It was a new year, the year after our lifetime’s first ever pandemic and lockdown and our travel bug has grown bored and fat. So one day we just sat down with the map of India in front of us, and were eliminating the places we couldn’t go to and made a small list of places we could go. And suddenly Gujarat stood out and some people dropped out. But my friend and I were determined to go to the land of food with names that sounds like dangerous explosives.
Luckily for us, this was around the time the famous Runn of Kutch festival is held in full pomp and grandeur. So the decision was easy, and I put on my research hat on, dug into the nook and corners of the internet over the next few days to squeeze out all the information I can get and had a full 9 day itinerary ready. We covered 9 places in 9 days and it felt like a breeze! The roads in the entire state is top class, even in the remotest village. And we didn’t feel the stress of travelling hundreds of kilometres a day. We were glad that our taxes were being utilised somewhere!
Best Time To Visit
Gujarat gets really hot in the summer because of its proximity to the shore and the presence of insane amount of barren land and desert. So the best time to visit is during Winter. Between the months of October – February. Also the popular Rann of Kutch festival is also held in winter between November and February. So it just makes perfect sense to visit Gujarat then. And that’s exactly what we did. Here’s a sneak peak into our full week of color and culture!
Approximate Cost Per Person*
- Flights Bengaluru <-> Ahmedabad : INR 9,000 round trip
- Stay for 5 nights across Gujarat : INR 5,616
- Rann of Kutch All inclusive (Non- AC tent stay) : INR 5,300
- Cab for 6 days around 1300KMS : INR 22,100
- Food 9 days :INR 3,500
*All costs mentioned are based on our travel and is subject to changes.
Day 1 – Get Started: Bangalore – Ahmedabad – Somnath
Starting on the 6th of February with a lot of excitement and anticipation about what this new and unusual tourist destination had in store for us, we boarded out flight to Ahmedabad. On reaching we just booked ourselves a full day package with Ola and got a cab. We were only spending the day at the capital city so we did not have any hotel reservations. We just trusted our cab driver to take care of our belongings while we explored the most famous step well in the state which is found every Indian’s wallet on the ₹100 note – Rani Ki Vav!
Clearly no photo does justice to the intricate architecture of this place. The scorching heat at the place was no deterrent to how enchanting this step well was. After capturing the entirety of the place to our heart’s content, we headed back to Ahmedabad after a small pitstop at a roadside dhaba for a scrumptious lunch. It seemed like we weren’t content with our share of a step well so we went straight to one closer to Ahmedabad – Adalaj. And just when we thought there can be no match for Rani Ki Vav, we were proved wrong! We were awe-struck in every direction that we looked. In that instant we knew, we would’ve have an incredible experience in this state.
After this our driver insisted on us going to watch the sound and light show in Akshardham, and we had to obey. I must say it was one hour well spent. With that we bid adieu to our driver and boarded an overnight bus to Somnath.
Day 2: Somnath – Gir Forest
We had booked a small hotel room in Somnath, as we had no plans of staying the night and needed just a place to freshen up. We reached pretty early in the morning. The hotel manager was considerate and accommodated us in a room even in the wee hours of the day. Not sure if people were extra nice with Somnath being a temple town! After quickly freshening up and temple readying ourselves, we got into our cab which we had booked for the next 5 days.
With that began our pilgrimage, we had no major plans made for this place. The main agenda was to visit the famous Somnath Temple and pay our respects to Lord Shiva. Our driver was well versed with all the temples and took us around the place and we were able to cover 4-5 temples including a ferry ride and the temple built on the spot where Lord Krishna met his “planned-unfortunate” end. We began our day with a visit to the Somnath temple and wound up by another visit to see the grandeur of the temple in the night lights. With our bags already packed, we excitedly proceeded towards the next destination in the late evening – Gir Forest
Day 3: Gir National Forest – Rajkot
This day I had been looking forward to for was long as I can remember. This is the only national reserve in India that houses the Asiatic Lions. We got ready and reported to the forest office on time at 6:00AM. And in the next 40 mins we had our own jeep and we had some really lucky sightings in the first 10 minutes into the forest. We were teased and chased by a young cub to his amusement and our delight. After 3 hours of roaming about the forest with several rendezvous with the King of the Jungle, we were two happy souls. Right after the safari we spent some time around the forest office and got into our cab, this time with a different driver. They say never judge a book by its cover, and it is true! This guy came across as a grumpy one. All it took was a couple of hours of ice breakers and then he was by far the most memorable person we met on our journey to Gujarat.
Rajkot was more or less like a pitstop before our next big destination. And we love making the most of everything so we visited a couple of tourist spots (Temples obviously) If you think Tamil Nadu has a lot of temples, wait till you visit the Gujju land. We made a pitstop on the way to our pitstop spot at Junagaad, which houses Asia’s second longest ropewa across the Girnar hills. We did visit another spot that dates back to the 4th or 5th century AD – The Khambalid Caves. Our driver was sceptical to take us there, as he had never heard of this one despite his many years of traversing the roads of Gujarat (I’m taking a bow for my research skills here😎) After a long day that started at 6:00AM, we reached Rajkot at around 8:00 PM and after a delicious dinner we retired at our Hotel Nova Boutique. A small hotel albeit a very clean and well maintained one.
Day 4: Rajkot – Dholavira
Now we were all ready and checked out by 9:30 AM, as we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us that day. Not only were we travelling a long distance but were also travelling back in time a long time ago. No we didn’t find a time machine in Gujarat, we were going to a small town called Khadir Bet, and more specifically to Dholavira- an archaeological site associated with the Indus Valley Civilisation and has prominent excavations of the Harappan Civilisation. Do these names ring a bell? They kind of should be etched in your brains if you studied in Indian schools, as they were prominent in our history text books.
As kids we loathed studying through these chapters in our childhood, and what’s ironic is how much we entirely enjoyed spending time at the site of the Harappan Civilisation. We reached the place a little late and they were closing down and we couldn’t get a guide. Luckily after making some requests quoting how far we’d come, we did get permission to visit the site nevertheless. We still got to get a good 2 hours here. Our driver Mr. Ram Bhai, giving us a comic running commentary of all the different parts of the sites, kept us constantly entertained. We definitely learnt more about the Harappan civilisation here than we did from the text books. (This is the ultimate truth!) We then went to a fossil park which is right at the tip of that island on the banks of the Kutch Lake. On the way to our homestay we paid our respect at the Dattatreya temple and the Karni Mata temple both not too far from the fossil park. We called it a night at the Dholavira Homestay after being welcomes with the most humblest smiles.
Day 5: Dholavira – Mandvi – Bhuj
Waking up to a very homely breakfast straight from the kitchen of the owner’s house, we were ready to head over to the famous Mandvi beach after a quick stop for photoshoot in the salt deserts on the way. This was yet another 5.5hours drive but thanks to the well laid out roads, there is no strain whatsoever. We first went to the Mandvi Palace or most famously known as the Vijay Vilas Palace that has a stunning terrace area which we just did not want to get out of. After soaking in the surroundings in plentiful, we had to cater to our hungry tummies so we went out to the Mandvi beach resort. We purchased lunch tickets at the Palace Beach Resort. This offered us an appetising meal along with a private access to the beach. The water was so calm and there was not a soul in sight giving us the most clean and peaceful beach experience. After a decent tan and time spent we steered towards Bhuj. After dumping our luggage at the Click Hotel (Our home for the night), we bid adieu to Ram Bhai our chauffeur of the last 4 days. Quickly freshening up, we set out to trot around the Bhuj town for some shopping and treat ourselves to some Kathiyawadi meals at Umiyaji Dining Hall . For less than a Rs.100 per meal we had one of the best food. With an overly full tummy and heart we went back to our rooms to call it a day.
Day 6: Bhuj – Kutch
And today was the day we actually decided to visit Gujarat for. This was our first day at the Rann of Kutch festival! The most famous annual festival held at the White desert. It is a cultural extravaganza of arts, dance, music, With excitement we checked in at the make shift reception/pick up spot for the Rann Utsav, the which was less than a 100m of our hotel. After about an hour of waiting for those other people who had registered but didn’t care enough to be on time, we were boarded on to the bus to take us to the White Desert located at about 1.5 hours away. On reaching Tent City we were welcomed with pomp and splendour. After the briefing at the reception we were driven to our luxurious tents.
We had the rest of the day till evening to ourselves to explore the various events, art galleries and handicraft stalls. In the evening we were driven down to the salt desert. From where the bus stops, we were taken in a cart drawn by camels to witness some more cultural shows and to view one of the most spectacular sunsets of our lives. Wewere all so spellbound that everyone were speechless on the way back to the Tent City. Dinner was accompanied by melodious performances and then we headed to the main stage which had a plethora of performances to be witnessed and we were AWESTRUCK at the talent our country has to offer. From puppet shows to dance, music, start gazing, we had a wide range of events and to top it all there were a bunch of Flamingoes that decided to surprise us as they swept across the skies on their way home. That’s right! Thousands of Flamingoes migrate to Gujarat during the winter and are a sight to behold. I distinctly remember going to bed with a wide smile that night.
Day 7: Kutch – Bhujodi – Bhuj
We’d booked for a 1 night 2 day package at the Rann Utsav. So after breakfast we were going to be transported back to Bhuj with a stop at Shree Swaminarayan Temple, The Kutch Museum and Bhujodi Village. But because of covid(Remember this one still?) the museum was closed. Shree Swaminarayan temple was yet another beautifully architectured temple in Gujarat. Instead of Exploring the Bhujodi village with the rest of the chattery crowd, we decided to go dump our luggage at a hotel we had booked at Bhujodi – Dream Resort. Although the name doesn’t sound so friendly, I can assure you the place is clean and safe for anyone to visit. A heads up though would be that this is at quite a distance from the town of Bhuj, but is very closely located to the Bhujodi artisans village, which is exactly what we wanted. We had already got a taste of the Bhuj town and its hustle and were happy to nestle in the quieter part.
After briefly exploring all the colourful stores at Bhujodi we hailed a rickshaw and transported ourselves to Bhujodi to catch up on a few tourist spots we had missed on our previous visit. This then led us to the Aina (Mirror) Mahal, and the Prag Mahal Palace. Towards the sundown we headed back to Bhujodi to empty our wallets one more time and came across a store with the prettiest shawls with a very enterprising little girl running it. She was the kindest and upon request took us took her house not too far away to show us how the weaving takes place! I will forever remember the hospitality shown to us by her family!
Day 8: Bhujodi – India Bridge – Bhujodi – Ahmedabad
Now this day was not specifically planned in our original itinerary but it definitely was the most emotional and exciting day of the whole journey. Why you ask? Because we got into a can and were off to see the India-Pakistan border, sit down with the most hospitable BSF and have a nice chat and stare at the vastness of the barren land surrounding us. although there was no one for miles together, there was definitely a tight emotion in the atmosphere. The stories of partition, the struggles from the defence forces on either side of the border, and so much more came before my eyes standing right there while staring into miles of nothingness. We profusely thanked our BSF personnel for such kindness and their service and headed back to Bhujodi, where we went back to the store we visited the previous day, which the owner was very kind to open for us for some last minute shopping. After which we packed our bags and got dropped off at the highway to board our overnight bus to Ahmedabad. What a long and heavy day this was!
Day 9: Ahmedabad – Bangalore
If you are good at math and have also paid attention to every detail in this article, you must’ve realised that this day was the infamous Valentine’s Day! Thanks to all the hype created by social media people are either taking romantic getaways, dinners activities with their loved ones, or the others are just either talking about what an unnecessary holiday this is or feeling depressed for being alone. Well me and my friend did neither and got ready first thing in the morning, got into a rickshaw and went to explore the Sabarmati Ashram. The then abode of our Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. It was a well curated tour of his entire life in that place which ended at a souvenir shop. From here we went to the Jama Masjid not too far from there. This was located at a very crowded spot and we were worried we couldn’t make it back on time. Luckily the place itself was not crowded so we could get in and out quickly.
With that our last stop before heading out to the airport was obviously to buy the very special Gujju snacks khakras. And we went to this store (Details out soon) where they had a gazillion flavours of Khakras. And needless to say we were confused. So we ended up buying a lot of it, more than what we thought we could fit into our luggage, and we asked the owners to just ship it to our house in Bangalore. They were glad to do this. Feeling happy that our final visit in Gujarat was a food stall, which is a perfect way to end the trip in Gujarat, especially because of the variety of food this state has to offer!