So where are you going for a vacation this winter? Went to Andaman & Nicobar last summer. Did south India before that. Don’t want to go to a hill station and freeze your lazy bones. Did you think of Gujarat? Do you ever think of Gujarat besides aampapad, Amul ads, and Mr Narendra Modi?
To cut to the facts, Gujarat has a long coastline, a trading community that is fond of good food, and Amitabh Bachchan as its tourism ambassador. Gujarat tourism has been aggressive in its promotion and generous in its disposition. There’s a lot to explore. A LOT.
Here’s why you should go to Gujarat on your next holiday and what all you should see and do. This overview of the rich culture is sure to entice you to book direct flights to India.
Gujarat is home to the famous Gir Wildlife sanctuary. It is the only habitat of the Asiatic lions and is, therefore, a protected and much popular park. So basically this is the only place where you can see the beautiful majestic Asiatic lion.
An unexpected bonus, but right in the heart of the Gir forest you’d find Tulsi Shyam, a beautiful place famous for its temples and hot springs. It is a great place to have a little picnic in the wild.
Rann of Kutch
It is a salt marsh and for miles, you’d see white strips of uninterrupted salt deposits. It is our desi Salar de Uyuni of Bolivia. Rather it’s even better as on one side you’ll see the never-ending desert, and on the other there will be the sparkling blue Arabian Sea. The place, however, sees warm temperatures, so don’t go in the summer months.
Winter is the time when the month-long Rann Utsav is held. A high-on-fun carnival of folk dance, music and culinary delight, the festival is a great way to end the year with a bang.
Gujarat is a religious land, which is partly why it has also seen much conflict. You might not want to visit Ayodhaya to see the Ram mandir-Babri Masjid sit, but you will surely want to pay a visit to Dwarka when I tell you that it is one of the seven most ancient cities in India.
Dwarka is one of the char dhams of Hinduism and houses temples that were built in the 16th century. The Dwarkadheesh Temple is the most important religious place here and is believed to have been built between the 6th and 7th century. And it helps that it lies next to the sea, and some of the temples and shrines are reached by boat.
The Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar is one massive temple that will leave you in awe. Of course, it is one of the largest temples in India.
Lothal, world’s oldest dock
Gujarat boasts of many archaeological sites of the Indus Valley civilisation, the most important being Lothal which is said to be world’s first port. Another must-visit site is Dholavira, one of the most ancient cities in the country.
Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad where MK Gandhi lived for 12 long years is a must-visit obviously. It is open on all days of the year. It houses a museum and a guest house among others; many of Gandhi’s personal belongings, including the famous charkha, on display. A 90-minute walking tour is organised that takes on a guided tour around the sprawling Ashram. Don’t forget to cool your heels at the Sabarmati Riverfront.
Champaner-Pavagadh heritage site
The Champaner-Pavagadh heritage area is your one-stop site for some history digging. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and is dotted with forts, ruins, temples, mosques, tanks, arches from as early as the 8th century. The hills of Pavagadh offer a cool retreat and also house an important Hindu shrine.
Then there are the Jain temples in Bhavnagar, where you should also go see the Talaja caves.
Ahmedabad is your city for archaeological sightseeing. There’s the awe-inspiring Jami Masjid. There are many museums too, but I am guessing they are too boring in the face of real sites from the past.
You think only Goa is the official beach state of India. Well, actually it is, but Gujarat has a longer coastline. And the beaches are uncluttered and cleaner, of course. Diu is famous for its beaches. Ahmedpur Mandvi beach is one of the best in Gujarat.
Satpura, the Only Hill Station
Despite being the only hill station of Gujarat, it still enjoys some unspoiled natural beauty. It is surrounded by a lush forest with which is home to many tribal villages each with a unique set of tribal customs and dances. Located on the second highest plateau of the Sahaydri range, Satpura is at a height of 1000 m.
Gujarat is a foodie state. If you are vegetarian, have a sweet tooth, and don’t mind the calories, Gujarat is your haven. It helps that their preparations are nutritious and most are usually dripping with shuddh desi ghee. The Gujjus are known to be foodies, great hosts, and friendly people. Yeah the shrewd-baniya-businessman bit is legendary, but then they are God-fearing people too so you can expect a fair treatment.
What to try: Everything. Khakra, phaphda, thepla, jalebi, dhokla, chakri, khandvi, shreekhand. Don’t leave out the desserts.
Navratri is round the corner, and what better place to dandiya away your night than Gujarat itself. Dandiya nights are organized everywhere, the best ones in Ahmedabad. And you won’t have to worry about the desi ghee sweets you stuffed before, the night will see you sweating it all out in good fun.