A unique destination which is a pilgrim’s delight, a backpacker’s haven, a historian’s riddle and a geologist’s venture – Hampi’s got it all! Except for one thing. We did not see a single resort and we hope it remains this way.
Hampi is a small town in Karnataka, India. We arrived here by catching a train to Hospet and a tuk tuk from Hospet to Hampi. None of the guidebooks or pictures had prepared us for the strange beauty of this place.
Based on our experience, here is a list of 11 awesome things we recommend you do in this mysterious place:
1. Get Mesmerised by the Mystery of the Ruins
A walk around Hampi’s main town will leave you awestruck. Every turn has a monument and every single one of them has a story to tell. Heard of the Hindu epic Ramayana? Well, Hampi is believed to be the setting for various parts of it. The ruins are a UNESCO world heritage site. Hampi was the ancient capital of Vijayanagara, also known as “A Forgotten Empire”. It was one of the richest and largest cities in the world during its prime. What’s more, the first historical settlement in Hampi dates back to 1 CE!
2. Let the Strange Giant Boulders Transport you to Sets of The Flintstones Movie!
Most who know about Hampi, know it because of its ruins and the mythology associated with this picturesque village. However, not many know about Hampi’s fascinating geology. Those that have visited have been charmed by numerous boulders which form hills, valleys, riverbeds... practically everything here.
Nature has placed Hampi’s boulders in such a way that they appear to be arranged in different structures. It is said that these rocks have one of the oldest surfaces on the planet.
The ancient city of Vijayanagara had a distinctive style of architecture by utilizing and cutting the boulders. For us, this was the most interesting aspect of this place.
3. Stay in a Hut on Hippie Island
Hippie Island – wow, doesn’t the name sound awesome? This is the nickname of the tiny island which is across the river, also known as Virupapur Gaddi. While the pilgrims stay in the main Hampi town, the backpackers generally choose this little river island. Let’s get one thing right – this is NOT the place for you if you like luxury. You can enhance the experience of your visit tremendously if you’re open to staying in a simple hut here. Our cute little hut with a hammock was in a place called Top Secret River View, which we could only reach by walking through a trail that started from the ferry drop point. As the name suggests, this place had a stunning view of the river and Hampi’s temples across the river. We paid INR 500 for a hut for two people.
4. Climb on the Hills to Reach Some Seriously Stunning Viewpoints
Hampi has many different hills that you can climb for some stunning views of the entire area! Many of these viewpoints are well known and some even have a story to tell! Our favorite was Matanga Hill which is at the center of Hampi and is the highest point. On top of the hill is an ancient Veerabhadra Temple and there are steps that lead to the roof of that temple. When we visited, we were the only ones on top and got to enjoy a few hours in savoring in the breathtaking view. Do not carry a lot of things with you because at several points, you will need to use your hands and legs to climb like a monkey. Apart from Matanga hill, there are many other viewpoints that you can access by climbing on the hills. They are easy to spot because you will see some people around.
5. Visit the Birthplace of Lord Hanuman - Anjaneya Hill
Although not technically Hampi, this place is in the nearby village Anegondi which is easy to reach from Hippie Island. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Unlike the Matanga hill, this place is easy to climb because of the presence of proper steps.
There is a temple on the top of the hill that is dedicated to the monkey warrior God. Be sure to keep your belongings in your pockets or bags because this hill is full of monkeys who like “borrowing” things from humans. The view from the top is breathtaking with several paddy farms, banana trees and Hampi’s ruins.
6. Witness Stunning Sunsets and See a Jam Session at Sunset Point
When in Hampi, you can catch a stunning sunset view from almost everywhere. Whether you’re sitting by the ghat next to the river, or climb on one of the hills, or visit Jain Temple near Hemkuta hill – it’s beautiful to see how the rocks emit a reddish hue when the sun sets. However, the best Sunset Experience was from a little hill on Hippie Island known as “Sunset Point”. It is away from the main area. An hour before the sunset, it’s usually buzzing with the sounds of percussions, strings and a few other hand held musical instruments.
7. Jump off a Cliff into a Fresh Water Lake to Swim (With a Crocodile)
Wait, what? Cliff jumping in Hampi? We did not believe when we heard it. We rode around the hippie island and came across many water bodies – river, reservoir and a lake! We saw many painted signs that said it’s unsafe to swim in the water because of a crocodile. We did not want to be a crocodile’s meal. However, we reached Sanapur Lake and asked around for the cliff jumping point just out of curiosity. Upon reaching the jumping point, we couldn’t hold back and JUMPED. The water was in an enclosed area so it didn’t make sense for a crocodile to hang around that area. Two jumps and a few hours later, we felt revitalized because the water appeared to be clean. Do this at your own risk!
8. Ride a Moped Through Hampi’s Gorgeous Landscape
What better way to enjoy sprawling lush landscapes than riding a moped (or bike) through them! This was the highlight of our trip. Believe it or not, I’m terrible with motorized two wheelers but riding a rented moped on Hampi’s empty roads was simpler I thought!
You have to experience it understand how amazing it feels. This is exactly why I noticed everyone riding a moped had an ear to ear smile on their faces! This is a must!
9. Ride a Ferry on a Strange Red River With Statues on the Rocks
Yes, the river does have red water! What’s more, every rock peeking out of the river had some statue or the other. This is the same river that you cross to reach Hippie Island from Hampi by ferry. This ride lasts for only 5 minutes. Please keep in mind that the ferry schedule keeps changing. On our visit, we were informed that it only runs from 6 am to 6 pm.
10. OMG, the Cute Cafes! Visit Them!
With the abundance of colorful cafes, we never got to eat at the same place twice. The best cafes were on the Hippie Island. We loved our meals in Top Secret River View, Laughing Buddha and Hema’s café. Most of them have board games that can keep you occupied for hours. We ended up meeting a bunch of interesting travelers in these places. Hampi’s main area has only a few of them out of which Chill Out Café and Mango Tree stood out.
11. Meet Some Lovely locals
The locals of Hampi charmed us with their hospitality and warmth. After living in a city, the friendliness of the simple minded residents here was a refreshing experience. The grownups appeared to be shy but the children approached us many times to introduce themselves. Strangely, the teenage boys were notoriously flirtatious! Most of them spoke excellent English.
BONUS: See some crazy sights!
We can’t predict what you will see but we can assure you will witness some crazy sights like we did.
We saw a few locals giving a bath and a massage to this elephant!
We saw this cheeky monkey who was totally in love with its own reflection. Look how he’s checking himself out!
We saw this shiny green bug on our walk from the ferry point to our hut! Does anyone know what it’s called?
Have you been to Hampi? Please tell us about your experiences! We would love to hear what you think about this beautiful village! If you liked this article, please share!
Thank you for reading.
(A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the famous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. She blogs about the madness of her journey on her website, DrifterPlanet.com, with her husband who she met at a music festival in Thailand.)