When I arrived in Hampi what struck me immediately, besides the magnificent ruins, was the rugged and undulating terrain filled with heaps of giant boulders which are thought to be among the oldest on the planet. This is contrasted by lush paddy fields, banana plantations and palm groves, giving it a fantastical and unearthly feel.
It is one of my favourite regions in India for gentle walking, cycling and archaeological explorations.
In its heyday, and certainly by the 16th century, Hampi was the world’s second largest metropolis with about 500,000 inhabitants. Its thriving bazaars attracted traders from all over the world including Persia and Europe, making it the most affluent medieval city in the country.
Hampi's magnificent reign came to a sudden halt when it was attacked by a coalition of Deccan sultanates in 1565, leaving it completely ruined and deserted.
Fortunately, over the centuries, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has remained locked in time and I could still feel and imagine its previous glory through the magnificent vestiges of the past and unspoilt countryside.
In this part of the country which is now known for its IT hubs and modern megacities it feels as though the massive boulders of Hampi have sheltered the ancient capital from the winds of change.
Accommodation choices around Hampi are somewhat limited and most travellers stay in one of the modern hotels in the nearby town of Hospet, a 20-minute drive from the historic monuments.
The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s latest offering, Kishkinda Camp, has however given us a reason to rejoice.
It brings a very unique "glamping" experience to Hampi with 10 uber-luxurious colonial safari-themed tents and offering fine locally grown and produced cuisine, personalised and highly attentive butler service and very tasteful and hand-crafted décor; all in the heart of Hampi’s striking landscape.
The camp is very carefully designed and set up with the highest regard for natural harmony. It offers an opportunity to explore the rural and wild side of Hampi, from Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary and the nomadic Banjara people of Sandur to spending a quiet afternoon bird watching on the backwaters of Tungabhadra River. The latter boasts over 230 species of resident and migratory birds.
Opening on 1st October 2018, Kishkinda Camp promises to offer the most luxurious and intimate base to those who wish to go off the beaten track and who value sustainable and low-impact travel.
With so much to see and do I’d recommend spending at least three days in Hampi. I am personally deeply interested in architecture and photography, so most of my time was spent exploring the stunning ruins including the grand 8th century Virupaksha temple.
Hampi’s only living temple (and the most sacred and largest of all, Laxmi-Narasimha temple, with its 22 foot-tall central figure that has been carefully restored by the Archaeological Survey of India) is a historical landmark I strongly encourage you to visit.
Located near the banks of Tungabhadra River the 16th century Vittala temple with its intricate stone carvings, stunning stone chariot and ‘musical’ pillars comes highly recommended.
A track leads to Sule Bazaar, which used to be the most thriving and buzzing part of town, as well as the Elephant Stables with their impressive domed chambers. The views of the setting sun from the top of Matanga Hill were reminiscent of both Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap in Cambodia – absolutely magical!
For those interested in a deeper understanding of the history and local conservation of this area I would highly recommend visiting Kaladham, a small museum set up by two local historians who have spent years researching and documenting the ruins using modern interactive technologies and panoramic 3D photography.
For couples and families alike, Hampi in general (and Kishkinda Camp in particular) offer an ideal opportunity to take a peek into India’s glorious past and experience the pleasures of slow travel. It is one of my absolute favourite and must-visit places in South India.
If you would like to visit Hampi and stay at Kishkinda Camp contact me here for more information.
Images are kindly supplied by and copyright to the 'The Ultimate Travelling Camp'