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Rann Utsav: NOT Worth The Effort, Distance And Money!

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 previous 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 (the Rann Utsav) offers, however, 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) extra. This means a family of three can end up paying over 15 thousand Rupees for one night in Rann Utsav. [Please check their website for updated prices]

You can moreover buy longer-duration packages, which takes you to 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, the organisers of Rann Utsav saw 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 doesn’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, that 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 White Desert, which comes with all those dramatic sunsets and full-moons we end up here searching 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 (where the Rann Utsav takes place). 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 that bring pollution to the area. 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 comparatively 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, is.

[Read: A Backpacker’s Guide To Travel In Kutch]

A better alternative to white Rann around Dhordo and an undeniably offbeat location to explore White Rann is ‘Ekal Ka Rann’ located around 100 kilometres east of Bhuj (almost the same distance as Bhuj-Dhordo). I would particularly recommend Ekal Ka Rann to those who are looking for something more romantic, due to its isolated location.

Romantic sunset at Ekal Ka Rann

To get the best experience of driving through the White Desert, however, 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

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!

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

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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!

33 Comments

  1. rishav jaisawal says

    Thanks Dev,
    My takeaway – suggestion to travel to ekal ka raan and dholavira.
    One of the few articles with very specific inputs, value adding

  2. Pravin says

    hello Dev,
    Pravin Ahir here, For better view of RANN visit Dholavira, Many more places you can explore in dholavira. I have my Resort in Dholavira just 100 meter from White Rann and 2km from Dholavira Harappan site. Visit once to enjoy and experience the real feel of white Rann.For booking contact : 9978112327, Rann Resort Dholavira.

    • Hi Alice, but Kutch is wonderful. You won’t regret visiting. Dev has shared some very interesting places of Kutch. Make sure you read those stories as well.
      Best wishes!
      Kuldip

  3. Agreed, my visit to Rann was at first underwhelming too. But, I think, talking to artisans and workers regarding the fest and how it has helped them makes for a more memorable experience. Another interesting experience was talking to them about demonetization and how in unison, they all said it didn’t impact them. Else, I agree to ditch the tent city and live in home-stays built around by villagers across Rann. I just returned from Rann and I think- Bhuj and Mandavi are better options to explore as well, than just exploring Rann.

  4. Cool stuff any very informative, felt like one-stop guide for the travelers. Thanks to the increased curiosity I found interesting information. this year Rann Utsv will starts from 1st Novemeber 2017.

    • Oh. But you seem to be someone from the official Rann Utsav. And the problem is, you still did not understand. I was speaking against the Rann Utsav. Sorry though!

  5. Kanan Worah says

    Dev…. good to read your Frank opinion about the Rann Utsav.
    I would put it this way, that the experience at the white desert is definitely one of it’s kind….but it can be experienced on your own, without staying at the tourism village in the tents…it’s criminally expensive and I’m sure, no great experience. Can’t say, as I haven’t stayed there.
    But 2-3 years back, visited the white desert. We left early morning from Bhuj, it was the most peaceful and blissful time with very few people. Just wanted to see the awesome beauty of the place.
    So, according to me, it’s definitely worth a visit if planned on your own.
    I really wonder why the transport facility has not improved in so many years. But well, the people are a friendly and hospitable kind, so it makes up for the other minuses!
    I would recommend this place for at least one visit….I feel like going again and again!!

    • That’s true Kanan. Couldn’t agree more with what you wrote, especially about the transport system, and friendly locals who make up it up to tourists. If I will be in India this year, I will try to cover a few more places in Kutch.

    • That’s true Kanan. Couldn’t agree more with what you wrote, especially the transport system and friendly locals who make up it up to tourists. If I will be in India this year, I will try to cover a few places in Kutch.

    • Completely agree with your view, during our last trip to Kutchh, what we did is. We reached Kalo dungar by evening and stay overnight there. From Kalo dungar, you will have a beautiful view of the desert and early morning walk around hill is a bliss. Then we start our journey towards Dhordo and it was awesome experience without worrying about crowd.

  6. Great Rann of Kutch (White rann) is not just Dhorado Village where Rann Utsav festival organised. Kandhwand-Kuran are other villages from you can see this Great rann of Kutch. From Bhachau-Kharoi-Chobari -Ekal rann is another point where you can see Great Rann of Kutch. Then, Jannan-Amaraper ( on Dholavira road) are other points where you can see Great Rann of Kutch. Staying Kutch is not that costly if you are family.Ladies are most respectable in this area.In any village home -Dhorado-Hodaka-Janan-Amraper just say that I am coming to see Kutch- they will accommodate to family but for lonely single person it is very difficult to get accommodation .Kutchchi will not allow you to enter their premises/village. So, next time when you will go to kutch preferly with family.

  7. After my one day visit to Kutch ,I infer Rann Utsav is about supporting local communities and respecting local culture through Hi-tech, hi-end marketing promoted by State tourism supported by Head of state. As South Indian tourist, our moments of truth is sighting the Pink banner from Bachhau itself and the tastefully decorated Rann city from ground to skies .Only the informed,rich and affluent tourists can enjoy the sojourn. Its a zero -sum game, somebody’s expense is a tourist industry gain.As As a traveller -the view of white expanse of desert with mirage is the best take-away.

  8. After my one day visit to Kutch ,I infer Rann Utsav is about supporting local communities and respecting local culture through Hi-tech, hi-end marketing promoted by State tourism supported by Head of state. As South Indian tourist, our moments of truth is sighting the Pink banner of Rann Utsav from Bachhau itself and the tastefully decorated Rann city from ground to skies .Only the informed,rich and affluent tourists can enjoy the Rann sojourn. Its a zero -sum game, somebody’s expense is a tourist industry gain.As As a traveller -the view of white expanse of desert with mirage is the best take-away.

  9. We traveled in December and made bhuj as our base. Agree that there is no point starting at rann utsaav. You can easily start from bhuj in the morning and visit white rann , Kalo dungar and India bridge and reach back bhuj

    • That true Amit. Do a day trip and come back to Bhuj, or wherever nearby you’re staying. Doing that makes a little more sense, at least to us. Where did you stay in Bhuj by the way? Any recommendations for other readers?

  10. Praful Desai says

    If the Govt tents are costly one can stay at numerous resorts around Ranotsav campus which are comparatively cheaper than those of Govt. Gujarat tourism has failed to create tourist friendly facilities such as world class toilets, drinking water outlets, resting places such as benches, Gazebos, picnic tables, instruction boards showing other sightseeing spots with Kms with arrow signs, nearby petrol pumps showing distance ( probably there is only one petrol pump between Bhuj and Dhodo. At Kalo Dunger, the toilets constructed there are never cleaned and maintained. Govt tourism dept is doing nothing for the benefit of tourists.

  11. Shilli says

    Hi, i visited rann this january and stayed at dhordo village bhunga. But i was very disappointed and i thought i might be the only one.
    I totally agree with dev that visiting rann is not bad but it is not worth to spend on their lucrative packages. Even the pictures on govt recognised tour website is fake. It gives an impression as if the camel or bus safari will take you righ through the rann, or the dance group are dancing on rann or the tents are on rann. but its not like that. Everything is 5 km away.

    Its better to visit other places of gujarat and keep white rann in your itinerary than stay there in tents near rann.

  12. I agree, there is no point visiting during Rann festival becoz of the over crowding (Due to ad blitz by Gujarat tourism).
    We visited it 10 days before festival and it was peaceful.
    I loved your pic of Ekal ka Rann sunset absolutely beautiful, other pics are also lovely but that one is my favorite.

    • Yea the crowd during the Rann Ustav was indeed mental. By the way good tip there about visiting the place before the Utsav, thanks for that. And Glad you like the pictures 🙂

  13. Hello Dev,
    This is Kuldip, we met at Nirona village (Lacquer work). Happy to read your blog and I agree with what you have written about Rann Utsav. I think it is too commercial and artificial.

    Kutch can be experienced differently and there are better alternatives.
    Best regards,

    • Hey man, thanks for writing. Think I remember you. You the one who were sitting there, while I was taking the picture of the artist who was working, right? I remember speaking to you as well. Small world man, small world. And so glad to see your message 🙂

  14. I was honestly planning a trip there, glad I didn’t. This is an amazing post, saved me a ton of money. Thanks!

    • Hey Pooja, thanks for writing. I never wanted to discourage people from visiting Rann Utsav, by writing this post. What I was trying however was to point out that the value for money that Rann Utsav offers is actually pretty bad. And there are so many other amazing places in Gujarat, equally or perhaps more beautiful, that are left totally untapped because they’re not promoted by Gujarat Tourism. Hope you get my point.

      • Rashida Hajee says

        Thank you so much Dev….u have indeed saved me a lot of money. I am going to mandvi in Dec 17 and was planning to take a one night tent stay( obviously becoz of the rann of Kutch hype). But looking at the prices I thought I needed to Google more and came upon your blog. I guess I will make mandvi my base and travel to the rann as a day trip. Read about home stays and I thought it would be interesting and as I am traveling with my family (husband 2 kids and mother in law) could you recommend any place? Thanx once again for an eye opener blog

        • Sure Rashida. I can recommend Vibe Camps which is located at Ekal Ka Rann (the other side of White Rann). From there you can do day trips to LRK and the Unesco heritage Dholavira site. Moreover, white Rann is only 10 mins on moto from there. Contact Abhay who owns the property: 9033038810. You can most certainly tell him that I gave you his contact (you never know if that helps you get some discount, lol, he’s a friend! Though please name my blog ‘footloosedev’ as he may know a few other Dev or Devesh haha.) Good luck!

  15. Heard a lot about Ran Utsav. did not know it can be so disappointing. thanks for sharing your true experience.

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