Hampi is truly one of the most special places in all of India, and maybe even the world. There are countless awesome things to do in Hampi!
Hampi is an Unesco World Heritage Site. It is a small ancient city in the South Indian state of Karnataka, 7 hours from Bangalore. It is home to some of the most incredible ancient sites in India. Hampi is littered with fascinating temples, old architecture and has many famous stories and legends.
Hampi is considered to be the birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey god and used to be one of the wealthiest empires in the world, which is easy to see once you witness the plethora of grand ancient ruins.
The unique landscape is Hampi also makes it so special. There are endless mountains of giant boulders, palm trees, rice fields, magnificent sunsets, rivers and lakes. It is like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park!
If you are a fan of monkeys and elephants, you will also love Hampi!
Hampi is a popular spot on the traveller trail in India, so while it is quite hard to get to, there are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation and food. Some say this is India’s real hippie paradise, and we agree!
Continue reading to discover what makes Hampi so special.
1. Bicycle temple ruins tour
Hampi served as the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire for over 200 years. It flourished between the 14th and 15th century and was a metropolis adorned with temples, palaces, markets and religious monuments. During this time it was one of the richest cities in the entire world, leaving behind a plethora of ancient ruins for us to continue to explore today.
Hampi is a grand maze of ancient ruins, there are temples and monuments everywhere you look. They may be perched on top of a mountain of boulders, on the side of the road or be half-submerged in the river. It is truly remarkable to explore these kinds of ruins among the striking landscape of unexplainable rock formations.
One of the best ways to explore the ruins in Hampi is to take a bicycle tour! Your guide will take you to all the main ancient sites which include one of the largest shrines to Lord Ganesha, one of the biggest Shiva Lingas in India, underground temples and so much more.
Going on a bike tour is one of the best ways to get the most out of the ruins. You will be taken to all the most famous spots and your guide will teach you about the history. Plus biking is fun! You can go at a slower pace and admire the surroundings!
You can always go back another day and revisit any places you really loved or missed.
The other option is to take a tuk-tuk tour. However, in Hampi, competition is high among tuk-tuk drivers for tourism and you may end up paying too much and miss out on having a guide to educate you on the ruins. Plus lunch is included!
2. Climb Anjaneya Hill
Anjaneya Hill in Hampi is an incredibly significant site and truly magical. This is an absolutely unforgettable place to visit in the whole world.
Anjaneya Hill is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. On top of the hill is a beautiful temple dedicated to Ram and Sita, plus there are hundreds of monkeys living on this hill!
The climb to the top of the hill is up a number of steep stairs carved into the giant boulders. On your way up you can even stop at a cave where a holy man once lived. There are always plenty of Hindu devotees making the pilgrimage to the temple at the top of the hill, make this place feel like a living ancient site.
The views from the top are simply breathtaking and completely unique. We bet you will have never seen views like them before! The pictures of the views from this hill speak for themselves.
Make sure you visit the temple at the top, as it has very special and auspicious energy.
The best time to make the climb to the top is undoubtedly at sunset.
3. Stay on Hampi Island
Hampi Island, also known as ‘hippie’ island is a small settlement of guesthouses and cafes on the other side of the river from the main town. To get to the other side of the river you need to catch a (very) local taxi boat.
Once you eventually cross to the other side, you are greeted with lush rice fields, incredible rock formations and plenty of laid back places to stay and eat. The accommodation in Hampi Island is much more spacious and there are plenty of cool houses and huts for you to stay in.
There are also other things to do like yoga classes, jewellery making and live music. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to soak in the relaxed traveller atmosphere and take a break from the usually cramped and hectic centre.
This side of the river gives you much easier access to explore other parts of Hampi like temples (such as the one above) that are still functioning, lakes and waterfalls.
Plus this is the best place to explore Hampi by scooter, which leads us on to the next thing to do! If you are lucky you may even spot the holy elephant, Lakshmi, having a bath in the river on your way.
Note that wifi and mobile service are virtually non0existent on Hampi Island, which we think is a great thing.
4. Hire a scooter and explore
When you go to Hampi, one of the best ways to see the most and take everything in is to hire a scooter and explore!
The best place to hire scooters is from Hampi Island. From here you can access most of the must-see places, other than the ancient ruins, which are all on the other side of the river.
Pretty much every shop and guesthouse on Hampi island offers scooter hire, so shop around and find the best deal!
Once you have your scooter, set off for an adventure! Go for a ride through all the amazing roads and rural villages. You will find beautiful spots and breathtaking scenery at every turn. Plus this is the best way to reach many of the spots on this list.
By exploring on a scooter you never really know what or who you will stumble across. We love driving through small villages and stopping at roadside stalls for local food such as dosa and idli all made fresh on the spot by the beautiful locals. It’s so authentic and much more budget-friendly than the touristy cafes where you sleep!
5. Virupaksha Temple
The Virupaksha Temple is the central feature of Hampi and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beautiful temple proudly stands tall in the town centre, right by the river.
This ancient temple is incredibly significant and is an important site of worship to this day for many Hindus. This temple dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva. It is believed that this is where he got married to his consort!
It is absolutely fascinating to explore all the intricate details of this expertly constructed temple, from the carvings to the pillars and various areas and shrines.
One of the most striking features of this temple is the usage of mathematical concepts to build and decorate it, the temple has repeated patterns that demonstrate the concept of Fractals. There is also a special hidden spot where you can see the shadow of the temple inverted!
This temple is also home to many monkeys and one highly revered elephant called Lakshmi.
After you have visited the temple, go for a wander on the boulders behind the temple. There are beautiful rock formations and pillars scattered around the place and you can see epic views of Virupaksha temple against the backdrop of the river, palm trees and boulder mountains.
6. Go for a basket boat ride
Jump on your scooter and make your way to Hampi lake. Here you will be able to hire a private basket boat and driver and go for a boat ride in the lake.
The basket boats are unique to Hampi and are a really fun way to spend the afternoon! Make sure you get a good price, you shouldn’t pay more than 250INR.
This is also an awesome place to go for a swim, just watch out for crocodiles!
You can also visit Sanapur waterfall on the way to or from the lake.
7. Go on a living temple tour
While there are many significant ancient ruins in Hampi, there are also many significant religious sites that are still functioning today! These are very special places to visit.
On the Hampi Island side of the river, there are a number of temples you can explore, in close proximity to one another, by scooter.
These temples are buzzing with devotion. In fact, people travel from all over India to visit these temples.
We recommend stopping in at:
- The Durga Temple
- The Pampa Sarovar
- The Sri Gavi Ranganaatha Swami Temple
The Durga temple is a huge temple complex up on a hill that is very active and has holy men who are living there. The Pampa Sarovar is another special temple, nestled below a mountain of rocks. The Sri Gavi Ranganaatha Swami Temple isn’t actively used for worshipped anymore, but it is an awesome hidden temple on the side of a hill. To get to the temple you have to climb stone stairs, covered in overgrown jungle and enter through a doorway made of boulders. It is straight out of Tomb Raider.
One of the coolest things you can do is open up google maps and see where the temples are and go have a look. You never know what treasures and experiences you may find!
8. Visit the viewpoint at the Durga temple
The Durga temple mentioned above is an awesome temple, but it is also home to one of Hampi's best-kept secrets (from the tourists anyway!).
From here you can access a mind-blowing viewpoint of Hampi. All you can see for miles is rock mountains and temples. Plus you will probably be the only one there!
To reach this incredible viewpoint walk to the back of the Durga Temple. You will come across a cave-like rock structure. Keep walking until you find the big boulders with striking views. You can ask anyone at the temple to help you find the viewpoint, people are very friendly and helpful.
9. Go boulder climbing
Another thing that Hampi is famous for is boulder climbing and it is easy to see why once you are there!
Hampi is made up of impossibly placed giant boulders. It is puzzling, fascinating and unforgettable.
If you love a bit of adventure, then why not do something different and try your hand at climbing these impressive rocks! There are rocks to climb that are suitable for beginners and advanced climbers.
There are many boulder climbing trips and tours available in Hampi for you to try.
10. Seek out the perfect sunset spot
Thanks to all the beautiful boulder mountains scattered all over the place, there is no shortage of beautiful sunset spots in Hampi.
You can opt for a traditional spot like Anjaneya Hill or a rooftop cafe or go exploring to find the perfect rock to climb to watch the sun go down (or come up!).
There are plenty of famous sunset spots, especially on the Hampi Island of the river. Ask around or find your own personal perch.
11. Watch the Ramayana cartoon in your downtime
The Ramayana is a major Sanskrit epic of ancient Indian history. The epic tale tells the story of the life of Ram, who is a prince and an incarnation of Vishnu. It tells the story of Ram and Hanuman, along with an army of monkeys, saving his wife Sita after she was kidnapped by the demon Ravana and taken to Sri Lanka. This is a story of the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil and is the reason why many Hindu festivals are celebrated, like Diwali.
Hampi is one of the best places to watch this epic movie (provided you can find some decent wifi!) and learn about this Hindu mythology. Hampi is the birthplace of Hanuman and Hampi itself features in the story.
You will learn so much about Hindu mythology and feel much more connected to India and Hampi afterwards! Highly recommended.
Watch the movie here.
There you have 11 awesome things to do in the magical city of Hampi!
Hampi is such a unique place, there is nowhere else in the world quite like it! Make sure you add Hampi to your bucket list, you will not be disappointed.
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