Hampi was the imperial capital of Vijayanagar, a 14th century empire but today what’s left of it the spreads out over an area of 26km². Before the fall of Vijayanagar, diamonds were sold on the streets, but the main street selling diamonds and other precious stones was surprisingly called Pan Supaari Street (in English it means betel-leaf betel-nut street). You can still see the exact location of Pan Supaari Street in Hampi, which has been marked with a board by the Archaeological Survey of India. Hampi hosts Hampi Utsav every year during first week of November. It is a visual delight as all the monuments/ruins are lit at night and it is a cultural extravaganza of dance and music. 2010 marked 500 years since the Vijayanagar king Sri Krishnadevaraya ascended to the throne.
How to get there
The nearest airport is at Hubli, which is 143km away from Hampi. You can fly from Goa then change planes in Mumbai (or Bengaluru), but this is the longer and more expensive way. You can get there by train. The nearest railway station is Hospet Junction is only 13km away. Overnight trains run several times a week from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa. The trains are a much cheaper and more comfortable route than the tourist buses (tourists are often led to take a bus, but if you go here, better take the train).
You can also reach Hampi by car (it is 350km from Bangalore). Drive till Chitradurga on NH-4, take a right turn on NH-13 towards Sholapur till Hospet, and then drive another 13km to reach Hampi (direction towards Hampi is well marked).
If you decide to take a bus, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates daily buses to Hospet from Bangalore, Mysore and Gokarna. There are private bus companies operating from most places in Goa and from Gokarna which run an overnight service to Hampi. Unfortunately, there is no direct return so you take a local bus (or taxi) to Hospet and take it from there.
Explore the place
Hop on a bicycle or by walk around – this is the best way to explore Hampi. This place has a lot of history and every little rock in Hampi has its own story. You can visit the State Tourism Center inside the premises of Virupaksha Temple from where you can get a bicycle tours around the ruins accompanied by a guide. If you like cycling, then renting a bike is the best way to explore Hampi if you enjoy history, culture and nature. Hampi is a visual delight, especially due to its stark contrast from most other places.
Nearby places to see
There is a lot to see in Hampi. The must-visits are Virupaksha Temple, Hampi Bazaar, Monolith Bull, Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Hemakuta Hill temples, Big Shivlinga, Vithala Temple (the famous Stone Chariot is located here), Hazara Rama Temple, Royal Enclosures, Queen’s Bath, Zanana Enclosure (which also houses the Lotus Mahal), Elephant Stables, Achyut Raya temple, Statue of Lakshmi Narasimha, Virupaksha Temple, Mahanavmi Dibba, the Stepped Bath and the Matanga Hill (from where you can see lovely sunsets.
Tungbhadra dam is another 16km from Hampi and it is towards Hospet. Hence, if you have plans to catch your train/bus back from Hospet, you could see Tungbhadra dam and return from Hospet. It takes around 45min to 1h to see Tungbhadra dam.
There are also several “Shivalings” along the river and your boatman will guide you to. The old capital called Anegundi, across the river from Hampi also has many sites. See the Anegundi from Virupapur gadde by road.
Visit the Daroji bear sanctuary which is around 16km from Hampi, opposite side of Kamalapura/Hospet. It opens 13:00-18:00.
Things to do
You can cross the river by one of those coracle ferries. Make sure that the ferry isn’t crowded with people, because you are at risk of falling in the water.
If you are visiting the season that lasts from April to September time (which by the way is off season) check with the hotel for bookings especially if you plan to stay on Anegondi side of the river.
If you go there in June to August, the coracle ferry will not be in action (the river is usually very high then.
Sanapur Lake is another must-visit. Rent a moped or a bicycle to reach there, which is around 5-6 kms from the Hampi island. The place is ideal for relaxing.
There are several guest houses in Hampi, but you can also stay Hospet or the nearby town of Kamalapur are also options. Staying at Hospet has its own perks, for instance the Railway Station and better Hotels are pretty close. Hampi is not very far from Hospet. Most guest houses in Hampi are basic and tourists should not expect too much. If you are seeking cheaper guest houses, they are situated across the river on the Hampi Island (Virupapur Gaddi), popularly known as the ‘Hippie Island’.
Best season to visit
The best season to visit Hampi runs from October – November. October is festival season when the entire country celebrates the festival of Dassehra commemorating the victory of Ram over Ravana, good over evil, as told in the epic Ramayana. You can visit it in the other months of the year, but they are considered to be off season.