Organised annually by Gujarat Tourism, between November and February, the Rann Utsav of Kutch has been scaling popularity charts among Indian and foreign travellers alike, in the last few years.
Though it’s surely an interesting effort allowing people to revisit the desert region of Kutch – which was left devastated by the 2001 earthquake – by creating a travel story linking to Kutch’s geographical and cultural distinctions, the value for money, that it offers… is unfortunately pretty discouraging.
To own a sleeping place (a Premium Tent, or a Rajwadi Bhunga, as named) that comes with complimentary meals and a one night/two days package, costs nearly 6 thousand Rupees per person (excluding 18% taxes). For every extra person, in the tent, you pay 4 thousand (and more taxes). This means a family of three can end up paying over 15 thousand Rupees for one night in Rann Utsav.
You can moreover buy longer-duration packages, which takes you around a few places in the nearby town of Bhuj, in addition to the customary sunsets/sunrises in the White Desert. But consider that an even costlier and sillier deal!
Rann Utsav: What To Expect
To be honest… a massive tented city, a bit of chaos and the many neatly staged cultural experiences!
The tent city of Dhordo, where Rann Utsav takes place is moreover walled because the tourism department wants to keep those away who did not pay for their stay. A total turn off!
I felt that due to lack of information available online, about the entire Kutch region and its amazing natural White deserts, Gujarat Tourism has clearly seen it as a burgeoning commercial opportunity to make money. Sorry for a rough tone, but that’s actually true.
Moreover, given the facts that Rann Utsav didn’t facilitate single occupancy booking; the White Desert around Dhordo was perhaps the most crowded and dirtiest as compared to other White Desert locations I’d visited; the visit to White desert, from the tent city, is in buses instead of camel carts as otherwise advertised; and staying there is super expensive – it would not be wrong to say that the Rann Utsav, is a total rip off.
Getting The Big Picture
One simple inspiration for people to visit Kutch, from as far as outside of India, is to explore its two natural landscapes: one is the While Desert, which comes with all those dramatic sunsets and full-moons we end up here looking for; and the other, the vast barren flatlands (or the crack-lands).
During my 25 days of backpacking across Gujarat, out of which a fair share was spent in exploring the Great and Little Rann of Kutch, I found a few impressive and offbeat sites – that were far better than the Great Rann of Kutch located near the tent city of Dhordo. The White Rann near Dhordo, as I found out, was crowded and has been turned partially brown (from white) due to its overexposure to tourists. It was moreover impossible to hear the silence here and enjoy the moment on your own, as I apparently did in the more isolated and offbeat corners of White Rann.
Crowds Start Appearing In Big Numbers, At the White Desert Around Dhordo Before Sunset
So What To Do, If Not Visit The Rann Utsav?
In one sentence… plan your own itinerary! Particularly if you’re alone, and are more or less interested in exploring the natural landscapes of Gujarat, over a crowded can-be-experienced-anywhere-in-the-world sort of fair – which Rann Utsav, in reality, only is. [Also Read: A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch]
If you’re not flying directly into Bhuj, and are driving from Mumbai or Rajasthan, drive right through the middle of the Little Rann of Kutch, also known as the Sanctuary of Wild Ass. Do not waste your effort in exploring wild asses, because they more or less look similar to those you can find in pretty much any corner of India.
At the Little Rann of Kutch, you’ll see impressive barren crack-land, spread over a distance of five thousand square kilometres. Other than the crack-land you can visit the many salt farmers and even spot some migratory water birds like cranes, pelicans and flamingos. If lucky, you can even come across some interesting wild life here, including the ugly desert fox and the Indian wolf. [Further Reading: Where To Stay In Little Rann]
The Barren Crack-land In Little Rann of Kutch
To get the best experience of driving through the White Desert, head straight to Dholavira. This is where you’ll come across a 7-kilometre straight road that passes through the White Desert on its either side.
Road To Dholavira
A more offbeat location of ‘Ekal Ka Rann’ located around 100 kilometres east of Bhuj (almost the same distance as Bhuj-Dhordo), is perhaps a better option for those looking for something more romantic, due to its isolated location.
Romantic sunset at Ekal Ka Rann
Still if you think that The White Rann near Dhordo is something you’d at least want to explore, thanks to all the hype it has gathered during the years, you can always make a day tour from Bhuj. And it takes just a little over 4 hours for a round trip to Dhordo (from Bhuj). If you do not book an accommodation in Dhordo, you cannot access the premises of tent city, where the Rann Utsav takes place, but that doesn’t stop you from going to the White Rann and checking out the nitty-gritty of a local marketplace located in Dhordo.
Moreover, make sure you’ve your own mean of transport. As the state transport buses do not go all the way to Dhordo and leave you somewhere in the middle of Bhuj-Dhordo. To rent a bike, you’ll find only one shop inside the city of Bhuj, or you can make a deal with a local and rent theirs for a day – just the way I did!
As I mentioned earlier, I think Gujarat Tourism sees Rann Utsav as a burgeoning commercial opportunity, due to a lack of tourist information available about Kutch region, and it is perhaps why it is slowly stretching the period from November to (sometimes even) March, even if March and November means a salty assault of the heat and dust of the desert summer. But well, so far so good!
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