Exactly 500 years since the coronation of Krishna Deva Raya, the greatest king of the glorious Vijayanagar Empire, the wonderfully evocative ruins of its vast capital city have come alive like never before. Hampi’s renaissance, which began in 1986 with its declaration as the world’s second largest heritage site by UNESCO, will reach a high point this year – to coincide with the anniversary, the state tourism department has already committed several millions to better infrastructure and a brand-new state-of-the-art museum, luxury hotel chains like Orange County Resorts have begun work on top-end properties, and domestic and foreign tourists – both serious guidebook-toting seekers of history and deadlock-sporting hippies in search of a different kind of nirvana – have begun to discover its unparalleled charm in droves.
Hampi’s stunning landscape – a giants’ playground of huge boulders casually and extravagantly strewed beside the mighty Tungabhadra river, makes it sweltering in summer.
- When to Go: Go between September and February.
- Where to Stay: Hampi’s Boulders Narayanpet, Bandi Harlapur- P.O Ph: 94-4803-4202 (starts Rs 6,000 per night for non a/c standard rooms, including breakfast and dinner), a private, boutique property on a beautiful 40-acre sprawl 7 km from the ruins; Wild Grass Guest House Anegundi Ph: 08533-267792, 94491 44133 (Rs 2500 for a double including breakfast), a lovely little clutch of cottages just across the river from the Vitthala temple.
- T+L TIP On the ‘holy side’ of the river in Hampi, where the temples and palaces are, is The Mango Tree, the cult alfresco riverbank hotspot. On the ‘unholy side’, in Virupapura, are the Israeli cafes, German bakeries and wood-fired pizza hangouts – lounge on the floor mattresses for hours over chilled mint tea, and do not leave without saying Hello to the Queen (aka Shalom–e-Malika, a yummylicious dessert of cookie crumbs, strawberry jam, ice-cream, chocolate sauce and nuts).