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A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch

Kutch was never on my agenda, and little did I even hear about it. All I knew was that some regular tourists often fly here in winter to spot the rare migratory birds, but for a backpacker, Kutch had very little to offer.

My fears moreover started haunting as soon as I moved towards Kutch, from Ahmedabad. Local transport here suddenly become inefficient, and the distances from one village to another, felt totally unbelievable.

There was no way I could get a place to stay anywhere, had I not done an advance bookings. I was spending more time on the roads, with my thumb erect, trying to hitchhike, than seeing places. Yet, it was a wonderful trip altogether. And the deeper I explored, the better it turned out. Sharing some of my first impressions of backpacking in Kutch.

Great Roads But Disappointing Transport

If there is one thing that impressed me about the road transport in Kutch it is the roads. Even the narrowest roads leading to the most interiors and unsung villages were in perfect condition. But then the disappointing transport system and the crazy distances was something that made things tough. Every time I had to travel from one town to the other – even if they were only 60 kms away, I had to spare at least a good 6 hours of daylight. Moreover public transport – right from the state government buses to a rickety Chakda (the local motorcycle rikshaws of Kutch) – are next to impossible to find, particularly once the clocks ticks 3 in the afternoon.

Be Prepared To Hitchhike

I think it is because the public transport in Kutch sucks, people are very accustomed to hitchhiking. Even though I looked no less alien to local people – with a 50 ltr rucksack and an action camera flashing in one hand, no one felt shy of stopping for me. From trucks, to private cars, to motorbikes – I rode on everything. And everything equally worked.

At times I moreover found that hitchhiking was perhaps a better and faster option to travel here than waiting for long hours for buses. I remember it took me more than 7 hours to reach Dholavira from Chobari Village in Kutch (a distance of nearly 120kms) as I relied on public transport. On my way back, however, and as I hitchhiked, I covered the same distance in less than 4 hours. So hitchhiking is apparently going to be your rescue option, if you’re travelling here by foot. So be prepared for it.

Local People Make Backpacking Easy

Kutchi people turned out to be one of the most hospitable communities I’ve ever come across while travelling in India. Almost every villager I met opened their doors for me and offered tea. Some even proposed a stay in their house, should I wish to do so. During my entire two weeks of travelling inside Kutch and the little Rann (a part of which is in Kutch and a part in Saurasthra), I met unaccountable number of people who were willing to go out of way to make me feel welcomed – whether it was about waiting with me for hours, until I found a transport, or driving me 30 kms in a completely different direction only to drop me at my place.

If so far I always thought that people in Himachal Pradesh were nicer and kinder, I think from now on, I’d like to list Kutchi people with them.

The Heart Of Kutch Lies In Its Villages

One of the best charms of travelling in Kutch is exploring its small and hidden villages. Though of course it’s pretty impossible to sightsee them on foot, you can always rent a motorbike in Bhuj, or from one of the locals, by befriending them and building an assurance. I took someone’s 100cc Honda for a day, and used it for village hopping. It turned out that almost every village in the area had its own local art and crafts form. I explored Copper Bell art, Lacquered Wood art, and even Rogan Painting – a craft that is almost exclusive to a village called Nirona and has even made its way to the White House as a gift to President Obama from Prime Minister Modi.

Don’t Travel All The Way To Dhordo Tent City Only To See White Desert

One of the prime interests of people visiting Kutch is to see the White Desert. I mean walking on those crystal salt beds and watching the sun rise and set is indeed a magical and a lifetime experience. But be aware of the fact that you can access the White Desert from pretty much the entire Kutch, for it stretches endlessly to a 10,000 sq metres distance. So don’t bother going all the way to Dhordo, and rather explore it from any other location, as convenient to you – because no matter where you see it from, it’s going to look the same. [Also Read: Why Rann Utsav Is NOT Worth The Effort, Distance And Money]

What Else?

The two favorite places I stayed in Kutch were Devpur Homestay (30 kms west of Bhuj, towards Nakhatrana) and Vibe Camps (near Chobari village, 100 kms east of Bhuj) and they helped me pretty much with the entire itinerary. I’d recommend them both! Similarly, I would be happy to help anyone plan an itinerary if they wish to explore Kutch. So feel free to ask any questions you’ve in the comment section below.

Have you visited the popular historical stepwells in Ahmedabad: Adalaj Ni Vav and Dada Hari Ni Vav?

Also read about Nirona Village which is home to Kutch’s popular art forms

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Shortly after my first real nine-to-five job, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in my backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to stay in one place. I believe that with a little courage and inspiration, everyone has the power to follow their dreams. Just as I've followed mine!

14 Comments

  1. Hi Dev,

    Read your article and found it very interesting, did try contacting you via Facebook messenger. Planning to visit the white desert in the first week of December. As you said and heard from the people, not too keen to stay in the desert city, Dhordo. Could you please suggest on a stay at Home, Shaam-e-sharahad. Also, if I can see Ekal Ka ran. I will have 2 days there and not keen to see other places in Kutch like Mandavi or palaces, please suggest and guide.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Meeta, not sure about Shaam-e-sharahad as I never stayed there. But here’s the thing… Since White Rann is a patch of big white desert and looks the same from every direction, it doesn’t matter where you stayed. I’d say, to avoid travelling too much (since you’ve only two days) visit Ekal Ka Rann only and from there, try exploring LRK (because LRK is closer from Ekal Ka Rann than from Dhordo). I will connect you to a person who runs a guest house near Ekal Ka Rann, he may help you. Abhay:9033038810 | The guy runs motorbiking tours in Gujarat and Jammu | Feel free to say my name, he knows me well.
      Enjoy 🙂

  2. Preeti krishnan says

    Hello
    I am planning a trip to Kutch in December 2017 for 3-4 days. Could you suggest a possible itinerary. I’m looking forward to experience the rann utsav and visiting dholavira apart from the white desert experience. Also what is lakhpat about if planning to visit there?

    • Hey Preeti, Lakhpat is a town of riches before Gujarat earthquake of 1819. Today, it’s a mere Ghost Town. I’d suggest you do a day trip to Lakhpat from Bhuj, it’s a lovely place to visit. Other than that, do not miss the White Desert, it’s a highlight, you won’t find such massive white secret anywhere else in the world. Rather, skip Rann Utsav, it’s a tourist trap, organised by bureaucrats and rich travel agents, covertly making a lot of money, in the name of promoting local tourism and art. The prices in Rann Utsav are unbelievable. Rather, explore white desert from some other spot, while staying in a smaller hotel/homestay and benefiting the locals directly. But whatever you decide, I’d recommend please, “DONT MISS WHITE DESERT!”

      • Preeti krishnan says

        Hello
        Thanks for the reply! I also wanted to ask about little rann and the wildlife sanctuary there. Considering I have three days at hand how would you suggest to distribute the time between white desert and lakhpat and wildlife sanctuary/ dholavira?

  3. Akash says

    Hi Dev

    Thanks for this excellent post for someone planning a trip to the bordertown on a budget. I am planning a trip with my friend to Bhuj reaching there on Feb 3rd. I intend to return from Jodhpur, Rajasthan on 8th. If you gave travelled in that part, can you suggest a cheap way to getting to Jodhpur from Bhuj. I understand it is quite a distance, I am open to making stops on the way and make the trip more interesting.

    • Hey Akash, there’s a train from Bhuj to Delhi which passes through Abu Road or perhaps through Pali as well (or somewhere closer). It leaves three days a week (check on IRCTC), you can go from Bhuj to Pali or whatever other closest station it passes through (can also be Jodhpur itself, even if not Jodhpur, it would definitely be somewhere else less than 100kms away from it), in sleeper class in under 300 Rupees. Get a local bus from there. So Bhuj to Jodhpur in less than 500 rupees is very much possible. Enjoy your trip!

  4. Hi Dev

    Great read!
    I’ll be travelling solo to Kutch, tentatively reaching Bhuj on 6th Feb. I plan on hiring a bike for 3-4 days. I wish to witness the Kutch Utsav but I wasn’t keen on taking the swiss tents as there is no value for money. However, reading your other article has kinda discouraged me to attend the utsav at all. Apparently, carrying my own tent or riding back to Bhuj makes no sense because you can’t enter the utsav premise without booked accomodation?!
    Apart from the Utsav, I wish to
    1. camp out in the white desert for at least one night (11th is a full moon)
    2. since the utsav is out, experience the culture and a village home stay
    3. Cover Dholavira and some of the touristy spots around Bhuj

    What would you suggest? Also, what permits should I keep in mind regarding visiting the exterior parts and if possible, camping out

    • Yes you cannot enter Rann Utsav premise, if you haven’t booked with them.
      1) Camping in white desert is totally not allowed. Also the entire white desert is around border area, so it’s not recommended either.
      2) there aren’t many real homestays in bhuj to speak of (as you find in himalayas) but if you try, you can be invited by a local for sure.
      3) Dholavira as an archaeological site was stupid, but you’d love the 7km road (just before dholavira) that passes through white desert, specially if you’re driving.

  5. Supraja says

    Hi! I’m planning a trip to Kutch next week from Ahmedabad. I will be traveling solo and have 3 days planned for Kutch. Could you suggest things to do, places to stay, and ways to get by? Do you think I should hire a cab from Ahmedabad considering public transport is not easily available?

    • If you only have three days in hand, I’d totally recommend you arrange your transport. Either hire a motorbike to drive (because roads around Kutch are super-smooth and thus give a great biking experience) or hire a cab. For three days, it depends where you want to stay, how much is your budget. If you want it cheap, stay in Bhuj and do day tours to White Rann, Lakhpat (for some history), Mata no Math (if you’re interested in temple), Nirona Village (for some art and crafts). so one day for arts and crafts, one day for white desert, one day for history in Lakhpat can be a good itinerary.

  6. Hey Dev,
    Have 2 queries.
    I am doing a solo bike ride in Feb 10 week. So planning to go to bhuj and lookout for stay. 30 kms away from bhuj though nice, but wondering if there is within the city affordable ? And also available ? Please recommend

    Also, i am planning to go to zero point (beyond india bridge to border) by applying for permit in BSF HQ in Bhuj. Are they still giving? Any info, please pass all.

    Thanks

    • Okay, so the cheapest possible accommodation options will be in the city of Bhuj. Any offbeat farm stays or camping sites will charge a minimum of 1500 rupees per night. You can check Devpur Farmstay (which is run by Devpur Homestay), it are comparatively affordable, though I’m not sure how affordable. The homestay starts from 2500 per night.

      I did not go to zero point, but a local guy told me that they still allow you to go beyond India Bridge, but you need to obtain the permit at least 7 days in advance. Please send me a message at facebook.com/footloosedev and I’ll pass on a guy’s number you can speak to. He will give you the absolute correct info about the permit, and might also help you with a stay around Bhuj.

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