Hampi is probably one of my most favorite places to have visited in India. The surreal landscape is like no other place I’ve been to, and thus entirely captivating. It features mammoth boulders strewn around the green, yet desert-like landscape, plotted with rice paddy fields and banana plantations. It’s many rocky, mountainous outcrops are also perfect for viewing sunsets over ancient ruins, temples and the serpentine Tungabhadra river. The prehistoric look of this destination has been compared to the imaginative neighborhood of the Flintstone’s cartoons.
We also stayed at one of our favorite guesthouses, Top Secret River View, which consisted of several bamboo huts and the very best lounge restaurant, with spectacular views of the river and Hampi village in the distance. We spent many an hour in the Top Secret restaurant, which consisted of a series of low tables surrounded by mattresses and pillows, perfect for sipping a cold kingfisher beer and listening to an eclectic mix of music – much of it very good! The vegetarian food was also some of the most satisfying, with Mexican and Israeli influences. The vibe was hippy meets hipster, complete with dreadlock-making, asymmetric haircuts, beards, and “Burning Man” attire.
Historically, Hampi, which was called Vijayanagara, was the epicenter of the Hindu religion and culture, growing into the largest Hindu empire in the 16th century, with busy bazaars and a half million population. It is also a region referred to as the “realm of the monkey gods” in the ancient texts of the Ramayana. Like many other thriving and rich capitals, Hampi was attacked during it’s height of importance in 1565, by Deccan Sultanates, who ensured that there would be no recovery. Now, it is a strong favorite among backpackers, but not easily visited, as it is very far and isolated from many other hub destinations. Those intrepid travelers who suffer the long journey by bus, train or car to reach Hampi are rewarded by both it’s natural beauty and bewitching history.
Sacred Centre, where we watched Lakshmi, the temple elephant receive her ritualistic daily bath, and visited the Virupaksha Temple, and strolled the defunct Hampi Bazaar:
Vittala Temple and its’ famous, ornate stone chariot:
Zenana Enclosure (Lotus Mahal & Elephant stables) and the Queen’s Bath:
Many other random temples and ruins:
We spent much of our time admiring the Tungabhadra River. Whether it was to simply ferry from one side of Hampi to another, for Gabriel to go fishing (surprise, surprise!), or to experience a ride in a round, basket-like boat, that gives you a view of the hidden stone temples and carved art and niches built into the rocky crags lining the river’s shores. I was most happy in Hampi when I simply slowed down, listened to the kids laugh and play make-believe on our guesthouse grounds, had friendly discussions with new friends, and let myself “be” in a spirit of calm and appreciation for all the beauty in our midst.