Hampi in the state of Karnataka is the most surreal landscape I’ve seen. The place looks like a combination of the Flintstones, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones filmsets. Hampi sits next to the Tungabhadra River where every year many Indian’s are swept away by the rushing currents. Just a walk from the little shanty town are the abandoned temples and exotic banana plantations. The sunsets are incredible, the people kind and friendly. The whole place has a relaxing atmosphere making it very hard to leave.
We left Kerala early so we could celebrate Diwali in style. We arrived late evening and sat in our guesthouse planning our next journey to Goa. The guesthouse owners were very helpful in sorting out our bus tickets and recommending things to do during our stay. We never got bored in Hampi as there is so much to see. We bumped into a couple we’d met two months before in Varanasi which was very cool and met some lovely Indian families.
Where to stay
Hampi is a fairly cheap place to stay, the buildings are not exactly eye-catchingly beautiful. We stayed in Hampi Bazaar as it’s close to the restaurants and shops. You can stay on the other side of the river in Virupapuragadda which is becoming more popular. The place I wanted to stay in apparently didn’t exist anymore, I’m not sure if this was true or not but it was raining and we couldn’t be bothered to argue.
Archana Guesthouse – 1200 rupees (non A/C). We stayed in the room separate from the rest of the guesthouse with our own private entrance (exciting!) The restaurant looked out onto the river which made an awesome view for breakfast. Prices online start from 1500 rupees but we did a bit of haggling and said we wouldn’t use the AC.
Gopi Guesthouse – from 600 rupees. Next door to our room was Gopi’s run by one of the friendliest Indians we met. He gave us his delicious homemade granola on the rooftop on the night of Diwali.
What to visit
There are so many sites to see in Hampi, the best way to get around is by bike or to hire a tuktuk. We did both, booking the tuktuk for the sites further away though, we could have cycled to those too. We rented bikes in the bazaar area for about 100 rupees per day. I bought a map but mainly went by sight to find places to look around. One afternoon we found a spot of shade in an abandoned temple to quietly read however, were constantly interrupted with Indian tourists wanting photos with us. We picked up our stuff and found a hidden spot away from cameras and prying eyes. Sometimes it can get too much! Things to do:
- Watch the sunset from Hemakuta Hill with incredible views across the countryside, plantations and temples
- Relax by the beautiful Lotus Mahal temple surrounded by a well kept garden and see the royal elephant stables nearby
- See the giant statue of Ganesh and pose in front of him
- Get up early to see the sunrise on Matanga Hill
- Wander around the Virupaksha temple, one of Hampi’s most famous sites which also is home to Lakshmi the elephant
- Buy a coconut from one of the many stalls along the way. Coconut is very hydrating!
- Travel across the river in a basket boat. The service only runs till 5pm however we met a local who took us back at nighttime. Hilarious but in hindsight rather dangerous….
- Watch the washing and blessing of Lakshmi the temple elephant every morning down by the river
- Don’t forget to strike a pose in the coolest locations
- Meet these guys who ask you to write down in their book how much money you’ll give them. Ermm what?!
One of our Hampi highlights took place on our last day when we befriended a tuktuk driver called Prince. He took us to a secluded pool surrounded by large golden boulders. We walked through banana plantations to get there and across a multitude of boulders in all shapes and sizes. Prince told us at certain times of the year the whole area is flooded by the river. We jumped in the refreshing water and found an abandoned basket boat and made ourselves dizzy twirling round and round.
Where to eat
There are lots of little restaurants to eat in, most on rooftops. One of our favourite places was across the river where we ate Mexican food with meat (we seriously craved chicken!) We visited an Italian restaurant made up of garden chairs in a tent like structure. Our dishes came out within 20 minutes of each other but we didn’t care since we shared.
One of the best thali’s I’d had in India was at Gopi’s restaurant. We came here for two breakfasts and two dinners as the food was so good. One morning Fran and I were reading in there when a loud bang came from the kitchen, everyone flew out of their chairs and rushed out leaving two English girls looking confused. Turned out it was just a lid popping off…not a gas explosion.
There aren’t many shops in Hampi which I suppose is a good thing. Most if not all are in Hampi Bazaar selling the usual touristy clothes found throughout India. We didn’t find anything spectacular to buy… You don’t go to Hampi to shop.
How to get there
Train – We travelled from Bangalore to Hospet on a 2AC train, hiring a tuktuk to take us the short distance to Hampi.
Bus – The nearest bus stop to Hampi is in Hospet. We booked an overnight Volvo bus via our guesthouse to Goa.
Have an awesome time!!!