If you are lucky enough to visit Hampi, there are a few things you definitely should do! Nothing needs to be booked in advance of arrival, as all the bike-rentals, tour-providers and salesmen will sneak up next to you and discretely shout whatever they offer as soon as you get within the vicinity of the Virupaksha Temple. Here are some pointers:
- Do try out the bike tours. Even though they are offered in the warmest hours and heat-wise it feels like biking around in a humid desert, it is worth it. Plus, distances are super short. The longest we biked in one go between monuments was 1km, so do not worry if you are not a Tour de France candidate. It starts from around 10am at the Virupaksha Temple, and you get back around 3-4pm.
Tuktuk drivers also offer guided tours around, but often they stay in the car while you are left to figure out what the ruins and half broken carvings are supposed to resemble. It could always be nice to have the space and time to enjoy the monuments by yourself, but you loose out on a lot of knowledge. And there are so many beautiful and absurd rituals and stories in the Hindu religion, that it does not easily bore you.
We took a lovely tour with Shekar, who had a full overview of everything and were happy to answer questions. He is also a genuine and nice person with a high level of English that can help out. You can reach him for bookings and queries through WhatsApp on +91 9480387145.
- Another absolute gem for a more peaceful time: Rent bikes to check out a hidden path through the jungle and banana plantations. We had such a nice time here. The path is completely peaceful, except for a few friendly plantation workers. It has beautiful flowers along the way, numerous curious monkeys, and we even saw seven peacocks.
If you are coming from the Virupaksha temple, go past the Krishna Bazaar and Sree Krishna Temple. Continue towards the Sree Uddana Veerabhadra Swamy Temple, but before reaching it, take the first dirt road on your left.
Keep your eyes open for hidden carvings on the rocks, and smaller monuments and ruins along the way. Maybe even bring a lunch and do a picnic in the shade of centuries old stone carvings, but be aware of the bats!
- Head up to the Monkey Temple in the evening. This is on the other side of the river from the bazaar area, and the regular boat stops crossing at 5.30pm. Therefore, the best way to do it is possibly to rent a motorbike. Tuktuks in Hampi are quite expensive compared to other places, so a scooter probably proves more economical, considering that you have to go back as well. Alternatively, spend a night on the other side of the river, and get a shorter scooter/tuktuk trip from there.
- You will definitely go here either way, but do not miss the sunset from Matanga Hill. Start the walk early to get up before the main bunch of people comes. It is a beautiful spot for photos while the sun is still up. The temple boy sells chai, so you can relax with a warm cup if you are not overly hot already, after the climb up.
Warning: it’s not too great for people who are afraid of heights, and you might want to wear some proper shoes – aka not flip flops and not really those sandals with small heals on, that seem to be very popular in India.
- The waterfalls are supposedly beautiful, and there is a place to swim! However, make sure to check with your guest house or other locals if it is actual waterfalls or if the water stand is too low. Also get someone to help you find the pond where you can swim. After finding our way there by ourselves, the water was so low that there was not really a “fall”. There were some local boys there who said they had been swimming and pointed out a green and brown dam of seemingly dirty water. We did not go in, but if the sun was not about to set and we had not already been struggling a while to hold the heat stroke on a distance we would definitely have spent more time looking around.
Final piece of advice while touring around this beautiful place: keep your belongings close by, crime rates are low, but it’s hard to report a monkey for grabbing your phone!