Hampi, the legacy of the 16th century Vijayanagar Empire, has long been a tourist attraction for its ruins and temples.
New Delhi: Hampi, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Karnataka known for its exquisite ancient temples and palace ruins, has been listed second on The New York Times’ annual list of 52 must-see places around the globe.
It is the only place in India to earn a spot on the list this year.
Hampi is the legacy of the 16th century Vijayanagar Empire, and its well-preserved monoliths and stone temples continue to fascinate tourists from around the world.
The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, which the list describes as being “on the rebound” after the devastating 2017 Hurricane Maria, has been ranked first.
Accessible like never before
The list, released on the website in an interactive format, gives its readers a snapshot of Hampi: A picture of the Vittala temple, among Hampi’s most famous, stands in the background as visitors gaze on.
Explaining how this list was arrived at, the NYT wrote, “Our annual list combines destinations that are aspirational, newly intriguing and perhaps threatened.”
Talking of Hampi, the NYT writes, “Travellers can stay in the newly refreshed Evolve Back Kamalpura Palace or at Ultimate Travelling Camp’s new Kishkinda Camp, which introduced 10 stately tents in December. Outfitters Black Tomato and Remote Lands now offer journeys in the region, from guided archaeological tours to rock climbing and river jaunts in basket boats.”
What won Hampi its place was its newly gained accessibility. “Change is key: What is different in each destination that makes it a place to go right now? That could mean an exciting building that has just gone up, a major piece of infrastructure that has made the place more accessible or political events that have made it safer for travelers,” the paper stated.
“Spread over 16 miles (roughly 26 km) near the banks of the Tungabhadra River, and surrounded by a sea of granite boulders, the Unesco World Heritage Site has been notoriously difficult to reach, until now,” it added.
An airport in the nearby city of Bellary, with direct flights to Hyderabad, is described by the NYT as a game-changer, making it easier for foreign tourists to access a place previously accessible only by bus or train.
Tourism in Hampi
Even so, Hampi has been crawling with tourists — both local and international — for decades now. Hampi saw nearly 5.35 lakh tourists, of which over 38,000 were foreigners, in 2016-17.
The effects of overtourism haven’t left Hampi untouched: An ancient gateway was damaged when a tourist bus hit it in 2016. Garbage has become commonplace, and the overflowing Tungabhadra river in the monsoon has reportedly attracted “disaster tourists’.
India has found itself on the NYT’s tourism list since 2016, with Tamil Nadu, Agra, Sikkim, and Chandigarh making the cut over the years.
The top five this year also included Santa Barbara (California, US), Panama with its “new eco-friendly” beach resorts, and Munich (Germany).