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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Hampi: Remnants of a lost empire

Hampi, one of our prized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was once the regal capital of the great Vijayanagara kingdom…

By Naga Subrahmanyam Garaga
Tour Guide

Hampi is one of our prized UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Once the regal capital of the great Vijayanagara kingdom, the last Hindu empire, the spectacular metropolis was partially destroyed by invading north-Indian Muslims. It’s not just one crumbling temple but a vast location spread over 26 square kilometres of ancient palaces framed by the hillocks and ruined temples barely discernible from the huge boulders that surround them.

We discover all the temples on foot or, if you want, we can hire bicycles, a fun way to explore. We usually start at Virupaksha Temple, an important place of worship since the 7th century with inscriptions dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries and colonnaded corridors wide enough to hold daily bazaars. It sits right in front of the great Tungabhadra River which runs through Hampi. The archaeologists who first came here used to lock themselves in the temple at night to protect themselves from the jungle cats and sloth bears.

Otherwise we start at the Royal Enclosure, an impressive superstructure with aqueducts, carved Hindu temples and huge royal platforms. Lotus Mahal, a lotus-shaped pavilion, is another popular stop-off as are the elephant stables that are as beautiful as some of the palaces.

Vitthala Temple was the peak of Vijayanagara architecture expanded by the greatest of kings who conquered the whole of southern India. Ten years before it was demolished by the invaders, it was largely expanded with prominent designs such as beautiful stone chariots and 56 granite ‘musical pillars’ that emit musical notes when you tap them with metal. If you have more time I can take you to lesser-known temples for comparison such as Ganagitti, a simple Jain piece of architecture that the rulers permitted.

We split up the day with lunch in a local restaurant by the river watching the sun bounce off all the banana tree leaves. In the evening we climb up Hemakuta Hill, which is a bit of a climb but worth it for the views over a fading kingdom.

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  • History
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Alfred & Naga Subrahmanyam Garaga

Naga is a professional tour guide with over 20 years of experience in South India. He is currently based in Hyderabad but was brought up in coastal Andhra Pradesh in a traditional rice growing agricultural family. After working as a local guide and interpreter in the rural villages, he soon made it his full-time profession. He is extremely fond of sharing his bountiful knowledge on Indian culture, customs, traditions and folklore.