When I was initially planning to backpack across Gujarat I’d no idea what to expect. People suggested that backpacking in Gujarat – particularly inside Kutch – won’t be a good idea. But it wasn’t the backpacking that I was worried about. A limited travel information available on Gujarat was my biggest challenge. Other than its few religious sites, a couple of national parks and the over promoted Kutch festival (or Rann Utsav), very little has been written or known about tourism in Gujarat. A few sources, on internet moreover suggested that backpacking in Gujarat, due to its poor public transportation system, was perhaps the bad idea.So before I start with my usual travel guide format, I’d give you a general overview and help you understand Gujarat better.
So before I start with my usual travel guide format, I’d give you a general overview and help you understand Gujarat better.
The state has been divided into three parts: Saurasthra, Magadh and Kutch. Saurasthra and Magadh, does not have much to travel, at least if speaking for not-so-religious travel community. Other than Gir National Park (popular for Asiatic Lion), all you’ll find here is a few historical sites like Somnath and Dwarka, and a few bustling cities of modern Gujarat, like Ahmedabad and Baroda. This leaves us to Kutch. It is in Kutch, where you will find amazing natural phenomena like the White Desert and Barren Crack Land. And it’s Kutch that Gujarat, as a travel destination, is popular for. Kutch has recently gained popularity among bikers, young tourists and honeymooners alike. A few things to keep in mind:
- Travelling without a private vehicle can sure be demanding in Gujarat – due to unbelievably long distances and a poor public transportation. So having your own mode of transportation is always a better idea. Moreover, from big cities to unfamiliar towns, roads inside Gujarat are super-smooth and of top quality – making driving an exceptionally amazing experience. (Read: A backpacker’s guide to travel in Kutch)
- Almost across Gujarat, and particularly inside Kutch, people are very friendly and helping – making solo travelling a fairly easier and safer deal.
- Travelling in Gujarat can be unbelievably expensive or undeniably cheap – depending on how you travel. If only you travel smart and stay off the beaten path, then Gujarat might just be a lot cheaper than a majority of states in India. Avoid Somnath. Avoid Gir. Avoid Rann Utsav. Avoid any other place that has been over promoted. This particularly applies in Kutch region, where even the basic accommodation (during the peak tourist season in winter) can cost at least a couple of thousand Rupees per night. You stay in Dhordo Tent city, and you end up paying at least 10 thousand rupees for a night. Stay 10 kilometres away, and you might not have to spend more than 500.
- Travel Gujarat for 6 major experiences: 1) Spotting Wildlife/migratory birds, 2) Experiencing white desert in great Rann of Kutch, 3) Exploring crack land and salt farms in Little Rann of Kutch4) Chaotic old-towns 5) A few major religious sites.
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY
The road to Dholavira: Located in the Northeast corner of Kutch, Dholavira is a UNESCO world heritage site where you can find the ruins of Harappan civilisation. But to tell you the truth, the site, on its own is super lame, and the guides who work there as your only source of information makes it even worse. Visit Dholavira, not for its UNESCO heritage site, but to enjoy the drive to Dholavira, which takes you through a stretch of 7-kilometre smooth road that passes right through the sparkling White Desert.
Ekal Ka Rann: There are quite a few touristic and a lot more offbeat/unknown destinations to sightsee the White Desert in Kutch. I explored a few of them too, including the White Desert near the tent city in Dhordo, but to my experience, Ekal Ka Rann turned out to be the best among all. Located a few kilometres away from Chobari Village, it was easily accessible and totally offbeat.
Sunsets/sunrises/full moons in White Desert: The original fascination of visiting the White Desert lies in its captivating sunsets and full moons. As the sun slowly reaches the horizon, it leaves a shade of red and blue and pink, almost making the entire panoramic distinction across the sky. Full moon nights are moreover no less romantic. If however you miss the full moon and end up around twilight, a million bright stars and clear skies will work together to make your experience no less memorable.
LRK, or the Little Rann of Kutch: Spread around an area of five thousand square kilometres, and also known as The Wild Ass Sanctuary, in LRK you can explore barren crack lands, learn about the process salt farming, and even spot some beautiful migratory birds. Getting into LRK is restricted, as it falls under the jurisdiction of Indian wildlife, and one requires to obtain a permit to trespass. Though if you’re visiting one of the few temples located inside LRK, one of which is VacchRaj temple, where I’d stayed, you can pretty much do it without any legal complication.
Local Kutchi art forms in village Nirona: If you’re looking to explore a few local art forms in Kutch, Nirona village is the place to visit. In Nirona you’ll find three different art forms, one of which even made its way to The White House. The advantage of visiting Nirona is that all the artisans moreover give you a private demo of how a respective art is done, before offering you to buy their work.
Ghost town of Lakhpat: Located just a few kilometres away from Pakistan border, Lakhpat was once Gujarat’s richest town and home to India’s one of the most significant trade routes. But after the earthquake of 1819, which also changed the course of Indus River, it turned into a mere ghost town. It’s amazing to look into Lakhpat’s history while exploring the town’s abandoned old houses.
Old Ahmedabad: Though I often find chaotic Indian cities too tough to handle, the old city of Ahmedabad, on the contrary, appeared rather charming – despite being a total mad house. Its vibrant and frenzied streets
COST OF TRAVELLING
Food in Gujarat is super cheap, definitely a little cheaper than many other states in India. Even in top cities like Ahmedabad you can eat a full meal, in a local restaurant, in under 50 Rupees. Invest a little more (around 100 Rupees) and you can eat in a good quality restaurant.
Accommodation in Gujarat can be cheaper to expensive. It’s moreover a little tricky to promise anything. In cities like Ahmedabad, Gandhi
Transportation: For travelling between big cities and inside them, public transport in Gujarat barely exists. Though if you luckily manage to find it, between the places you’re travelling, be rest assured it is cheaper than Indian standards. Where tuktuks, wherever you find them, take you on sharing basis (per seat), buses take an average of one rupee per kilometre, just like in other Indian states.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
Without any doubt, the ideal time to visit Gujarat is during winter (between the months of November and March) because the unbearably hot weather and the tiring heat waves during other time of the year makes Gujarat too impossible to enjoy. Moreover, never visit Gujarat during monsoon, as many places – particularly the great and little Rann of Kutch – becomes totally inaccessible, becomes an inaccessible water-body.
More: India Travel Guide
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