Hampi India – 10 Most Interesting Attractions and Things to Do
Hampi is a small town tall with temples. The landscape is littered with them, as tall as skyscrapers in some cases, but glittering brown so that they blend in to the rocky terrain. Cultural and historical wonders abound in this small village to the point that you could fill your days here gazing at architectural wonders, and so it’s no surprise that Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. But let’s be honest, we all know that temple-hopping can get a little tiresome. So here is a general overview of the top attractions in Hampi for work and play.
1. Vittala Temple Complex
If you really only have time for ONE temple in Hampi (although we’d recommend staying longer if so), then Vittala has to be it. This complex of temples was originally constructed in the 16th century and has spent the intervening years crumbling into the surrounding boulders and countryside. The rocks used to build the complex are engraved with intricate strictures, giving visitors a hint of its former grandeur. Don’t leave without checking out the stone chariot, the wheels of which actually used to turn!
The temples lie about 2km out of central Hampi, so it’s worth setting half a day aside to give yourself time to see everything.
2. Virupaksha Temple
Virupaksha Temple may be hard to miss, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and check it out inside. The storeys-high temple is at the end of the main road of Hampi bazaar that stretches between it and the bus station. The main gopuram of the temple escalates nearly 50m into the air, and is ornately carved in dusty red stone. This is Hampi’s only working Hindu temple, and even has a resident elephant, which, for a small donation, blesses visitors. Entry is INR 2.
3. Matanga Hill
Since access to alcohol in Hampi is limited, you’ve got no excuses for not getting up early for a nice hike. The view of the boulder and temple-strewn terrain of Hampi at sunrise is well worth the pre-dawn wake-up This peak is the highest point in the vicinity, and the ascent takes about 30 minutes from the most popular path which begins to the west of Hampi bazaar. If you absolutely cannot wake up in time to see the sunrise, then the sunset is almost as good, although be prepared for a lot more heat. There ruined temple at the top of the hill is a nice place to sit and watch. Don’t forget to bring a torch!
4. Eat, drink, and relax
With the plethora of sites and temples around Hampi, we’re highly grateful that there are some excellent cafes and restaurants on offer so we can relax between sightseeing. The service at Hampi’s rooftop and garden restaurants might be a little too relaxed for usual standards, but hey, you should be too if you’re lying on a mattress drinking lime soda! Places like Mango Tree and Laughing Buddha should not be missed for their laid-back vibe and excellent curries.
5. Elephant Stables
The Vijayanager Empire boasted an impressive elephant cavalry, and built this 11-room stable to house them all in the 16th century. The structure that once held the royal giants is an extremely well-preserved and intricately carved building held in grassy grounds. Though the entry fee is an annoying INR 250, once you’re inside and have had your fill of ducking in and out of the cool stone buildings, we think the fee is worth it for the chance to stretch out on the gloriously grassy lawn and relax.
6. Bike around Hampi
There’s no shortage of bicycles for hire around Hampi, and for the cost (around INR 50 per day) and the time they save trekking from temple to temple, we’d highly recommend hopping on two wheels to whisk yourself around. What makes it even better is that biking means zooming around Hampi’s beautiful fields of rice and sugarcane, which is a sublime experience. Bikes might be a little rusty, and your tyres not as pumped as you’d like, but hey, it’s all worth it to feel even the smallest of breezes.
7. Dawn elephant bathing
If you slip quietly out of your guesthouse just as the sky begins to lighten and tiptoe down towards the river, you can make your way to the bathing ghats for a quietly beautiful spectacle. Just after dawn most mornings is when the mahouts bring their elephants down to the water for their morning bath. Seeing how much the elephants enjoy gambolling in the shallow waters, as well as how much the mahouts love their charges, is a refreshing and lovely way to start the day.
8. The Queens Bath
The Queens Bath might not look like much from the outside, but the interior architecture and the picture it conjures up of elegant ladies bathing in the cool and quiet room make it one of Hampi’s must see attractions. Constructed almost 500 years ago during the Vijayanager Empire, its sprawling arches and intricate waterways are a feast for the eye. It is located close to the entrance of Hampi’s Royal Enclosure, and entry is free.
9. Riverboat ride
Don’t like the sound of hot dusty walks from temple to temple in Hampi? Maybe biking just doesn’t cut it for you. Well, you’re in luck, because Hampi’s other important mode of transport is via coracles, which are tiny bowl-shaped boats that fit four or five people. You can hire a driver near the ghats to take you downriver to a number of temples for only around INR 50, and trust us, it’s safer than it looks. You might even get a little respite from the heat if you’re lucky, and nobody’s seen crocodiles in the area for years….
10. Hampi Festival
Given it only happens once a year, this tourist attraction might not be an option for everyone, but it’s an absolute highlight for those traveling in India at the right time. Hampi Festival takes place every year in the first week of November, and is a three day celebration involving fireworks, music, dancing, puppets, and in recent years, water sports and rock-climbing for the more adventurous. Throngs of people flock to Hampi at this time every year, so if you plan to attend, take our advice and book well in advance!
Keeping you busy
What Hampi lacks in size it more than makes up for in character, with oodles of sites to keep you busy! These top tourist attractions will have you whizzing around on foot, bike or boat, maybe with time for a tasty thali and a nap in the shade in between activities. Though there’s no shortage of things to do, don’t forget to pause to soak up the atmosphere of village life in South India, because even though Hampi is one of India’s top travel destinations, we all have to take time to stop and smell the dosas.