A UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient village of Hampi in the south Indian state of Karnataka once served as the capital of one of the largest kingdoms of India, the Vijayanagara Empire. In the 16th-century, the village was razed to the ground by the Deccan sultanate and all that’s left today is the ruins that speak of their prime. From sun-kissed boulders and monoliths to the temples and palaces, discover the best places to visit in Hampi.
Vijaya Vitthala Temple
Vijaya Vitthala Temple is a massive complex that dates back as far as the 15th-century, and stands as a testimony of the Vijayanagara architecture. Dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an embodiment of Lord Vishnu, the temple is said to be the largest historic structure in the area. It houses several shrines, pavilions and halls, including Maha Mantapa (main hall), Kalayana Mantapa (marriage hall), Devi Shrine (shrine of Goddess), Utsav Mantapa (festival hall), Ranga Mantapa, and the stunning stone chariot in the courtyard, which is perhaps the most striking structure of the complex and used to be able to move. This temple is an invaluable historical and architectural heritage with artistic and intricate carvings that represent various gods. Not to mention the huge musical pillars in the temple halls, also called the SAREGAMA pillars, which when tapped gently emanate light musical chimes (though tourists are not allowed to play the musical pillars in order to avoid damage).
Monday to Sunday: 8:30am-5:30pm
Entry fee: INR 10 for Indians; $5 for Foreigners; INR 25 ($ 0.39) for video camera
Vijaya Vitthala Temple | © Aishwarya Dwivedi / Wikimedia Commons
Musical Pillars | © Sid Mohanty / Wikimedia Commons
Sri Virupaksha Temple
One of the main pilgrimage centers in Hampi, the Virupaksha temple dates back to 7th-century, which makes it one of the oldest temples in the country (it is still in use). The temple is dedicated to Virupaksha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, and houses massive gateway towers, a pillared hall, three ante-chambers, courtyard, shrines and small structures. The temple boasts artistically carved walls depicting stories and legends. Do not leave the temple without taking blessings from Lakshmi (the temple elephant).
Monday to Sunday: 6:00am-6:00pm
Entry fee: INR 5 for Indians; $ 5 for foreigners; INR 500 ($ 7.72) for video camera and INR 50 ($ 0.77) for still camera
Hemakuta Hill Temple Complex
In the southern part of Hampi lies Hemakuta Hill, which is dotted with several Hindu temples, built during 9th to 14th-century. Most of the temples in the complex are dedicated to Lord Shiva – some are intact, while many have fallen into ruins, but are definitely worth a visit. The architecture of these temples is unique – these are three-tiered structures, complete with pyramid-shaped roof made of granite, and the walls are adorned with floral motifs. The most prominent temple in the complex is the Mula Virupaksha temple.
Ruins at Hemakuta Hill Temple | © Baluhema / Wikimedia Commons
Mula Virupaksha Temple | © Baluhema / Wikimedia Commons
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
This temple houses the largest statue in Hampi. It has a 6.7-meters tall monolith statue of Lord Narasimha (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) that dates back to 1528 AD. The deity is sitting on a seven-headed snake (sheshanaga) in a cross-legged position.
Monday to Sunday: 6:00am-6:00pm; No entry fee
The 6.7-meter tall statue of Lord Narasimha | © Ms Sarah Welch / Wikimedia Commons
Built in the 16th-century, the Achyutaraya temple was the last temple built in Hampi, and epitomizes the Vijayanagara style of architecture. It is set between two hills – Matanga and Gandhamadana, which adds to its charm. Dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, the temple has huge courtyard, complete with intricate carved pillars and ornamental details. Each pillar has sculptures inscribed that truly reflect the stunning craftsmanship.
Achyutaraya Temple | © Jayasankar C B / Wikimedia CommonsSaveShare
Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple
On the southern side of the Hemakuta Hill lies the Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple. The highlight of the temple is a 2.5-meters tall monolithic statue of Lord Ganesh that has a snake carved on its belly. According to folklore, once Lord Ganesha ate too much food and to prevent his stomach from bursting, he tied a snake up around his belly.
The statue is in half-lotus position with four arms. Also, there is a pavilion around the statue that dates back to 1500 A.D, and is said to be built in memory of the Vijayanagar king, Narsimha II.
Monday to Sunday: 6:00am-6:00pm; No entry fee
Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple | © Vipulvaibhav5 / Wikimedia Commons
Once served as the seat of the Vijayanagara king, the Royal Enclosure today lies in ruins, and is considered to be an open-air museum of Hampi. Spread over an area of 59,000 sq meters, it has ruins of temples, palaces, aqueducts, water tanks and several other structures that speak of a past when the area was a flourishing kingdom. However, the most impressive of all the remains include the three-tiered eight-meters high Mahanavami Dibba that showcases the everyday life of that era; the five-tiered, seven-meters deep stepped tank; the 100-pillared hall or the King’s audience hall, the Queen’s Bath constructed in Indo-Islamic architectural style, and an underground chamber. These structures exemplify the architectural brilliance of the creative designs of those days.
Stepped tank in Royal Enclosure | © Ramya suresh / Wikimedia Commons
Overlooking the Virupaksha temple, the Hampi Bazaar is one of the popular places that will take you back in time. Stretching over one-kilometre, this bazaar is dotted with ruins of pavilions on both the sides, which are worth checking out. There is a huge statue of Nandi Bull at the east end of this ancient street, along with a photo gallery near it that houses unique photos of the area dating back to the 19th-century. The entry to the gallery is free.
Also, there a few shops selling carved artefacts, antique coins, embroidery shawls, jewellery and handicrafts, which make for a perfect souvenir.
Hampi Rock | © Jojdas / Wikimedia Commons
Thousands of Shiva Lingas carved into the rocks form the riverside ruins. Also, there are several statues, small shrines, pavilions and artefacts all around.
Monday to Sunday: 6:00am-6:00pm
Entry fee: INR 30 ($ 0.46) per person
1,008 lingas at Riverside Ruins | © Pratheepps / Wikimedia Commons
In order to fully appreciate the aerial view of the historical ruins of Hampi, head to Matanga Hill, the highest point in the area. The ascent is short and easy. You’ll find an ancient temple (Veerabhadra temple) at the summit. There are steps that lead to the temple’s rooftop, from where the views are divine.
Department Archaeology Museum
The Archaeological Museum houses ancient gold and silver coins, metal plates, statues, sculptures of Hindu deities, paintings, armoury and other antiquities. You can enjoy these treasures from a bygone era in a remarkable way over its four galleries.
Monday to Sunday (except Friday): 10:00am-5:00pm
Entry fee: INR 5 per person
The historical ruins of Hampi lie in the south of Tungabhadra River, while the north side is rife with hippie culture, known as Hippie Island or Virupapur Gaddi. It has been the hotspot for backpackers. The laidback feel and scenic natural beauty remain the island’s foremost attraction. Also, there are several colourful cafes and shacks scattered, which operate from mid-March until end of October. You’ll find both western and Indian cuisine, along with beer, live music, karaoke nights and board games. The accommodation also caters to the hippie lifestyle with small guesthouses and backpacker huts, fitted with all the basic facilities.
To reach this island, you need to cross the river in a motorboat/ferry. The last boat leaves at 5:30pm. You can wander around the island on a moped (bike) and soak up its immense beauty.
Point to note: During monsoon, the ferries are not available, so you need to hire a taxi to reach this island.
Boat ride in Tungabhadra river | © IM3847 / Wikimedia Commons
When you visit Hampi, it’s also a good idea to discover the nearby ruins of the ancient town of Anegundi, approximately 12 miles from Hampi. This village is as old as the epic Ramayana and home to well-preserved historical monuments and temples. The village’s most intriguing aspect is its plateau, said to be one of the oldest on earth, hence the village is often referred to as the ‘Home of Mother Earth’. For sightseeing, there is Anegundi Fort, Pampa Sarovar Laxmi temple and Gagan Palace.
Another famous pilgrimage site is the Hanuman Temple that sits atop the Anjeyanadri Hill, which is approximately 2.4 miles from Hampi. You need to climb some 570 steps to reach the temple. Trekking up the hill is popular with the tourists, who are lured by the serenity and mesmerizing views they are rewarded with at the top. Aim to be at the hilltop for either dawn/dusk as the view of the sunrise/sunset is known to make visitors quiver with delight. Do not forget to take your camera!
The temple has an idol of Lord Hanuman carved on the rock, and also, there is a shrine of Lord Rama and his wife Sita within the temple.
Pro tip: There are lots of monkeys on the premises, just do not tease them! There is no entry fee; open every day until sundown.
View from Hanuman Temple | © Santhosh.fon / Wikimedia Commons