UNESCO describes Hampi as an austere, grandiose site that includes temples, shrines, Forts, Royal & sacred edifices. This amazing, incredulous, wealthy kingdom showcases a little over 1600 surviving remains and in its heyday was the capital of the mighty Vijayanagar empire in the 15th and 16th centuries while historians and scholars claim it was the second largest medieval city in CE 1500 after Beijing and India’s richest.

A visit to see the wondrous ruins was always on our bucket list and we took the easy way out of flying on TruJet from Bangalore to the Jindal Airport located about an hour’s drive from the heritage sites. We soon checked into the Jal Mahal suite at the awesome Evolve Back Kamalapura palace with its open courtyards, private pool and a gigantic sized bath which was our home for 3 nights and it seemed the architect of this resort drew inspiration from the designers who built the empire. The cuisine served in the two restaurants has also been influenced by the choicest recipes in vogue for 700 years and surely kept our palates satisfied.

The next two days we spent strolling through the extraordinary sites- At first sight Hampi’s natural settings are truly spectacular pierced by mammoth boulders in jagged and gentle slopes. A walk up the Hemkunta hill offers stunning vistas of a glorious sunset, the famed Virupaksha temple and the monolith of Narasimha. For us the  highlight was to walk through the ruins of Vitthalapura Bazaar, admiring at close quarters the Vijaya Villhala temple and the chariot carved in stone.

Our guide revealed that many splendors of the citadel of the empire have been buried in the sands of time. The Danaik’s enclosure is believed to have been the quarters of noblemen, administrative and military HQ and the Royal Mint. Not to be missed is the Hazara Ram temple, and the views of the Royal enclosure from the platform Mahanavamini Dibba, the step well, the Royal bath, Zenana enclosure, the Lotus Mahal which was used by the Royal ladies and the awesome Elephant stables. The golden era of the empire which ruled Vijayanagara from 1336-1646 was during the reign of Krishna Devaraya from 1509-1529 who was the greatest amongst all the rulers who governed this region.

As one traverses through the temples there are stories galore of gods and goddesses, myths, legends, and a sense that time has stood still. The romance of an era that once was is today interspersed by bright emerald paddy fields amongst boulder strewn landscape, antiquated appealing structures,  stunning architecture and our adrenaline rush moment was when we cruised the Tungabadhra  river on a coracle leaving behind spectacular views of boulder hills, temples and ruins.

While Hampi is today only a shadow of the glorious years of achievement, pomp, splendor, power, the citadel of a once great empire is now a ghost town of a bygone era but still enjoys a place amongst the top ten architectural sites in the man made wonders list of the world. The wealth and fame attracted visits of European travelers such as Domingo Paes, Fernao Nunes and Niccolo de Conti whose travelogues combined with the recent excavations have provided a treasure trove of information of this empire. 

Aihole, Pattadakal & Badami

If time permits my recommendation is for visitors to spend an additional day or two to visit the mesmerizing sites of Aihole, Pattadakal and the Badami rock cut temples or return to the region at a later date to admire the many edifices and achievements of the Chalukyas who ruled large parts of Southern and central India between the 6th and 12th centuries  while historians consider Pulakeshin II as the numero uno of the dynasty. 

The Durga temple at Aihole is filled with carvings while it is believed the Gaudargudi temple is the oldest. The sculptors it seems were in love with the stones they were sculpting!

Not too far from Aihole is Pattadakal, the capital of the Chalukya dynasty and also a UNESCO world heritage site. The temples here built in Dravidian style are unique and the Jain temples are equally impressive too.

Another “Must see” are the Badami rock cut cave temples which are awe inspiring and truly architectural wonders.

Getting there 

Air- TruJet operates daily flights from Bangalore and Hyderabad to the Jindal airport

By Road

Bangalore to Hampi- 345 kms/ 205 miles- 5-6 hours . Take the NH 4/NH 13 to Hospet and do stop at the Tungabadhra dam

Hyderabad to Hampi- 370 kms/220 miles- 7-8 hours

Hampi to Aihole- 140 kms/83 miles- 3 hours

Aihole to Pattadakal- 10 kms/6 miles

Pattadakal to Badami cave temple-25 kms/15 miles

Hubli airport to Aihole – 140 kms/83 miles- 2.45 hours

Hotel in Hampi-

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