Hampi – A Surreal Experience

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” – Asian Proverb

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Quick Version

Nowhere but here would you get a chance to trek around the 12th Century Vijayanagara Ruins either during day or night! What adds to this UNESCO Heritage Site is the ecosystem of boulders, rivers, treks & hippies. History, mythology, spirituality & religion merge into one holistic experience to truly put this leg of hummus trail on one’s bucket list. A 4D3N trip with an economical spend makes this one of the must do hippie trails ever.



Hampi
is a village and temple town in northern Karnataka, India and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ruins dating back to 14th Century. And a road trip to this quaint and mesmerising town, which was once kingdom of the apes, was a perfect start to the magic that followed.


About Hampi | Why Hampi | Things to do | Traveller Tips | Trip Playlist | Getting In & Around | Best Time to VisitStay | Plan Snapshot | Quick Links | Expenses (TBD)


MY STORY

“What’re you going to do in Hampi for 4 days? Isn’t it a temple town?” asked my dad in his usual nonchalant tone. The fact that I had decided to join in this road trip with three other friends just a day before did not give me much of a defence. My retort was, “I needed a mere gateway to relax”. But there’s a lot more to Hampi than meets the eye and I was lucky to have experienced it.

On the second day of my trip, I remember concluding not doing Hampi again. I was proven wrong and how. Hampi, I eventually discovered, was all about those serene never-ending walks amongst the 14th century ruins that end up in a mystical and surreal experience. With ruins spread over 26 Sq Km, this is a paradise for trekkers and history buffs.

Travelling by car to Hampi and putting up for 3 nights 4 days were some of the better calls we took early on while planning this trip. Since we were four dudes travelling, we wanted to keep the entire journey as adventurous as possible. Road trip from Pune to Hampi (565 KMs approx.) gave us opportunity to not just indulge in highway food, but also a chance to visit Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur (215 KMs from Hampi). Gol Gumbaz is an architectural marvel completed in 1656 under Mohamed Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur. Here’s my story:

Day 1, Thursday – March 2, 2017
#roadtrip #golgumbaz #highwayfood #tongaride

  • Started off from Pune at 8 AM in the morning. Here’s the route we followed and managed to leisurely touch down Hampi at approx. 9 PM.
  • En route, we had amazing Marathi staple breakfast (Poha & Tea, keeping it light) in Sholapur and then a lot of Mughlai food at a local restaurant in Bijapur. Bijapur was a famous Mughal colony & the food stayed true to its roots.
  • In Bijapur, we visited Gol Gumbaz (an hour’s tour max) and experienced the acoustics of the huge circular dome called “Whispering Gallery” – if you stand on two corners of the dome’s diameter, you can talk to each other like a regular conversation. This was quite legit and enabled by the acoustics of space!

GOL-GUMBAZGG_F
Gol Gumbaz is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah (1627-1657), Sultan of Bijapur. The name finds its roots from Gola gummata deriving from Gol Gombadh meaning “circular dome”. With an area of 1,700 m2, the mausoleum has one of the biggest single chamber spaces in the world. Running around  inside of the dome is the “Whispering Gallery” , where even the softest sound can be heard on the other side of the mausoleum due to the acoustics of the space. You’d have to scale seven flights of steep stone steps to get there. Gol Gumbaz is the second largest dome in the world (only after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome). It houses the tomb of the Sultan, his two wives, mistress Rambha, daughter & a grandson.


  • We also took a Horse Cart (tonga) tour of Bijapur to cover all the major historical monuments it offers. However, this was quite forgettable & we cut it short.
  • On reaching Hampi, we were out of cash but immediately figured there was no ATM around. Only way to get cash was to pay a fee of INR 200 to a local travel shop & swipe card for cash. #jugaad
  • We were quite hungry by now and headed to the cafe in Hema Guest House at around 10 PM. There were quite a few travellers (mostly foreign tourists) already and with some nice music playing in the background, we ordered Nutella Fruit Pancake along with some Israeli Laffa and Sandwiches. What a meal!
  • We luckily found a room for a single night in the same guest house (INR 1500 Per Night for a room of four) and decided to crash there.

Day 2, Friday – March 3, 2017
#heritagetrek #icecreams #photo-ops #shithead

  • Had an early morning breakfast in the same cafe and headed down to hunt rooms for the other two nights. Found a lodge with pretty paddy field view, “Sri Laxmi Golden Beach Resort” (not sure why they call it that), where we found accommodation for INR 2000 per night in a single room for four.
  • We dumped our bags in the room and went down to the much awaited UNESCO Heritage Site. Now, if you are living on the Hippie Island, there are two ways of reaching there – One is to cross the river by foot and be there in 30 mins. Other is to take your vehicle and travel 9 KMs across the new bridge to get there. We chose the later since we wanted to keep the river trek for night and explore newer surroundings.
  • We started off visiting the famous Virupaksha Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva), whose majestic Gopuram stands tall amongst the ruins. There is an amazing pin-hole camera within the temple walls which projects an inverted silhouette of the main structure.

VIRUPAKSHA TEMPLE
VP_F
Virupaksha Temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi, and has been considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. It is intact among the surrounding ruins and is still used in worship. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known here as Virupaksha, as the consort of the local goddess Pampa who is associated with the Tungabhadra River. The temple has its own elephant named Laxmi. Once you’ve been through Hampi, you are forced to wonder how Virupaksha temple has endured a better fate than its surroundings. The answer, according to locals, lies in the logo of a wild boar that is a part of the royal emblem of Vijayanagara Empire right at the entrance. To Hindus the boar is holy, while to Muslims it is un-islamic. This was an impediment to destruction of this seraphic place  by invaders.


  • From here on, we walked diametrically in opposite direction & hiked around 2-3 KMs to reach the famous Vittala Temple Complex. En route, the hike presented  serene surroundings – rivers, boulders, ruins etc. to keep mind marvelling & feet travelling. Where do you get a chance to walk with history, mythology & nature interspersed within one another as if someone schemed it all out.

    JOURNEY TO VITTALA TEMPLE  
    trek_final
    There are two ways of getting to Vittala Temple from Virupraksha – Either hike down (recommended) 2 -3 KMs from here or take an auto/drive down to the other side to cut short all of that trek. The trek to Vittala temple gives amazing views of ruins, river & river beds,  sculptures and other monuments. Totally worth the effort. This is where you can get lost (literally!) in the vast history that Hampi has to offer.

    vtc_finalVittala Temple is the most visited monument in Hampi and its got the swagger to be so.  After all it houses the world-famous Stone Chariot, only one of the three temples (apart from Konark & Mahabalipuram) to have one.  And then there are those musical pillars that when struck resonate the sound of 7 musical notes. The temple dates back to the 16th Century and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple also plays venue to the annual Purandaradasa festival, after the famous saint-composer Purandara Dasa, who spent his last years in Hampi singing & composing songs in dedication to Lord Krishna. 


  • After a long hot and tiring day, we decided to retreat back to our room. Freshened up and went to Evergreen Cafe, where we had a lot of food and played the card game Shithead. But as I thought about the day spent, I still couldn’t understand why’d someone make multiple trips to this town. And next day would tell me why.

Day 3, Saturday – March 4, 2017
#riverbathing #magic #1050steps #sunset #nighttrek #music

river5
Whale Head Bouler, Sanapur Lake
  • After a hearty English Breakfast at German Bakery, we headed off to Sanapur Lake. From Hippie Island, Sanapur Lake is a 20 min serene drive by road. A great start to a day by trekking across the boulders, reaching the lake shore and taking dip in the cool waters. There were a couple of other travellers doing the same (despite beware of crocodiles warnings signs, most likely left as a prank). The route is scenic and provides multiple points for just sitting and relaxing. This is where we also discovered magic :). Also, don’t forget to look on both sides of the river for completely different views.
  • After that soul satisfying dip, we headed off for lunch to a cafe nearby – Whispering Woods. This cafe (and guest house) is isolated from rest of Hampi and hence provided a great place to take that afternoon meal & relaxed power nap before heading off to the Monkey Temple.

    MONKEY TEMPLE, ANEGONDI

ss_finalSituated on Anjaneya Hill in Anegundi (believed to be the Ape Kingdom of Kishkinda in the epic (Ramayana), it is believed to be the birth place of monkey-god Hanuman. A flight of 525 granite stairs takes you to the temple, where a sculpture of Hanuman is carved from a granite rock. The top provides amazing views of Hampi and surroundings. Oh, and the famous sunset point is a series of boulders (like an open auditorium), with tired travellers waiting for the nature’s great miracle. Tip: Wear joggers/trekking shoes, Carry Water Bottles and stay hydrated. Also have some coconut water available right at the base of the hill. Sit on the rocks, watch the sun set, relax, sleep, meditate. Do factor in 30-45 mins to scale the temple stairs, keeping in mind the traffic & sun set timing. Depending on season, ideal time would be an hour before sunset. 


  • The effect of magic was starting to show up and we did not feel as tired. So we headed back to Hippie Island, unloaded all of the luggage and headed out for a couple of beers. But Saturday night brought in the crowds and all the cafes were full of foreign and Indian tourists. In fact, one of the cafes had a global music fusion jam going.
  • We decided to head off on a Night Trek to Hampi Ruins. This was undeniably the most exciting part of the entire trip, which i realised only after being through the experience. We crossed off to the ruins via Tungabhadra river that separates the two sides of Hampi. And we then kept meandering along the ruins, losing ourselves to the grandness of the surroundings. The ruins looked even prettier at night with the orange lights placed all around monuments. This is a must do!
  • After a trek of over 10 KMs, we finally came back to seat ourselves in one of the cafes and order some food, while playing shithead all along. We weren’t tired! The night gravitated to music on Acoustic guitar and Djembe drum in the cafe (we went back to Evergreen since we were a bit late and Hampi tends to start closing down by 10-10:30 PM). 


Day 4, Sunday – March 5, 2017
#puremorning #kesaribhath #roadtrip

  • We had an early morning start back to Pune & since we were short time, we wanted to indulge in some local South Indian breakfast. We found this nice little restaurant en route and stopped for some Idli-Vada-Sambar, Kesari Bhath & Khara Bhath. What a meal! The rest of the trip was spent reflecting back and talking about everything we had been through.

With its rich history & ancient ruins, Hampi beckons multiple trips. Its vastness signified by innumerous monuments, ruins, rivers & boulders  makes it difficult for one to immerse completely in this life-changing experience. And as this realisation slowly crept up to me, I was compelled to call up my wife and tell her, “I gotta visit again..”. After all, Hampi gives you a chance to Keep Walking, Keep Immersing & Keep Reflecting.


About Hampi
hampi_F
Hampi is a small village & temple town in Karnataka, India & is recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site.It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, known for its rich culture & prosperity dating back to 15th Century. Hampi is split in two parts by Tungabhadra River – The heritage site or Old Hampi on one side and the famous hippie island on the other. Quick trivia on this mystical little town:

  • In around 1500 AD Vijaynagar (Hampi) had about 500,000 inhabitants (supporting 0.1% of the global population during 1440-1540), making it the second largest city in the world after Beijing and almost thrice the size of Paris.
  • Hampi Monuments are popular for their carvings and date back to the 14th Century.
  • According to Ramayana, Lord Rama & his brother Laxmana visited Hampi while searching for his wife Sita. Their motive was to seek help from 2 Monkey Brothers – Sugreeva and Vali.
  • The ruins and monuments are spread over an area of 26 square kilometres (that’s a lot of opportunity to simply keep walking..).
  • The Vittala Temple in Hampi houses 56 musical pillars made out of stone & make unique sounds on tapping with bare hands or stones.
  • The name Hampi is derived from the word ‘Pampa’, which is the old name of Tungabhadra River, on whose Southern Banks the city is built.

Hampi, known as Kishkinda earlier, was kindgom to the vanars or apes. Most of the Vanar sena that helped Lord Rama in his battles, came from this kingdom ruled by Vali and later his vanar brother Sugreeva. Anegudi near Hampi is also the birthplace to Hanuman. However, Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646) were rules by four different dynasties and under the ruler Krishnadeva Raya, Hampi prospered the most  becoming the centre of global architecture, arts, culture, governance and trade. A unified force of Deccan Sultanates invaded the kingdom in 1565, looting and destroying most of monuments. The first settlements in Hampi date from 1 CE. The ruins of Hampi were discovered by Scottish Colonel Colin Mackenzie in 1800, when he was the first Surveyor General of India.

More information on Hampi can be found here.
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Why Hampi?

  • For the mystical ruins spread over a massive area opens up ample day & night tripping possibilities. Go figure the magic though.
  • For marking another place off the famous Israeli “Hummus Trail“. More on this coming up in another blog post.
  • For transcending to a meditative state amongst one of  nature’s great magical marvels – The numerous boulders, man-made temples, ancient ruins, rivers & more.
  • For living a Hippie life in the home stays and munching on global grub available (think Pan Cakes, Spanish Breakfast, Shakshuka etc.)
  • For those awesome photo ops that all of Hampi provides. Something to brag about!


Things to do (in my order of priority)

  • Adventurous Night Trek from Hippie Island to the Heritage Site – This is one of the most thrilling experiences that made me change my mind on Hampi. We trekked close to 10 KMs at night. Crossing over to the ancient site through dark river pathway is a thrill not to be missed. Of course, if you have the essentials (you know what I mean 🙂 ), you’d trip more so.
  • Cliff Jump of simply swim in Sanapur Lake- Heat in March can be unforgiving, and that swim in a the waters of Sanapur lake is the perfect panacea for dried up souls. Also, this is exactly where you can find magic.
  • Hike up 525 steps of Monkey Temple for Nature’s greatest show on earth- 1050 steps to and fro (phew!) but worth the climb. Once you’re done visiting the temple and feeding with the monkeys, gather yourself with numerous others to watch the perfect sunset.
  • Rent a Moped (Luna) or Bicycle to stroll in and around Hampi – Available all around Hampi for INR 150/day (Moped), you’ll get in life to take this toy around the town, explore all of those hidden places & experience village life.
  • Play with the Monkeys in this “Kingdom of Apes” – You’ll see monkeys all around Hampi. Feed them, play with them, do not harm them.
  • Eat, Think & Reflect in those cute little cafes – Our best conversations, food and time was spent in multiple cafes all around the Hippie Island. Shithead is one awesome card game that I’d recommend you learn. It’s good fun!
  • Get the Magic – I am not going to elaborate much on this, but seekers should take a hint by the obscurity of my text. While it’s not that difficult to score local, the real magic lies in that-which-should-not-be-named available at Sanapur Lake. 5 Pops and you can take that 10 KM night trek. This is one of the best things you can do to connect with Hampi.
  • Shop Around – You’ll find a litany of shops all around the Hippie Island & old town selling Hippie swag like Clothes, Artefacts, Musical Instruments etc. Explore & you might find something of interest.

Traveller Tips

  • Carry ample cash – The Hippie Island in itself doesn’t have any ATM and the only way to get money is to go to the only tour and travel agent in the market and swiping your Credit Card to get cash at a cost of average INR 400 for INR 4000 bucks (this was quite messed up).
    You can also find cash in the adjoining town of Kamalapura.
  • Carry a Headlight/Torch – We made the mistake of not taking one (though that added to the night trek adventure), but given the rocky landscape it is advisable to carry one.
  • Take good music, bluetooth speakers, playing cards and board games – Though the local cafes have most of this to offer, but own stuff is always less stressful & convenient.
  • Do not forget the essentials – Mosquito Repellant Coils/Creams, Sunscreen Lotion, Basic Toiletries, Bedsheets, Towels, Trekking Shoes & Gear, Water Case etc. Though all of this is easily available in the market, but why pay a hiked up price.
  • Bargain, Bargain, Bargain! – Whether buying a Tee at the market or finding an accommodation, do bargain hard especially if you’re visiting from abroad.
  • Beware of fakes – Most of the cigarette brands available and purchased (incl. Camel, Marlboro etc.) turned out to be fake. That’s just one example. Figure the rest.
  • Keep yourself hydrate esp. in Summers – Trotting around in extreme heat can be challenging, hence keep yourself hydrated (Water, Lemon Soda, Ice Creams etc.) and carry those extra pack of water bottles in your backpack.
  • Intermingle with always friendly locals – Cafe Managers, Servers, Shop keepers &  local folks are the best source of any information you need. Just converse with one.
  • Read up your History or Get a Guide – While walking in aimlessly amongst the ruins is a way to get creative and excited about what would have gone into building these amazing monuments. I’d recommend doing a quick read up, cause that context will further enhance the experience. Or get a government approved local guide – “You can even visit the State Tourism Center inside the premises of Virupaksha Temple from where you can avail bicycle tours around the ruins accompanied by a guide. The guides will show you a booklet saying that the government approved rates are about Rs. 1300 for 4 hours (half-day trip) and Rs. 1800 for 8 hours (full-day trip), but do not take it at face value. You MUST bargain for a fair price and make sure you and the guide have both agreed to the list of places that the guide will take you to. This is very important before you finally decide to hire their services – ask them to clearly tell you the list of places that they will cover. A better choice would be to approach the Tourist office at the Virupaksha temple and hire a guide from the office. The tourist office guides have a fixed rate and will cover all the important places. For any complaints, you can always go back to the office.” – from Wikitravel

Trip Playlist 

A roadtrip just isn’t complete without good music going in the background. And then your “trip” in Hampi isn’t complete without two things: magic & music. So, here’s my selection for Hampi:

Solomun – Something We All Adore (Solomun Love Song Mix)
Solomun – Boiler Room Tulum DJ Set
Nicola Cruz Boiler Room Tulum X Comunite Live Set
Stephen Bodzin Boiler Room Berlin Live Set
Leon Vynehall – Boiler Room – An Afternoon with Lyne Vynehall
Nicolas Jaar – Boiler Room NYC
The Weeknd & Daft Punk – Starboy (Kygo Remix)
My Hampi Soundcloud Playlist

#house  #deephouse  #edm #electronic #reggae  #hip-hop


Getting In & Around

Get In
Wikitravel more or less has covered this section well. Since I’d taken a 10 hour long road trip from Pune, my view on Rail, Air or Bus travel is myopic and biased. Though Hampi is well-connected by all these mediums. The closest airport is Hubli (143 KM away) and the closest railway station is Hospet Jn (13 Km away). By road, the highways are smooth though the last leg of the journey could be rough.

Get Around
Walking or cycling is perhaps the best way to cover Hampi. Else you can always rent a moped/motorbike or can take a Rickshaw (though I didn’t see much of those in Hippie side of Hampi).


Best Time to Visit

Each season brings in its own flavour to Hampi. According to me, every season is a good time to visit this mesmerising town of boulders except April, May & June when the temperature soars up to 37 degree celsius.

Though after researching, I’d assume October & November are the best months due to a more pleasant weather & number of major events like Hampi Festival to experience.


Stay

The “Hippie Island” is full of lodges/guest houses and home stays. It is advisable to book a room in advance to avoid last moment mess (we did not do this, but got rooms easily since we went on a weekday, else we’d have to toil hard to get a room).

Most of the accommodation options (except Orange County Resort, star property on other side of the town) provide very basic room with only bedding to offer. The average room rate was INR 1500 – INR 1750 per room per night. Almost every guest house has a common area or cafe (with a typical seating arrangement), which turns into a collaborative space for artists and travellers alike. All the guest houses are layered along a single strip on Hippie Island. Then there are few isolated ones I spotted near Sanapur lake.

I stayed at Hema Guest House & Sri Laxmi Golden Beach Resort for 1 & 2 nights respectively. Damages were about INR 1750 per night for a room accommodating four.


Plan Snapshot

Day 1
a. Drive down from Pune to Hampi (565 KMs) via NH65 & NH50.
b. Visit Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur en route.
Day 2
c. Cover UNESCO World Heritage Site – Hampi Ruins, Virupaksha Temple, Vittala Temple, Tungabhadra Lake & Queen’s Bath.
Day 3
d. Take a dip at Sanapur Lake.
e. Scale Monkey Temple & Sunset points.
f. Night Trek back to the ruins via Tungabhadra river.
Day 4
g. Head back to Pune early morning and catch some nice South Indian breakfast.


Quick Links

Wikipedia | Wikitravel | Tripadvisor | Hummus Trail | Lonely Planet | Hampi.in


Note:  This post will be most relevant for Solo, Hippie, Leisure travellers and Adventurers.
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