Hampi has been both my favourite and my least favourite destination so far. Favourite because the landscape is strikingly beautiful and the town is geared towards the needs of tourists in a way I haven’t yet seen in India (yay to not drinking alcohol in dark and musty man caves). Least favourite because it is so catered towards tourists that a) your day comes complete with a soundtrack of “You want scooter? Rickshaw? I give you very nice price! You German? UK? Ah that’s USA! Glastonbury!”) and b) the restaurants and guest houses are pretty much carbon copies of each other, appealing to the man with colourful baggy trousers and forced dreads. That said, though, I would definitely recommend Hampi and think it’s a nice break from the typically chaotic Indian cities on the tourist trail.
Sights and activities
The main attraction of Hampi is the 12th and 13th century ruins: monuments, temples and ancient bazaars scattered amongst giant boulders, palm trees and banana plantations. There are so many ruins that people don’t treat them as you’d expect a UNESCO World Heritage Site to be treated, with one structure doubling up as an impromptu moped park. Lonely Planet says that it would take weeks of exploring to do the ruins justice, but half a day was enough for me before the heat got too much and temple fatigue set in (even with the enlightening guidebook thrust upon us by 8-year old vendors).
Instead, the landscape is what made it for me. You can walk pretty much in all directions from the bazaar and stumble across rice paddies, awesome boulders and Jungle Book scenery. Climbing these boulders was the absolute icing on the cake. We organised it through Thimma climbing for 500 rupees each including a guide and equipment and set out on a late afternoon bouldering session with views of Virupaksha Temple and lush greenery bathed in the oranges and reds of sunset. It was rounded off with chai on the rock face and a very happy Gemma.
Eat and drink
I would usually do a detailed food and drink section at this point, but the cafes and restaurants were so similar that it wouldn’t exactly make for exciting reading. Most places had patterned futons and cushions to sit on (because what gap yah-er wants a chair?), with low hanging lanterns lighting each table. Highlights of this sort, though, were The Laughing Buddha for its incred riverside location and (hopefully rabies free) puppies and the imaginatively named Chill Out Wifi Cafe for its temple views and the first korma I’ve had in India ❤️
You can stay either in the bazaar or on the other side of the river with the cool kids (read: me) in Virupapur Gaddi.
The bazaar was handy to stay in on our last evening because the only trains to Goa are at 6am and the cheap river crossing isn’t until 7am (you heard it here first). We thought we were staying at Vicky’s but after asking for a cheap room, we were quickly led to another guesthouse called Shiva’s (no hot shower for me). The hostels and guest houses in the bazaar are well located and cheap (300 rupees a night) but the other side of the river is much more atmospheric, particularly considering that restaurants and hostels are periodically being demolished in the bazaar due to it being on a UNESCO site.
We stayed in Vijay Nagar in Virupapur Gaddi in a very basic bamboo hut next to the river for the majority of our time here. Much like the restaurants on this side of the river, the guesthouses are all very similar, you just might have to pay a bit extra for a hammock or a toilet that isn’t an asbestos hazard (#prayforgemma).
Hampi: awesome landscape and chilled out vibes, just leave before you grow a beard and start wearing wifebeaters ironically.