Who should go to Hampi ?
You should really like historical sites or photography or both. Period. There is little else to do there. Much of it is best done in your own car. Or hired bikes or on foot. Be prepared to walk for long distances without shade. It helps to know your history, do your research before you get there.
We went in April - why you ask? It can get incredibly hot, and is considered off season. So you have fewer tourists (good for photography) and the hotels give you discounts that you will not believe. These are the advantages. The only disadvantage is the heat. The best time to go ofcourse is in Winter.
The "proper" hotels are in Hospet. Which is 30min drive on bad roads from Hampi. All the Hotels are pretty much next to each other, there are a lot of nice looking places, so options are many. The most famous and oldest is the Hotel Malligi. Dont go by the name, its apparently the place of choice for firangs but not very swank or clean and it looks slightly seedy to me. The pan walla there is very good though.
Hoopoe among the ruins
The Watch Tower - Zenana Enclosure
How to Reach?
We drove from Bangalore to Anantpur (NH7/NH44) which is a road you can fly on. From Anantpur head toward Bellary taking the state highway which is not too bad and join NH67 to Hospet. Do not think of trying NH13. It is in horrible condition. We left before dawn and reached before lunch. We could find no suitable places for breakfast, so just had emergency rations which we had packed from home.
The other way of getting to Hospet is by train or by KSTDC bus.
After a lovely lunch and some much needed snoozing and relaxation, we set out after a refreshing cup of tea. We headed out to the Lotus Mahal in the Zenana enclosure and the Elephant Stables. Buy a 50Rs guide book which people will anyway shove at you where ever you go. It has the map showing the important places so that you can plan your trip along a route and avoid driving to and fro.
Hampi is deeply steeped in history and mythology. Its supposed to be Kishkinda from the Ramayan, which explains the Ram,Sita carving with the monkeys.I'm not going to explain the history of these places here, I wouldn't be able to do it much justice. Where ever possible we avoided the guides like the plague so that we can explore on our own and try and figure things out for ourselves.
Birders should watch out for Spotted owlets, Parakeets and Hoopoes in large numbers during dusk.
Carry hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
Wear very comfortable shoes and light cotton clothing
Wear soaks. Some temples require you to leave your shoes outside. You dont want to hop around on the hot stones.
Keep plenty of refreshments in the car.
Keep sun shade open in the car when parked or the steering may melt. :)
Carry plenty of change to buy tickets, pay parking charges.
Hampi is a dry town and also has no meat available ( we never tried any eating places here, but the guide books say so )
Hospet - where you will be staying has no such restrictions.
For the Tourist and a brief history - http://hampi.in/
Research - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampi
Research - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayanagara_Empire
Archelogical Survey of India - http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_hampi.asp
World Heritage Site - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/241/