Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagar(14th century empire). The ruins of the empire is spread over the area of 26 sq km. "A Forgotten Empire" (ISBN 1419101250) by Robert Sewell is an interesting book which describes the rise and fall of Vijayanagar empire. Before the fall of Vijayanagar empire, diamonds were sold on the streets. The main street selling diamonds and other precious stones, was surprisingly called Pan Supaari Street (translated in english it means betel-leaf betel-nut street). A visitor can still see the exact location of Pan Supaari Street in Hampi, which has been marked with a board by Archaeological Survey of India.
Hampi is well worth the visit. The area is simply stunning and you will be in awe of the millions of boulders surrounding the area. However, within this arid landscape lies a little oasis with lush palm, banana, and mango trees nestled near the river.
Hampi is a great place to spend a few days wandering around and discovering the rich, vibrant history while also having a bit of 'your' time.
Hampi hosts 'Hampi Utsav' every year during first week of November. It is a visual delight as all the monuments/ruins are lighted in the night and it is a cultural extravaganza of dance and music. For 2009, Govt is planning to postpone 'Hampi Utsav' to Jan 2010 as it marks 500 years of Vijayanagar king Sri Krishnadevaraya ascending the throne.
The nearest airport is at Hubli, 143km away from Hampi. Kingfisher airlines  flies from Mumbai and Bengaluru. Flying from Goa means that you have to change planes in Mumbai (or Bengaluru), making it an expensive and time consuming trip, and therefore useless.
The nearest railway station is Hospet Junction (IR station code : HPT), 13 km away.
Overnight trains run several times a week from Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa. The trains are a much cheaper and more comfortable route than the tourist buses most people are led into. (2 AC - bed with linen - costs 750Rs from Bangalore to Hampi). You can also catch an overnight train from Mysore to Hubli and from there to Hospet/Hampi.
From Hospet it's convenient to take a rickshaw to Hampi (Rs.80-120). Rickshaw drivers can be persistent and will poke their heads in the train before you even get off, but they may very well be the best option. Buses to Hampi are cheaper. it's about a kilometer and a half walk from the train station to the bus station. Take an Auto-rickshaw up to bus-stand (Rs. 5 per head) and you can easily get frequent government buses for Hampi (Rs. 10 per head).
Bangalore: 350 km. Drive till Chitradurga on NH-4, take a right turn on NH-13 towards Sholapur till Hospet, and then drive another 13 km to reach Hampi (direction towards Hampi is well marked). The road is in excellent condition till Chitradurga but then deteriorates rapidly. You are also likely to encounter traffic jams due to ore-laden trucks plying on NH-13.
Hyderabad: 360 km. Take NH-7 till Jadcharla X-Road, turn right towards Mahboobnagar and carry on till Raichur. From Raichur, take Karnataka State Highway 20 towards Lingasugar, turn left at 10 km after Raichur onto Karnataka State Highway 23 to Sindhanoor. The road on the last 15-25 km stretch, after Gangavati, is not so bad. Lots of speed breakers in Karnataka. The 5-10 km stretch just before the Andhra Pradesh - Karnataka States Border on Andhra Pradesh side is full of potholes.
Mumbai: About 800 KM or less : Take NH 4 upto hubli & then go via Gadag-hospet. Alternately Take NH 4, exit to Sangli/Miraj, Go to Athni -Bijapur. (Donot take short cuts as roads are real bad.). You may choose to see Badami, Pattadakkal, Aihole as a 2 day add on excursion, else proceed to Hampi Next day. Roads are average exept speedbarkers combined with potholes & heavy traffic of large trucks. (Strictly avoid night driving). Prefer high ground clearance cars on this roads. We used swift dezire.
There are private bus companies operating from most places in Goa and from Gokarna which run an overnight service to Hampi. Unfortunately, there is no direct return so you take a local bus (or taxi) to Hospet and take it from there.
The real pleasure in exploring Hampi comes from on the bicycle or by walking around. Virtually every rock in Hampi has a story to say. This story is best heard if you give it time and walk around from rock to rock.
Bicycle is the best way to explore Hampi if you enjoy history, culture and nature. You can rent a 21 speed Trek bike from Art of Bicycle Trips . It usually costs around Rs 100 rupees/day with Rs 15000 as security deposit. Helmet and lock is included in the price. Please note that with bicycling little bit of walking is always required for exploring sites inside out.
Another more convient variant is to see all the sights without climbing the hills is by Rikshaw. Bargain with your Rikshaw driver for a fixed rate (400-500 for a full day seems to be okay) and then hire an offical Karnataka Travel guide (at the tourist office, they have fixed rates: 4h - 500Rs, 8h - 800Rs.) It costs a little bit, but the explanations help you to see more then just stones and temples. To get an estimate of cost/content, you can talk to the guides before coming down to Hampi. The guides willingly share their cellular numbers and email ids.
It is very hot! Dry dry heat. And the walk between some sites can be at least 5 km. Plus, the surrounding area is quite breathtaking to ride around and you can explore some parts that the rickshaws won't take you. Guides are willing to ride on the back with you as well. This is a more expensive option (not for the thrifty!) than the rickshaw but it gives you more freedom and you can cover more in one day without rushing it. Take a guide with you one day, then do it all again by yourself the next. A bike like a scooty or kinetic honda will cost you about Rs150 a day with additional fuel charges. You can also hire a 100CC motor bikes for Rs 200 a day. A liter of petrol will be sufficient for sight seeing around Hampi, but two liters would be handy if you have plans to go to Tungabadra Dam (some 15 Km from Hampi)
When renting a scooters/motor bikes petrol costs extra, and normally sold at 40-50% premium in the place you rent (A liter may cost Rs 65-75). A petrol pump is located in Kamalapur, which sells petrol at ordinary price. Two litres will get you to the major sites around Royal Centre and back, but three litres is a safer option. The countryside is a beautiful place for a leasurely drive so it's worth taking lots of fuel.
Bit more costly variant is renting a car. Various Car Rentals are available in Hospet. They normally charge Rs 750 to Rs 1,000 for a day site seeing and pick up/drop to railway station etc. There are several car rental companies in Hampi/Hospet including some prominent ones like SRB Travels (firstname.lastname@example.org), etc. Car rentals are also available from Various near by rail heads and airports like Bangalore, Goa, Hyderabad,belgaum to Hampi.
The ruins of Hampi are located within a 30 sq km area. While most of the famous places have motorable roads leading upto them.
Most of the guest houses are on other side of the river (area called Virupapur Gadde). To access them, you need to cross river by Motor boat (Rs. 10 for locals, Rs. 15 for tourists, boat runs until 6:00 pm. If you cannot get on the boat, you have to pay auto Rs 500-600 to take you other side via Hospet-Hugili- Hanumanhalli, which is a 40km tour. During moderate/high rains, gates of Tungbhadra dam are opened which increases the water level and water flow in river. In that case, one might get stranded on other side of river (Virupapur Gadde area)
Hampi is a visual delight, especially due to its stark contrast from most other places. Rocks are all you see whichever direction you look at. Vegetation is visible in the wet months; but again it never dominates the landscape. It is an ideal spot for people who are interested in history and/or nature.
There are many sites of interest in and around Hampi. The must-visits are Virupaksha Temple, Hampi Bazaar, Monolith Bull, Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Hemakuta Hill temples, Big Shivlinga, Vithala Temple (the famous Stone Chariot is located here), Hazara Rama Temple, Royal Enclosures, Queen's Bath, Zanana Enclosure (which also houses the Lotus Mahal), Elephant Stables, Achyut Raya temple, Statue of Lakshmi Narasimha (often mistaken for Ugra Narasimha - fiery form of Vishnu) owing to the damage suffered by this monolithic statue, Virupaksha Temple, Mahanavmi Dibba, the Stepped Bath and the Matanga Hill (from where one can see the most beautiful sun set ever). All these places are towards Hampi Bus Stand area and you dont need to cross river.
You can buy a local map costing Rs 15, and cover all the places on your own taking a bike/scooty on rent. Otherwise, you can hire and auto to do local sight seeing. It would cost you around Rs 400-Rs 500.
Tungbhadra dam is another 16 km from Hampi and it is towards Hospet. Hence, if you have plans to catch your train/bus back from Hospet, you could see Tungbhadra dam and return from Hospet. It takes around 45 min to 1 hr to see Tungbhadra dam. You need to park your vehicles at the entrance and take Govt bus to the top and return. It takes Rs 20/- for to and fro.
There are also several "Shivalings" along the river which the boatman will guide you to. The old capital called Anegundi, across the river from Hampi also has many sites. You can also go to Anegundi from Virupapur gadde by road. There is a road alongside old broken bridge (Bukka's Aqueduct).The Hanuman Temple on Anjenaya Hill (involves climbing up 572 steps, is believed to be the birth place of Hanuman) and the Pampa Sarovar are worth a visit. Both of these places are around 7-8 kms from Old broken bridge.
There is Daroji bear sanctuary around 16 kms from Hampi, opposite side of Kamalapura/Hospet. It opens between 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Not a must see but you can go there for a nice drive/ride if you have some time to kill.
To do justice to all the sites, one needs a minimum of 3 full days of sight seeing. To discover all the ruins, it may take much more than 3 days. May be months.
A good amount of walking is a must, as the ruins are scattered over a huge area. Moped/bicycle hire is a good option to move around.
Cross the river by one of those coracle ferry. If you do not know swimming, ensure that the coracle is not overcrowded. Your life is at stake. As of November 2009, the cost is Rs 15 per person and Rs 5 for each piece of luggage. The other side of the river (Anegondi) spots a number of pre Vijayanagara relics.
If coming in April to September time (off season) do check with the hotel for bookings especially if you plan to stay on Anegondi side of the river. Except a few prominent ones (e.g. Shanthi Guest House, Mowgli Guest House etc), the other guest houses and restaurants close down.
If you go there in Jun-August, you will not find coracle ferry in action, the river is usually very high then, so if you want to go Anegondi you have to travel ~40 KM, I don't think you will like Anegondi after Hampi, actually there is nothing to see except the Hanuman temple on Anjana hill, but be prepare for a climb of about 600 steps.
If you are staying at Virupapur Gadde side of the river, plan and return by 6'o clock. If you have a train/bus to catch in the night, checking out before 6'o clock in the evening helps. If the ferry closes, the auto/car option becomes a much longer and costlier affair.
Rockclimbers frequently visit Hampi to scale the boulders and can often be seen around with their crashpads, mostly on the Virupapura Gaddi side of the river.
Wildlife - The occasional crocodile may be encountered in the river or on rocks midstream, sometimes several metres long.
Leopards frequent some of the rocky hills, sometimes not too far from human habitation, and may venture out at night to prey on dogs or the odd goat. *Sloth bears are not only confined to Daroji sanctuary, but may wander the sugar cane fields at night. They can be dangerous when encountered with cubs in tow.
As many as 185 species of bird can be identified at various times of the year in the Hampi environs.
The stone carvings are made by local artists and are a good buy here. The same thing in Bangalore will cost ten times the price. The hand stitched blankets are also a good buy.
There are lots of places in Hampi Bazaar where you get satisfying and inexpensive food, though be prepared for a long wait at most places as the chefs are typically family members who prepares food to order. However, they are good at their jobs and can offer a wide range of different cuisines.
Laughing Buddha restaurant This is on other side of river (Virupapur Gadde) and close to Shanthi guest house. There are mattress, cushions and low benches in it. So, you can just lie down and sit at ease. Continental food is very nice here with good variety. It also offers Punjabi food.
The Goan Corner , an idyllic cafe on the other side of the river is an experience in itself. Really really famous among the foriegner crowds, it takes a 10-15 min walk across the green paddy fields to make your way to this place.It is run by a very friendly family where the lady don, Sharmila reigns supreme.Unlike the other closely arranged cafes, Goan Corner is rather desolated and adds to the magic that Hampi creates.
Sagar Hotel's Idli, Dosa & Gunta Ponganalu. Just besides Gopi Guest House and right infront of the Shambhu Guest House, which are located near the Virupaksha Temple, 'Shankaramma' under a thatched roof makes delicious idlies, dosas and the tasty 'gunta pongal.' Do not miss this place. The food is not only delicious but also very cheap.
Mango Tree. One of the nicest, most relaxed restaurant settings you will ever come across. Set along side the banks of the river, you can lounge comfortably on the steps underneath the huge mango tree sipping some of the best lassis you will come across in India. They also offer thali at lunch time and have a broad range of food on the menu. Its the perfect place to hideaway from the afternoon heat and zone out to the beautiful view. But the food is very expensive and quality is not so good. Also, due to the boom in the mining industry near Hampi in the recent times, they have become less focused towards Tourists and more towards the Mining owners.
Garden Paradise. This is behind the line of shops in Hampi Bazaar which are towards left in the direction towards Virupaksha Temple. Located by the banks of Tungabhadra river, the ambience is quite pleasant. Reasonably priced too. They offer huts as well for accomodation.
Mayura Bhuvaneshwari, Kamalapura. Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari serves delicious buffet lunch for veg approx 100/-. If you plan your day such that you reach kamalapura around mid-day, this can be a great place for lunch. Unlimited food is served in very clean and serene surroundings. Even thought a very popular and a very clean hotel, make sure you use packaged drinking water.60.
Durga Roof Top, Near Virupaksha Temple (From the bazaar when you approach Virupaksha Temple, take a right at the temple, next take a left ( as the road turns), take a right further and you will find yourself at Durga Roof Top.). Very good and authentic north Indian food and their Hello to the queen dessert is simply amazing.
Tom & Jerry. Located on the east-side of the bazar-area near the boulders. Small but very comfortable rooftop-restaurant that serves delicious homecooked food in a very friendly atmosphere.
Chillout Restaurant. Excellent food and very friedly staff.Try their divine Nargis Kofta.They also make decent pizza.
All Tribes Coffee Shop, near Funky Monkey. Great, cheap and open hangout place for travellers and backpackers. Meet nice and interesting people,get to know local people. The coffee shop serves coffee and indian tshai, cookies and other sweets. There is a fair trade shop and vegan friendly. During the day are many activities, like meditation, video screenings and camp fires. Family friendly.
Hampi is a religious center so drinking is not allowed. Therefore, beer or other alcoholic drinks are generally not available at local restaurants. However, Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari in in the neighboring town of Kamalapur has a bar that serves beer and wine. Ask your rickshaw driver to take you to Hospet, where you can purchase cheap booze from rowdy and definitely illegal but tolerated alcohol shops.
Although few hotels like Shanti and Kishkinda, which are located across the river, do serve beer and hard liqour
There are several guest house in Hampi, though staying in Hospet or the nearby town of Kamalapur are also options. Staying at Hospet gives easy accessibility to Railway Station and better Hotels. Hampi is also not very far from Hospet.
Most guest houses in Hampi are rather basic. Do not expect too much. Avoid places recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, because they immediately raise their rates and lower their quality. A lot of cheaper guest houses are situated across the river on the Hampi Island (Virupapur Gaddi), popularly known as the 'Hippie Island'.check prperly the guest house near bus stand , as those are ill maintained and not properly clean
Hotel Malligi, 10/90 JN Road, ☎ 08394 228101, . checkin: 24hrs; checkout: 24hrs. This is the first and the finest star hotel, which is just 9km from hampi ruins. Malligi offers some of the best dining options in the town. Blue Mist, Temptations & Waves are the restaurants at Malligi. Malligi also offers spa, pool, sight seeing, shopping etc for more visit www.malligihotels.com
Kiran Guest House, Janata Plot, ☎ 09448143906 OR-08394-204159. checkin: any time; checkout: 9.00am. Clean rooms with attached bathrooms. 24 hours hot water. All the rooms have solar powered lights and all have solar powered fans, which can come in handy because the regular power goes out regularly.. It is run by a family and is in a very quiet location. There is a roof top where you can view both the sunrise and sunset.Room charge is300-400rs.
Sai Plaza, virupapura gaddi (hampi), ☎ 9448797040. checkin: 10am; checkout: 10am. A nice river view guest house situated just across the river. It has nice thatched-roof rooms, oriental look, and river-side location. Rooms have double beds, attached bathrooms, swing bed. Multi-cuisine restaurant, where you can relax on mattresses, listen to music while orderingRs.990 a night.
Shanthi Guest House is situated across the river Tungabhadra. After you cross the river, take a left and at the end of the lane, as you walk besides paddy fields, is the Shanthi Guest House. This is a nice place to relax, as it offers cottage-style accommodation. It is managed by Krishna and Rao. The prices are around Rs.650 (back side room)- 1200 (having river view) per room (as of Oct 2010). Shanthi doesn't have a good restaurant and food/service isn't very good, which is only negative point of Shanthi. Their phone number is (+91)8394-325352. 
Sree Rama Guest House is close to the main temple offers decent accommodation with private bathroom. From the bazaar, turn right just in front of the main temple and then follow the main road. The hotel also gives electronic mosquito killers for free. The Internet downstairs is one of the best in Hampi. Room charge is Rs.200-250 per night (Jan. 2008)
Sunny Guest House is situated across the river(Virupapur Gadde, Hampi). It is a nice place to stay. They have a nice garden. This place is very calm and relaxing. The prices are affordable. Their phone number is (+91)8533-287169.
Vicky's charges around Rs. 500 per room (Jan. 2008) and has a mediocre rooftop restaurant. The rooms are not the cleanest and the bathroom definitely needs refurbishment. There are three computers downstairs and only the one on the left is in working condition. The other two are very slow. It used to be good until all the tourists swarmed into it under the guide of Lonely Planet.
Rolling Stone Homestay, Across the river. Really basic huts for Rs. 400 per night - based on 2 sharing a hut. Not the cleanest, constant power cuts but have a bed, mosquito net, very basic shower and western toilet plus a fan. Only stay here if you can deal with just the basics.
Mowgli Guest House, Across the river. Next to Shanthi guest house and good view of river. However, it doesn't have balcony and swings like Shanthi guest house. Rooms are priced at Rs 600-700/- It has a nice restaurant which again provides river side view and has good Indian food.
Hema guesthouse, Across the river. checkout: 9:30am. Nice, well-maintained and clean bungalows, each with hammock. 300 rs (mar 2011).
Mayuram Home Stay, Janata Plat, near Gopi Guest House, ☎ (mobile) 9448801852 or (owner's residence) 08394241693. checkin: anytime; checkout: 9 am. Mayuram Home Stay is very near to the temple and offers recently refurbished clean tidy en-suite rooms with hot water, mosquito nets, and a backup generator for 24 hour electricity. A good place to stay in clean and comfortable surroundings. The owner Ravi also owns a very good travel agency nearby called ISSTA travels. Recommended. 400 to 500.
Out of deference to the sacred nature of the site, do not consume drugs and alcohol in the area.
When visiting the temple or ruins of former temples, cover up and do not show too much skin. The locals will not stop you, but may bear a silent grudge. Be a good guest.
Please visit any monument only for the sake of visiting, but not for any other purpose. Please do not scribble or climb or sit on any monuments... please remember that they have stood rain and sun for centuries and have to stand for next many centuries, for which we need not help but should definitely help by not ruining in any sort. Please respect the age-defying monuments any where for which the whole world admire them!!
Tungabhadra Dam and its associated gardens are nice. It has got a nice dancing fountain too. Visiting the tungabhadra dam can be a nice filler instead of just waiting for the bus/train (typically at 10/11pm at night). Auto-rickshaw can take directly from Hampi to Tungabhadra dam at a cost of 200 INR (as of September 2009).or another option is from the gate you can have the bus by paying 20/- per person for a half an hour visit to the dam.