Hampi in 2 days
With more than 1,600 remains of the last great South Indian Hindu kingdom Vijayangar, spread over 4,100 hectares, Hampi was truly one of the key spots during our India travel. Located in Karnataka, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hampi was once one of the wealthiest cities of India and the world’s second largest medieval-era city. It attracted a broad range of traders such as the Persian and Portuguese. The city was the center of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire capital in the 14th-century. Besides the ancient characteristic, Hampi offers an amazing landscape of local life, amazing natural boulders and green fields.
We definitely wanted to see Hampi, however, we had trouble with deciding how many days to spend there. We couldn’t decide between 2 and 3 days. Obviously, 1 day wouldn’t be enough. The thing is, there is a river (Tungabhadra) which divides the city in 2. Most of the attractions are spread around the city center (south side) of the city. As you can imagine, there is a distance between them. So it takes time to see everything. If you want to do it by walking, it’s impossible to do it in 2 days. You need at least 4/5 days.
If you don’t want to do it on foot, you have a choice between a rickshaw (tuk-tuk), scooter and bicycle. We personally don’t like doing sightseeing with a tuk-tuk as this feels like too easy and rushed. Therefor we decided to do a mix between the scooter and bicycle.
Day 1: Cycling around the temples of Hampi
As mentioned, most of the temples are located on the south side of the Tungabhadra river. Here you can find the city center, Hampi market, and the bus station. This is where all the buses arrive. We arrived early in the morning. It can be very overwhelming when you step outside the bus. You will find yourself surrounded by tuk-tuk drivers who insist to take you on a tour. Most of them have a Hampi map (which you can easily purchase for 10 INR at any shop by yourself). They put the map literally in your hands to make sure you have to speak to them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience especially after long hours on the road.
The first thing we did was check-in at the hostel in the city center. Don’t get mislead by the term city center. The centre only has a few small en short streets and is not much more then a few hostels and little shops. Note: there is no ATM. We quickly refreshed ourselves and left some stuff behind to make our day more comfortable. After this it was time for a nice breakfast. There are 3/4 little restaurant where you can eat. These are located in the same street. We didn’t go to the most popular one but tried the other 2. Those have decent prices and the food was great. The menus also contain some other dishes than Indian such as Italian and Israeli. Must be due to a lot of tourist coming from those countries.
After breakfast, it was time to get the bikes. The bikes are rented everywhere, it’s easy to get a bicycle at the Hampi streets. The price for a whole day is 100 INR (1.54 USD). We got 2 of them with a Hampi map and started our trip. Our strategy was, go to the temples that are further away to make sure that we used the bicycles effectively.
There are a lot of temples, some bigger than others. If you want to do the smaller one as well, you will need more than a few days. We visited as much as possible with skipping very small once and feel like we saw everything. We started near the marketplace, in some places near the river we had to park our bikes and continue on foot. There are small signs surrounding the temples. You will see them on your way and decide to stop here and there. It’s a big area in which you can move on your own. It was very nice to explore Hampi on our own and at our own pace. We won’t go in too many details with all the temples we visited (we do give a list of highlights below). You can easily find them with the Hampi map. We stopped at some spots near the river to have a rest and even refresh with a splash of water from the river. We met some other people on our way. This is how we heard about the elephant taking a bath at the river every morning. The elephant is being taken out of the Virupaksha temple and accompanied by locals to have a bath all together.
Day 2: Across the Hampi river with the scooter
On our second day in Hampi, we could feel the cycling of the day before in our legs. We already felt like we saw most of the temples and decided that day 2 was going to be a nice and chill one where we would take things slowly. We woke up early in the morning to see the sacred elephant with its rituals. We entered the Virupaksha temple around 07.30 am. There was no sign of the elephant but we spent time at the temple. It was crowded by locals who were praying and completing their daily routines. This was nice to see as it gives you insights about a real Hindu temple with all its rituals. Then we decided to check the riverside and yes we found the elephant. There were locals who came with their families to have a bath together. This event is definitely worth the early wake-up.
After the event, it was time to cross the river. There are small motorboats for 10-20 people that cross the river once they fill up the boats. These boats are 20 INR (0.31 USD) and you shouldn’t expect much of it as it is just a short distance. Once we were on the other side, the first thing we came across was the big area full of scooters. We choose a Moped for 150 INR (2.30 USD) and 1lt fuel for 90 INR (1.38 USD). 1lt Was enough for us to tour the north side. The things you can do at this side is, visit the monkey temple, elephants stable, some other smaller temples at the riverside and have long breaks in between at the little villages that you will find every now and then. We stopped for tea and snacks and had little chats with the locals. For a nice lunch, you can visit the restaurants near the riverside where you start your tour.
Highlights of Hampi
We didn’t give a very detailed description of all the temples we visited because you can easily explore them on your own, but here is a list of the thing we really loved.
This is the closest temple to the city center. The temple is still being used and it’s nice to see the rituals and daily activities of the Hindu religion. The temple has 2 parts. One starts at the main gate till the second gateway, this is the outer part. Then the second part starts and this is where people show their devotion and do their prayers. You should go in the morning and see the backside of the temple. You can also enter it from the side entrance. Note that you need to take your shoes off. Another thing is that there are a lot of monkeys at this temple. The monkeys can take your food away when you show them. We witnessed monkeys grabbing food from people a few times during our visit.
Vitthala temple (temple with the stone car)
When you search for Hampi on google, surely you will find a picture of the stone car. The stone car is almost the symbol of Hampi. You can find it at the Vitalle temple. You will be amazed by all the details of the architecture. The temple reflects the beauty that the Hindu culture offers. Do note that you need to pay 500 INR (7.68 USD) for a visit.
Purandaradasa temple (for a feet bath and maybe some yoga at the riverside)
There are a lot of nice spots on the riverside. You can easily spend a few hours just sitting and enjoying the peaceful views. We spend a few hours at the temple. There are signs that state that it’s forbidden to swim in the river, but you can refresh by splashing some water in your face and maybe take your shoes off and put your feet in the water.
Krishna temple was similar to the Vitthala temple. We spend our last hours of the tour on our first day at this temple. We took some nice pictures. There was nobody around so we had the whole temple for ourselves.
Elephant bathing at the riverside
Every morning the elephant from the Vitthala temple is being taken out for bath between 7.00 to 8.00 am at the river. Also, you can meet the locals here. They come with their families to start their morning. Together with the nice views of the boulder landscape, this place is very peaceful. This event is free, all you have to do is get up early. Although you cannot touch the elephant, it’s nice to see.
Anjana Matha temple (also known as the monkey temple)
You have to take 575 steps to get to the top. It’s a hard walk up, especially with the sun high up. We strongly advise that you get water and take a few breaks. Please note that you cannot purchase water once your up. There is only a tap where local people drink water. But we didn’t dare to drink from it. We did use it to fresh up.
How much money will you spend in Hampi?
Costs you probably will make during your trip to Hampi:
Entrance fee of paid temples: 500 INR (7.68 USD) Note that wandering around in Hampi is free. They only charge for 3 places (for which you purchase a combined ticket). These places are the Vitthala temple, the area which contains the lotus temple and elephant stable and the Hampi museum.
Water (1lt.): Around 20 INR (0.31 USD)
Bicycle for the whole day: around 100 INR (1.54 USD)
Moped/scooter for the whole day (across the river in North Hampi): 150 INR (2.30 USD) for Moped and 90 INR (1.38 USD) for 1lt fuel.
Bus: We took the bus from Goa to Hampi 895 INR (13.75) one-way sleeper bus with A/C
Food: Fruit such as bananas are very cheap; 1 kg bananas with bargain round 20 INR (0.31 USD), meals at restaurants are a little more expensive than in the bigger cities. An average meal would cost 150 – 200 INR (2.30 USD – 3.10 USD).