International Travel

Joanita Wibowo

The one place in India that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen

When it comes to India, Hampi might not be the first travel destination that comes to mind – but this often-overlooked city is the country’s hidden gem, filled with rich heritage, unique archaeological wonders and natural charms that could not be found anywhere else in the world. Find out what makes this south Indian village so special.

Heritage and spiritual sites

Once the capital city of the great Hindu kingdom Vijayanagara Empire, today Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to royal and sacred complexes encompassing more than 4,000 hectares.

The regal structures and monuments, dating back to the 14th century and older, unearth stories of ancient and medieval times. The remains – including shrines, memorial structures, Mandapas, defence posts and more – unveiled and confirmed travellers’ chronicles that the city hosted a highly developed society with advanced technologies, impressive wealth and powerful political stature.

In Hampi, every bend on the road is punctuated by a temple from the 14th century, if not older. The city’s most famous temple, Virupaksha Temple, dates back to the 7th century. Its nine-tiered gopura, which stands tall at 50m, looks over the city with exquisite ornate carvings telling mythological stories. The temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, continues the centuries-long tradition of celebrating the wedding ceremony of the Hindu deity with goddess Parvati every year.

Towered over by the Virupaksha Temple is the Hampi Bazaar, a village lined with ruined pavilions and filled with lodges, avenue stands, shops and restaurants stretching over a kilometre.

Another site nearby is Lotus Mahal, a two-level palace that derives its name from its geometrically arranged cusped arches that resemble the petals of lotus flower blooming in the sun. Also, not to be missed is the Vithala Temple complex, which houses the famous 56 musical pillars of Ranga Mantapa that emanate notes when tapped gently.

Across the river is Anegundi, a fortress town and the city’s former headquarters. The tranquil area is a perfect place to have a leisurely walk as you take in the views of dilapidated HuchappaMatha Temple and ruins of palaces and fortifications. You can also take a boat ride to Navabrindavanam, where you can visit the final resting place of nine Hindu Madhwa saints.

Dravidian architecture style, which flourished under the Empire, can be observed in the shrines, residential areas and bazaars across the temple complexes. It takes the form of massive dimensions, cloistered enclosures and lofty towers with decorated pillars. Historical craftsmanship can also be observed in the carved out monolithic structures, such as the Lakshmi Narasimha, the Stone Chariot, the massive Ganesha statues and the Badavilinga.

Natural wonders

Apart from the imprints of time, Hampi also has beautiful natural attractions to boot. Situated in the state of Karnataka by the riverside, Hampi is surrounded by boulder-strewn hills where people can enjoy the stunning aerial view of the city and its environs. One of the most popular lookout spots is the Matanga Hill, where visitors go to enjoy to watch daybreaks and sunsets.

On the north side of Hampi is Tungabhadra River, a scenic water body that meanders through rocky terrain amongst craggy hill ranges to flow to the Bay of Bengal. You can cross the river with a motor boat or a coracle ride, where you will get on a round country boat with five to other passengers to get to the other side.

Another must-visit place is Sanapur Lake, a serene, secluded reservoir with designated swimming spots, as well as picturesque surroundings of lush green fields and huge granite boulders to take in while you are bathing under the sun. You can also take a coracle or a boat to travel to the centre of the lake, or just unwind by the side.

With rich Indian history and unparalleled natural beauty, you can be sure to find what you seek in Hampi. Find out how ancient history comes alive in India’s capital of golden empire.

This is sponsored content brought to you in conjunction with India Tourism.