Gujarat as a state, had never been in my bucket list of places to visit. But when I read articles or saw posts of people who had visited Rajasthan, I took a look at India’s map to find out the less travelled or less explored destinations for our next holidaying. And that’s when Kutch came in to picture, yes- the Great Rann of Kutch. A little more research in to the state and its terrains- I had decided that Gujarat would indeed be our next spot. Gujarat has a deep sense of culture and the countryside holds many treasures- local artisans, dyeing works, block printing, textile industry, embroidery, paintings, many Jain and Hindu pilgrimage sites and mosques- atop mountains rising amidst flatlands- I can go on and on. The 10 days that we spent in Gujarat and its different jewels will definitely go down in to our favourite places to travel in India.
This was our itinerary and places that we visited ( in a nutshell):
Day 1: Flight from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad. Since it was the biggest full moon the next night and since we wanted to see it rise at Rann of Kutch, we took a taxi from Ahmedabad to Bhuj that same night. The drive was close to 6 hours. Fantastic roads, plenty of pitstop options and most drivers followed the lane rules and beam etiquettes- which is very rare at nights.
Day 2: Bhuj to Nirona to Kutch and back. The humble village of Nirona lies at about 45 kms from Bhuj and boasts of the extraordinary skills of its artisans- be it the ancient Rogan art by the Khattri family, or be it the Luhars’ art of making copper bells. These have been preserved for over 7 generations by these families and they even taught us live on how they make these exquisite crafts.
The next stop was Kalo Dungar or the black mountain, 80 kms from Nirona. The hike up the mountain gave us picturesque panoramic views of the vast, white Rann of Kutch. Although the place was crowded, we went off trail for a bit to get the best, uncrowded views. And not to forget, the high magnetic field areas en route, where the cars do actually get pulled towards the fields.
By sunset, we were at the Great Rann of Kutch-45 kms from Kalo Dungar- where the sun was setting on one side and the big, full moon was rising on the other side. Rann Utsav’s vibrancy made the place more lively. To be able to watch the salt land shimmer and shine in the moonlight; it was definitely one of the best sightings ever.
And then, close to midnight, we were back at Bhuj.
Day 3: Bhuj-Mandvi- Bhuj ( train to Vadodara)
Bhuj fort, Aina Mahal and Shree Swaminarayan temple were the places that we covered in a half day. After lunch, we were off to Mandvi, which was roughly 60 kms away. Mandvi is a small town by the coast of the Gulf of Kutch. After visiting Vijay Vilas Palace, we spent close to 2 hours at the Mandvi beach. It was a very clean beach despite all the crowds, ATV rides, camel and horse rides, food stalls and shops. On our way back to Bhuj, we stopped by the Jinalaya Jain temple. We had a night train to board from Bhuj to Vadodara, which was our next stop.
Day 4: Vadodara
We reached Vadodara at around 7:30 am. After settling down at our hotel and freshening up, we headed out for our local sightseeing. Sayaji Baug, Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Sur Sagar Lake, BAPS Mandir, EME Temple, Aurobindo Ashram, followed by tons of shopping places in Alkapuri and nearby areas. I was mesmerized by the amount of textiles and the block printing works taken up by the locals.
Day 5: Vadodara to Statue of Unity to Surat
The SoU is located at Kevadia, approximately 90 kms from Vadodara. At around close to 8 kms from the statue, we have to board the SoU buses. Cars are not allowed beyond that point. Despite all the poor organization of buses, despite no buses being available to get back to the parking and to the Narmada dam-although these were all included in our tickets, despite all the crowd and the chaos, the statue proved to be all worth it. It is truly a manmade marvel, but sadly it has impacted not only the water level in Narmada, but also the vegetation around the area. We had the best nylon Dhokla there at the cafeteria.
Surat was roughly 150 kms away and that took about 3 h 30 minutes or so.
Day 6: Surat to Ubhrat to Surat
With nothing much to do within Surat besides the tiny but attractive Surat fort and ISKCON temple, we had to resort to shopping inside the renowned Bombay Market. We ended up buying an extra suitcase as well! The shopping experience in Surat was overwhelming to a person like me, who rarely shops. The picture itself will explain the rest. Surat turned out to be a bigger textile place than Vadodara.
Although we wanted to make it to the haunted, black sand Dumas beach, we were skeptical about it after hearing a lot about it from the locals. That’s when we chose to go to Ubhrat beach, 40 kms from Surat. It wasn’t crowded at all, but was extremely dirty with all garbage around.
Day 7: Surat to Ahmedabad
That was an easy day in the entire trip. All that we did was board our train from Surat to Ahmedabad and head to our room there. We did walk 500 m to shop for our stock of snacks for the rest of the trip.
Day 8: Ahmedabad to Rani Ki Vav to Modhera Sun Temple to Gandhinagar to Ahmedabad
Modhera Sun temple, 90 kms from Ahmedabad, is a must visit place. The beautiful architecture of the temple and its bright location speaks for itself.
Rani Ki Vav, a step well built in the 11th/12th century, will mesmerize one with its intricate and pristine architecture. 45 kms away from Modhera Sun Temple, located in Patan, this place is the cleanest iconic place you will ever see.
Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat, was close to 2 hours away from Patan, but very close to Ahmedabad. It can clearly be labelled as the most planned city because of its well laid roads, cleanliness, lovely greenery and absolutely no traffic. We visited the Dinosaur Park first, where there were real size sculptures of dinosaurs that once lived the region. Akshardham was the next, but it was extremely crowded, we left the spot instantly. Dandi Kutir was the next spot, followed by Adalaj ki Vav in Ahmedabad.
Day 9: Amdavad sightseeing
Ahmedabad or Amdavad, as the locals call it, was very similar to Hyderabad. At least the older portions of the cities were. The city was gearing up for the kite festival, with streets full of shops selling patangs, charkas and manjhas. What a beautiful sight it was! Children all over the city were practicing their flying and competing skills already. It didn’t matter where they were- mosques, streets, house terraces! Teen Darwaza, Delhi Darwaza, Kankaria Lake, Sidi Bashir Mosque, Bhadra Fort, Sarkhej Roza, Hutheesing Jain temple, topped by sunset at Sabarmati Ashram overlooking the Sabarmati river- Amdavad is truly a gem.
Day 10: Amdavad again and flight back to Hyderabad.
We woke up quite late that morning. We visited the Jhulta Minara and Jami Masjid that day, followed by an entire day/evening at the Science City. And then we headed to the airport to board our flight back to Hyderabad.
- We travelled only by trains between all cities except on days 1 and 5. Trains have to be booked well in advance.
- It does get extremely cold in winter. Gear up with your layers to stay warm.
- Within the cities, we relied on taxis and autos. Uber was available in Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad.
- Advance booking is required for taxis during Rann Utsav.
- Tickets to the SoU have to be booked well in advance as well.
- Stay at Bhuj: Hotel KBN ( decent stay option), at Vadodara: Ginger hotel, at Surat: Budget Inn Bellevue, at Ahmedabad: Hotel Bait Inn
- We googled up a Bhuj based travel agent’s number for our first ride to Bhuj from Ahmedabad. That agent was generous enough to have passed on another agent’s number for Vadodara and so forth.
- Vegetarian food is available all over, non-veg too at some places.
- Permit needs to be taken to consume alcohol. Not sure how that works, but I did read it at all the places that we stayed.