HAMPI oozes a sacred feel. Here, hoards of pilgrims rub shoulders with tourists who come to marvel at the Dravidian architecture and beautiful sunsets.
Once India’s most important city, destroyed in the space of only six months in the sixteenth century, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see on any Indian itinerary. Getting here can be a pain but it’s worth it to behold the eerie pink skies, bulbous volcanic rocks, and the staggering ruins.
A couple of days is enough to take in the main sights but with 1,600 surviving remains you should linger longer to drink in the splendor of this ancient lost city.
The one working temple at the center of modern Hampi is splendid and comes to technicolor life during Hindu festivals.
Dedicated to goddess Virupaksha, the awe-inspiring structure is home to Lakshmi, the temple elephant, who won’t be at all embarrassed if you peep at her bathing in the river just before sunset. For a small donation, she’ll take time to bless you with her tactile trunk.
Hire a tuk tuk for a day and whizz around to the nearby clusters of impressive archaeological finds. Don’t miss Vittala Temple with its musical pillars and imposing stone chariot built as a shrine to Garuda, the eagle god.
To get a feel for just how majestic bygone Hampi was, stroll the soaring archways of the Elephant Stables and wander beneath the undulating walls of the Lotus Palace. Take in the Queen’s Baths, the opulence of which gives even the most luxurious day spas a run for their money.
If you are suffering from history fatigue worry not; there’s lots more to do besides sacred rubble. A shortish walk from the center of town are some waterfalls set in ghostly grey rocks that have a lunar quality.
If a local guide suddenly appears to escort you it’s worth the small fee or you could spend hours adrift in the banana plantations.
A ride out of town will take you to Daroji Bear Sanctuary where you can view sloth bears at play beneath mango trees. For those not averse to a climb, take the steps up Anjenaya Hill to the supposed birthplace of Hannuman the monkey god.
Go at sunset when you can warm your weary bottom on the baking rocks and drink in the pink loveliness of this unique landscape.
Rest your temple trotters
There are lots of cute but basic hotels near Virupaksha temple including the ultra friendly Gopi Guesthouse. The nearby Mango restaurant does unctuous vegetable curries, great mopped up with roti and washed down with fresh almond lassi.
Bear in mind that Hampi is a sacred place and that means no meat or alcohol. If you’re gagging for a beer then take one of the conical boats across the river to the more liberal backpacker hangouts you’ll find there.
For those unable to exist without more plush pampering, nearby Anegundi has some boutique sleeping options.