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The archaeological site of Hampi, also known as Vijayanagar, is regarded as one of the most interesting and charming ancient sites in India.

The site has been occupied since the 3rd century BC, but at its height, it was the thriving capital of the Vijayanagar Empire (1336 – 1646). During the 16th century, when trade with other states and overseas was taking place, Hampi was one of the richest and largest cities in the world before it fell to the Deccan Sultanates. What remains today, is a sprawling scenic ruined city, containing an astounding multitude of temples and monuments, avenues, boulevards and gateways, statues and palaces, civic buildings and even irrigation systems, all set to a backdrop of running rivers, lush sugarcane fields, swaying palm trees and the famous boulder-strewn landscapes. Hampi is split between the Royal centre and the Sacred centre, which are very different to each other. The Royal centre has a range of unusual and understated, but beautifully carved monuments. In contrast the Sacred Centre is home to the visually commanding Virupaksha and Vitthala temples. The best views over the Virupaksha complex are from the top of Hemakuta Hill, which is well worth the steep climb.

Hampi is a site of enormous historical significance, but the landscape and natural beauty makes the area even more special. Part of its charm is the lack of infrastructure, which has made Hampi notoriously difficult to get to, and the inaccessibility keeps away large crowds. The recent addition of a direct flight from Hyderabad to Hampi has opened up the area enormously, but there is little knowing how long this flight path will stay open for.

The nearby archaeological sites of Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami make for an excellent day trip from Hampi. Aihole historic complex is known as the cradle of temple architecture. It is made up of 120 temples which date from the 6th – 12th century, built by the Chalukya dynasty on the site of their first capital. Very few temples or monuments that remain from ancient times in India pre-date this. The Durga temple is the most famous of all, but the entire complex is worth visiting. The sculptures found within the Durga temple compare in scale, and beauty, to Mumbai’s Elephanta Caves. Pattadakal was thought to be the religious centre and coronation site of the Chalukyas. It is a beautiful complex comprising of 9 shrines, and is worth exploring the sculpture of the inner walls of the temples, which illustrate well known Indian myths and fables. Badami was also a capital of the Chalukya period, and must be one of India’s most scenic archaeological sites. A series of 6th century rock-cut cave temples, a 16th century Muslim tomb (Adil Shahi), Agastya Lake, surrounded by ghats busy with local life and a crumbling hill fort make this a typically Indian, and fabulous, mishmash of eras, forms and styles.

>> Read our blog: Hampi: A World of Rocks & Ruins, Carnivals & Carvings

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