Many people imagine the colourful saris and grand palaces of Rajasthan when they think of India. However, for me, Hampi – in the southern Indian state of Karnataka – is the epitome of ancient Indian history and culture. Once the centre of the formidable Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century, it was an area of magnificence and opulence celebrated for its unfathomable wealth under the leadership of Emperor Krishnadevaraya. Today, the Group of Monuments at Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We recommend three nights here – two at a push if you have limited time – and can arrange for you to explore these impressive sites by car, bicycle or on foot, and accompanied by one of the best private guides out there.