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A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch

Backpacking in Kutch? This Kutch Travel Guide will help you make your journey smoother!

Kutch was never on my agenda, and little did I even know about it — except for the fact that savvy tourists often fly here in winter for spotting the rare migratory birds. But for a backpacker, Kutch had very little to offer.

My fear (of Kutch not being a backpacking destination) moreover started haunting as soon as I arrived in Kutch. Local transport here suddenly became a rarity, and the long distance(s) from one tourist attraction to the other — totally unbelievable. I was spending more time standing on roads while trying to hitchhike, than seeing places.

To disappoint you, even more, remember that during peak tourist season, finding an accommodation may moreover become a challenge, have you not done an advance booking.

But despite all challenges, Kutch offers beautiful highlights to travel. And the deeper you explore the region, the better it turns out to be. Sharing some of my first impressions of backpacking in Kutch, this travel guide will help you plan your holiday better.

Great Roads But A Disappointing Transport

If there is one thing that impressed me most about Kutch is its perfect roads. Even the narrowest streets leading to an unsung village were found in a perfect condition. But then, the disappointing public transport system and the long distances was something that made backpacking in Kutch a challenging experience. Every time I had to travel from one town to the other — even if they were only 60 km away from each other, I had to spare at least 6 hours.

Moreover, public transport – right from the state government buses to a rickety Chakda (the local motorcycle rikshaws of Kutch) – never ran on time. It may also be possible that the scheduled bus may never arrive the destination (as it happened to me a few times) especially if the clock has gone past 3 in the afternoon.

In Kutch, Be Prepared To Hitchhike

I think it is because the public transport in Kutch is so poor, people are accustomed to hitchhiking – and even offering lifts. 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 big lorries to private cars, to motorbikes – I travelled in everything. And everything equally worked.

At times I moreover found that hitchhiking was perhaps a better and faster option to travel inside Kutch 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, when 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 going to be backpacking in Kutch.

Local People In Kutch 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 a smile. Some even offered tea and proposed to a stay in their house, should I wished 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 welcome – whether it was about waiting with me for hours, until I found a transport, or driving me 30 km in a completely different direction to drop me somewhere.

If by far, I always believed that people in Himachal Pradesh are nicer and kinder than you may find anywhere else in India, from now on, I’d like to list Kutchi people in the same category.

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 motorbike for a day, and used it to explore the nearby villages. And 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 local art form 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. 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 or attending the Rann Utsav, 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.

Don’t Miss The Barren Crack-Land in Little Rann of Kutch

Kutch is popular for two things and moreover offers two very distinct natural phenomenon: one of them is the White Desert and the other one is the barren crack-land of Little Rann of Kutch (or LRK). Spread around an area of five thousand square kilometres, also known as The Wild Ass Sanctuary, LRK gives you an exceptional landscape – of a barren crack land. Here you can also learn about the process of salt farming and even spot some beautiful migratory birds. It’s in LRK where Mahatma Gandhi moreover concluded his ‘Dandi Yatra’ during British Raj. Getting into LRK is however, restricted, as it comes under the jurisdiction of Indian wildlife, and one requires to obtain a permit to trespass. But if you’re visiting one of the few temples located inside LRK, one of which is VacchRaj temple, where I stayed, you can pretty much access it without having a need to obtain a forest permits.

Useful Tips For Visiting Kutch

I would recommend making Bhuj your base and do day trips to a few other places of interest from Bhuj.

If you’re visiting Kutch region during the peak tourist season (i.e between November and February) book your accommodation in advance.

From Bhuj, three easy day-trips I tried, and can moreover recommend are:

  1. Exploring the local villages and Kutchi Art form. For this, I’ll recommend visiting Nirona Village (4 to 8-hour tour).
  2. Visiting the White Desert near the tent city of Dhordo (4 to 8 hour tour).
  3. Exploring the Ghost Town of Lakhpat (4 to 8 hour tour).

Have more questions? Leave a comment below. 

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After my couple of years of corporate career, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in a backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to spend your life working at one place, and that's what inspires me to remain footloose and fancy-free for the rest of my life!

44 Comments

  1. Urvi Kodiganti says

    I am in Bhuj right now. I had decided to cover Nirona and Rudramata today but I made a mistake and got down at Rudramata, which had one mandir and one boy’s school/hostel and nothing else for 8kms. I don’t usually travel alone but I wish I hade read this post a little earlier. I got shit scared. 3 people misguided me wih the public transport but I do understand it was not their fault. I would like to know if you have some more pictures of Nirona because I have come here for architectural visit of traditional artisan village. I would like to see if it is worth it . I would definitely try to go there once again.

    • Hey Urvi, It’s been long since I visited Nirona. Finding more pictures in the database can be tough. But I assure you will find many interesting buildings to capture in Nirona Village. IT’s certainly a highlight for an architecture lover. Also, try and Lakhpat if you can.

  2. Rohit says

    Hi,
    Thanks for the information.
    I was planning to go to Rann Utsav, but thanks for your post. I will give it a miss and explore the way you did. Let me know if it is possible and if it is safe to stay in a tent (with sleeping bag)

    • it should be okay (if you’re asking for cold) to sleep in a sleeping bag with -5 degree temprature. January can be a little brutal in Kutch. Days are warm enough but nights are unbeliebly cold.

  3. Aniket Ankam says

    hey Dev is it advisable to travel solo to rann of kutch? In terms of budget or it will be little bit expensive as a solo? I am planning for Ekal ka rann (chota rann) and heard that it’s shitty expensive during winters.

    • If you’ll find a place online and book it, yes it’s going to be super expensive. If you’re going to find a place there as a tourist, yes it’s going to be super expensive again. But if you know the art of making local friends and find good deals, you can find a way. Sorry for a confusing answer but that’s how it is. Obvious tourist places charge a lot in entire Kutch because they’ve only 3-4 months to do business in an year. Read my other blogs on Gujarat to get some insider tips on how to backpack on a budget.

  4. Anjum says

    Hi. Nice description. Can you name a few other villages (or places) from where we can see the white desert. Also, pls let me know what is the ideal time to visit Rann to see the white desert? Is december fine?

  5. Me and my friends think about where to go for travel to Gujarat. Then we googled and reached your post where we see Kutch is the best place for travel and lots of things in kutch like the white desert, beaches and much more. So we plan a trip to Kutch. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ace Wings says

    Hi Dev,

    You have given superb info. I have a few questions. I plan to shoot the night sky from the Great Rann of Kutch. The Rann Utsav doesn’t beckon me. Neither do the staying facility of the tents at Rann Utsav. I need a place to put my bags away and click stars at night.

    Q1) Is here any accommodation in the nearby village of Khavda or around Great Rann of Kutch? It would be great if you can share contacts of villagers providing home stay near the White Desert.

    Q2) Is there any permit to be taken to stay overnight in the open shooting stars? Will they shoo me away? Are there any entry & exit timings to Great Rann of Kutch?

    Thank you.

  7. Hi Dev, I was going through your Gujarat posts as I am planning an insanely short trip to Kutch on the first weekend of March. Just like you I am stuck at transportation and pricey accommodation. You mentioned Chobari in this article, I intend to visit Chobari so that I can travel to Ekal ka Rann AFTER it is dark (the rann near Dhordo is shut after 7 PM, in march sunset will happen at around 7 PM itself). Any chances you stayed at Chobari? If yes please tell me where. Right now I contacted a camp site, but they would wrap up action by March. The other two are too costly to afford. However, I read somewhere one can stay at Ekal Mata ka Temple. If you know anything about this please share. It would be such a life saver, rather money saver.

    • Thanks for contacting Tania. Have connected you to Abhay (in the email) who runs a campsite near Chobari. Hope it helps 🙂

  8. Marshall says

    Hi Dev,
    Hope you’re doing well. Great post, however it was too late for me to read. We (2+1-child of 2 yrs) had already booked our stay at Rann for 3 nights which I feel is a bit bad idea now after going through your experience. Since we have no option than to spend our stay at Dhordo now, could you please suggest how best can we avail this trip in terms of transport and covering few places like Kala Dungar, Vijay Vilas Palace, Narayan Sarovar, Lakhpat, Little Rann and few villages by staying in a resort at Dhordo. Also,appreciate your suggestion as early as possible as we are about to leave in few hours.

    Thanks in Advance,
    Marshall.

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