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- 23 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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Hampi in south India was once the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, a mighty Hindu kingdom. It was so important that it's even mentioned in the Ramayana, a major Sanskrit epic of ancient India. Today, the village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's home to several majestic ruins. Palm, mango and banana trees provide a burst of greenery along the banks of the Tungabhadra River, while on the water you'll spot locals fishing from handmade rounded boats called coracles.
Hostels in Hampi are found on both sides of the river. Options include an upscale inn right next to the Archaeological Museum, a riverside resort surrounded by lush greenery and a traditional family-owned homestay. Some Hampi hostels have free Wi-Fi, while others serve up a complimentary breakfast. A few even have outdoor pools fringed by palm trees: perfect for relaxing after a day of sightseeing. Rooms generally have either air con or a fan to keep you cool at night.
There are several main areas to explore in Hampi. The village proper is located on the Kamalapur side of the river, where you'll find an assortment of shops selling clothes, jewellery and antiques beneath the stone pavilions of Hampi Bazaar. On the opposite bank lies Virupapuragaddi, which is dotted with ancient ruins. This district is sometimes called Hampi's "hippie side" thanks to its popularity among backpackers. To the north, the area around Sanapur Lake is home to a bird sanctuary where you can spot red munias and grey francolins.
Hampi's key attractions include the ornate Vijaya Vittala Temple, which has gigantic stone pillars that produce musical notes when tapped. In the centre of the village lies the 7th-century Virupaksha Temple, dedicated to the eponymous Hindu deity – an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Across the river, Anjaneya Hill is believed to be the birthplace of the monkey god Hanuman. Here, a steep staircase leads up to a temple with views over paddy fields and the Hampi city ruins.
Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore (renamed Bengaluru) is the nearest hub for international flights. Visitors can hop on a train or a private bus from Bangalore city centre to Hosapete Junction railway station. From here, it's a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride to Hampi. You can also take a local bus from the station about 1.5km away. Within Hampi, it's best to hire a scooter or an auto rickshaw to get around. There also are taxi boats that cross the river until the evening.