From being a heritage town to becoming a hippy haven, our guide to visiting Hampi covers it all. We can promise that the undeniable medieval charm of the town manages to leave everyone in awe. Your eyes will definitely be treated to the sight of temples, ruins, boulders and countless monuments made of stones. But you know what, all of this instantly becomes all the more fascinating when you discover Hampi’s history.
Did you know that back in the 1500s, it was known to be one of the largest medieval era cities in the world? There are many such fascinating things about Hampi and visiting the town is an intriguing travel experience that everyone deserves. Not just for its heritage, but also for a relaxing vacation. So here’s all that you need to know about Hampi before you start planning your trip to the place.
History and culture of Hampi
Hampi gets most of its reputation for being the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire from 1336. This was supposed to be the time when the two brothers, Hakka & Bukka of the Sangama Dynasty, stumbled upon Hampi. So the story is that these brothers Harihara (Hakka) & Bukka Raya, went on a hunting trip. Saw their dog chase a hare. Then noticed the hare grow a pair and chase their dog and defeat it. This was apparently a huge turning point.
They clearly learned a lesson about courage from the hare. So they set up a new base on that land. Made use of their newfound courage to defeat their enemies. And gave birth to the Vijayanagar Empire, whose capital city was Hampi. But again, let’s not get confused. This isn’t when Hampi actually came into existence. It existed long before the Sangama Dynasty. To be clear, this is merely when Hampi became the Vijayanagar Empire.
Hampi is actually much older. The town has actually been around since the 2nd and the 3rd century. This is around the time when most of India was under King Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty. But here’s the kicker. There are many legends regarding the place which suggest that the Hampi was also the land of monkeys. Same place where Lord Rama & his brother Lakshman came to seek the help of Hanuman after Sita was kidnapped.
There’s even another legend involving Lord Shiva and Parvati. The story is about how Parvati wins over Lord Shiva, while he had taken sannyas and was leading an abstinent lifestyle. So Parvati, who also does the same, follows the practice atop Hemakuta Hills. The river next to the hills get the name Pampa (another name for Parvati) river. So eventually, the place came to fame because of how Pampa made her way to Shiva’s heart. Eventually, the place got its name Hampe, which was a Kannada version of Pampa.
Back when it rose to prominence from 1336 and 1565, Hampi was supposed to be a proper powerhouse. It was a major trade centre of its time, arguably the country’s richest city and it was actually believed to be the second largest medieval city across the entire planet. But then the Muslim sultanate eventually defeated their Hindu rivals, smoked and destroyed the legendary place and eventually abandoned it. That remained the case up until the 1900s when it started getting attention again.
You shouldn’t forget that Hampi is still a little town. So the culture here is traditional and the folks here are religious. Most locals are farmers or are into agriculture. Of course, in recent years, there has been a massive spike in tourism. Part of Hampi is also home to many hippy foreign tourists. Because of this, the locals have definitely had to evolve. But overall, the local culture is simple and circled around agriculture, religion and festivals.
Thanks to tourism though, getting various kinds of cuisines is not a challenge because Hampi has quite a few cafes. Unsurprisingly, most of them are on the hippy side. Back in the days, the kings loved music, art and dance. It can be reflected in the town even today. Unique festivals like Vijaya Utsav are celebrated here, which go on for 3 days. Being the town’s main festival, it includes everything like concerts, theatrics and dance performances.
Festivals in general are a major element of Hampi’s culture. The manner in which they celebrate is just a great way to witness that. All in all, folks here are just humble who lead a traditional villager’s lifestyle. Even though a bunch of them might have evolved with how tourism changed Hampi, they are still deeply rooted to their traditions. But they’re all pretty helpful and speaking to them is always really insightful.
How to get to Hampi
By Air – Being a small town, Hampi doesn’t have an airport of its own. For international travellers, Bangalore is the nearest airport. And that’s around 350 kms away. The nearest domestic airport is in Hubli which is around 160 kms away. From there, you can either drive or take a train. Then again, that won’t be the end of your journey because the nearest railway station to Hampi is Hospet. Fortunately, that’s just 30 minutes away from Hampi, by road.
By Rail – Once again, Hospet is the nearest railway station. But it has good connectivity so you need not worry. If you’re coming from far off, look for a direct train to Hospet. You will find multiple trains like the Garib Nawaz Express (Connectivity to Mumbai, Gujarat & Rajasthan) and Amaravathi Express (Connectivity to Odisha & West Bengal). There are also other trains of different types, so getting to Hospet will definitely not be a problem.
By Road – A good option for those who live in Karnataka would be using KSRTC. Which is essentially a state transport bus. You can also look at online portals or private players like VRL Travels for more options of buses that get you to Hampi. There are quite a few and you can get fancy luxurious ones too. If bus rides don’t hurt your back or if you enjoy them, it’s a good option. Besides that, you can always take a road trip as the connectivity is pretty good.
Best time to travel to Hampi
Before we tell you about this, let’s just clear one thing right at the beginning. The best time to visit a place can often differ, depending on the type of traveller you are. Weather obviously plays an important role. So we’ll cover all the variables for you. Don’t you worry, okay?
Alright so traditionally, Hampi is similar to many places in the sense that the best time to visit is winter. See, winter is considered peak travel season and it’s really enjoyable here.
But pleasant weather between November to February is not the only reason to visit Hampi. First week of November is when Hampi’s biggest celebration takes place. The Vijaya Utsav (Hampi Mahotsav)is a spectacle worth experiencing. Then there is the Purandara Dasa Aradhana which is a classical music festival which runs for 2-3 days. It pays tribute to the poet Purandara Dasa who lived in Hampi. An experience we would definitely recommend.
July to September is also a good time to visit Hampi because there are no crazy downpours here during the monsoon. Just light erratic showers and it’s really nice around this time as the temperature simmers down a little. The light showers make it a bit cool. Plus Hampi’s scenic surroundings become really beautiful. Just one advice though, avoid rock climbing, visiting the boulders and treks of any kind because that turns super slippery and dangerous.
Just another heads up. Boats also don’t always operate during the rainy season. There’s still plenty to enjoy and admire in Hampi. Also, it’s not the season when most people visit Hampi so it might work well for you. That is of course if you’re not a big fan of crowds. Also, like the case with a lot of places, stays become cheaper during monsoon season. Purely because of fewer tourists. Stays here are anyway inexpensive in general but you can always save more!
Okay so summers here are definitely not the best time to visit. We definitely would not recommend it. Unless you have an insanely high tolerance for dry and hot weather. Or if you’re desperate to visit Hampi, have a very low budget and a very tiny window of opportunity in terms of time. Even in that case, we would suggest you bide your time.
Getting Around Hampi
One of the most fun ways of getting around Hampi is definitely renting a bike. You could get a scooter for around 300 rs per day. Cost for the fuel will obviously be paid by you only. Again, depending on the kind of bike you rent and the season, the prices can vary a little. But it is usually between 200-500 rs per day. The other option is renting a bicycle. This can cost around 100 rs and a tad bit more if you go for something with the entire gear.
However, you can always just take auto rickshaws to get around Hampi. They are easily available. There are also private players running cab services but they will obviously be expensive. Boats are another mode of transport within Hampi to cross the river. This can cost between 10 to 100 rupees, as the price of boats start increasing from evening onwards. Oh, one more thing! The bikes are primarily available at the hippy island side of Hampi.
For a small town like Hampi, there are literally so many places you can and should visit. But we’ll just focus on the some which you just can’t miss.
Hemakuta Hill – The reason we start with this place is because it’s a package deal of sorts. Visiting Hemakuta Hill means you also get to visit the Hemakuta Temple on top, amongst other temples, stone walls, archways and a lot of really old structures. The hill is also an amazing place to get a panoramic view of Hampi and enjoy a sunrise or sunset. So you’re technically killing like a big joint family of birds with one stone, by visiting this place.
Elephant Stables – In case you wondered where huge domesticated royal battle warrior elephants lived, here’s a clue. The indo-islamic architecture of the structure is really admirable. Be careful though. The 11 gigantic symmetrical domes and the huge chambers might lead to a jaw-dropping moment for you. It’s a fantastic place and one of the few in the town that is still in a good condition and wasn’t destroyed all that bad.
Sanapur Lake – This is a very different kind of “on the rocks” experience, but one that you will thoroughly enjoy. The Lake and its surroundings is supremely peaceful. Water is clean and you will also spot tiny hillocks made of huge rocks that surround the water body. Sanapur Lake also has the option for cliff jumping from huge rocks and enjoying a coracle ride (circular boats made of twigs, grass, etc). If you just want to chill out, this is just as good a place as any other. Bonus is that it’s not a well-known place either.
Stepwell – Now this is just really fascinating architecture. It kind of gives us some perspective on how design and creativity was back in the old days. Strong water has always been important so creating a water tank for the same was essential. However, it is also believed that this Step Tank was used by the kings and queens to carry out different rituals. The place holds many stories and is just one of those sights you have to see with your own eyes.
Again, this list does no justice to the places you should be visiting in Hampi. Trust us, most places in the town are unmissable. And there’s so much to talk about even for all of the places individually. That’s just what Hampi does. If you’re someone who has visited the town, you know what we mean. Feel free to get in touch with us if you have some interesting travel stories from Hampi of your own.