Vittala Temple, Hampi © Srikar.agnihotram
The small, relaxed town of Hampi - located in the state of Karnataka, about 220 miles (350km) from Bengaluru, and about the same distance from Panaji (in the neighbouring state of Goa) - not only boasts one of the weirdest, most awe-inspiring landscapes in the whole of India, but is also a fascinating historical site. The capital of the once-great Vijayanagar Empire, the ruins of the 14th-century village and temple complex found in present-day Hampi have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, as impressive as these ruins are (especially the multi-tiered, ornately-sculpted Virupaksha Temple), the grandstand attraction of Hampi remains its natural landscape. A severe, desolate and boulder-strewn wilderness, tempered by a slate-grey river surrounded by lush groves of banana, mango and palm trees. Hampi might be slightly off the beaten track, but it is a manageable excursion from Bengaluru and will deeply reward all those who seek out its thoroughly singular charms. Hampi is a must for rock-climbers and is considered the bouldering capital of India.