Hampi’s ruins are so widely spread, if you don’t hire a taxi to take you around, it could take a couple of days. Hampi town is a small village surrounded by UNESCO ruins. I thought I’d create a Hampi Travel guide to help you plan your trip! In the region of Karnataka, Hampi is the once capitol of the Vijayanagara Empire. The ruins range from hauntingly beautiful to decaying crumbles, and the dry heat at times, makes wandering it insufferable.
On the bus ride over from Goa, a handful of us came over. In the morning, a local elephant is taken to a river for a bath. He belongs to the Virupaksha Temple and performs blessings. The river also belongs to the locals as a bathing spot and it’s also where laundry women wash clothes. You’ll see brightly colored saris laid out on the slopes to dry in the sun.
Exploring the Hampi ruins alone
First up, the Virupaksha Temple is the main temple and the heart of Hampi. It’s impossible to miss because the bus drops you in the town square. It’s best to hire a guide to take you into the temple so you can learn about it.
Wandering the ruins, my eyes constantly search for something lush and green. Instead, all is arid, barren, in crumbles. I’m alone with a map I bought from a town store. I suppose this could be dangerous for a woman traveler alone. The ruins are spread out; some miles alway. And yet, somehow I feel safe and at peace in my sweat. I know I can’t be the only tourist in the area. Every once in a while you see a goat herder urging on their pack or locals lounging in the shade of the ruins, taking a break from the heat.
There are two sections to main Hampi ruins. About three kilometers in distance from each other, there’s the Sacred Center and the Royal Center . The Royal Center is closer to Hampi town winding towards the river. You’ll see many fallen temples and some preserved for regular worship. In the distance you can see the Hanuman Temple resting at the top, carved into the hill with it’s white stairs looking like a spine. Walking is the only way to see these ruins as there are no roads for vehicles. A goat herder pushing his goats, Indian women going to worship, kids playing in the river… the stroll is relaxing.
A bike rental or rickshaw/tour guide is a more convenient way to get around the Sacred Center. The ruins are spread out and you get to them by road. Very little shaded spots in sight, but the ruins can get a little more interesting (see the first photo below). This is the part I didn’t do, but only the first few walkable temples out of town. Bicycle rentals cost about 30-60 rs/day, while motorbike rentals average around 300 rs/day. You can hire an exclusive auto rickshaw drivers to take you around for a day (Cost: 300 to 450rs ). Lather on the sunscreen.
Sunset view of the Hanuman temple and its cunning monkeys
I used to think monkeys were cute. I always wanted one as a child.
In India, there are temples dedicated to Hanuman– the Monkey God- a revered deity, symbol of great strength, perseverance and devotion. He is a perfect hero. In reality, monkeys in India are cunning animals, rascal tricksters and scoundrel thieves!In India, they are not considered cute pets. They are mischevious pests, chased away by residents, with rocks.
After pedaling 25 minutes outside of town on a crappy rental bicycle, I slogged up the steep and narrow staircase (572 steps!) to the highest peak of‘s Monkey Temple (aka Hanuman Temple). This has the best sunset view as the lookout hovers over Hampi’s ancient ruins .
Midway, I came to a hoodlum monkey sitting on the stone walls. He looked down at me like a foreboding gatekeeper, barring my ascent to heaven. We locked eyes. He looked at my backpack. In a flash, I knew what would unfold…
He barreled down the wall towards me and leapt at my bag.
I dodged and turned. He missed. Ha ha!
He leapt again and again, persistent on getting his prize…
I turned and turned again… a complete 360 degrees in blink! I quickly swiveled my backpack around to my chest, wrapped my arms around it and gave him a feral hiss.
Maybe this is a fitting metaphor for the “monkeying mind” I’m confronted with when I travel alone. New situations and challenges test the commitment I have towards my endeavor. The future may be unknown, but one thing I knew for certain — that monkey was not going home with my backpack!
How long should you stay?
The overall ruins are spread out, there’s much to see and Hampi is hot. If temple ruins are your thing, then a trip to Hampi will be on your trip itinerary. Plan for at the very least, three days but ardent temple wanderers should plan for more. Hampi ruins are sprawling.
Where to Stay in Hampi
Hampi town is more like a small village. There’s souvenir vendors and enough to keep local life going.
There’s traveler guesthouses on both sides of a river, which cuts through the town. You need to take a ferry boat across to the other side of the river. I stayed at a guesthouse across the river, where it’s more lush and you’ll see farmers in the fields. Guesthouse are plentiful across the river and range. The guesthouses across the river can turn Hampi into an occasional hippie party town, with some adventurous and rugged travelers opting to sleep on the boulder rocks tucked away. Some guesthouses are run by Israelis, who make it a hopping spot for backpackers to lay their wandering feet.
I stayed at Hema Guesthouse, an Israeli run enclave with hammocks outside the bungalow rooms. They have their own kitchen. I paid 300 Rs a night, which I split with another female traveler. There are more Hampi accommodations here.
Getting to and from Hampi
While some buses from Goa and Bengaluru will drop you at the bus stand in Hampi Bazaar, you have to go to Hospet to catch most buses out. The first bus from Hospet (Rs 10, 30 minutes, half-hourly) is at 6.30am; the last one back leaves Hampi Bazaar at 8.30pm. An autorickshaw costs Rs 80. Hospet railway station is about 3 kilometer from the bus station (rs 15 by autorickshaw ) Numerous travel agents in Hampi Bazaar are eager to book onward bus, train and plane tickets, or arrange a car and driver.
How I got from Hampi to Gokarna:
Government Bus from Hampi to Hospet; transfer at Hospet; then Government Bus Overnight from Hospet toGokarna.
Cost: 370 rs, 6PM to 3AM (9 HRS)
VIP buses can be booked at travel agencies across the river, starting at 600 Rs