A First-Timer's Guide to Hampi: India's Lost World

Hampi can be overwhelming for a first-timer. Awash with mysterious giant boulders, secret caves, and ancient temples, there’s heaps to explore. Our local insider Nainaa reveals the best experiences.


Photo © iStock/PacoRomero

Once the seat of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire, Hampi is impressive – even in ruins.

The ancient town stirs to life every day with the chanting of local priests, while children are ferried across the river to school.

Must See & Do in Hampi

Hampi has two distinct sides that are separated by the Tungabhadra River: the “Historic Side” and the “Hippie Side”.

Take a crash course on Hampi in a local auto, while your driver points out the most important ruins on the Historic Side. Of course, it’s a great idea to simply hike or cycle around too.

Cross over to the Hippie Side on a coracle – a local boat, woven out of grass and used since prehistoric times. Across the river is where your guesthouses, alcohol, and non-vegetarian food await.

Tungabhadra River. Photo credit: iStock
Washing and drying clothes on the river. Photo credit: iStock

A well-kept secret is an impromptu jam session that happens at Sunset Point on the Hippie Side – ask your local hosts to point you there. Travelers from across the world get together to play the banjo, sing, and mingle on the rocks.

Temples in Hampi

Begin temple hopping from the 7th century Virupaksha temple. While the rest of Hampi crumbled in the wake of Mughal invasions, Virupaksha stuck it out, and is still an active temple today.

Don’t forget to say hello to Lakshmi, the friendly temple elephant who is led to the river every morning for a bath.

Not far away is the Hemakuta Hill or “Golden Hillock”. Here, you’ll see a sprinkling of ancient temples and lonely archways – collectively called the Hemakuta Temples – dedicated to Shiva, the God of destruction.

Keep going south and you’ll spot the most striking idol in Hampi – the Ugra Narasimha statue. Carved out of a single stone, he’s part-man and part-lion!

About an hour’s hike away, you’ll find the famed Vittala Temple with its fascinating musical pillars, and the Stone Chariot – the poster-child of Hampi. It’s a true architectural marvel, and the town’s prime attraction.

Hiking in Hampi

Hampi is a hiker’s heaven. Like an archaeologist on a mission, you’ll come across curious shrines and crumbling temples at every turn.

For a truly historic trek, embark on Kampa Bhupa’s Path. On the way, you’ll encounter hidden caves, riverside ruins and the isolated Varaha Temple.

The rooftop of the Veerabhadra Temple on Matanga Hill is widely-touted as the best sunrise/sunset point, but while the 30-minute climb offers stunning views of the boulder-strewn ruins, it’s the little Hemakuta Hill that is truly charming at sunset.

Sunrise from Hemakuta Hill, Hampi. Photo credit: iStock

Biking in Hampi

There’s something magical about riding a moped through fields of paddy, as you wave to local village folk grazing their cattle.

Rice paddies in Hampi. Photo credit: iStock

On the other side, at Anegundi, hire a moped and ride to Anjaneya Hill. Perched atop the hill is the Monkey Temple, considered to be the birthplace of Hanuman, the Monkey God.

You’ll have to climb over 500 steps, but will be rewarded with a great view of the setting sun, as you get to witness a close-knit aarti ceremony.

Not far away, you can then ride to the little-known Sanapur Lake to dip your feet in, after a long day of exploring.

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1 Comment

  • Divyesh said

    I am from India. I am intersted in this trip. Please let me know how to apply.

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