Your Perfect Guide to Exploring Hampi
Hampi is a city that I decided to visit on a whim to experience the Holi Hai festival. I ended up experiencing so much more than just this festival and coming here was one of the best decisions that I made in India.
A Little Insight on the City:
The Indian government is currently struggling a bit with Hampi. Since this town has a strong cultural significance because of all of its unique temples, its attracts a lot of tourists. However, since before tourism even began in Hampi, locals made homes out of the temples. Now, the government is trying to move these people out of their homes/temples to help preserve this ancient area. The government is even going as far as trying to move all residents and businesses out of the area to what they call ‘New Hampi Town.’
Where to stay:
At the time of me writing this, all of the action is still in Hampi itself and this is where you will be both staying and spending your time.
Hampi is divided in half by a river. When the river is low you can easily walk across – but when the river is high they have small boats that take you across for a small fee.
One side of the river – the far side – is basically for tourists. Here you will find all of the accommodation. If you are a solo traveller you will want to stay on this side of the river in order to meet people and have a more social time. There are also restaurants and souvenir shops on this side. This side of the river does have a few temples, such as Monkey Temple and if you go for a long walk you can find some beautiful scenery.
The other side of the river is where the real beauty is at.
I stayed on this side of the river at a guest-house. There are many guest-houses here but you will often have a room on your own. This is ideal if you are traveling with people or know other people who are also visiting Hampi. I had friends that came to Hampi with me so I wasn’t worried about trying to meet new people and was happy to have my own place conveniently located on the side of the river with all of the temples.
On the side of the river with all of the temples, motorbikes are not allowed to be driven by toursists. The reason for this is so that business is not taken away from tuk-tuk drivers. You can rent a tuk-tuk driver for about 800 rupees for the day – depending on your bargaining skills. The tuk-tuk will drive you to all of the main attractions. You can also rent a tuk-tuk that comes with a guide to help you learn about each monument to enhance your appreciate of them. A tuk-tuk is a good option because it is very hot here and the heat can easily exhaust you.
I decided to get some exercise and explore Hampi on my own. To do this I rented a bike. I bought a map for 5 rupees and went on my way. The way was very easy and straightforward and if you ever get confused there are plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting around for you to ask directions from. Each temple also has a sign outside of it saying which one it is.
You can rent a bike for about 100-150 rupees for the day. Since these are not the best bikes you will get a workout trying to ride up hill- but don’t worry, there are only about two hills.
The days in Hampi get hot and they get hot fast. Make sure to get an early start to your morning to avoid the heat. By the time 11 a.m. hits you will already be sweating bullets.
To start of my self-made tour I began at the most obvious temple around, Virupaksha Temple. This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It costs 50 rupees if you want to take photographs inside of the temple as well as a 2 rupee charge to hold onto your shoes. This is highly annoying because I never had small coins. This was the only temple that I paid for.
Inside this temple there is an elephant because it is believed that the lord Shiva riencarnated as as an elephant. I was hoping that because the elephant was seen as holy that they would have a lot of respect for it. Unfortunately, a couple days later when I was walking by I saw a trainer with a bull-hook. They have trained the elephant to take ten rupees from you and then ‘bless you.’
From there I rode my bike up the hill just past the bazar to Musterred Ganesh. Here they have a large stone sculpture of an Elephant and some beautiful architecture.
Right next to here you can enter a beautiful area where you can find Sunset Point. This place- you guessed it- is a beautiful place to watch the sunset in the evening. There is a pathway that leads out to a rock cliff making it a calm and beautiful place to watch the sun set.
Even though I was visiting during a busy time, when I came back in the evening, there were not a lot of people around so it was a tranquil place to watch the sun go down (I did this on day 2).
From here I continued down the road to Krishna Temple. With this temple you will want to have a head-lamp or a cell phone with a lamp because you can actually enter it and go down and around it in the darkness. It was a pretty cool experiences and you should definitely do it. I had neither a cell phone or headlamp and just piggy-backed on people who did. It would have been a bit creepy to do it alone.
One of the coolest temples that I came across was the Underground Temple – and I almost rode past it! You have to veer off on a path to the left. If you do miss it, don’t worry because you will pass by it on your way back so can check it out then.
This temple was my favourite because you take of your shoes and walk through water. Ironically, this temple isn’t actually underground. But a light will also come in handy here as you walk through the pools of water into areas that are pitch black. This temple was so unique and fun to visit- also super refreshing after walking around in the scorching sun!
From here you will make your way to Pushkarani…and a few other things. It is a large area and in direct sunlight. It may be hot but it is worth checking out. As it is a large area so I entered near the first entrance and walked around for a bit and then then went back to my bike. I then biked to the far entrance and walked around again from there. This prevented me from having to walk all the way in the blazing sun to collect my bike.
The Queens Palace
My tour ended at the Queens Palace. Here you have to pay 500 rupees to get in. This is completely up to you whether or not you want to visit it. This ticket is also valid for the Vittal temple if visited on the same day. This is one of the most famous temples in Hampi, apparently. Unfortunately, by the time that I reached here I was exhausted and the heat was getting to me- I was ready to head back.
Hampi is a place that you will find yourself taking a lot of daytime naps. Well, India in general.
Watch the Sunrise
My second day in Hampi was the Holi Hail Festival of colours! Of course, this is not likely that this will be on when you are here.
On this morning, I biked up to some rocks across from Mustered Ganesh to watch the sunrise. There are so many high places around Hampi to watch the sunrise so it shouldn’t be hard to find a place close to you.
Walking Temple Area
The next morning I woke up early to head to the temple area that has no paved roads just foot paths. The walk up to these temples has stunning scenery! This temple area stretches on with many temples such as Varaha Temple, Kodandarama Temple and Matanga Hill.
The map of this area is deceiving because it makes it all look rather small when in fact it is a large area with lots to see. I was unaware of this and had to rush back at the end to make it back in time for my cooking class.
Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to explore so you don’t feel rushed.
Since you will be on your feet and in direct sunlight for the most part you need to start your day out as early as possible so that you can enjoy it before the heat becomes too much. Bring plenty of water! There are also many people selling coconuts on the way up if you need to replenish on your electorlytes.
I really enjoyed exploring these temples on my own. There were barely any people around and I found it nice to wander around at my own relaxed pace. Once you finish walking around this area you can a tuk-tuk back or just walk back the way you came.
I was hungry after all of this temple hunting and was in dire need of some shade. I grabbed a light lunch and re-couped in the shade before I headed out to a cooking class.
The cooking class that I did in Hampi was put on by a local woman in her home and at the lowest price that I had seen anywhere. It was a fun and awesome experience that cost less than a meal at a restaurant would cost me back home. You can read about my fun class here!
In the evening I went to Sunset Point to watch the sunset. It was beautiful from here. Even though I was in Hampi when it was very busy, for the Holi Hai Festival, this place was still relatively quite. There is a pathway that stretches out onto a cliff where you can sit on the edge of the rocks with the perfect of the sun saying goodnight. This spot is rightfully named. It still remains relatively light around here once the sun sets so you don’t need to worry about bringing a head lamp.
From there I said goodnight to Hampi and Headed to the train station to take a night train to Kerala. I didn’t want to leave this lovely place but thankfully Kerala proved to be amazing as well.
Oh India, how I love thee.
If you want to see Vittal Temple and the Queens Bath:
The main attractions here are Vittal Temple and the Queens bath. To help protect these historical sites, a fee is charged to enter. You can buy a discounted ticket that let’s you see both of these attractions within one day. However, they are on opposite sides of town from one another. My recommendation is to start out by taking a tuk-tuk to Vittal Temple. From there make your way by foot through the temples ending at Virupaksha Temple. This may be a good time to get some shade and eat some food.
Once you have rested you can take a tuk-tuk to the Queens Baths. You will want to make sure to visit the Queens Bath today since your ticket is only valid for one day. After the Queens Baths head home – you will be exhausted.
The next day you can rent a bike and cycle along the paved roads to explore the rest of the temples leading up to the Queens Bath (see itinerary above).