Planning a Hyderabad-to-Hampi road trip? Here are some things that we’ve learned during the four times we’ve done it; things you should know if you’re planning your own trip.
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Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the river Tungabhadra in Karnataka, South India. It was once the centre of the powerful Vijayanagara empire that spanned most the Deccan region between the 13th and 17th centuries.
Hampi is a great destination for a road trip from Hyderabad, but planning one isn’t all that simple. We’ve done four road trips from Hyderabad to Hampi over the years, and here are a few things we’ve learned that’ll make planning your own road trip a little easier.
1. When to visit
The best time to plan your Hyderabad-to-Hampi road trip would be between November and January. That’s when it’s the coolest and there’s the least rain. It’ll still get pretty hot at midday, though, but mornings and evenings are refreshingly cool.
You’ll also feel a big difference depending on which side of the river you’re staying; the northern side is warmer and muggier because of all the rocks and fields, and the southern side is cooler because of the scrub forests.
It’s probably a good idea not to go between March and May, when it gets really hot. June to October is when it rains, and though it doesn’t get as cool as you’d think, visiting Hampi during the monsoon can also be pretty special.
Also read: A weekend road trip from Hyderabad to Bidar
2. How to get there
The travel time between Hampi and Hyderabad depends on the route you choose and how fast you like to drive. On average, though, you should take about eight or nine hours, including a few breaks in between. Depending on the route (and your exact destination), you can expect to cover anywhere between 400 and 500 km.
Routes from Hyderabad to Hampi
There are a few different routes you can take on your Hyderabad-to-Hampi road trip. Each has their own pros and cons, and they’re all different distances. Also, the side of the river you’re staying on might influence your choice of route.
Via Mahbubnagar, Raichur and Sindhanur
This is our favourite of the two main routes to Hampi, and the one we’ve used most often. It’s the shortest route from Hyderabad to Hampi at about 400 km, and the country roads are mostly in good shape. It’s also quite scenic and fun to drive on. Lastly, it’s great if your accommodation is on the northern side of the river.
Sadly, there are hardly any places to stop and eat along this route (though that might not be a bad thing in these COVID times). Also, there are usually some bad patches of road at the bridge over the Krishna river, and around Raichur. But overall, the good outweighs the bad.
Via Gooty and Ballari
This is the second of the two usual routes one can take when travelling from Hyderabad to Hampi by road, and is about 470 km long. Around 60% of this route is on the excellent Hyderabad-Bangalore highway.
You might assume that this is a faster route because of the great highway, but it’s usually not the case. Because, while the Hyderabad-Bangalore highway stretch is great, the rest of the route has lots of slow truck traffic and some very bad roads. In fact, on our last trip, most of the Hampi-Gooty stretch was being repaired, and the rest was absolutely shattered. Just to illustrate: the first 30 km took us an hour! We had driven to Hampi via Raichur and returned via Gooty, but took the same amount of time both ways, and with far less frustration in the first case.
Other routes you can take on your Hyderabad-to-Hampi road trip
Of course, there are other routes between Hyderabad and Hampi. For example, you could turn off the Hyderabad-Bangalore highway towards Ballari at Kurnool instead of Gooty. Or, from Raichur, you could again head to Ballari instead of towards Gangavathi.
But we don’t think that any of these routes have any major advantages over the two main ones, so we’ve never taken them. If you do decide to go off the beaten path, though, you should probably do some more research. Google Maps isn’t always reliable when it comes to the best route!
A few things to do on the way
If you aren’t in a major hurry to get to the end of your journey, you might want to stop and do things along the way. Here are a few interesting things between Hyderabad and Hampi that we know of.
- The flat-topped, rock-strewn plateau near Jadcherla, with a temple that’s open to the sky.
- The Pillalamarri banyan tree grove near Mahbubnagar. They say the entire grove is actually a single tree!
- The nearly 800-metre-long stone bridge across the Krishna river at Devarsugur, which crosses the border between Telangana and Karnataka. (You’ll cross this anyway, but it looks quite nice from the side.)
- The 700-year-old Raichur fort that sits on a hill overlooking a lake in the heart of town.
- The 14th-century Manvi fort that has great views of the surrounding countryside.
- The small but impressive 900-year-old Konda Reddy fort in Kurnool.
- The 11th-century Gooty fort that towers over the town on hills up to 300 metres high.
3. Where to stay
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Hampi, from high-end hotels and resorts to basic homestays and backpacker options. But we’ve found that the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a place to stay is which side of the river it’s on. Because each side has its own advantages and disadvantages, and getting from one side to the other isn’t all that simple.
North or south of the river?
The southern side of the river is where most of the temples and ruins of Hampi are. And understandably, that’s also where most of the higher-end places to stay are. But this side of the river can get a little crowded and touristy, though maybe not during these COVID-affected times.
The northern side is far more rural, with lots of fields and fewer tourists. This side also has its sights, like the Sanapur lake, the aqueduct ruins and the hill-top Anjaneya temple. But most (though not all) places to stay on this side tend to be much more basic.
To get from one side to the other, you’ll have cross either at Hosapete or Bukkasagara. Both of these are about 30 minutes’ drive from the main Hampi ruins, in opposite directions. On the other hand, if you don’t mind leaving your vehicle behind, though, you can always cross the traditional way: by coracle boat. Pro tip: Google Maps might show you a closer bridge at Anegundi, but that’s never been completed. In fact, the quickest route from Anegundi to Hampi is over the Bukkasagara bridge.
Places we’ve stayed at in Hampi
We’ve done four road trips from Hyderabad to Hampi so far, and we’ve stayed in different places each time, each with its own pros and cons. Aside: Most places here are called some combination of ‘Hampi’ and ‘heritage’, so it can get a little confusing.
Hampi Heritage and Wilderness Resort
We stayed here the last time we drove to Hampi. It’s located in Kamalapura on the southern side of the river, about 20 minutes’ drive south of Hampi, and run by the government’s Jungle Lodges and Resorts division.
The place is a sprawling property, with 20 individual cottages spaced far apart. And as the name indicates, it’s designed make you feel like you’re in the wilderness. It’s even right on the edge of the Daroji sloth bear sanctuary.
- Room cost includes all meals (plus evening tea and snacks), a bear safari and a day of sightseeing.
- Cottages are all very private.
- Has an authentic wilderness feel.
- Food is homely and tasty.
- Staff is very friendly and helpful.
- Room costs might seem a little high at first glance.
- Because it’s so spread out, it’s quite a walk from any given cottage to the dining hall or reception.
- Junior staff don’t speak English or Hindi very well, and are more comfortable with Kannada or Telugu.
- Facilities are a little rough around the edges, and slightly more basic than one might expect.
- Meal menus are fixed, and they don’t serve alcohol, though you can bring your own (Renuka Wines is the closest shop).
We stayed here over New Year’s a few years ago. It’s located on the northern side of the river, just below the Sanapur lake. It’s about an hour’s drive to the main Hampi complex via the Bukkasagara bridge.
This is a pretty basic place, with a few simple rooms and cane cottages, and a small restaurant. Its charm is in its simplicity, and in its location. On one side, it’s right next to a series of rice fields that make for lovely sunrise views. On the other, it’s a few minutes’ walk from the Sanapur dam and it’s spectacular boulder-strewn hills.
- Rustic location, away from the bustle of Hampi and its surroundings
- Affordable room costs
- Great sunrise views over the rice fields
- Great sunset views over the lake from the dam
- On-site restaurant
- Far away from the main Hampi complex
- Basic facilities
- Limited restaurant menu
Vijayshree Resort and Heritage Village
We stayed here during a family road trip from Hyderabad to Hampi a few years ago. It’s located on the southern side of the river on the Hampi-Hosapete road, about 20 minutes’ drive from the main Hampi complex.
This is a somewhat upmarket place, with lots of cottages spread out over a large area. It’s a heritage-themed resort, and is quite popular among the locals for events as well. Interestingly, it serves only vegetarian food, and no smoking, alcohol or non-vegetarian food is allowed on the premises.
- Conveniently located
- Good facilities
- Breakfast is included in the room rate, and you can choose to include other meals too.
- Somewhat expensive.
- Because it’s so spread out, it’s quite a walk to the reception or coffee shop.
- The ‘heritage’ theme is a bit kitsch and superficial, and a mix of local and Rajasthani (!)
- Can get a little crowded, especially if there’s an event happening.
Kishkinda Heritage Resort
We stayed at this place during our first-ever visit to Hampi, over 15 years ago. Things might’ve changed since then, so you might want to do some more research.
This large-ish resort is located on the northern side of the river, up against a small dam in the Sanapur lake. It’s a mid-range resort, with both cottages and rooms, and about 45 minutes’ drive from Hampi, via the Bukkasagara bridge. The round cottages are done up to give a traditional feel from the outside, but inside they’re pretty standard. Some have cane furniture, though, which adds a nice touch. Interestingly, the resort is right next to a (somewhat kitsch) water park, in case you feel like a dip.
- Beautiful approach road through the fields
- Great view from the dam, a few minutes’ walk away
- Large water park next door
- Cane furniture in some cottages adds a rustic feel
- Far away from the main Hampi complex
- Traditional feel only on the surface
- May get a little crowded during events
More places to stay in Hampi
There are lots of other places to stay in and around Hampi, too. Here’s a list of hotels in Hampi on TripAdvisor, if you want to do some more looking.
4. What to see and do
Once you get to Hampi, there are lots of things to see and do. In fact, even after four visits, we still haven’t experienced everything Hampi has to offer. Here’s a list of just some of the things that you can do.
Popular things to do in Hampi
The Vijay Vitthala temple
The Vitthala temple is probably the most famous (and popular) of all the places to see in Hampi, with good reason. The stone chariot with its granite elephants, and the pavilions with musical pillars, are something you’ll probably not experience anywhere else. This is the only place in Hampi that charges an entry fee, though, so be prepared. Last I checked, it was INR 30 for Indian, SAARC and BIMSTEC nationals; INR 500 (!) for other nationals; and free for children below 15. (Location)
The Virupaksha temple
The Virupaksha temple, with its massive gopuram (gateway tower) is the most visible monument in Hampi. This a living temple with a constant flow of devotees, and is located at one end of the erstwhile market street. (Location)
The sacred centre trail
The trail through the sacred centre connects the Virupaksha and Vitthala temples, and is lined with ancient temples and shrines. It even leads through a small cave and along the river, and over some steps carved into the bedrock. The trail is about 2.5 km long. (Location)
The rocky hillside of Hemakuta hill, which overlooks the Virupaksha temple, is strewn with lots of little stone temples and pavilions. The large Ganesha idol right at the beginning of the path is the most famous, but there are lots more further up the hill. It’s also a popular spot from which to watch the sunset. (Location)
The Lakshmi Narasimha and Badavilinga temples
These two small temples are next to each other on the main approach road to Hampi. The first has a large statue of Lord Narasimha sitting cross-legged. The second has a massive stone Shivalinga that is always half-submerged in water. (Location)
The palace complex
The ruins of the palace complex are one of the more impressive parts of the royal centre, off the main approach road to Hampi. The flat-topped pyramidal audience platform has great views, and the step-well nearby is quite impressive. Also interesting is the water supply system for the series of water features around the gardens, and massive fallen stone gates at the entrance. (Location)
The Hazara Rama temple
The interesting Hazara Rama temple has intricately carved exteriors that are said to depict Lord Rama in a thousand different forms (hence its name). It also has massive, intricately carved pillars of black granite in the entrance chamber. (Location)
The lotus mahal and the elephant stables
The lotus mahal and the elephant stables are at the end of the Muslim quarter of the royal centre. Some of the best examples of combined Hindu-Islamic architecture in Hampi, they’re also among the best-maintained of the site’s monuments. (Location)
The Anjaneya hill temple
The Anjaneya temple, on a granite hill on the northern side of the river, supposedly marks the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. A long, winding staircase leads to the top of the hill, which has spectacular views of the river and the surrounding countryside. (Location)
Besides Hampi’s historical ruins, boat rides on the river in traditional coracle boats are also very popular. These saucer-shaped cane boats might look like they can barely float, but they can carry a surprising amount of weight. Just remember to hold on to the sides when the boatman starts spinning your boat around to give you a thrill! (Location)
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Off-beat things to do in Hampi
One of the best things about Hampi is there are so many beautiful sights hidden away in unexpected nooks and corners. Here are a few off-beat things to do in Hampi that you might want to add to your schedule.
Trekking up Matanga hill
One of the highest points in Hampi, Matanga hill is a tall granite hill at the other end of the market street from the Virupaksha temple. It’s a 30-minute climb up a steep set of stairs leading to the temple on top, from where you’ll have sweeping views of the entire countryside. You might encounter a few other visitors at sunset. (Location)
Exploring the Achyutaraya temple
Though the impressive Achyutaraya temple is just off the trail through the sacred quarter, hardly anyone seems to visit. The large temple complex is at the end of the courtesans’ street, and you can even get there by trekking over the hill from the end of the market street. (Location)
Sunset at Sanapur lake
On the northern side of the river, Sanapur lake is a beautiful sight. It’s surrounded by rocky hills, and makes for a great place from which to watch the sunset. You can also take a coracle boat into the middle of the lake, do some cliff-jumping into the water if you feel like, or just drive around it and along the canal at the other end. (Location)
Watching sloth bears at Daroji
The Daroji sloth bear sanctuary is close to Hampi, and the government-run Hampi Heritage and Wilderness Resort organizes a safari every afternoon at 3:00 PM as part of their day-package. You can also drive into the sanctuary on your own (for a fee) between 2:00 and 6:00 PM. There’s a watch tower in the sanctuary, and the rangers paint the rocks with a honey-jaggery mixture every afternoon to lure the bears out so people can see them. I’m not in favour of this because it changes the bears’ natural behaviour, but I have to admit it was fun watching them. They may not have looked like Baloo the bear, but they certainly behaved like him! (Location: Hampi Heritage and Wilderness Resort | Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary)
Sunrise treks into the hills
The landscape around Hampi is spectacular, so it’s no surprise that sunrises (and sunsets) can be incredibly beautiful there. If you’re the outdoorsy kind, I highly recommend clambering up a hill of granite boulders and watching the sun at the horizon. Even better, get a local to take you to their favourite lookout point.
Picnic by the river at Anegundi
Anegundi is where the erstwhile bridge across the river to Hampi was supposed to be built, before half of it got washed away. But the end of the path to the river is a great place to kick back and relax a bit in the evenings. There are a few temple ruins in the fields, and you can sit on old stone walls as you watch the river flow by and admire the remains of the bridge. You might even score a coracle ride in the river from the boatmen there. (Location)
Otter spotting at the Bukkasagara bridge
There’s a lively population of river otters around Hampi, and the government runs a conservation program at the Bukkasagara bridge. Of course, you’ll need special permission to enter the conservation zone, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot a few from the bridge itself. It seems the best time to see them is in the evening just before sunset. If you’re staying at the Hampi Heritage and Wilderness Resort, they might even be able to get permission for a ‘safari’ of sorts for you. (Location)
Sunset at the Malyavanta temple
One of the very few large temples beyond the ruins of Hampi, the Malyavanta temple doesn’t get too many tourists. It’s a living temple, though, so quite a few locals do visit. It’s on a hill, so it’s also a great spot from which to watch the sunset, especially from the granite ruins in the rocks opposite the main entrance. There’s not much space to park there, though, so be prepared to do some reversing. (Location)
The Sonkula Tayyamma temple banyan tree grove
The temple itself is unremarkable, but what is very interesting is the surrounding banyan tree grove. The entire grove is a actually a single tree with at least three individual trunks and a huge network of interconnected branches and tree roots. Also nice is the small lake next door and its resident water birds. But don’t be surprised at the litter, and the graffiti carved into the trunks and branches. (Location)
These ‘waterfalls’ are more like rapids, but the bizarre shapes that the rocks in and around the river have been carved into by the water are very interesting. There are also plenty of little pools in which to paddle your feet, or in which to take a quick dip. The rocky riverbed can be slippery, though, so try and take some rubber sandals along. And you’ll probably need a local to guide you to the right spot through the fields and banana plantations. (Location)
Driving through the countryside
One of the things we love most about Hampi is how unexpected sights pop up out of nowhere when you’re just driving through the countryside. The drive through the fields and along the river on the northern side is especially beautiful. Keep an eye out for the ancient little stone ruins that sometimes appear right in the middle of nowhere.
5. Top tips for a Hyderabad-to-Hampi road trip
- The best time of year to visit Hampi is between November and January. March to May are the summer months, and June to September is when it rains.
- The northern side of the river tends to be warmer than the southern side, because all the rocks there absorb and radiate heat.
- Decide which side of the river you’ll be staying on. It’s not easy to get from one side to the other, so everything else will depend on that.
- The distance between Hyderabad and Hampi is around 400-500km, depending on the route. The journey should take you eight or nine hours, on average. If you leave Hyderabad around 5:30 AM, you should be able to beat the city traffic and get there by lunch time.
- Our preferred route when travelling from Hyderabad to Hampi by road is via Mahbubnagar, Raichur and Gangavathi. Though we’ve also done the route via Bellary and Gooty thrice, we regretted it on two occasions.
- Accept that you won’t be able to fit all the things you want to do into a single Hampi trip. Identify your top priorities and just do those.
- Pack a pair of rubber sandals (not slippers), like Crocs. They’ll come in handy when you’re wading in the river; they usually keep a decent grip on rocks both in and outside the water.
- If you’re thinking of trekking, pack shoes that don’t have mesh. The tough grass seeds get stuck in the mesh, and can even poke through and get stuck in your socks. One even poked right through the skin of my heel!
- Hampi can be hot and bright any time of the year. Pack a hat, shades and sunscreen.
- If you’re around Kamalapur and want to buy alcohol, Renuka Wines is pretty much the only place. Don’t expect anything fancy, though.
- If you’re thinking of staying at the Hampi Heritage and Wilderness Resort, cottage #10 has the best sunrise and sanctuary views, and cottage #19 has the best sunset views.
Try the mind-blowingly spicy local mirchi bajji (whole, batter-fried chilies). If you can, ask for red chilies instead of green ones; they have a slightly sweet flavour!
See if you can hire a bike or scooter to get around. It’s more eco-friendly than using a car.
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