Hampi: A Pilgrim Delight and a Backpacker's Paradise
September 22, 2018
by Disha Chatterjee
The moon was bright and the sky was clear. It was a Friday evening and a plan just popped up. We chased the moon, chased it so hard that we traveled back in time – to the 13th century. While we were not ready to even blink for a second as we drove along the moonlit silver roadway throughout the night from Bangalore, we were oblivious of the magnificence we were about to encounter in few hours. As we welcomed the dawn with our curious hearts, the moon started fading away and we touched the land of the then Vijayanagara Empire, now known as Hampi.
How to reach Hampi
This little paradise is a part of Karnataka in the south of India. We took a car from Bangalore, which is the best mode of transport, for Hampi has no railway station. Buses are also available. Just a heads up, you won’t easily find ATMs in and around Hampi, so stack your cash.
Things to do in Hampi
Considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the royal ruins of the temples, forts, water tanks and their beautiful stonework are bound to leave you enthralled. With an estimate of 1600 surviving ruins, Vittala Temple, Virupaksha Temple, Elephant Stable, Lakshmi Narasimha, Lotus Mahal, and Queen’s Bath stand out to be the most popular ones. Also, don’t miss out on the three-meter Shiva Linga which is surrounded by water on all sides. Each monument has a story tell. So allow your soul to escape in the ruins of the ancient trade center for precious gemstones and hear them speak their stories. While the stone-carved walls of the Virupaksha temple depict stories from the lives of Hindu Gods, the Indo-Islamic style of the Queen’s bath is a proof of the richness of the culture the empire had incorporated back then.
How to commute and where to stay
If you travel by car, you can use it as a mode of transport in the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River, but you have to leave it there before crossing the river. Two wheelers and bicycles are also available for rent on both the sides of the river. When it comes to stay, do not expect any luxury. Otherwise, there are several options available. From small rooms to shacks, you will get pocket-friendly options on both the banks. You can also get rooms for a couple of hours. We booked one such room right when we reached Hampi, just to freshen up because anyway, the plan was to head to the other side of the river in the latter half of the day. Mind you, the art of bargaining stands first in your survival kit when in Hampi.
Crossing River Tungabhadra
The Tungabhadra River stands as a borderline between the pilgrim delight and the backpacker’s paradise. While the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River stands as one of the greatest evidence of Indian heritage, the other side is famous for its chill vibes. Once we explored the southern bank (which took half a day by car), we took a ferryboat to cross the river. It was a minute, but a breathtaking ride. As the sun sets amidst heaps of giant boulders, you get to witness a magical hue in the sky. Point to note, the ferry service stops post 5:30 pm.
Life on the other side
This side of the river welcomes you with many friendly faces from different parts of the world. The small land of paddy fields amidst the hilly terrain formed by granite boulders and graffiti-walls gives you numerous activity options. Be a part of the sunset jams in Goan Corner, climb up those huge boulders or jump off the cliffs into the lakes. You will find a series of cottages along the paddy fields. We booked a room with a tariff of 600 rupees per night. It was no luxury, as I have already mentioned before. But the lobby (or the dining area) was decorated in a hippie style. Mattresses all over with cushions to relax (be careful of the bed bugs), dim lights and trippy paintings hanging on the wall (which were up for sale), the place is a smokers’ paradise. You get different kinds of food, but the taste is not that great. So stick to simple. Being a religious center, availability of alcohol is also doubtful. So if you have plans to drinks, carry it along.
Save a day for Yantrodharaka Hanuman Temple
Next morning, we started early to climb up to the Yantrodharaka Hanuman Temple, which is a 575 stone-stair climb. We met few monkey friends and unusually large centipedes on the way. Once on the top, it’s a perfect spot to experience the serene sunrise. The cold waft soothes your body, the temple bells calm your mind and the view takes you to a dreamland. We sat there for long, long enough to our heart’s content. Later, in the day, we hired two-wheelers to explore more of the area. It’s a joy ride along the empty narrow lanes forming a zig-zag way in between the rocks perching precariously. There are temples at every corner. We took a coracle ride in Sanapur Lake. It’s a fun ride amidst the massive lake in those round bamboo-boats.
Back to the room, it was time to pack our bags to leave. We really wanted to stay longer but, responsibilities of job life I tell you. We had to cross the river before the sunset and get back to our car. The drive back home was sad obviously because we were worn out after two nights of no sleep and endless walking. But more than that it felt like we just time-traveled back to the modern era. Apart from being a backpacker’s paradise, Hampi is also a good escape for city people. In all, it was a great learning about the Indian architecture, great bonding with people from different parts of the world, and of course a rejuvenating experience.
Best time to visit: October to March