Hampi’s breathtaking scenery is a magical setting for the temples and palaces of the Vijayanagara empire. The boulders started to form 3.6 billion years ago from a massive piece of earth’s crust. Millennia of erosion sculpted their present form.
We spent three fantastic days strolling around boulders, temples and markets of Hampi.
These ten tips will make your visit to Hampi an experience you’ll never forget.
1. Book a room well in advance
Hampi is a small and sleepy place. However, it attracts many pilgrims and travellers. Since the demolition of central Hampi Bazaar area, guesthouse owners don’t know what to expect, so they don’t expand the premises. Therefore, good guesthouses and hostels sell out quickly.
We enjoyed our stay in Gopi Guesthouse. You shouldn’t expect anything luxurious. Their rooms are simple but clean, and the staff cares a lot.
2. Travel to Hampi
We used the overnight Hampi Express train from Bengaluru to Hosapete Junction. From there, it’s a 30 minutes rickshaw ride to Hampi.
Don’t forget to book your train tickets in advance.
If your schedule is tight, taxis are an alternative. We used Hamsa Tours for our drive from Hampi to Goa and were happy with their service.
When we visited in October 2017, Hubballi was Hampi’s closest airport. There are also several bus connections.
3. Think about timing
During summer months, Hampi can get excruciatingly hot. On the other hand, during the rainy season, some parts can get flooded. The best time for a visit is from October to February.
Because of Hampi’s spiritual importance, it hosts many festivals. Check if you can visit during festivities. We witnessed a celebration of lights on the Tungabhadra River. It was spectacular!
In Hampi, wake up early to get some alone time in the temples. The sights are not crowded yet, so starting around 8 am is fine. If you want to catch a glimpse of Lakshmi – the temple elephant – during her bath in the river, be there around 7:30.
Good to know: There is a 500 rupee entrance fee to Vittala Temple, which is also valid for the archaeological museum and the Zanana Enclosure on the same day. Therefore, be sure to visit those three sights on one day.
4. Get a certified guide
Although many guidebooks refer to Hampi as “do it yourself sight”, we felt overwhelmed by the numerous temples, administrative buildings and palaces of the Vijayanagara.
With a knowledgeable guide, you’ll understand the architecture and the sculpted details of the temples much better. That way, you’ll be able to truly appreciate the beauty and spirituality of the place.
Among many details, you won’t miss the beautifully carved Ramayana story in the Hazara Rama Temple, you’ll be able to listen to music played on columns in the Vittala Temple, and you won’t overlook an aqueduct in the secretary buildings, an architectural masterpiece for its time.
Get a guide for at least one day. Just ask your accommodation to set it up for you. When we visited in October 2017, we paid 1.500 rupees (around 20 €) for a full day guided tour.
Our guide Ravi had an excellent knowledge of history, architecture, religion and even photography. If you want to get in touch with Ravi yourself, contact us. We’ll gladly forward you his contact details.
5. Follow the sun
The temples of Hampi are an architectural masterpiece. The beauty of the buildings, individual columns and carvings is highlighted when the sun illuminates them. Plan your route accordingly.
Our guide planed the following routes for us.
We started the day at the Vijaya Vitthala Temple.
At noon we visited the museum and went for lunch at Green Catarig in Kamalapur. In the afternoon we went to the Pattabhirama Temple and Queen’s Bath, followed by the Zanana Enclosure.
For sunset, we headed to the Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple.
Check out the route here.
We started at the Virupaksha Temple and continued to the Hemakuta Hill.
Afterwards, we went to the Badavilinga Temple, Underground Shiva Temple and the Royal Enclosure.
After lunch, we headed to Sri Krishna Temple and to Kadalekalu Ganesha. Our tour ended at the Sree Surya Narayana Temple.
You’ll find the route here.
For getting around the temples, an autorickshaw is the best option.
6. Respect local customs
In many temples, you should take your shoes off before entering the main shrine. Observe the pilgrims to avoid embarrassing moments. Because of the religious importance, there is a strict no-smoking and no-alcohol policy in Hampi. Also, you won’t find any meat-based dishes in the area.
7. Eat well
Don’t forget about a lunch break during your temple tour.
We had some delightful Thali plates in Green Restaurant in Kamalapur.
8. Dress practically
When visiting religious sights, there are specific rules. Long skirts or pants show more respect for the temples, preachers and pilgrims than shorts. Shoulders should be covered too.
You’ll need to climb stairs and get through the thick grass from time to time. Wearing flip-flops isn’t the best idea.
9. Practice your selfie smile
Many Hindu pilgrims from all over India, including its non-touristy parts, come to pray in the shrines. As white westerners, we were quite a hit, and many asked us for selfies.
We agreed most of the time and were surprised by Indian selfie skills. If you’re uncomfortable with that, decline politely.
It works the other way around as well. If you want a picture with a group of colourfully dressed locals, just ask.
Hampi is a great place for relaxing. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the rooftop of a guesthouse or in the shadow of the temple columns. Take it easy, relax, read your favourite book, sip a delicious mango lassi and enjoy the unique atmosphere.
By the way, the best mango lassi we had on our India trip was the one in the Mango Tree restaurant.