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.
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!