First of all, go to Hampi. Just do it. It’s incredible. There’s a main circuit of temples to see, but really anywhere you turn and any boulder you climb leads to more temples, ruins, and ancient structures. First of all, stay on the main Hampi side of the river. It may be cheaper on the other side, but every time you want to go into town to see temples, you have to pay a rickshaw driver to get you there, including the fare to cross the river. It adds up over time.
Second, see all the temples you can. All the main ones are situated fairly near to one another. You can get a rickshaw tour for about 600 rupees to see most of the temples on the main circuit. However, if you break it up into a couple days you can do all of them by walking/bicycling.
If you’re staying in the main town, it’s just a quick walk to the towering Virupaksha temple. From there, head on up the rocky hill where you’ll see a scattering of small structures and a great view of Virupaksha temple. Winding your way down the other side of the hill, you can visit Shiva temple.
The next route is also a fairly easy one and can also be done on foot from the main town. Head along the river toward the Monolithic Bull and climb Matanga Hill. There you will get a sweeping view of the entire Hampi area. Make your way back down the dizzying hillside stairs and go past the Monolithic Bull to the Achutaraya temple. However, this is not the main attraction on this trek. Keep going until you get to Vijaya Vittala temple. This is the one with the famous Stone Cart and should not be missed. The stone cart and much of the surrounding temple are incredibly intact, like they were carved only a few years ago instead of a few centuries ago. It costs 300 rupees to enter, but you can buy a ticket for 500 rupees that will get you into some of the other main temples on the same day.
To get to the Queen’s Bath, Underground Shiva temple, Hazara Rama temple, Lotus Mahal and all the rest of the main sites on the circuit, take the main road out of town past the Shiva temple and keep going through vibrant open fields, lush palm trees, and towering red boulders. You’ll see the UnderGround Shiva temple first. It’s only about 2km from the main town so bicycling is a good option. When you get there, either leave your bike and walk in for the rest of the temple, or turn left up the dirt road and bike your way around.
Oh, and don’t miss the opportunity to go swimming in the river or see the waterfall. Ask around about how to get to a swimmable area (the river near the town is dubious-looking) or hire a rickshaw driver to drive/walk you there. If you meet a guide who calls himself either Jungle Man or Funky Monkey, have him take you there. He’s awesome!
Don’t believe what they tell you! All the temples are really nearby so you don’t need a rickshaw tour, just a bike for 100 rupees.