Exploring Hampi: A Lost City of Architectural Wonders
India 18.10.2017 Annapurna Mellor
It’s hard to describe the landscape of Hampi to someone who's never seen it with their own eyes. Local folklore believes that Hanuman, the monkey god, once had Hampi as his kingdom, and the giant boulders which sit in mountains around the landscape were placed there during monkey army wars. Certainly, if you stand at sunset and gaze down at the green rice paddies intersected with giant rock boulders, it seems that there’s something a little out of the ordinary going on in Hampi.
The town sits in Karnataka state, wedged between Goa, Kerela and the expansive Tamil Nadu in the East. The small town on the banks of the Tungabhadra River is worth the trip away from the coast, for Hampi is a place unique to anywhere else in India. A world of temple ruins, spirituality, blended with laid-back lake swimming and exploring. It’s truly a gem of South India, and if you’re not yet convinced, the town is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit the Virupaksha Temple
The most striking site in Hampi is the towering Virupaksha Temple, the areas only working temple. At almost 50m high, the main gopuram is beautifully carved and can be spotted from all over Hampi. It has been a place of worship since the 7th century, and even today, you’ll find pilgrims and followers of Shiva from all over India visiting the sacred site.
Inside, lives Lakshmi, a holy elephant who will bless every devotee as they enter the site. As well as the holy elephant, you’ll also find families of cheeky monkeys, stealing whatever temple offerings they can get, and lines of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter the main shrine. While you’re here, don’t forget to climb the steps to the rocky boulders behind, where you can gaze upon a gorgeous view of the Virupaksha Temple and the surrounding landscapes of Hampi.
Visit the ruins of the Vittala Temple and its surroundings
Two kilometres from the centre of Hampi’s bazaar you’ll find the ruins of Vittala Temple surrounded by boulders. The stone chariot which stands in the middle of the courtyard represents Vishnu’s vehicle. The surrounding pillars were designed to replicate 81 different musical instruments. You’ll also find accessible marriage and prayer halls. These places give you a glimpse of the huge and advanced city that Hampi once was.
Boat across the river to Virupapura Gaddle
From the main town in Hampi, you can take a small boat across the Tungabhadra River to Virupapura Gaddle. The area is known more commonly as Hippie Island, due to the laid-back feel, and the number of backpackers who have got a little lost here and stayed much longer than planned. It’s a beautiful place, with rice paddies, rows of small restaurants and handicraft shops plus a number of places where you can stay in wooden bungalows on the edges of the rice paddies. Eat some delicious local food, perhaps try bouldering and admire the sunset from the banks of the river.
Climb to the top of Anjaneya Hill for sunset
To truly appreciate the beauty of Hampi and it’s surroundings, you need to get up high. The most popular spot to do so is Anjaneya Hill, where stairs will take you to a Hanuman Temple and sweeping 360-degree views across the surrounding valleys. Go at sunset as the golden sun reflects in the rice fields and admire all those mysterious boulders. I guarantee you’ll be blown away! An alternative spot, particularly for sunrise, is the Matanga Hill.
Purchase some authentic Karnataka Handicrafts
Each state in India has it’s own unique handicraft traditions, and in Hampi you’ll find beautiful embroidery and Sandlewood carvings. The bazaar’s in Hampi are an ideal place to pick up authentic crafts, as most of the stalls are selling products made in the small villages in the Karnataka countryside. Women of the region wear some of the most unique clothing in the whole of India, and it’s here you can purchase a piece of their craft for your home.
Take a boat out on Sanapur Lake or go for a swim
Hampi may not be on the coast, but the beautiful and big Sanapur Lake means it’s still possible to go for a swim to cool off from the heat. Ask local boatmen to take you to a safe and private spot for swimming. Even if you don’t fancy a dip, it’s a very relaxing trip on this huge and serene lake, surrounded by Hampi’s signature boulder landscapes.