Unreal and bewitching, the forlorn ruins of Hampi, around 330km from Goa, make a highly worthwhile, and popular, side trip from the coast. They lie scattered over a landscape that leaves you spellbound: heaps of giant boulders perch precariously over miles of undulating terrain, their rusty hues offset by jade-green palm groves, banana plantations and paddy fields, while the azure sky painted with fluffy white cirrus adds to the magical atmosphere. A World Heritage Site, Hampi is a place where you can lose yourself among the ruins, or simply be mesmerised by the vagaries of nature, wondering how millions of years of volcanic activity and erosion could have resulted in a landscape so fascinating.
Hampi is a major pit stop on the traveller circuit, with the cooler months of November to March being the peak season. While it’s possible to see the main sites in a day or two, this goes against Hampi’s relaxed grain; plan on lingering for a while.
Hampi Bazaar and the southern village of Kamalapuram are the two main points of entry to the ruins. Kamalapuram has a government-run hotel and the archaeological museum. But the main travellers’ scene is Hampi Bazaar, a village crammed with budget lodges, shops and restaurants, all towered over by the majestic Virupaksha Temple. The ruins are divided into two main areas: the Sacred Centre, around Hampi Bazaar; and the Royal Centre, towards Kamalapuram. To the northeast across the Tungabhadra River is the historic village of Anegundi.