Before the tropical air hits you here, an uncanny sense of time travel does, as you scan the historic Vijayanagar's devastatingly beautiful ruins and temples spread across the boulder-strewn landscape.
The ancient capital of the Vijayanagara Empire (1343-1565), which has now become a favourite hipster holiday destination, is best explored on foot or bicycle. It has a lot of famous attractions such as the Hemakuta Hill, home to the ancient scattered ruins and a monolithic sculpture of Hindu God Vishnu, along with Hampi Bazaar, once an ancient trading spot for horses, silk, cows, precious stones and now a hub of handicraft shops and little restaurants, with the 15th century Virupaksha temple at its western end and the 16th century Vittala temple at its eastern end. Sule Bazaar and the Achyutaraya temple is also a must visit.
This historic expedition can get tiresome and overwhelming for many, and the village in contrast maintains a very laid back atmosphere, with innumerable guest houses spread around, some even with a fascinating spartan setting, costing no more than 300 rupees. Just like its ruins, an ancient festival called the Hampi Utsav has also been kept alive since the Vijayanagar reign and is celebrated annually in November, with light and sound shows, music and dance performances, all boasting of the Kannadigas' rich culture, set against the backdrop of Hampi's ruins. The Mango Tree restaurant is a quaint place reached via passing through a banana plantation. Other good places to eat include Prince Restaurant, Goan Corner Restaurant and Laughing Buddha, popular for South Indian, Chinese, Israeli, Tibetan, and usual vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, enjoyed by the riverside.