Tropical Paradise. What comes to your mind when you hear these two words? Beaches, oceans, swimming, bikini bottoms? Tropical paradise meant all this and more for me as well- until I landed in the Happy Hampi. Turns out, tropical paradise isn’t all about beaches and the ocean but can also include paddy fields, historic ruins, massive lakes and natural rock formations to name a few things, and that is all that Hampi is about!
Hampi is essentially divided into two areas on either side of the Tungabhadra River. The Hampi side is where most of the historic ruins and temples are located, while the “Hippie Island” of Hampi is more backpacker-friendly, with cheap guesthouses and hostels, open cafes selling vegan food, lakes to go swimming in, a hundred different sunset points to sit and watch the sky change colours. There is also a massive bouldering scene here and this is also the side of Hampi where consumption of alcohol and meat is allowed. This has, of course, given rise to a certain rivalry between the businesses on either side. People in Hampi seem to be annoyed by the flourishing tourism scene at Hippie Island but we’ll get into the politics later. For now, this is a simple travel guide to the Hippie Island part of Hampi!
I would’ve covered both sides but we spent our entire 5 days taking it so slow and exploring the other side of the river, that we barely went to the actual Hampi side at all!
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How to reach Hippie Island, Hampi
To reach Hippie Island, you must first reach Hampi.
To reach Hampi, you must first reach Hosapete.
Hosapete is well connected with major cities in the south and west by both rail and road. You can take a sleeper bus from Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai or Hyderabad. As for trains, Hospet Junction is well connected to these cities as well.
From Hosapete, you can either take a rickshaw for around 200 rupees to Hampi or take the local state transport bus which costs 15 rupees!
From Hampi bus stand, walk till the ferry point and board the ferry which takes 20 rupees per passenger to go to the other side. You have to pay an extra 20 rupees if you’re carrying luggage. And voila, welcome to Hippie Island!
Also read: A Travel Guide to Gokarna, Karnataka
Where to stay in Hippie Island, Hampi
Hippie Island as we know it consists of a number of villages. The most popular of these are Sanapur, Annegundi, Anjanhalli and Virrupapuragaddi. These are the places that have a number of cafes and guesthouses around. For the first night, we booked Rasta Homestay in Virupappuragaddi. It seemed like a nice, quiet place with hammocks to laze around until Abbimnyou, my partner was bitten by a rat while asleep at 4 am! More on that later, but the hospital runs and rabies injection definitely weren’t worth the place, so we shifted.
Our next best (and cheapest) option was at Woodstock Guesthouse in Sanapur and it turned out to be great! It had a nice, airy cafe along with it selling some delicious food, and the rooms were essentially bamboo huts with attached toilets. The paddy fields around the property were definitely an added bonus and Sam (or Shyam), the host was an absolute sweetheart that made sure we had everything we needed.
If you’re solo and want to meet other people, there are a few hostels in Hampi Hippie Island too. Other places to stay in Hippie Island, Hampi include Nargila Guesthouse, Sri Uma Shankar Guesthouse and Sunny Guesthouse are all super great but very expensive (1200-2000 rupees/ night) because of their prime location at Anjanhalli, the market area.
Things to do in Hippie Island, Hampi
Swimming in Sanapur Lake
The first thing we did in Hampi – after getting Abbimnyou tetanus and rabies shots – was check out the famed Sanapur Lake, and boy were we not disappointed! The Lake is essentially a reservoir fed by the Tungabhadra Dam Canal. With massive boulders lining its fringes and water as blue as the sky above, it was nothing short of paradise. There were several boatmen offering coracle rides and there were spots where a bunch of travellers were sunbathing but we chose to drive further ahead until we found a lonesome spot and in we went! The cold water went well with the sunny sky above and the calm breeze was everything you could ask for. It was absolutely perfect and I cannot recommend doing it enough. Bathing in the lake soon became a daily ritual for us and I’d travel all the way to Hampi just to do it again!
Pro tip: Find a spot with a massive boulder by the lake and voila, you can go cliff jumping in Sanapur Lake!
Hike to Sunset Point
Sunset Point Hill turns into a backpacker’s paradise every evening. A quick search on Google Maps will land you to the right place and you can see young boys selling chai and lemonade. We chose to climb all the way up to the top where the boulders were placed dangerously on top of each other. And the view was stunning. We could see the temples on the other side of the river, little boulder hillocks all around, and the paddy fields flanked by the tall coconut trees were a pure pleasure to look at, as the sky changed colours from yellow to orange to pink to purple and finally a deep blue. The best bit? A bunch of people formed an impromptu circle with all kinds of musical instruments and there was a lot of jamming and dancing all evening long!
Sunrise hike to Anjana Parvath
Anjana Parvath – or “Monkey Hill” as it is commonly called – is the supposed birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Coincidentally (or not), this hill also has an exceptional population of langurs just flocking around the area. With a temple at the top, and a stunning view of the sun rising over the Tungabhadra River with banana fields around was worth the groggy 6 am ride to the hill!
Coracle ride in Tungabhadra River
A coracle is a small, round boat used in many parts of the world- including the happy Hampi. Throughout the Hippie Island, you’ll find several boatmen with their coracles waiting on people to go and ride with them. It’s an interesting activity to feel the silence of nature and go bird watching- especially during the golden hour (4:30 – 5 pm). We also had wholesome conversations with our boatmen and tried our hand at rowing it too – which is much harder than it looks!
Go all out at the Hippie Market
The Hippie Market is a great place to shop for typical “hippie” clothes like flowy dresses, kurtas and cotton pants. A bunch of hemp products like bags are also sold here. A shop selling musical instruments like the kalimba, ukulele, handpan etc also caught my eye (although I ended up buying nothing).
Visit the Banana Craft Village at Anegundi
The Kishkinda Trust is an organization working towards the social and economic empowerment of the local community by helping them conserve their traditional heritage. One of their projects is to make handicrafts out of the banana fibre. There are over a hundred women now earning their livelihood from the sale of these products- which are absolutely stunning. So go, marvel at their fine work, and maybe buy a product or two and help support a local artist!
Try your hands at Bouldering
Famous for its insanely unique and beautiful boulder formations, it would be a shame if you went all the way till Hampi and didn’t indulge in this thrilling sport! There are a number of bouldering shops in Hampi that rent out climbing gear. They also have a bunch of classes for the uninitiated. In fact, the Golden Boulder’s Climbing Festival is worth checking out if you want to get into the sport!
Places to eat at Hippie Island, Hampi
I tried a bunch of cafes around the Hippie Island side, and some of them just stuck. Here are a few of my recommendations:
- Bamboo Coffee Bar for its burgers and A1 coffee.
- Woodstuck69 Cafe for its Pesto pasta
- Little Buddha Cafe for its super thin crust freshly made Margherita pizza.
- Bobby German Bakery for its vegan strawberry lemon and coconut cake.
- Uma’s Cafe for great ambience.
- Nargila Cafe for great nightlife, 1+1 on drinks and movie nights.
- Saniya Restaurant for some kick-ass South Indian food that is also SUPER cheap!
- Hotel Devamma for any kind of food at really cheap prices (but their sambhar tastes really bad!)
- I also really wanted to try Benjamin’s Music Cafe but didn’t get the time.
- Also try: Lavian Chokito Caramell Truffles, a sweet I found at local shops across Hampi that I haven’t ever seen up North.
Frequently asked questions
Are there any ATMs in Hippie Island, Hampi?
No, there isn’t any. There’s none in the main Hampi side either. But there are a few places to give cash in exchange for a card swipe at a very minimal commission rate.
Which network works best in Hippie Island, Hampi?
Mobile network is a bit of an issue in Hampi. Most cafes and guest houses have WiFi, and Jio and Airtel work intermittently in the main market side. However, in Sanapur, Jio works quite well.
Do they serve alcohol in Hampi?
Although it’s not technically legal for cafes to be serving alcohol, on Fridays and Saturdays, the big ones can be seen promoting happy hour openly. I found it’s also okay to ask quietly in other cafes if they serve beer and you’ll be shadily handed a steel glass for foamy beer inside! You can also ask around at the many random shops at Sanapur- they sell beer in black (and you can also bargain!)
Are there any hospitals in Hampi?
No, there isn’t. There’s only a polyclinic in Sanapur which has limited opening hours. There is, however, a doctor with a private clinic called “Trucare Health Clinic” inside Sunny Guest House. The doctor’s name is Dr Abdul Rahaman and you can call him at +91 9535766718 for any help.
Is it safe for solo female travellers to visit Hampi?
Totally! Having spent almost a week in this paradise, I didn’t face any issues of any sort!
What’s the best way to go around Hampi?
There are a number of options. You can rent a bicycle for INR 100/ day, a moped bike for INR 150/ day and a scooter for 200. There are also auto rickshaws running frequently if needed. But you can’t take your scooters over to the main Hampi town. Your options are limited to walking or getting a rickshaw.
Are there any petrol pumps at Hampi?
Sorry, but nope. There are, however, a bunch of shops selling petrol in black in little plastic bottles for INR 100/ a litre. Quite steep, I know!
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Update: After this post was published, I was introduced to the news of 70+ commercial shops in Virupapurgaddi including guest houses, cafes and markets being demolished permanently as per an order from the Supreme Court. It breaks my heart to read about all the small businesses and poor families that made Hippie Island what it is and are now suffering thanks to the political agenda of the rich and the powerful. I urge you to read about this issue and offer help however possible.
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