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What to do

Hampi, Karnataka

  1. Eat & Drink
  2. See & Do
  3. Shop

Since the various monuments in Hampi are spread over a distance of around 26 sq km, it would be advisable to either hire bicycles on your day out, or hire an auto for the whole day. With the auto, you would also get a semi-guided tour of most places (‘semi’ because the auto drivers drop you off at the gates of the monuments after a brief history lesson).


Eat & Drink

Because of a large number of foreign tourists coming to Hampi, the town does have a fair number of restaurants and cafés. Unfortunately, very few of these actually pass muster. The majority of Hampi’s restaurants serve sub-par food – a fact which can be quite depressing, especially since almost all restaurants have a diverse menu (Israeli and English fare being offered almost everywhere). The good part is that all cafés here offer fast and free Wi-Fi. Additionally, the comfortable seating (almost all restaurants have mattresses spread out on the floor) makes it convenient to lounge about and kill time.

Mango Tree (River Side Drive, near Temple, Janata Plot, 09448765213)
Possibly the best place to eat while in Hampi. Located in one of the bylanes of Hampi Bazaar, next to the Virupaksha Temple (just ask for directions, if you can’t find it), Mango Tree offers simple, vegetarian, south Indian style meals. The service is quick and the food is tasty. The staff are also helpful, although a bit harried when it’s lunch or dinner time.

German Bakery (Gouthami Guest House, Virupapur Gadde, Gangavathi Taluk, Kopal, 08533287010)
The only other place we could find which didn’t have depressingly bland or undercooked food. Located in Virupapur Gadde – on the ‘hippie’ side of the river, as it’s been nicknamed – the crowd here is largely ‘boho’. And although the restaurant has a notice which prohibits smoking marijuana, the smell of weed and hash is as much a part of the décor as the psychedelic paintings on the walls (which are not very pleasant, to be honest). Questionable décor aside, the place actually has nice food, and some surprisingly good baked stuff.


If you’re looking to shop, the Hampi Bazaar, located next to the Virupaksha temple, is the place. Though small, it does have an eclectic mix of shops, from tattoo parlours to souvenir shops. Even if you’re not up for shopping, a wander through the market is still worth while. Be aware that the items being sold might be overpriced, so do not be afraid to engage in some gentle bargaining!

See & Do

Begin your temple hopping at the Virupaksha temple – the only temple still in use out of all the ancient temples here. The elaborately detailed gopuram of this temple, at 52 metres, towers over its surroundings; a truly stunning sight! Inside the temple, be sure to hold tight to your belongings and keep any food items out of sight, as the temple is overrun with gimlet-eyed monkeys.

Also inside you will spot the local celebrity Lakshmi, the temple elephant. Unfortunately, Lakshmi is mostly kept chained to a column in the corner, and approaching her is not allowed. If you wish, you can wake up at 7 am and watch Lakshmi getting led to the Tungabhadra river, near the Hampi Bazaar, for her daily bath. You may even join her for a bath, as people sometimes do. This is probably the only time people are allowed to interact with her.

The temple is open all days of the week from 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 9pm.

Unlike the Virupaksha Temple, the other temples dotting the landscape in Hampi are all in ruins –some only retaining the bare bones of the original structure, and others reduced to a few free-standing statues. A colossal statue of Narsimha is one such unattached structure. Even in its damaged state the glowering statue is a sight to behold.

Close to the Virupaksha temple is the Kadalekalu Ganesh or Chana (gram) Ganesh temple, so called because of the shape of the deity’s large round belly. Although the temple is in ruins and no longer in use, the massive statue of Ganesh (4.5 m), broken in parts, is still standing. Close by is the Krishna Temple which has stunning carvings of the ten avatars of Vishnu on its pillars and gateway.

Another temple worth visiting is the underground Shiva Temple. Here, you have to descend a flight of stairs to enter the inner sanctum, which also plays host to bats. The outer sanctum is often flooded, so wade in at your own peril.

The famous Vitthala Temple, with its gorgeously carved stone chariot is the enduring image associated with Hampi. This 16th century temple was built by Krishna Deva Raya, with Vishnu as the resident deity. Do not hesitate to hire a guide here, chances are you will be keen to know more about the history and stunning architecture of this fascinating structure. The musical pillars (stone pillars of varying width, producing different sounds) are a popular attraction, so feel free to try them out. The Vithhala Temple will also afford you some of the best photo ops in Hampi, so keep a camera (or your phone) handy.


The Royal Enclosure
Some of the most stunning buildings in Hampi can be found in the Royal Enclosure. There are very few buildings which are still standing, with almost whole of the Palace complex, the aqueducts and the temples in a state of ruin. Despite this, the grandeur of the complex is undiminished.

The Pushkarni Tank, is a massive stepped well with geometrically designed steps in green chlorite. Ruins of an aqueduct indicate that the tank was connected by various channels to manage the water supply of the kingdom.

The architectural crown in the Royal Enclosure belongs to the Lotus Palace, believed to be the Queen’s Palace. One of the few buildings to have survived the ravages of time, the intricately carved stone arches in the shape of lotus petals are mesmerising in their craftsmanship.

Close to the Lotus Mahal are the splendid Elephant Stables, a line of eleven arched alcoves which were used to house the royal elephants. The stables are located next to the Treasury, and both open out to vast green lawns. The Treasury, being used as a gallery by the Archaeological Survey of India, has several sculptures and panels on display and merits a closer look.

Some distance away is the Queen’s Bath, which looks rather uninspiring from the outside. However, once you enter you will probably revise your opinion. An open tank in the middle of the building is flanked by beautifully ornate, arched balconies on all sides. Although the walls and the decorated ceiling look quite weather worn, one can easily imagine its former opulence.

One of the few standing temples in the Royal Enclosure is the Hazar Ram temple, so called because of the thousands of carvings and depictions of Ram on the temple walls, pillars and panels. This was believed to be a private temple used only by the royal family.

Unfortunately, the Royal Palace is in complete ruins, with only the foundations of the buildings still in sight. Only the Mahanavami Dibba, a raised platform from where the king used to inaugurate the festivities, remains standing, commanding a stunning view of the surroundings.

Both the Royal Enclosure and Vitthala Temple are UNESCO sites maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, and are ticketed. A ticket costs 10 INR for Indian citizens and 250 INR for foreigners.


Museum at Kamalapuram
The Archaeological Survey of India’s museum at Kamalapuram has four galleries, with many sculptures, panels, hero stones, coins and objects from the armoury on display. Though it’s a little far from Hampi, a visit here is definitely recommended, especially if you’re curious about the Vijayanagara empire (or just a history or archaeology buff). The museum is open from 10am to 5pm and is closed on Fridays. The ticket bought for the sites at Hampi allows admission here.


The Tungabhadra, strewn with majestic boulders, is as much a part of the town’s attraction as the ancient ruins of Hampi. The stretch of the river near the Hampi Bazaar is easily accessible, and as a result, most polluted. Since Virupapur Gadde, is located across from the river, the riverside is always bustling with tourists and some locals, crossing the river in motor boats and coracles. Walk down the river bank, away from the busy quay, if you’re looking for some quiet time with the river. However, prepare to have your peace interrupted by the occasional parent bathing her child in the river, or a gaggle of young boys taking a quick dip in the cool water.

For uninterrupted peace, it would be best to make your way across the river to Virupapur Gadde, and access the river from there.

NOTE: The river crossing begins at 8.30am and stops at 6pm, so make sure that you don’t get stuck on the wrong side!


Around Hampi

Sloth Bear Park
15km from Hampi is the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary. In addition to sloth bears, the sanctuary plays host to many species of birds, and there is a watchtower in the sanctuary to facilitate bird watching. The sanctuary is open from 6am to 6pm.

On the northern bank of the Tungabhadra, Anegundi (3km from Hampi) also has ruins of the Vijaynagara empire. Though not as well known as Hampi, efforts are ongoing to preserve the ruins and develop and promote tourism here.

The Yantrodharaka Anjaneya temple, dedicated to Hanuman, is located on Anjaneya Hill. The temple is believed to be very old and sees a great number of visitors, both local and foreign.