Hampi is one of most popular Indian destinations among the younger travelers and backpackers. This medieval town is recognized by UNESCO for its architectural wonders and is a favorite with the locals and non-local travelers alike. While most of the famous architectural sites and monuments are on one bank of the river, the other bank is increasing its popularity with the hippie crowd as laid back holiday location. The first time traveler would take a guided sight seeing tour during the day and smoke up on the other bank at night. But Hampi has a lot more to offer.
1. Free climbing. Hampi is surrounded by rocky hills making it almost a boulder desert except for the gift of Tungabhadra river flowing to make it sustainable. The rocks around Hampi are a feast for climbers during day time. You can try a different direction each day and be assured to have surprises each time. 2. Rent a bicycle. Despite being the grand capital of Vijayanagar empire, today’s Hampi is indeed a small town with many interesting architectural sites and hangout places scattered around a 10 kilometer radius. The sites are close hops from each other yet not the best walk- able route. Be sure to carry a water bottle as a sunny ride in the hills could leave you gasping for breath.
3. Sunset. Be it the setting sun amidst rocks or behind scenery of hills and river, this place offers some great sunset views. Photography is a calling factor for many visitors while some artists can also be spotted painting the landscape.
4. Morning dip in the river. Civilization developed on the banks of Tungabhadra river. While you reach Hampi on the city’s banks, calmer and better places to stay are a 5 minute Coracle ride away on the opposite banks. Most of the guest houses on the other bank would have a pathway down to the river. How can clear flowing water cleansing your feet not refresh a tired traveler’s mind? 5. Enjoy the laid back night life. There are no pubs playing loud music or discos to dance away the night. Guest houses usually have an attached restaurant serving a wide menu of dishes. After dusk, this part comes live with each guest house playing different music or a movie. Guests can be seen stretching out on beds on the floor and eating off a low platform serving as the dining table.
6. Paddy fields. Rice is the major crop around the north Karnataka region and Hampi is surrounded pre-dominantly by Paddy fields. In the months of August to December, which also happens to be the peak season for tourism, the seedlings of paddy surround the entire place with light green. The naïve beauty of the place adds that extra rustic essence to your travel. So don’t miss the walks through these fields.
7. Become a foodie. Try the local cuisine. The specialty of this under developed little Indian town is really the variety of cuisines you can try. While the meal at Khanawali (restaurant serving local meal) would make its way to a traveler’s a to-do list, do try the variety on menu cards at some renowned places and you will be surprised at the choices. Just like pasta is never the same in USA as in Italy, most of the dishes might ring a bell and not be what you expect, but I vouch the taste wouldn’t disappoint.
8. Day trip to the sites. Medieval architecture and its intricate carvings might be selling point of the dynasties that ruled Hampi, but there are a lot more sites with monuments beyond the mention of the guide book. The sites are spread out all the way till Badami and Pattadakal, which are upto 3 hours away and can be covered in a day trip. Group car rentals work out best for these sites as the public transport is not too frequent during the day. 9. Yoga, Meditation or Just be with your soul. Some cafés also have a person teaching Yoga or the art of meditation during specific times of the day. You could take a session of an hour each for a few days. Also parlors offer Ayurvedic massages. These are very relaxing especially to beat the heat and weariness.
10. Buy Indian clothes. If you are staying any longer than 2 days, you should probably consider doing this. You can buy pre stitched garments readily sold in small shops or buy cloth and get your design stitched by a local tailor. Though the traditional women’s clothing in Karnataka region is Saree, Salwar-Kameez is the more popular Indian outfit. This is a knee length tunic teamed with loose fitting pants to allow maximum air circulation in the tropical climate. Also popular female clothing are balloon Pyjamas (similar to Arabic Harlem pants) with bright Indian prints. Ideal clothing for young men is a Kurta for the top (loose pull over in comfortable cloth) and Pyjama (loose pants). Each garment shouldn’t cost more than $5 each.