The most remarkable single attraction in Karnataka has to be the ruins of the ancient city of Hampi.
Traces of a two-millennia-old civilization have been found at Hampi, but the UNESCO World Heritage Group of Monuments at Hampi are a mere five-to seven-centuries old. Hampi was the last Capital of the Great Vijayanagar Empire, and the amazing monuments here are definitely matched by the incredibly scenic landscape strewn with massive boulders.
The landscape is surreal and breathtaking. Amidst hundreds of square kilometers of granite hills and boulders are the remains of a civilization that was unmatched in its heyday.
It is my opinion that Hampi, along with the Taj Mahal and the caves at Ajanta & Ellora, make up the most impressive attractions in a country that is overflowing with magnificent achievements made by ancient and medieval man.
Two days of exploration at Hampi are a must to really savor the amazing city and its granite monuments. The Vijayanagar Empire thrived here from the 14th - 17th centuries. The estimates of the local population during that period range from over 500,000 to almost a million residents, and the city was said to have been surrounded by an army of about a million soldiers.
The streets, temples, bazaars and other structures (remnants of which are spread all over the 30-square-kilometers of the site) were so safe that traders dealt in precious stones in the open. The incredible stone aqueduct dots part of the landscape, as do various tanks and stepwells. Through this other worldly environment meanders the picturesque Tungabhadra River, creating an image that a visitor will never forget.
The Golconda Kingdom that (after centuries of trying) conquered Hampi was determined to destroy all remnants of the glorious city and they spent five years doing just that. All wooden structures were burnt and brick structures were wrecked using elephants and other means. Except for the dozens of stone temples, they destroyed as much of the stone structures as they could, but there are still many left behind.
The area is now completely rural and the closest town, Hospet, is a 20 to 25 minute drive away. It is common to see goat, sheep and cow herders wandering through these priceless ruins.
You can explore most of the monuments with a guided trek for those inclined to do so, or you can drive between areas with monument clusters and just take short exploratory walks while being amazed by what you will see.
The only drawback of touring Hampi up until now has been the lack of luxury accommodation. The best available lodging has been fairly spartan hotels at Hospet and, since 2012, an upscale Hyatt Place that is about an hour away, located in an industrial city. This will change in 2015 when Orange County Resorts, Karnataka’s leading boutique Resort Group, opens their new facility next to Hampi. This resort promises to be the same as their other two resorts at Nagarhole National Park and in scenic Coorg, with a unique combination of all-inclusive-luxury combined with good measures of excellent cuisine, great service, and a selection of organic activities.
Hampi is about a six and half hour drive from Bangalore and about a three and a half hour drive from the city of Hubli, which has daily direct flights to Mumbai and Bangalore.