The little town of ruins wins everyone’s heart

Prajakta Joshi
Sunday, 13 January 2019

Hampi ranked second in New York Times list of 52 must-see places around the globe

Tucked in gently amidst hills and rocky terrains, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hampi, a little town of ruins in Karnataka has been ranked second in the New York Times (NYT) list of 52 must-see places around the globe. While the improved accessibility of the place is one of the major factors that have won Hampi the accolades, the place has also become more tourist-friendly in the past few years.

A place that still swears by its old world charm, Hampi has gained much more popularity in the recent years, also being the only Indian site to have made to the NYT list.

Still reminiscing in the glory of its past that peeks from the ruins and rocks, Hampi is truly a reflection of Vijaynagar empire’’s grandeur and treasure. Although hidden from the world for a very long time, this city had many a stories to tell, which have now been presented to the world through the restoration of its monuments, thanks to decades of work by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

On grounds of accessibility
Accessibility has been counted to be one of the most important factors to have brought Hampi to this rank, with a new airport at Bellary in Karnataka having become functional recently. The airport is less than 40 km away from the destination, making it easily reachable. The town is also very accessible by road, with buses from nearly all important cities in the state like Belagavi, Bengaluru, Mangaluru, etc. For the road-trippers going on their bikes or in cars, the road around Hampi is a little disappointing due to its ongoing work, but bearable. Kariganuru and Hospet Junction are the nearest railway stations.

For the love of tourists
Another important factor that sets Hampi different from many other destinations in India is how tourist-friendly, the place has been turned into. While those who had visited the place a few years ago complained of bad roads and unorganised and littered places, today, the whole area is quite well 
managed.

The boards leading to the monuments are well-placed, and the guards and locals are friendly and happy to guide you on the way. The police security is available at every corner making the place safer for women and solo travellers as well. Also, the parking lots and offices have well-maintained washrooms, which one can use at minimum entry costs.

While not all of them have the facility, some of the bigger and important monuments like the Royal Enclosure, the Zanana enclosure, Vitthal Mandir Complex are disabled-friendly. There are ramps and Braille boards of information. There is an abundance of restaurants and homestays near Hampi Bazaar, right adjacent to the ruins, however these may seem a little too costly for domestic tourists. But they are perfect for the foreigners. Nevertheless, the humble domestic tourists who do not intend to spend much can find abode in rest of the area of Hampi or the surrounding areas of Anegundi, Hospet, etc. One may also observe that the restaurant menus and the decors at the eateries near Hampi Bazaar are designed to cater to the foreign lot, along with some South Indian specialities.
 
On World Map but, far away from commercialisation
Despite being put on the world map and attracting so many tourists from the country and abroad, what fascinates is how the town doesn’t put on a show of commercialisation. Only three of the monuments, the ASI museum, Vitthala Temple Complex and the Zanana Enclosure need an entry ticket, which is common for all three, and costs a mere Rs 40 for Indians. The place also takes care of local business as you will find the people from around Hampi run restaurants, stalls, streetside shops in the parts of ruins where it is allowed, especially outside the Virupaksha Temple that draws many tourists. 

If you do not have a vehicle of your own, you can take autorickshaws to go around Hampi that charge you around Rs 600 to 800 per day. Apart from that, you can also rent two-wheelers for as less as Rs 200 (or even lesser if you know to negotiate) per day. While Hampi has boards giving basic information of the monuments, those interested in the stories and history of the place, can instead take a tour guide at least at some of the monuments. Also, maps and books about the monuments are sold outside almost every monument.

To preserve the Vitthala Temple Complex in a better state, vehicles have been prohibited around 500 metres from the location. One can either walk that distance, or take the battery-operated vehicles at a cost of Rs 20 per person. One of the special things about these vehicles is that they are all driven by women.

Scope for improvement
At present, one needs to carry a lot of cash as Hampi does not have any ATMs. The nearest ATMs are in the areas of Kamalapur or Anegundi which are at a distance of around 5 km or Hospet which is around 12 km away. Also, most the of the eateries and lodges do not have PoS machines for card payments, although some have now begun accepting payments online or through mobile wallets. May be, introduction of a few ATMs can prevent the tourists from running out of money. Also, though the place is not essentially littered, a better garbage management system certainly needs to be in place.

While it’s hoped that the new-found popularity and place on the world map does not ruin the beauty of the ruins in the near future, it is still recommended to visit this gem of a place as soon as one can.

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