As we sailed in the Tungabhadra river I could picture myself as one of the thousands of foreign travelers and merchants who were drawn to Hampi in the 14th-16th century. They were lured by the throbbing trade, and mesmerized by the magical landscape and the unmatched artistry of the monuments of Hampi. The Bangalore to Hampi 3-day itinerary is the best we could do at this great UNESCO world heritage site over an extended weekend. The lively road-trip with friends, the grandeur of the ruins, the sunset at Tungabhadra – they will be etched in my memories forever.
It’s a detailed travel guide. You may want to scroll down to pin it.
Hampi is just 350 km from Bangalore and it can be reached via train, bus or by car. The train is the most preferred means because they are cheap and comfortable. However, given the high demand, the trains in India need to be booked in advance. Buses are easier to book because of their availability. There are a number of private Volvo buses that you can book from Bangalore to Hampi within the budget range of Rs. 500 -Rs.800.
This was our choice of conveyance from Bangalore to Hampi. We got a little late and started at 8:00 am from our home. There are two driving routes from Bangalore to Hampi – the shortest one is via NH48 and the slightly longer one is via the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway. We took the shortest route on our way to Hampi and the second route back. Here’s a review of the two.
Take the Cubbon park road followed by NH48, which is a breeze to drive. At the end of NH 48, about 200 km from Bangalore, you may like to pause to take a good look at the imposing Chitradurga fort. For that, you will have to park your car and walk up to the entry of the fort. We started too late for that, so we cruised on to NH 50.
All was well till somewhere at Ballari on NH50 the road becomes really narrow and passes through a small village. This road is laden with bumpers higher than legal limits, some of which are clearly raised by the locals or industrialists there. There is no way you can negotiate these dangerous bumpers with anything less than an SUV. Our recently serviced car took the hit despite us slowing down the vehicle to a stop almost. That’s why we decided to take the longer route on our way back. After a rough 10 kilometers, the roads were good again and we reached our hotel at 3 pm.
Take the Kasturba road from Bangalore, and within 5km you will reach the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway. About 122 km from Bangalore on this route lies Lepakshi – the land famous for events in Hindu epic Ramayana. It is one of best one-day trips from Bangalore, and can also be a great stop on your way to Hampi. We did stop here on our way back to take our friends to the famous temple of Lepakshi. After this, you will take the Bellary – Uravakonda – Anantapur Rd to NH67.
This route is lengthier but much safer to drive given the excellent condition.
Related: Best One-day Trips in Bangalore
There are a plethora of options to stay in Hampi, a backpacker’s paradise. There are guesthouses in Hippie island at economical rates. I would recommend staying in the Hampi town, close to the Hampi Bazaar, where you can see most of the heritage group of monuments. We stayed at Clarks Inn Hampi. At around Rs.2500 per night including breakfast we got an indoor swimming pool, gym, play zone, and amazing interiors.
When you start planning your trip to Hampi, it’s important to know a little bit about the history of this place. The historic antiquity of the region can be traced back to the Mauryan period, in 238 BCE. This is when King Ashoka the great conquered almost the entire Indian sub-continent. The region was successively ruled by some of the greatest emperors in history from the 5th century till the 13th- the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas, the Chalukyas of Kalyana and the Hoysalas (11-13th century). By this time the Islamic invaders from middle-east had already gained control in North India. In an endeavor to thwart their inroads to the south, the southern kings came together to form this splendid, most prosperous kingdom of the time – the Vijayanagara empire.
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The curiously scattered rocks of Hampi are no less intriguing than the architecture and heritage that the place is known for. Geologically is in the Dharwar Craton, craton being one of those rare parts of the land that has not undergone any changes from volcanic or tectonic movements for many years. By many, I mean tens of millions, even billions of years! The rocks of Hampi are formed from years of erosion of giant monoliths that existed in pre-historic ages. Hindu mythology, however, has a different explanation for the same. According to Ramayana, the North Hampi is part of the erstwhile Kiskinda, the monkey kingdom where Lord Ram met Hanuman. The rocks were apparently scattered all over after a fierce war ensued between two monkey-brothers fighting for the throne of this kingdom.
With Hampi as the capital, the kings of the Vijayanagara empire controlled the major part of the southern peninsula and both the eastern and western coastlines of India. This made possible, the booming trade relations with countries all over the world. The prosperity and greatness of this Hampi have been chronicled in many travelogues of that time. It is said that precious stones and even gold were sold in the open at Hampi Bazaar, which used to be crowded with people from different race, ethnicity, and cultures. After 200 years of glory, the kingdom witnessed a dramatic fall at the hands of invaders followed by destruction and loot. That’s why unlike Rajasthan, you will not see palaces and castles in Hampi, all you see are the ruins of one of the most prosperous empires that ever existed.
Update: Hampi has recently been ranked 2nd on NY Times best destinations in 2019. So do not forget to include this on one of your long weekend trips in 2019.
By the time we freshened up at our hotel and had our much-needed lunch, it was almost 4 pm. Hampi has two distinct areas separated by the beautiful Tungabhadra river – the main Hampi and the North Hampi. There is, of course, another less explored part of Hampi, which is wildlife! Yes, we will talk about it later.
The Hampi bazaar was just 2km from our hotel so we started with the hope of exploring them. This part of Hampi is often rightly referred to as an open-air museum. You don’t need to search for sites, it’s all around you.
The royal enclosure was the seat of the emperor of Vijayanagara kingdom and naturally the home to many significant monuments. There are over 45 structures in the Royal enclosure, or should I say ruins of the glorious structures that once existed. We parked near the Danaik enclosure and walked straight to the Queen’s bath. From there we just explored the area on foot. You can use our walking map of the Royal enclosure area to explore the monuments.
The most prominent structure here is the Mahanabami Dibba which was used for Dushera festivities. Other significant places to see here are the King’s audience hall also called the 100-pillared hall, the Queen’s bath, the Octagonal bath, the stepped tank, the public bath, and horse stables.
Danaik’s enclosure or Dannanayaka enclosure is adjacent to the Royal enclosure, and an area which historians are divided on. Some believe it to be the mint area of Hampi, some the seat of administration (Danaik meaning chield administrator), while some say it is the military training area. Most of the monuments here were completely destroyed, hence the ambiguity.
As we entered the beautiful Hazara Rama temple, a monument that has withstood the test of time; we could hear the evening azaan from the Mohammedan quarter. The Mohammedan watchtower offers a great panoramic view of the Hampi bazaar. This place is famous for bouldering, a perfect adventure in the rocky landscape of Hampi. The weather was cloudy and pleasant, but not ideal for watching the sunset. We climbed one of the smaller rocks to watch the dramatic landscape in the evening.
The next stop from here normally would be Zenana Enclosure, which is just 750 meters from the Danaik’s enclosure. However, we decided to visit the Tungabhadra river for a coracle ride. Unfortunately, the coracle ride closes at 6 pm, and by this time it was dark. We sat at the banks of the river and enjoyed the serene calm, unlikely of such a tourist hotspot. We had the quintessential Bengali “Adda” (chit-chat with friends on topics ranging from nature to politics).
That was the end of our first day at Hampi. We returned to our hotel and played cards till midnight.
Our plan for next day was ambitious but doable. We decided to start the day at 9 am with a tour of the archeological museum of Hampi. Luckily this was exactly opposite to our hotel.
Entry Fee (Indian citizens)
Rs. 40/- includes entry to Vittala temple complex and Zenana Enclosure
Valid for 1 day
Allowed and free
9 am to 5 pm, closed on Fridays and national holidays
The archeological museum is one of the best places to begin your trip of Hampi.
Now that there is a single Hampi ticket which includes entry to Archeological museum and two of the most imposing complexes in Hampi, you should ideally cover these three places on the same day.
The museum has a beautiful lawn with some pillars excavated from the ruins. Inside the museum, you will be greeted with a large model of the city. This will give you a solid orientation of the city and help you in planning. It would have been ideal if they had audio guides available in the museum but they don’t. All the relics are supported by sufficient information written in English, Hindi, and Kannada. Some of the notable collections here are the idols of Hindu deities and the coins of different eras from the Chalukyas to the kings of Vijayanagara. Another interesting exhibit was the one showing the evolution of the Devanagari script.
Allowed and free
9 am to 5 pm, closed on Fridays and national holidays
From the museum, we drove straight to North Hampi on the other side of Tungabhadra river. The best alternative of driving is taking a boat from the banks of Tungabhadra to go to the other side. When you search on Google Maps, use “Vijaya Vittala temple” since there is another Vittala temple almost 100 km away from Hampi.
The Vittala Temple is the zenith of architecture in the Vijayanagara kingdom and a must-to-include place in your Hampi itinerary. From the parking area, you can either walk 1.5 km to the temple complex or you can hire a tuk-tuk. At Rs.20 per person, the tuk-tuk takes you to the main temple complex from where you can explore the Vittala Bazaar, the temple, and the river. On your way back you just have to wait in queue for a tuk-tuk to arrive.
No matter how packed your schedule is you will have to spend at least 2 hours in the complex. The Vittala bazaar was the large market of North Hampi. A series of parallel pillars on both sides lead to the main entrance of the Vittala temple complex.
As soon as you enter the complex you see the spectacular Stone chariot, the icon of Hampi, right in front of you. It was built out of multiple granite blocks put one over the other. The intricate carvings on the joins completely hide the crease giving an impression of a monolithic shrine.
This is where we saw the overwhelming crowd that we were (not) missing till now. People thronged upon the stone chariot waiting for their turn to take multiple photos, while we continued our way to the main hall. We then entered the gate of the main Vittala temple. There were two temples here. One of these had the famous musical pillars, pillars which were used to create music. We spent an unexpected amount of time in experimenting our music composition skills on the pillars.
The other temple had intricate carvings depicting stories of mythology and history. The stories were inscribed in words on the wall in the Kannada language. After exploring and photographing the temples in the scorching heat we went to the riverside to relax and enjoy the breeze.
Gate to the Vijaya Vittala Temples
The temple with musical pillars
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King’s Balance at Vittala
At the banks of Tungabhadra river in North Hampi
The Anjaneya Hills holds a significant place in the Hindu mythology. Believed to the birthplace of Hanuman, a Hindu deity who helped Ram in his battle against the Ravan. At the top of the hill stands the Hanuman temple also known as monkey temple. The flight of stairs along the hill leading to the temple is completely shaded and one has to leave their shoes behind when they visit. Believers visit the temple to seek blessings of Lord Hanuman while nature lovers undertake the journey to see the most beautiful sunset. We had to skip it because of the timing but will make sure to come back on our next trip.
If you love adventure read all you need to know about bouldering in Hampi.
From here you can head to the Hampi island, also called Hippie island. The place earns its name owing to a large number of Goa-style shacks and the laid-back lifestyle in the region. Most backpackers choose to stay in this part of Hampi, in small huts at a ridiculously low price. The road to Hippie island is not ideal for driving hence it is advisable to hire a tuk-tuk or a bicycle if you visit it in the evening.
The Hippie island didn’t look too special in the afternoon. Of course, there were some interesting artifacts and cool dresses on sale out there. We had lunch at one of the shacks here and headed to our next stop.
Hippie island is the favorite spot of foreign tourists. It comes alive at night when live music bars open up, and people gather for a bonfire.
6 am to 6 pm
While Hampi is famous for the rocky landscape and heritage monuments, it is has a surprise hidden for wildlife lovers too. The Daroji wildlife sanctuary is home to the endangered sloth bear among other species like peafowls, mongoose etc. However, there are a few points to note before you visit-
There is no organized safari, the entry fee allows you to enter the forest and explore it on your own
There is no jeep or car rental service here, so you need to hire a car from Hampi
No extra fee for the car, but you are not allowed to enter the forest without a car
There are no toilet or drinking water facilities here
You need to climb a watchtower which is not disability-friendly
Best time to see a bear is after 3 pm but you should have at least 2-hours
4km from the main entrance lies the watchtower, where you need to park the car and climb up. This is where you are supposed to take out your binoculars and high-zoom cameras and start looking for sloth bears. The forest is dense and the black bear are difficult to spot. We stayed there for about 30 minutes and returned without seeing a glimpse of the animal. Patience is the key to watching wildlife, that’s something we learned on our 6-hour Bandipur tiger safari. However, we wanted to return for the coracle-ride, hence we had to leave by 5:00 pm.
If you have only 1 day in Hampi, just skip Daroji National Park and Hippie island.
The coracle ride is one of the least advertised, yet most amazing attractions in Hampi. We parked for free near the Virupaksha temple and walked towards the Tungabhadra river like we did the previous day. There were no signboards so we had to keep asking locals for guidance. We walked into a cave that descended into the Tungabhadra basin. This is where the round-shaped boats where waiting to take us on a memorable tour.
You need to haggle here. The tours are not organized as such, and the prices are quoted on demand-basis. The four of us could negotiate a 30-minute coracle ride at Rs.1000 total. The sailor showed us some of the floating temples and precarious rocks on both sides of the river. The sunset at Tungabhadra was a sight to behold. The tour ended with few rounds of spinning in the river. I must say it was a thousand bucks well-spent.
Can you spot the most precarious rock we saw on our coracle ride?Virupaksha Temple
Our last stop of the day was the Virupaksha temple, one of the oldest active temples in India. It was created in the 7th century, after which it was enhanced during the Chalukya era and followed by the Vijayanagara era. The intricate carvings on the well-maintained temple make it difficult to believe that it is so old. This grand shrine is a must-visit place in Hampi and one of the monuments that were awarded the status of UNESCO world heritage site. Unlike many active shrines, there is no specific dress code for entering the temple.
The temple is also famous for a small slit in the wall which exhibits a pin-hole camera effect in the day when the sunrays pass through it creating an inverted image of the main tower.
The last day we checked out of the hotel at 9:15 am. We wanted to visit the Zenana enclosure before we set off on our way back through route 2.
Free and allowed
6 am to 6 pm
The name Zenana suggests that it was a secluded area for royal women, a harem. The most notable structure here is the lotus mahal. It looks refreshingly different from the usual architecture of Hampi group of monuments. It is believed to the social hangout area for the royal ladies. Unlike most other monuments of Hampi, it is made of limestone and bricks.
Lotus Mahal at Zenana Enclosure
The Zenana enclosure, unlike the other to “enclosures” we visited before, is indeed enclosed by high walls. The area within is well maintained with lawns and large trees and map of the area to help you out. Unlike the Royal enclosure, there are security officers here, probably the reason why we didn’t notice the acts of vandalism by tourists that we saw in the former.
Some of the other prominent structures here are the basement of the queen’s palace, the guard’s quarter and the beautiful elephant stables. The design of the elephant stables strangely sync with the lotus temple. Many archeologists differ from the view that the Zenana enclosure was a harem at all. The proximity to elephant stable and guard’s quarter, according to them suggests that this area was used for military purpose. The proponents of the harem theory claim that the guards’ quarter was for the eunuch guards to protect the royal women.
Elephant Stable in Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
We had to pay Rs.40 entrance ticket again since our previous ticket was valid for just 1 day. However, we didn’t mind because just the Zenana enclosure alone was worth the money spent. Hampi is not just an outstanding must-visit place in India, it is one of the cheapest places to explore. The only exception is probably the Daroji wildlife sanctuary, which didn’t really justify the value of entrance fee. We departed for Hampi with the hope of returning soon.
Hope you liked our 3-day itinerary for Hampi.Please share your thoughts in the comments section and pin it for your future trip to Hampi.
I really enjoyed reading about Hamp, it looks like an open museum with all the temples and incredible structures. I had the chance to visit it in several occasions while I was in India but something always came up. When I come back to India, Hampi is definitely on the top of my list. I saw some amazing photos of the panoramic view of the Bazaar and it looked magical! I would love to experience this someday.
Visiting Archeological museums are one of my favourite thing to do while travelling so I feel like I would really love Hampi! I also love those Temples on your photos! They look so beautiful! Such a perfect place with so much to do! I cant wait to visit India one day!
I was not familiar with Hampi until I read your post. I love touring historical sites when I travel, so I know I would enjoy seeing and learning all about Hampi and the surrounding area. The name Hippie Island gave me a chuckle.
I really enjoyed your article and photos. The Queens Palace is impressive. The road trip would be a definite challenge depending which way you travelled. All roads in India seem to be like this, that makes it more of a fun adventure.
What a fascinating place. To know that the craton exists due to changes from volcanic movements from tens of millions of years ago is hard for the mere mortal to really comprehend. The history behind this place is amazing and the museums, temples and ruins looks beautiful. Those rows and rows of columns that ends with the temple is gorgeous and reminds me so much of Angkor.
Hampi is a place that we are in love with. Even three visits have not satiated our appetite to soak in the history. We look forward to getting there again at the earliest. I like your term for Hampi, “3-D History Book”, it is so apt.
I’ve not managed to visit Bangalore but your itinerary looks great. Virupaksha Temple looks like a nice temple to visit. Sounds like this would be a great trip!
When I lived in Bengaluru for more than 7 years, never I had visited this beautiful UNESCO-listed place. Now I have made sure when I go to the South, I would surely have to visit Hampi. It is indeed an 3D-history book. I find a strong similarity of this kingdom complex with Angkor. The ruins look magnificent. I was amazed by the Queens Palace – such rich architecture and history. Appreciate your pictures more than anything.
Wow that is some incredible history there. I love how even looking at the photos some of the places look so incredibly large and full of life. My favorite places to visit are definitely temples, you guys found some great ruins to check out.
Hampi was one of my favorite places in India, indeed a 3d history. I enjoyed the calm river, the bazar and the baths ruins were impressive. I wish to come back one day and roam between the temples. ANd so many monkeys there! I wold definately take more days there the next time.
That was such an interesting post on visiting Hampi. I really enjoyed reading about this place, as I’ve not yet been to India. I love that there’s clearly many things to do here, from seeing the magnificent temples, to seeing the wildlife sanctuary too. I love the sound of Hippie Island, I bet it’s vibrant there at nighttime!
I’ve heard so much about Hampi and it’s temples and architectures, so this is already on my bucket list. What I appreciate is that you included some other activities that help visitors understand the culture and historical significance these landmarks have. That I think is very important for when we travel. I think I just might have to head to Hippie Island and see what that nightlife is all about, ha!
Haven’t been to Hampi yet, but after reading this detailed blog, I so want to. Many of my friends have been there and have heard some interesting stories, and seen some visually appealing photos. Looks like a trip to Hampi is soon on the cards now.
I still remember my trip to Hampi last year and how I was blown away with so many boulders and rocks and the vast paddy fields. We explored all the ruins and temples on a bicycle and it was a lot of fun. I loved your detailed post on this town and the way you have covered everything from how to reach to what places to visit.
Wow Sinjana! I’m loving Hampi with your pictures and narration! I’d love to visit all the sites the famous chariot, Vittala Temple Complex, janaza, lake, activities, and the monkey temple 🙂
This is such a comprehensive post, I’m going to keep it bookmarked and pinned for reference.
This is a really good guide to a really rich historical site. Hopefully the archaeologists can uncover enough and maybe virtually reconstruct the buildings. An empire that prosperous from a stoneworking culture must have had incredible structures. This kingdom would have coincided with India’s early Hindu influence in Southeast Asia.
I’ve yet to make it to Hempi too. It does look fascinating! Hopefully, I’ll get there one day. I’ve been to India three times, each time to a different area. Each one unique and each one fabulous!