Temple ruins, intricate carvings, a revived bazaar…Hampi’s must-visit spots ooze with an old-world charm and speak of a glorious past that will almost transport you back in time. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hampi was the centre of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 4th century. While it has its fair share of adventure activities, what Hampi truly calls for is a serious dose of sightseeing. Home to several treasures, this ancient village in Karnataka promises you a charming time, away from all the bustle of the city. We’ve picked out the best places to visit in Hampi for your next trip there. Go on and explore!
Temples, Ruins & Old-World Charm: Top Places to Visit in Hampi
1. Archaeological Museum
Located at Kamalapura, some distance away from Hampi ruins, the Archaeological Museum is probably one of the first places to visit in Hampi. It is a small structure, housing exhibits which tell you all about the history and culture of the village. The museum has four sections of different themes. Look out for the scaled model of Hampi’s topography (complete with the monuments marked out) and a miniature of the village as a whole. Apart from sculptures and idols from Hampi ruins, the museum also has a wide range of antiquities from the prehistoric and proto-historic period. You will also find an array of tools, coins and other objects, all from the Vijayanagara empire days.
2. Monkey Temple
Dedicated to the Hindu God, Hanuman, the Monkey Temple is situated atop the Anjanadri Hill in Anegundi. It is located across the Tungabhadra River and is roughly 4 km away from the centre of Hampi. Visitors often hire coracle or a local boat to go across the river at a cheaper rate. Hundreds of granite steps lead up to the temple where the idol of Lord Hanuman greets you. There are also statues of Lord Ram and Sita, and other Hindu gods and goddesses. Another reason that makes this one of the top places to visit in Hampi would be the stunning views you get to see from the top. Head here during sunrise or sunset to add to the experience.
3. Vijaya Vittala Temple
One of the most visited historical and religious spots in Hampi, Vijaya Vittala Temple is an extremely grand temple. The entire structure sprawls across a vast area and has several halls and structures inside. Built in the 15th century, it also has intricate stone carvings, giant pillars and graceful sculptures. The most iconic piece here is the stone chariot which is often used to symbolise Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vittala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Photography enthusiasts can visit the temple in the morning to get the most beautiful shots.
4. Virupaksha temple
This grand temple is dedicated to Virupaksha, which is a local reference to Lord Shiva. Located near the Tungabhadra river, Virupaksha temple is intact even today and functions as any regular temple. The place is a major pilgrimage centre in Hampi, making it one of the popular places to visit in Hampi. The temple is one of the ruins listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and is part of the Group of Monuments at Hampi. The architecture of this great structure includes an inner sanctum, several chambers, huge pillars, shrines, courtyards and vast halls. Head here in February to catch the annual chariot festival, held at the temple.
5. Royal Enclosure
As the name suggests, this is an expanse of land with the ruins of the erstwhile royal home where the king of Vijayanagara Empire resided. The land has relics of the main hall considered to be the King’s Assembly Hall. There are several tanks in the area which were also used as swimming pools. There are remains of pillars, aqueducts and intersecting walls. The Mahanavami Dibba or the Dussehra Platform is a major structure of the grounds. A relaxing walk around the area will take at least an hour and the best time to visit would be in the morning.
6. Riverside ruins
For all those travellers who want to include a bit of adventure to their trip, a trek to the riverside ruins is the perfect way to spend a day. The place is near the Kodanda Rama Temple and is full of boulders and stones. This cluster of ruins is home to an array of Shiva lingas – one of 108 lingas and another of 1008 lingas – all carved on a flat rocky surface. There is also a sculpture of a reclining Lord Vishnu along with other carvings of pillars, motifs and small shrines. Travellers are cautioned not to venture out into the river as the flow picks up speed suddenly. The rocks near the water are very slippery and mustn’t be climbed upon.
7. Queen’s Bath
One of the first spots one sees on a royal tour is the ruined structure of what once resembled the Queen’s Bath. There are also other speculations around the construction about its history and usage. Built in the Indo-Islamic architectural style, this ornate, historic bathing chamber is surrounded by a water canal which is believed to have been a measure to stop intruders. There is the central courtyard which is drained today. A verandah and balconies surround this rectangular pool. The balconies are decorated with carvings of lotus buds and windows. You’ll get easily transported back in time as one can almost smell the fragrant water and oils used by the royalty while frolicking in the area.
8. Hampi Bazaar
Hampi Bazaar used to be one of the most thriving markets in ancient times. Housing nobles, the rich and several markets, this spot had the hustle and bustle of city life. Hampi Bazaar is a long narrow path that stretches from west to east and is located in front of the Virupaksha Temple. Today, the west end has been modified and taken over by stores, shops, and restaurants. The eastern end that is closer to the foothills of the Matanga Hill has been taken over by villagers as residential areas. Go for a leisurely stroll (ideal in the morning) or opt for a bicycle to explore the market and its fare. You can score goodies like jewellery, bags of vibrant shades, figurines, handicrafts, traditional costumes and embroidered shawls.
9. Underground Shiva Temple
Often listed among the top places to visit in Hampi, the Underground Shiva Temple was constructed several metres below the ground for unknown reasons. As a result, the place is always filled with water which sometimes makes it difficult for visitors to enter the building. It is thus recommended to visit in months other than the monsoon period to really explore the place. One can also walk around the lawn and view the carvings of the stone structures.
10. Gagan Mahal
Located 3 km from Hampi on the northern bank of the Tungabhadra, Gagan Mahal is one of the most popular places to visit in Hampi. A strikingly beautiful structure from its time, it excelled not only in beauty but also in its architectural sciences. Gagan Mahal is also known as the Old Palace and was constructed in the 16th Century AD during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire. The place was ruined after the attack of the Mughals but still manages to exude an old-world charm. Believed to have been the Queen’s Quarters, this exquisite structure clearly shows the advanced knowledge of the artisans of that period. The sculptures, carvings on bannisters and the protruding balconies all show their exceptional level of skill.
So, next time you plan a trip to this age-old village in Karnataka, make sure you don’t miss these charming places to visit in Hampi.