Weekend Destinations: Hampi
Envision markets burdened with silk, precious stones, bejewelled courtesans, gold gilded palaces, extravagant festivals and a flamboyant arts and music scene... Hampi is India's answer to its culture-crammed Chilean equivalent, Machu Picchu -- a fabled lost city with a bold and bizarre, stark landscape of rambling ruins, gravity-defying rocks and boulders all interspersed with verdant banana plantations. Once a laid back town, this yesteryear capital of the Vijayanagara Empire -- one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India's history -- is a superb southern gem.
WHERE TO STAY
Haunting Hampi offers 'low on luxury' options but lots of basic homestays with home-cooked meals. Condé Nast Traveller recommends:
This green retreat is a riverside estate that's located on the banks of the bountiful Tungabhadra River; in Narayanpet, about 7kms from Hampi town. Accommodation here ranges from compelling cottages that mock the regions rock famous formations to castle-esque suites replete with balconies.
Annapurna Nursing Home, Bus Stand Road, Gangavathi, Koppal District, Karnataka (+91 94480 34202; www.hampisboulders.com) Doubles from Rs 6,000 with meals
This three star property comes packing a pool plus spa and is set amid five lush acres of grassland in the heart of Hospet, which is about 13kms from Hampi. Looking for something all-inclusive? These guys offer eat-sleep-and-see packages which include sightseeing.
10/ 90 JN Road, Hospet, Karnataka (+ 91 8394 228101; www.malligihotels.com) Doubles from at Rs 2,800|
WHERE TO EAT
This banana plantation setting is renowned with the locals and travellers for its laid back ambience, low tables and an eclectic menu. Perfect for simply lounging with a great book and tea.
Virupapur Gaddi, on the South Bank of the Tungabhadra River, Hampi (+91 94487 65213)
WHAT TO DO
Walk! The alternative? Hire an auto rickshaw and if you require any assistance to hire a trained guide for full-day/half-day, contact the tourist centre in Hampi Bazaar near the Virupaksha Temple (+91 8394 241339). Must-sees include the still-functional Virupaksha Temple with its pillared halls and giant entrance towers; this holy site is believed to be the oldest temple in Hampi. Walk through the Hampi Bazaar, once a thriving market and that's till today lined with old two-storied pavilions. Another interesting visit is the Vithala Temple to view India's iconic stone chariot and musical pillars. Catch a glimpse of royal splendour at the Queen's Bath and the Zenana Enclosure -- renowned for its spectacular architecture at both the Lotus Mahal and Elephant Stables. Marvel at the Hazara Rama Temple; the private temple of the royal family where walled frescos tell the tale of the Ramayana. Lastly, end your town tour at the Mahanavami Dibba from where the kings watched processions and the geometric stepped tank. For a sportif adventure cross the Tungabhadra River in a circular coracle and visit the tiny hamlet of Anegundi.
DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT
Mats from Anegundi and marbled silks.
HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to get to Hampi is by flying into Bengaluru and then taking a private taxi from there forward (about Rs 6,000 return).
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