Here's why Hampi should be your next holiday destination
The night before our trip to Hampi, our bags were packed rather hurriedly as we were scheduled to leave early, at 6 am. A quick online recce earlier of the Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace came
with its own set of anticipations. From the pictures, we had gathered that the resort seemed fit for the kings and their consorts. Hence, packing the right outfits had to be done meticulously. Sharp at six in the morning, we left for our destination, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The drive was rather long — it took seven hours to cover around 380 kilometres via the Raichur road. After an hour of starting the journey from Hyderabad, we could spot picturesque vast swathes of green and ochre-coloured boulders. At around 2 pm, we entered the idyllic Hampi, characterised by prehistoric boulders, ruins and extensive patches of green that make you feel like you have entered a movie set.
A fort with a friendly host
The moment we entered the guarded fortress of the resort — set to be home for the next two and a half days — we spotted our hosts at the reception. The luxury hotel group Orange County earlier changed its name to Evolve Back as the former did not aptly convey the ethos of their new resorts, the latest one being in Hampi. The resort had an entrance inspired by the Anegundi Fort, the principal fort in the Group of Monuments at Hampi. “We took inspiration from the architectural styles of the Vijayanagara Empire. The interiors also incorporate various other elements — from the Indo-Islamic style arches, the aqueduct that fed temple tanks to the open-to-sky central courtyard,” says George Ramapuram, the Managing Director of Evolve Back, who is also the head architect of the palatial property. We were
welcomed warmly by Joydeep Banerjee, Area General Manager, South, as we sipped on the delicious welcome drink of jaggery and coconut milk drink, even as we chatted with him. “Our guests are pampered with personalised attention, leaving them ensconced in a warm feeling that can last a lifetime,” he says, with a beaming smile. Indeed, every little detail is taken care of. What do guests need most after a long travel? A towel soaked in the essence of eucalyptus that instantly makes one feel refreshed.
Live like the Rayas
After our brief chat session, we were escorted to our Nivasa Deluxe Suite by Amreeta Banerjee, Executive Assistant Manager. The suite, destined to be home for our stay in Hampi, looked more like a royal zenana, something the Vijayanagara queens would be proud of. The tub had already been filled
with water and rose petals while the Jacuzzi outside overlooked the most stunning view of their
Infinity Pool, the designated pool area of the property. From the well-stocked tea and coffee kits to interesting coffee-table books on the table, the attention to minute details makes our stay memorable.
Up next was lunch at their multi-cuisine restaurant, Tuluva. We tried the thali designed to make one feast like the Rayas (kings) of Vijayanagara. The warm tomato rasam, a broth both spicy and tangy, prepared us for what was to come next. The Kori Sukkha (dry fried chicken), was the yummy starter we were waiting for. Hot Pulihora (tamarind rice) with dollops of ghee, Gurellu Podi (Nigger Seed),
Senga Podi (peanut and chilli) and Kozhi Varutha-rachattu (tender chicken pieces simmered in exquisite roasted local spices) along with Gongura Mamsam (a tender lamb preparation) makes for the hearty meal we need to prepare for the next day’s treks. One must take a long time to savour every dish in the thali because there is a lot to explore in this meal. Also, don’t forget to try their Hesara Bele Paayasa (milk and jaggery based moong bean porridge).
The evenings at the Kamalapura Palace were indeed unforgettable. A stroll down the property post-
6 pm, with the reflection of the setting sun on the lily ponds, could even make a poet out of you! The Sandhya Alankara, the practice of evoking the divine with the tunes of the flautist and the smell of incense sticks, instantly saps travellers of their restlessness. Post that, the history lessons at the Deep Mahal served as a perfect prelude to the trails and treks that we would undertake the next day. While we sipped on a glass of wine, palace historian Nagendra took us back to the history, myths and fables of the Vijayanagara empire including the times of Krishnadevaraya and the stories of Tenali Rama.
A forgotten kingdom
Day two started early with farm-fresh fruits, dates, choco-chip muffins and some freshly
brewed filter coffee. The resort arranges for trails and treks, and we couldn’t wait to start ours. Executive Historian B Venkatesh was waiting to take us on the trail. Our trails were rather rushed, as we had only a day. However, the historian, the drivers and the people at Kamalapura Palace did their best
to squeeze in all that one should see when in Hampi. On our way to the Vithalapura Walk, we spotted the Chandra-shekhara Temple in Hampi, which dates back to the 16th century, a 100-year old Dargah and a Jain Temple, all adjacent to one another. Things couldn’t get any more secular than that! We hear that there was a synagogue here too, the ruins of which you can still see. As we entered the Vittala temple, the Sangeetha Mantapa, with 46 musical pillars, left us awestruck. Dating back to around 1420 AD, that’s where music and architecture merged. Tourists can take a golf cart buggy ride at the gate and
check out the place after buying a ticket for `30. Post that began the Raya Trail, with the Zenena Enclosure beckoning us. Keep aside around an hour to take a stroll through this area. A snap of the Lotus Mahal with all the greenery could serve as a postcard for your Hampi holiday. The building, used by the royal women of Vijayanagara dynasty, will leave you awestruck. The curves of the palace are given an Islamic touch and appear to take the shape of a lotus in bloom. Don’t miss the royal Elephant Stable and The Queen’s Bath — the latter is immensely popular with the tourists, and is ideal for photographs.
Therapy like no other
Soon we were headed back to the hotel for the absolutely refreshing Spa Session at Vaidyasala Spa. The chamber designated for the therapy, overlooking a lily pond, was enough to soothe our tired eyes. The therapists suggested I try the Abhyanga (`3,150), a 60-minute massage with medicated oils performed by two therapists designed to stimulate energy centres, and help you relax. I eagerly agreed, the therapists working in unison are sure to take care of one’s travel-weary body.
After the exhilarating therapy session, we were back on our feet to take a round of the property and what else Kamalapura Palace had to offer. Abhishek Dhar, the resident manager, showed us around. There are four kinds of rooms on offer. First up was the Nivasa (around Rs 34,000 per night), in which we were staying — an elegantly designed spacious suite that comes with a private Jacuzzi.
The Nilaya or the Terrace Suite (Rs 37,000 per night) is ideal if you want to spend some quiet time by the open terrace with a view, and lounge with a book and some coffee. The Zenana or The Palace Suite (Rs 42,000) is inspired by the Queen’s quarters, and luxurious from the word go! The room looks like a set for period films and is perfect for honeymooners. Whereas, the uber luxurious Jal Mahal or The Private Pool Villa (Rs 50,000) reflects the grandeur of the Vijayanagara architecture. There are dining, living and sleeping areas with a private gazebo overlooking the pool, which could easily be its highlight. The tariff of the rooms is inclusive of breakfast, dinner and taxes, for all occupants. Next, we were headed to the activity area of Kamalapura Palace, called Anubhava. From a family pool to a gym and a lounging area with specialised board games, there’s a lot to keep the guests entertained. “We’ve designed everything here to blend in with the theme ,” says Abhishek. A lot of emphasis has been given on sustainable tourism and humanitarian approaches. The authorities here have also adopted
a local school. The eco-friendly measures include using treated water from STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) for landscaping to providing RO water in every suite to avoid contamination of the environment by 60,000 bottles per year.
Surprise by the sunset
In the evening, we were headed to the Tungabhadra Trek, which was slightly more strenuous than the ones in the morning, as one had to climb boulders. Hence, it is best done in the evening, to avoid the harsh sun. However, the ravishing sight of the ruins of the temple, set against a backdrop of granite, and the serene sight of the river, makes the trek worthwhile. After that we paid a visit to the Virupaksha Temple, another Unesco World Heritage site. Built around the 14th Century, this temple abounds with legends of Lord Shiva and Goddess Pampa. As we watched the sun set against the backdrop of the stunning 600-year-old ruins, our two executive historians laid out a table with fresh homemade cakes and burgers, urging us to raise a toast! There could not have been a better end to the day, which drew to a close after a scrumptious dinner at the Bahmani, a specialty restaurant, known for its Deccani cuisine.
A world of respect
How can a trip to Hampi be complete without paying a visit to Anegundi, a place known for its long association with the hippies? Instead of taking a boat ride across the Tungabhadra, we drove across a recently inaugurated bridge that connects Hampi and Anegundi. The dichotomy between the rich
ancient heritage and the modern influence, thanks to the cultural influx characterised by quirky German bakeries and colourful cottages, makes a trip to Hampi that much more special. As we headed back to Kamala-pura Palace, our hosts waited to bid us adieu, not without a packed lunch box, reminding us once more what good hospitality feels like. We left Hampi with a lifetime worth of memories, a deeply cherished love for the ruins, and a world of respect for those who constructed the Group of Monuments that still withstand all the ravages of nature and urbanity.
Bellary and Belgaum airports, which are approximately 350 km away, are the closest to Hampi.
The closest railway station is Hospet, about 13 km away.