#hampi #weekendgetaway #karnataka #roadtrip
After many months of lockdown, we mustered the courage to venture out on a road trip and decided to cover the famous Karnataka Heritage Route - Bengaluru - Hampi - Badami - Pattadakal - Aihole- Bijapur - Bengaluru. This cultural immersion spanning 1300+ kms in 5 days takes you across the glory of the Vijayanagara and Chalukya dynasties and adding in a dash of the Mughals as well!
Given we were travelling during covid times, the paranoid me had taken extra precautions. We booked our stay at 2 cities and decided to do day trips from there. At Hampi we chose the Heritage Resort, since it had individual cottages minimizing the chance of usage of lifts etc. We chose Grand Clarks Inn, Badami as the other place to stay given the options to stay at Pattadakal and Aihole are minimal and staying at Bijapur would have been very far off.
We started our day early around 7am, with all food (including my Chai flask) packed for the journey, and set off on the 5hr drive from Bengaluru to Hampi. Post a smooth, minimal contact check-in at the resort and a quick lunch we set out to explore Hampi!
Hampi, a UNESCO Heritage site, was the crown jewel of the Vijayanagara Dynasty. The ruins of Hampi situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra rives, is one of the world's largest open air museums, after Rome. Every nook and corner of Hampi has history associated with it, from the boulders to the intricately carved temples. This archaeological site has a number of tourist attractions and we spent close to 2 days exploring the same. Hampi has 2 parts - the temple/archaeological town on one side of the river and the Hippie Island on the other side. We restricted ourselves to the temple town, given a lot of places on Hippie island was shut due to lack of tourists.
I fell in love with Hampi from the minute we set foot there! Most of the touristy sights are located quite close to each other and hence can be covered together. Here are my top picks of places to see in 2 days in Hampi..
Vijaya Vittala temple
This temple is a non functioning temple, and the highlight of Hampi. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Shiva this is an architectural marvel. We reached the temple in the morning to be able to avoid crowds and have the temple to ourselves. This temple needs a ticket to enter and the ASI team have installed QR codes to scan and pay and download the e-ticket ( contactless tickets). The temple is situated at a 10mins walk from the car park and we decided to hire a guide to explain to us the history. All the temples have a Pushkarni/step well at their entrances, allowing people to cleanse themselves before they enter. The main highlight of the temple is the Stone Chariot situated at the center of it. This is one of three stone chariots in India, the other two being at Mahabalipuram and Konark temple. This intricately designed and carved magnificent chariot is a piece of art, symbolizing the glory of this dynasty. The temple also has multiple other nuances which tell us that our ancestors were very skilled. Eg: there is an area which use to have dancers give performances. The columns on the stage used to serve as musical instruments emitting the sounds of the tabla, mridangam etc. Just Wow!
Also, once you see the temple, take a walk towards the rear of this complex to see the King's balance and a very serene view of the tungabhadra river. The banks of the river was a site where the famous poet Purandaradasa wrote his songs which Bharatnatyam dancers perform on.
The entire temple complex takes close to 2hrs to see and its located a little away from the Virupaksha temple and other tourist sights around it. Recommend you either start or end your day at this temple.
Virupaksha Temple and Hemakuta Hill Complex
The Virupaksha temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is one of the main pilgrimage sites here. This temple is said to be the place where Lord Shiva and Parvati got married and hence is very auspicious. The main feature of the temple is the tall gopura which you can see from miles away. The temple boasts a number of intricate carvings and you can visit for a quick darshan. Overlooking the temple and that's what you will see first as you Virupaksha temple is the Hemakuta hill complex which offers some stunning views of the temple itself and also is a great spot to view the sunset across Hampi. This complex also houses the monolith statue of Lord Ganesha Saasivekalu and Kadalukalu.
Royal Enclosure - Dasara Dibba, Step Well, Hazara Rama Temple
This is the open air section of Hampi near the Queen's bath, which is situated en-route to the Virupaksha temple. The Dasara dibba is an elevated platform which served as the Royal seating area for the King and his family to witness the flamboyant Dusshera celebrations which happened below. Climb up the platform to see the never ending sight of the ruins. Dont miss out on the delicate carvings along it depicting daily life. You will also see carvings of scenes of women in war, hunting etc - gender equality at an ancestral level indeed!
A few steps from the Dasara Dibba is the Stepwell. This is one of the few stepwells in the South, the majority of them being in Rajasthan. The Vijayanagara empire had a very through irrigation/pumping system. You can see stone canals coming from the vicinity emptying into the step well. The area around the step well also served as a dining area with plates made of iron permanently fixed in the ground.
On the other side of Dasara Dibba is the Hazara Rama temple. Dedicated to Lord Rama, this was a private temple for the King. As you walk through this temple and encircle it you will see multiple carvings all depicting scenes from the Ramayana.
The entry to the entire Royal enclosure is Free.
Zenana Enclosure - Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables
The Zenana enclosure is a fortified place built to protect the privacy of the royal women. Its structures have an Indo-Islamic architecture adding to the uniqueness of this place. The main structure here is the Lotus Mahal. This was built amidst gardens so that the royal women could spend their leisure time. The Lotus Mahal has architecture inspired by Islamic architecture with many patterns and carvings and has been designed to resemble a lotus bud.
A few steps away is the Elephant Stables and the Guards Quarters.
If you look towards the corners of the enclosure you will see watch towers built for security purposes.
The entry to Zenana enclosure is ticketed. You can use the same ticket used at the Vijaya Vittala temple. ASI has a QR code scanner at this site too which allows you to buy 1 E-ticket to see all the ticketed monuments together on 1 day.
There are also multiple other smaller temples like Urga Narasimha etc which you can stop and visit.
There are a number of places around Hampi to see as well. Tungabhadra dam was something we had read about in school and were eager to go see it. A 20mins drive from the resort we reached the entrance, parked and started the 2-3km walk up to the view point of the dam. There is a bus which takes you, but we wanted to avoid public transport. A 20mins walk later we reached the view point - what you see is the massive dam gates and power plant on one side and the river against the dam, with the setting sun on the other... Amazing!
Food in Hampi
There are a number of local options for food, but given the situation we were extremely careful to avoid going to crowded places. Mango Tree is one of the most famous restaurants frequented by tourists. Its situated right next to Virupaksha temple and hence serves only Vegeterian food and No alcohol. The entry road was a bit unusual and you need to park at the temple parking and walk to the restaurant. Its situated next to some small homes and you do wonder where are you going! However, inside is a completely hippie set up with some good music and good food.
With that wrapped our 2 days in Hampi, getting mesmerized and being transported into a different world altogether!
Next up .. destination Badami – Pattadakal – Aihole
Tips for travel during covid
Avoid crowds and wear masks at all times. Check the covid guidelines of the hotel. Most hotels offer food packages as well. Carry sanitizer wipes and clean surfaces. Avoid cash exchange and have all the payment wallets topped up. Almost all places have a QR code to scan and e-pay. Minimize interactions with people and avoid contact. Recommend eating or staying in outdoor spaces. Carry your food for road trips. If you plan to stop on the highway, recommend take-away and eat in your vehicle.
Hope you found this useful and discover these places in your next visit to Hampi
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