriva along with his warrior general Hanuman, took refuge at the Matanga hill, as Vali could not climb this hill. Later Lord Rama killed Vali and crowned Sugriva as the king of the monkeys.
Though this myth is generally associated with the Vaishnava cult, the ancient temple located at the hilltop is that of Veerabhadra, a cult deity associated with Lord Shiva lineage. ( See Ramayana in Hampi & Religions of Hampi)
The view from the top is interesting, especially from the eastern side where you can get an aerial view of the Achyuta Raya’s Temple complex; at south, the cart trail and Turthu Canal winding through the banana plantations; at north the chain of hills and the river that flows along its ridges; at west the Hampi settlement with the tower of Virupaksha Temple dominating.
The whole Matanga Hill tour is free of entrance fees or camera charges. Carrying a small pocket torch is a sensible thing as this is not a well-lit area. However don't loiter around at the top till the last visitor has left the scene (See Cautions).