Hampi – Experiencing The Spirit Of The Land

The massive fort like entrance to the newly opened Orange County Hampi seems vaguely out of place at first. As does its distinctly Indo-Islamic architecture. It isn’t until we discover the eclectic mix of styles in the Hampi ruins that evening, that we appreciate the range of symbols and narratives used here to reinterpret the spirit of royal Vijayanagara.

Located just four km from the edge of the famed UNESCO heritage site, this eco-resort is the third in the Orange County stable, and surely its grandest. The dominant theme is borrowed from the royal enclosure of the Rayas, complete with water bodies reflecting scalloped arches, and a pool with a mini pavilion that mimics the pushkarini (temple tank). Meticulous copies of temple murals grace otherwise stark, but airy public spaces.

The rooms are all relaxed luxury, minus the glitz of urban boutique hotels. The richness of the deep red, white and purple palette grounded by the dressed grey granite floor. Three categories – the (relatively!) basic Nivasa room, the Nilaya terrace suites and the Zenana palace suites are housed in the main building. The eight independent Jal Mahal pool villas to the left of the driveway are the most opulent. The employment of local village girls to drive the golf carts that ferry villa guests to and fro is a nice touch.

My sister and I are so in love with the enormous corner Zenana suite we are initially allotted, that we actually decline an upgrade to a pool villa. I do not use enormous lightly here….we have a biggish entrance foyer, separate living and dining spaces, a spacious balcony, and a large bedroom with a daybed (that sis hogs the entire time!). And an ensuite bath as big as my city apartment. Well, almost.

All rooms regardless of size or degree of luxury, bear signature eco resort touches. Drinking water dispensed from built in reverse osmosis units. Traditional sweets in glass topped wooden boxes (replenished daily). Hibiscus blooms floating in little stone containers. Best of all, fragrant Coorg coffee sachets and a french press to brew it in!

A replica of the Vijayanagara Lotus Mahal, a few metres to the right of the main building, houses the luxurious Vaidyashala spa. On the floor above is the Bahmani restaurant serving rich Nawabi cuisine, best experienced over candlelight dinner.

The Tuluva restaurant in the main block, is a bright, casual space that we enjoy lingering in over breakfast and complimentary evening tea at the end of an exhausting hike through the ruins, and on long lazy evenings at intimate settings around the adjacent pool. The exceptional quality and variety of food on offer is the last thing we expect in a property this remote. The meats are always perfectly cooked and the mocktails, especially a watermelon, ginger, spice concoction, worthy of mention. (Pity they don’t own a liquor licence yet.)

Chef Santhosh even picks up on our disappointment with the absence of vegetables in a standard Indian menu (besides the usual potato/paneer/mushroom culprits) and surprises us with a stunningly colourful meal one afternoon, that pleases our eyes as much as our palate.

A combination of four of their curated heritage experiences lures us out of all that pampering and ensures we engage fully with the magical ruins of Hampi and the stories and legends they encompass. The Vittalapura Walk that meanders through one of the many villages of the erstwhile empire, crowned by the exquisite Vijaya Vittala temple and its iconic stone chariot, the Raya Trail through the royal enclosure that affords a glimpse of the pomp and pageantry of the Rayas, the atmospheric Tungabhadra Trek along the tranquil river and its boulder strewn banks littered with religious shrines and icons, and the Virupaksha Trail that begins at golden Hemakuta hill and descends to the imposing Virupaksha temple that predates the Rayas of Vijayanagara.

I could not have asked for a more perfect Hampi experience. Except perhaps if they could have somehow got the Sun God to make an appearance…


Getting there: Nearest rail connections are at Hospet (16km) and Bellary (50km). The 340 km drive from Bengaluru takes a good 6 hrs. Our transfers from Bengaluru, as well as our local transportation to and from Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami were all impeccably organised by Orange County concierge services.

Many thanks to Orange County Hampi for hosting part of our stay. All views and opinions are, as always, my own.

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

53 thoughts on “Hampi – Experiencing The Spirit Of The Land

  1. This is beyond anything I’d experience in so many ways: super-classy accommodation; the company of a sister; and excursions amongst spectacular heritage sites. Your photos are exquisite. I hope it was relaxing after a tough time, and I wish you a gentler 2017.

    1. Thank you so much Meg. Our visit to Hampi preceded my brother-in-law’s surgery. He continues to be in intensive care and I do not see my sister travelling anywhere in the near future. So glad we managed to fit this in.

  2. One of your best blogs till date, Madhu. The pictures were the stuff travel catalogs are made of.

    Glad you took your sis along. Perhaps you could wangle a trip for a friend too? 😜

    1. Oh thank you dear Ashu! I am glad we managed this brief visit before my brother in law fell ill.
      Can you believe he’s still not out of ICU? Looking a lot better though. Should be out in a week or so if there are no further setbacks.

  3. It looks perfect! Love the typical South Indian architecture and the pictures of food made my mouth water for dishes I enjoyed too long ago. 🙂 I did a calculation on the time to distance and it seems the roads in that area have not improved much from my India days.

    1. It was indeed Ian. And no the roads aren’t much improved. That does help keep the crowds at the site in check though 🙂

  4. We have planned and cancelled Orange county so many times. Nice place and it seems a great stay experience too. Welcome back to blogging after so many days. Will look forward to more

    1. Thank you Anindya, kind of you. Still struggling to return to a regular schedule. Can’t imagine how easily I used to churn out four to five posts a week!

  5. I started off thinking you were in California as I’d never heard of this Orange County line of hotels (silly me!) … what a gorgeous place. Nothing better than a sister trip also; I just got back from one of my own!

    1. Aah no, have never been to the US Lex! Hoping to remedy that this year. Glad I dragged my older sister along on this trip, she’s sadly had her hands full since with her husband’s illness.

  6. What a far cry from the slightly dingy guesthouse in Hampi village where Bama and I ended up staying! It was cozy enough, and the food was wonderful, but our bathroom was in dire need of repairs and we experienced the occasional power outage.

    Following on from Bama’s comment, we did actually feature Orange County Hampi in a recent issue of the magazine I now work for… though the 200-word review that came from the contributor was so badly done I had to rewrite great chunks of the text. She also did the same for Svatma in Thanjavur and the InterContinental Resort at Mahabalipuram. If I’d known about those reviews in advance I would have asked you to write them instead!

    1. Ha, would be a pleasure to write reviews for you any day James! Have never pitched articles to magazines. Am thinking I should perhaps try.

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